Dishing It Out

I miss the restaurants of my youth.

In Ashdown, Arkansas, the restaurant everyone gravitated toward was Miss Mac’s. Its official name was, Mac’s Cafe.

It started as a small truck stop off of Highway 71 in Ogden, Arkansas, which is about halfway between Texarkana and Ashdown. I remember going there when I was small, but the restaurant moved to the same side of the highway in Ashdown sometime in the 1960s.

Mac’s was a place where every level of society came to devour the same Southern delicacies. A hot steak sandwich, steak and eggs, omelets, and of course coffee, that was made in the first Bunn coffeemakers I’d ever seen.

The waitresses had a fluidity, which allowed them to make another pot while pulling a pencil from their ear, and writing an order while still fending off flirting truck drivers.

There were bar stools for truckers and locals who came alone. Mostly, it was men who sat there. Booths lined the wall by the jukebox, opposite the bar, and there were lots of tables in the back room.

Something about the place fit like a glove. The food was glorious (although, I’m sure not on the American Heart Association’s recommendation list), and the company you kept was even better. You knew everyone in town, and everyone in town came to Mac’s at one time or another.

Ashdown also had a Tastee Freez. It sat on the highway south of town next to the Chevrolet dealership. Tastee Freez was known for its burgers, hot dogs, and burritos. They also served 100 different flavors of milk shakes. I always got a coconut shake.

Tastee Freez was later immortalized in song with a girl named Diane and a certain chili dog.

I also enjoyed going to Bryce’s Cafeteria in downtown Texarkana. Later Bryce’s moved to Interstate 30.

Bryce’s was a lot like Luby’s. It had a food line where you could choose your meat, vegetables, bread, and dessert. There were employees who could help those who needed assistance carrying their tray, but most folks carried their own food to their regular table.

Dads would be last in line so that the cashier could place the ticket on their tray.

My parents almost always got liver and onions at Bryce’s. Liver and onions was an acquired taste I didn’t care for until I was older. Their macaroni and cheese, jalapeño cornbread, and pecan pie were a must.

I remember when Ross Perot ran for president in the early 1990s, he chose Bryce’s as the location to meet and do an interview with Barbara Walters. Everyone thought it was great except the regulars, who were impeded from getting their food because of security for the two big shots.

Bryce’s had a cash register that rolled your pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters into a tray, where you retrieved them.

My sister and I looked forward to the coin dispenser almost as much as the pie.

If we were lucky enough that our parents took us out to eat on a Saturday after shopping at Gibson’s or Kmart, often my dad would take us to Harold’s Pizza in Texarkana. The pizza there was unlike any other I’ve eaten before or since. It was truly spectacular.

The cheeses were excellent, and the meats, especially the Italian sausage, were also great. My dad would often order pepperoni on one side and multiple items on the other. My sister didn’t like variety in her food.

A pie from Harold’s Pizza was something to be relished. I can remember going there with some of the guys after football practices and eating a lot of pizza.

After eating at one of the restaurants (which was almost always after church on Sunday), sometimes our parents would take us to Baskin-Robbins, which was located on State Line Avenue in Texarkana.

Mom would get pralines and cream, and my dad, sister and me chose chocolate, but sometimes rocky road.

Baskin-Robbins was to ice cream, what Harold’s was to pizza, Mac’s was to a hot steak sandwich, and Bryce’s was to pecan pie. Baskin-Robbins 31 ice cream flavors often changed, but there were a few that were staples. Pralines and cream and chocolate were two that were always options.

The first pumpkin ice cream I ever tried was at Baskin-Robbins one year shortly before Thanksgiving.

Today, all of those fine eateries are gone. Mac’s closed decades ago, Tastee Freez in the late 70s, Harold’s in the 80s, and Bryce’s in the 2000s.

It’s hard to make a living in the restaurant business, I’m told. But I’ll promise you this, if someone would reopen any of the favorite eating spots of my youth, I would be your first and most consistent customer.


©2022 John Moore

John’s new book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website –, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.


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