Mt. Ida, AR: The Dairyette's Third-Pound Cheeseburger is a Country Classic
717 Highway 270 West, Mt. Ida AR 71957(map); 870-867-2312
Cooking Method: Griddle fried
Short Order: Country living meets classic American burger.
Want Fries with That? The fries are fine if you want them, but I'd rather go for the tater tots
Price: Cheeseburger, $4.19; without cheese, $3.79; shake, $2.30 (don't skip the shake)
You have to be meaning to get somewhere if you land in Mt. Ida. It's a classic southern Arkansas town with a reputation for being the crystal capital of the region, with dig-your-own operations and rock shops dotting Highway 270 all the way through town.
Nothing quite quenches the thirst and extinguishes a raging hunger after a crystal dig like a stop at the Dairyette. This family (and pet) friendly drive-in offers a moderately sized dining room and a couple of walk-up windows to order at, along with plenty of outdoor seating.
The Dairyette offers 1/3-pound burgers and 1/6-pound "junior" burgers. No choice of cheese; it's American. Chopped iceberg lettuce, wrinkly hamburger dills, and a slice of tomato are all the vegetation you're going to get with a standard order—and mayo is the default condiment.
That medium-packed, medium well burger patty comes with a slightly salty, buttery flavor, a light griddle-char, and just enough crust to feel it in your teeth. I was concerned about the apparent gray to the burger surface, which seemed to have almost no crust at all—but was fooled. The patty had the appropriate give and bite, a light crust, and a bit of moisture. The American cheese melted in just fine.
On this particular visit, I noticed my burger came with a bottom bun that didn't fit—it was larger than the top bun and a bit larger than the patty that sat on it. The buns are very soft, unseeded white buns that absorb the runoff juice.
Though you can order fries, Cajun fries, onion rings, or tator tots with your burger, the only real accompaniment you need is a shake. The Dairyette's shakes seem impossibly creamy, as if there's an extra concentration of cow juice in the mix. Many swear by the chocolate or chocolate malt; I found the cherry to be deliciously uplifting, with dark pie cherry chunks throughout. A regular is about the size you should be attempting for this burger—you can get a large 20-ounce shake for 40 cents more, but that's pretty darn decadent.
About the author: Kat Robinson is a writer and storyteller out of Little Rock, AR who writes the Arkansas Times' Eat Arkansas blog and who explores Arkansas and the American South looking for great stories, interesting people and the next great meal.