I’m not sure what percentage of Little Rock area residents have even heard of Sandy’s Homeplace Café, much less eaten at the little yellow house on 15th Street on the eastern edge of downtown. Heck, the restaurant has only been there for 40 years, serving up downhome, stick-to-your-ribs classics to an adoring fan base which often includes plumbers, lawyers, government workers, and industrial workers, all made by Sandra Woods, herself.
The place is open for lunch on Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and if you drive by too fast, you’ll miss it.
I’ve been to Sandy’s four times over the past few years and always leave full and satisfied. The food is served up buffet style with two daily proteins, along with sides, scratch-made rolls, and a slice of pie. The buffet costs $8.50 for credit card users and $8.00 for cash folks. The pie is $1.50 extra. And yes, it’s 2018 and those prices aren’t a typo. Here’s the daily protein breakdown…
Monday: Chicken Pot Pie and Hamburger Steak
Tuesday: Chicken Livers and Chicken Fried Steak
Wednesday: Chicken & Dumplings and Hamburger Steak
Thursday: Chicken Livers and Chicken Fried Steak
Friday: Chicken & Dressing and Chicken Fried Steak
My most recent visit found me at Sandy’s on a Wednesday, so Chicken & Dumplings and Hamburger Steak were on the docket. Arriving at the primetime lunch hour means you’ll probably have to wind your way through the sea of parking lot pick-up trucks and park behind the house. Once inside, head straight for the buffet and pile your plate with comfort food. For me, on this day, it included a heavy helping of the chicken & dumplings, hamburger steak, mashed potatoes, and beans.
Rolled dumplings are a must in this neck of the woods and the ones at Sandy’s are about as traditional as they come. Thick, flat, and slightly dense, these dumplings are the reason folks show up on a Thursday. Bits of shredded chicken are scattered throughout of a yellowish base, which, if you’re anything like me, ends up seeping into the mashed potatoes. No boxed crap here, just scratch-made mashed potatoes with a big beef meatball and brown gravy resting in the middle. The beef is tender and light and my folk runs through it with relative ease. The soft beans mixed with the mashed potatoes were perfection, as was the roll that sopped up the remnants. I was in comfort food nirvana.
Good thing I saved a little room for the pecan pie. It’s the best restaurant pie I’ve come across in Little Rock. It’s fresh–like still warm from the oven fresh–with a thick layer of pecans and a crust that’s thin and crispy.
Sandra was there watching over things, as I imagine she does pretty much everyday. It’s her restaurant and her food, cooked with her hands … in a restaurant that might as well be her house.
And there’s nothing else like it in Little Rock.