Jess and I enjoy fine dining as much as the next person, but our hearts truly belong to diners and diner food. There’s just something about sitting down in a local diner, hearing the small talk of folks who all seem to know each other, and enjoying home-cooked food served up with a smile and a “thanks, y’all!” Sound too good to be true, or maybe a bit cliché? Tell that to the staff of Ed & Kay’s restaurant in Benton, because a better example of such a diner might not exist anywhere. It’s always amazed me that places like Cracker Barrel and Dixie Cafe can survive at all, because their food and atmosphere are just a cheap, unimaginative attempt at capturing the feel and taste that a place like Ed & Kay’s does effortlessly: pancakes as big as a dinner plate and lighter than air, fresh grown vegetables, and yeah, the pies really do look like that – they don’t call them “Mile High” pies for nothing!
But more about the pie in a bit, let’s talk about supper. On a recent visit to Ed & Kay’s, the daily special was the catfish platter: four tender catfish fillets, lightly breaded and fried and a choice of two vegetables. Jess went for the purple hull peas and the fresh potato salad, a hearty mix of fresh potatoes, onions, pickles, and a light dressing that would fit in at any picnic or pot-luck. The fish was moist and the batter had a good flavor and light, crispy texture, and while the peas needed a bit of salt to set them right, they were quite tasty with one of the diner’s fresh yeast rolls. All that was only $7.95 and included a free piece of pie for dessert; if you can find a better deal than that for food this good, please let us know.
The regular dinner plates are still a value at $10.95, and I was very happy with my thin sliced roast beef, creamed potatoes, and purple hull peas. The beef was tender, but still chewy and flavorful, and the potatoes were creamy and smooth. Both items were covered with a savory brown gravy that didn’t overwhelm the food but rather added richness and taste. Once again, a bit of salt was needed for the peas, and I could have gone for a shot of hot sauce, but the jalapeno cornbread muffin was a nice addition to this plate, mostly because Ed & Kay’s doesn’t add sugar to their cornbread and ruin it. Once again, a piece of their famous pie was included in the meal (and if you’re too full, they’ll let you take it to go).
Of course, the “Mile High” pies (like that lovely coconut cream pie above) are the most famous and dramatic of all the desserts at Ed & Kay’s, but they’ve got some pretty delicious (if more down to earth) selections as well. Jess opted for the German chocolate pie, a rich chocolate custard pie with a crunchy top that was one part gooey brownie, one part fudge, and all parts awesome. The homemade crusts are tender and flaky and really let you know what you’re missing eating the warmed up Mrs. Smith’s cobbler you’re getting served at Cracker Barrel.
Ed & Kay’s has been family owned and operated for decades, and when you go to pay your bill it’s most likely Miss Kay herself who will take your money and ask you how everything was. The waitresses are always friendly and ready to give you a tea refill or tempt you with dessert. The dining area, while small, is clean and well-maintained, and the quality of service is good any time of the day. This is a great place for Sunday morning breakfast, Friday night dinner, or for an afternoon cup of coffee and a slice of pie. In this day and age of chain restaurants trying to foist off swill as “home cooked” food, it’s nice to know that there are still people doing it the right way, locally and homemade.
Ed & Kay’s Restaurant is located right off Interstate 30 on the southern edge of Benton. They’re open Wednesday-Sunday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You will not be disappointed!