One of my favorite parts about writing a food blog is that folks are always sharing interesting places to eat with us. In many cases, these are places we might never find on our own, and that’s certainly true of Sullivan’s Diner in Benton, a small cafe that came highly recommended by Jess’ boss. Jess and I are big fans of diner food, and Sullivan’s certainly serves up some of the tastiest in town, but what sets this place apart from the other burger joints in town is the distinctive Thai influence that appears on the menu. That’s right, nestled right down there with the burgers, catfish, and chicken fried steak is a list of dishes that includes several varieties of fried rice and phad thai, and seeing as the staff seems split pretty evenly between Southerners and Asian folks, the eclectic menu seems like home cooking for everybody involved.
So let’s talk about that fried rice. Jess ordered a plate of Chicken Fried Rice with two of Sullivan’s Meat Rolls, which are like a spring roll that goes way heavier on the pork (always a plus for me). The plate came out heaped with rice, and the rich, warm smell had my mouth watering before it even hit the table. The rice had a great texture, firm without being oily, and unlike a lot of places, you could really taste the chicken. The meat rolls were crispy on the outside and filled with a flavorful pork mix. At only $5.65 for the entire plate, I’d call this dish one of the best dinner values I’ve ever come across, and I haven’t had better fried rice anywhere in the Benton/Bryant area.
So Sullivan’s surprised us with a fried rice dish – but can they make decent Southern classics? The answer is yes. Yes, they can. I ordered the Chicken Fried Steak, and it was as good as any I’ve ever eaten. The steak itself was tender with a breading that wasn’t soggy or weak and held up nicely under a thick layer of country gravy. The mashed potatoes that accompanied the steak were thick and creamy (with nary a lump to be found), and the fried okra was served piping hot straight from the fryer. If I had been to a restaurant that served either of these types of dishes by itself, I would consider it a good place to eat – but having this all on one menu is something of a revelation. I’ll never eat at another place that describes itself as “Asian fusion” without thinking of Sullivan’s, the place that serves both fried rice and fried okra – and does them both to perfection.
Sullivan’s diner is located at 520 Lillian in Benton. They’re open from 6:00am-8:00pm Monday-Saturday, and they have a full menu for breakfast, lunch, and supper. Stop by if you’re in the mood for some down-home cooking, but be sure not to miss the fried rice. Enjoy!