1401 W. Third St., Little Rock
Dress Code: None
Noise Level: High
Price Range: $4.50-$9.95
Credit Cards: All major
2005 Receipts: $500,011
In Arkansas, food and politics go together like cornbread and collard greens. We judge candidates based on their appetites, which are demonstrated through an eating marathon of local coon suppers and all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinners leading up to November.
You can actually tell a lot about a person based on how he eats. Cases in point: our first president from Arkansas and the man eyeing to be the second. The former was liberal and a compulsive eater known for certain excesses, while the latter is a born-again conservative and a dieter now trying to convert the masses.
As divisive as food (and politics) can often be, it's great to find a place where everyone can sit down at the same table, where everything is exactly as it seems and there is little room for argument. Cotham's is just such a place.
Walking into its location near the Capitol is like stepping into the bustling headquarters of a political campaign with the election perpetually just around the corner. The walls are covered with the posters, signs and stickers of candidates current and past, Democrat and Republican, and the dining room hums with activity.
We were told a table would be ready for us in 10 minutes, but we only had to wait six. It's always nice to get a better deal than we were promised. Politicians should take note.
The noise level might have been a problem had we not been seated on the lower tier of the dining room, near the windows facing Third Street. There we could comfortably carry on a conversation while gulping down glasses of iced tea, the perfect cure for the summer heat.
Cotham's cuisine consists of familiar Southern favorites. The day's special was meatloaf, which can be a gamble when dining out. But this delicious dish didn't disappoint. The healthy (in size, that is) slices were slightly drier than what's found at Your Mama's Good Food and topped with a sauce that was more sweet than spicy.
The country fried steak was decent, if a little too chewy. But even an inner tube would be edible if piled under enough of Cotham's creamy mashed potatoes and white gravy and served with slow-cooked pinto beans.
Yes, one of our party had to order the hubcap burger, and no, he couldn't finish it even with two others tagging in. What's more impressive than the size of the burger is that fact that it is perfectly cooked through without being charred. Indeed, this is the best burger in town and maybe the best we ever had.
If there is any reason to complain, it's the parking. But when you are as popular as Cotham's, garnering awards and the wide acclaim of public polls, the crowds will flock.
Which, for a business lunch, means Cotham's is not the place to go if you don't want to be spotted.