As an artsy teenager in the late 80s and early 90s living in the Russellville area, Stoby's was the place to go. In a town made up of predominately fast food and steakhouse options, Stoby's was a shining light. Sure, it was primarily a breakfast/sandwich shop, but the eclectic staff made me feel as if I'd left my small town environment and landed in a cultured world filled with art, music, and theater. This staff, primarily made up of college students from Arkansas Tech (just blocks away), were inspirational to me. They were so inspirational that I ended up working at the restaurant in the late 90's when I was going to graduate school.
Now, nearly two decades later, Stoby's has stayed one of my main stops when passing through Russellville. I'm sure this is partly nostalgia, but it is also the food. After all, a restaurant doesn't stay a vital part of a town's food scene for decades just because of memories of days gone by. It takes good service, good food, and a willingness to change with the times while keeping past favorites available.
Over the years, Stoby's menu has grown. What was once based around The Stoby sandwich and various pita heavy offshoots has become more grill focused. Luckily, while the menu has changed, most of the old options are still available.
My Top Menu Picks:
1. The Philly Cheesesteak: I'm a sucker for a good cheesesteak, and Stoby's is arguably my favorite. Yes, I mean ever. Shaved steak with sauteed mushrooms, onions and bell peppers on a hoagie with their white cheese dip (the spicy version) drizzled on top. This is my number one recommendation.
2. Original Cheese Dip: While I've figured out a pretty close replica of the original recipe to make at home, Stoby's cheese dip is a must whether I'm dining in or going through the drive through when passing through town. However, don't expect it to taste like the cheese dip you get at a Mexican restaurant. This is a decidedly American take on this Arkansas staple. And, no, it is not standard Rotel dip. Here is my tip: Try it with potato chips instead of tortilla chips.
3. The Stoby Sandwich: Choose three meats, two cheeses, and your bread from a wide variety available. They'll heat the meat and cheese, add their special "Stoby sauce," lettuce, and tomato. My personal favorite is turkey, salami, and summer sausage with Cheddar and jalapeno cheeses stuffed inside pita bread. I've been eating this sandwich for two decades and it has always been great.
4. Stoby's Breakfast Pita: I've always veered from their menu on this. Instead of how they serve it I've always gotten scrambled eggs with sausage and cheese stuffed into a pita. Add a little mayo and some River Valley Hot Sauce. So good.
5. Reuben: This is both my father and my son's favorite on the menu. A standard Reuben, but done right.
To learn more about Stoby's visit their website at www.stobys.com/
David Thornton is a two time national award winning writer, chef, husband, father, and fitness enthusiast.