Friday, December 11, 2015

Carnivore Oasis

Photos and story by Matt Whitley

"Those that have been to Bikes Blues and BBQ before already know there are hundreds of miles of sweeping twists and picturesque views to eat up in the surrounding Ozarks.  But while spending the day feeding the nomad within, one can also awaken a serious hunger from the carnivore that resides inside as well.
Many moons ago I found myself in such a predicament while traveling deep into the Ozark National Forest along AR-21. It was almost late afternoon and I was two gas stops in on my ride that day, but had neglected to put any fuel in my own tank. There were rolling hills of lush woodlands as far as the eye could see around me but unfortunately nothing that had a "cafe”,”restaurant”, or even “convenience store” sign attached it. I had become so famished that I could swear I heard growling even without engaging the throttle. And then about the point I started contemplating how tasty the fresh roadkill I passed a mile back looked, that's when I saw it!  Turning a corner, it was revealed to me much like a mirage in the dessert. A small red barn outlined in yellow and peppered in trinkets including bowling pins and lit chandelier. Before my eyes could process what the heck they were looking at, I had passed it by and it was out of sight again. But luckily I caught a quick glimpse of the sign "Ozone Burger Barn". Surely my hunger is playing tricks on me I thought for a second, but I ventured back around to have a second look.

As I pulled in and put the kickstand down I was relieved to find that I in fact had not had a hunger hallucination. However a part of me was questioning the sanity of a person who would open a burger stand in such a rural area. I walked up to the window and was bombarded with a surprisingly extensive menu of tasty options such as burgers, pizza, tacos & even fish. I was hungry enough to order one or five of everything but I thought I might start out with just a Mushroom Swiss Burger and a shake first. 

Standing there for a few minutes, I took in the tackily charming surroundings, including a water fall fountain with blue water, stuffed deer moose head wearing a fedora, and various outdoor toys and games. No signs of life yet from the barn made me begin to wonder if the place was actually open or not. Just then the small window opened up and a older man's upper torso (his face was out of view) asked in a commanding voice "What do you want?!" I recited my order, paid and gave him my name. Then in the same tone I heard "It'll be out in a minute," punctuated by a clack of the window closing. I winced a little at the man's lack of couth but my empty stomach was by far grumpier at that point.
I took a seat at one of the adjacent covered picnic tables where I was greeted by a couple in matching Harley gear finishing up their meal. They told me they were from Russlleville  (about 40 miles south east) And said that they come here quite often. The man added that he thought the burgers are the "best around!"  This put me at ease a little after the cold reception I received from the man who was currently preparing mine. The woman smiled and gestured towards the barn. "Don't mind him, he's a actually teddy bear," she said. 

About 6-8 minutes later, the window opened again and my order was placed on the counter followed by "Matt!" and the clack of the window again. I wasted no time retrieving it and chowed down on the thick juicy hand made beef patty, fluffy football shaped bun and generous portion of fresh steak fries. Only pausing to make a couple of trips to grab more napkins to clean up the tangy sauce and savory mushrooms that didn't quite make it to their final destination (the sign out front wasn't kidding when it boasted "3 napkin burgers").

Needless to say it was one of the best burgers I've had in a long time! And a most memorable dinning experience.  And NO I am not just saying that because I was hungry enough to eat a horse that ate a smaller horse. I have been back several times since and have never been disappointed…err…by the food. The service on the other hand is sometimes lacking if not a little ornery if you ask a lot of questions or get too picky with your order. But personally I have come to find that the owner's grumpy disposition (real or played up) is just as much a part of the Burger Barn's charm as it's kitschy decoration, towering pines and messy burgers. 

The Ozone Burger Barn is tucked away in Ozone, Arkansas just off the 21 byway, (15 miles north of Clarksville). If you have an appetite for great food in the great outdoors that is served with lots of character and a little sass, then you owe it to your self to check out this truly unique carnivore's oasis in the Ozarks."