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
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."