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Zipse At The Track

Eating my way to Oaklawn Park

It's been years since I've been to Oaklawn Park, and considering how much I enjoyed the beautiful Hot Springs oval back then, it's been way too long. So long in fact, that the last time I was there, food was not a major concern for my trip planning to Arkansas. Years have past, pounds have been added, and boy have things changed. Nowadays, careful planning needs to be done so that I can sample as much good food as possible on my racetrack trips. My next trip so happens to be a drive from my home in Suburban Chicago to Hot Springs to experience a great week of racing at Oaklawn, and despite it still being eight weeks away from my departure, I have already started doing my gastronomic homework.

As it will be a nine-day sojourn in Arkansas, including the drive, I will be lucky enough to have my wife, Candice, and daughter, Kendra, joining me. How did I talk Candice into vacationing in Arkansas in February, you ask? That's another story for another blog. With the three of us making the approximately ten-hour drive together, a good meal before we even get to The Natural State is mandatory. Our first meal of note will happen a little more than halfway to Hot Springs, in little Sikeston, Missouri and at Lambert's Cafe.

Perhaps you've heard of Lambert's, it is after all 'The only home of throwed rolls'. Yes, you heard me, they actually throw their homemade rolls around the eatery. A bit hokie, I know, but their homestyle Americana cooking is supposed to be first rate, and the portions allow for no one to leave hungry. Other calling cards for Lambert's include their barbecue ribs, fried chicken, and free pass arounds (sides that the waitstaff brings around to your table whenever needed.) Lambert's it is then ... I am already looking forward to the fried chicken.

After a good night's sleep assisted by full bellies, and back on the road to Arkansas, my thoughts will likely turn to the horses and the Oaklawn experience. Before we arrive in the Oaklawn area though, I think a good lunch will be a must. When I think about food in the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas, the first thing that always comes to mind is one of President Bill Clinton's old haunts.


Doe's Eat Place became well known during the 1992 presidential 
election campaign, when the Clinton staff made it their hangout. When then-candidate Clinton was interviewed for a September cover story on Rolling Stone magazine, he held it at Doe's. I am not sure if any of this history makes it any more attractive to me or not, but the fact that it reportedly serves fantastic steaks in a down-to-earth atmosphere is good enough for the Zipse family to make our first meal in Arkansas a really good one.

As far as the Oaklawn Park area and Hot Springs itself, where we will spend almost seven full days, I am in great need of some solid recommendations. Know a great place to take the family for breakfast, lunch or dinner? I need help, and as you can tell, I take this very seriously. 


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Older Comments about Eating my way to Oaklawn Park...

Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone ... we will not go hungry! Yes, Mike, Southwest Stakes week.
In Hot Springs, Stubby's and Roland's BBQ are both closer to Oaklawn than McClard's and are really solid in their own right. There's a Doe's EP on Lake Hamilton - go a little further over the lake to Jason's, a good burger joint. Fisherman's Wharf is a great place for seafood in summer, but I'm not sure it will be open in February. You going Southwest Stakes week?
In Little Rock, I'd bypass Doe's and go to the Faded Rose instead. They serve a lot of Creole dishes but you can get a good steak there as well.
By no means all encompassing, but McClard's is a must. They make a famous tamale "spread" that's like a combo of a Skyline 5-way only with tamale instead of spaghetti. Bring your appetite. Also the Oaklawn Track Kitchen is among the best in racing. Will have more suggestions when you get here.
The pancake shop is a great breakfast place, usually busy but worth the wait! Also, I second McClard's - they have great BBQ (and my standards are WAY high!) + a surprising racing connection :)
Don't for get to eat at Mcclard's BBQ in Hot Springs!
Check out Back Porch Grill in Hot Springs on Lake Hamilton!
Food? Oh my....it's a good thing you are going to be here for 7 days. ;)
the soup of the day at the Fair Grounds was always a nice touch
Stubby's BBQ was pretty good when I was there last year.
I dare, I dare! :)
p.s. woo-hoo!
Doe's is formidable, and you must have some tamales to start. As for breakfast in Hot Springs, the Cooks' diner will be open and they do serve bloody marys. Maybe mimosas if you dare.
"Diners, Drive-ins, and Racetracks", I love it!
Move over Guy Fieri. The next show will be Diners, Drive-ins, and Racetracks!

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

As Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of Directors of The Exceller Fund. Brian also consults for leading contest site Derby Wars, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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