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CHEAP EATS: Lunch plates, breakfast biscuits join Andy's menu

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published October 3, 2008 at 2:38 a.m.

Andy's

— Andy's used to be a modest little fast-food burger minichain, a sort of Wendy's Jr.

The chain has shrunk - there's just the one central Arkansas outlet now, in a free-standing building on John Barrow Road just south of Markham Street, with wooden shingles outside and a slightlyhomier-than-fast-food decor inside.

(There are still Andy's outlets in Hope, Crossett, Malvern, Pine Bluff, Arkadelphia, Camden, Magnolia and El Dorado; you can find them at the Web site www.andys-restaurant.com.)

We can't tell you the last time we visited the Andy's restaurant on John Barrow Road, although it had to be since the one way out West Markham closed and turned into a Popeye's chicken outlet. But it hadbeen quite awhile.

While our back was turned, Andy's evolved into something else. The menu has diversified to the point where you can't call it just a burger place any more.

You can still get burgersthere - we had one, a mushroom-Swiss burger ($2.79) with a nice, medium-size, fairly juicy patty on a somewhat chewy bun topped with enough Swiss cheese to register and a mushroom-sauce topping that was incredibly, almost inedibly, salty.

Andy's offers a range of other options, including a $5.49 salad bar, hot dogs and bratwursts, gourmet Rainforest Alliance coffee and $6.95 plate lunches - a generous portion of meat and two sides, plus choice of roll or corn bread - with a lineup of dishes that change at least once a month.

We were a week too early for the chicken and dumplings, worse luck. But our Southern ham steak came topped with large pineapple chunks that gave the ham tinges of sweetness and pineapple tanginess. It wasn't so good an exchange for the slightly singed pineapple chunks, however, which were unpleasantly ham-salty.

We had to eat it out of one of those three-compartment, fliplid, black plastic to-go plates, which got a bit tricky - it's not easy fitting a full-size plastic fork and knife into those compartments. But then we didn't have to pay extra for the sense of adventure.

On the side we had a pile of surprisingly firm and perky black beans and a small "Titanic" salad (mostly iceberg), which we dressed with a storebought (Wishbone, if you must know) Italian dressing from the salad bar.

We got three surprises out of a morning breakfast stop. Our sausage, egg and cheese biscuit sandwich ($1.69, $2.59 as part of a "Biscuit Breakfast" with a wad of hash browns) was absolutely huge, a nicely spicy sausage patty, fluffy scrambled eggs and a thick slice of melted American cheese on a very fluffy biscuit.

Our cinnamon roll and toasted cinnamon roll ($2.39) werealso huge and delicious, not at all gooey (so if you like them that way, skip them) and completely devoid of that calorieladen white icing. The toasted version had a slight edge for flavor.

Andy's Web site also clues you in to monthly and seasonal specials, with printable coupons. The most recent specials have been a Corned Beef Sandwich Combo with potato salad and drink ($5.89) and an unexpected Quiche Lorraine Summer Plate ($5.99), with drink and your choice of cantaloupe, cottage cheese or a side salad.

Unlike too many fast-food outlets, the staff here is friendly, helpful and looks to have been on the job awhile. It took a few minutes to prepare our plate lunch, but a staff member gave us a number and brought it to our table.

Oh, and the restaurant is a free Wi-Fi hot spot. What more could you ask?

Andy's Address: 124 John Barrow Road, Little Rock Hours: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. daily Cuisine: Burgers, plate lunches, hot dogs, specialty sandwiches, biscuit-based breakfast Credit cards: V, MC Alcoholic beverages: No Reservations: No Wheelchair accessible: Yes Carryout: Yes (501) 224-2444 www.andys-restaurant.com

Weekend, Pages 67 on 10/03/2008

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