Sometimes in life we get to try something amazing and delicious. The experience of the food, its aroma, texture, and taste combine to create a lasting imprint on our palette memory. I can think of probably a dozen different things I have eaten that have made such an impact on me. I can’t help it, I like food.
In recent weeks, a couple of different conversations have reminded me of one such food experience. In truth, I don’t remember the exact first time I went to eat at Frank Brannan’s or who I went with. I know I went there over the years with several different friends. If I’m being brutally honest, I know that the first time I ate there I was taken by a boy. I just can’t remember if that boy was an ex-boyfriend or was my now husband. That’s probably a terrible honesty to share. I can’t help it, I’ve had six children since then and my thyroid removed. It’s medically impossible for me to remember that. Perhaps one of them will read this and in a good-natured way, fill me in later. None of this will be awkward at all!
As a newcomer to Conway in the late 90’s, I got to go to Brannan’s a lot less than some people around these parts. They went there for most of their lives. I had less than a decade to enjoy the culinary delights they had been cooking up in the old school style drive in. They offered an extensive variety of favorites. I’ve heard people talk about all kinds of things they got there that they felt were the best version of it they’d ever had.
Certainly the chili dogs were good, and the limeades they crafted made anything you could get at a Sonic seem like trash in comparison. I say that knowing full well I love a good Sonic cherry limeade. It never held a candle to the Brannan version, though. My favorite thing to eat there, the pinnacle of drive-in food perfection, wasn’t either of those things. It was the fried pickles.
Brannan’s fried pickles came in spear form, just like the Lord intended. They had a deep golden crust and a juicy tart inside when you took a bite. If you dipped it in the cool ranch that came along, you were just that much closer to heaven, I’m sure of it. I can still picture myself sitting there on that outdoor table, limeade nearby, enjoying those delicious pickle spears. No, I’m not exactly sure who was sitting next to me, but let’s not get caught in the weeds here. They were that good, good enough to make you forget everything else.
I have learned in recent years that the subject of fried pickles is one that is steeped in intense debate and unrivaled loyalty. You might have thought the Broncos/Raiders rivalry was the largest one in history. You’d have been wrong. You see, there are two types of fried pickles. There are fried pickle spears, just like they served at Frank Brannan’s and there is also the wrong kind. I won’t even mention it here because it’s nothing but wrong. So if you see another kind out there, don’t do it. It’s wrong.
Brannans is closed now, the building not even there anymore. The A-frame structure sat on Harkrider Street. It was close to Wal-Mart and within walking distance from Hendrix College. It now exists only in the minds of people who lived here in Conway during it’s business heyday and the minds of the students who came here to go to one of the three colleges in this town and have moved on elsewhere to live life.
They may or may not remember who they went to Brannan’s with but we are not going to give them any trouble about that. None at all.