In the Local Palate’s Spring travel issue, our editors explore the South through its iconic sandwiches. This one takes us to rugged Arkansas where the fried bologna sandwich is an every-man’s ritual.
Stop Five: Fried Bologna Sandwich | Arkansas
Kat Robinson grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and often ate fried bologna sandwiches in the mornings before going fishing with her family.
“You’d cut a big round slice and peel off the red plastic from the edges,” says Robinson, an Arkansas food historian and author of Arkansas Food: The A to Z of Eating in the Natural State (Tonti Press, 2018). “Then, you’d cut a slit into it; otherwise it would bowl up when you fry it in a skillet.”
While fried bologna sandwiches can be found across the South and elsewhere, Robinson believes they’re “part of the cultural zeitgeist” of Arkansas. She’s found many oral histories of Arkansans eating fried bologna sandwiches for breakfast—and believes there are some reasons for the connection.
Arkansas is home to Petit Jean Meats, which has been around since the 1920s, and bologna has been one of its signature products for decades. Many other butchers in the state have produced their own bologna, too. Meanwhile, the fried bologna sandwich at America’s Street Foods in Little Rock regularly sells out, says chef and owner Robert Scott. He grew up in Flint, Michigan, though, and says the sandwiches were a staple of his childhood there, too.
Bologna tends to be inexpensive and cooks quickly. Slapping it together between slices of white bread makes an easy breakfast. “If you’re in a rush to get out of the house first thing in the morning, it’s a great thing,” Robinson says.
“Keep it plain and simple” is what Scott says is key to making a great fried bologna sandwich. “We have folks that are rich and poor, from every racial spectrum across the state, but fried bologna is something that’s a common denominator,” Robinson says.
Four Components of a Fried Bologna Sandwich
Classic white bread is a go-to choice for many fried bologna sandwiches. You could also opt for potato bread because it’s soft and dense—either grilled or untoasted.
At America’s Street Foods, Robert Scott smokes the bologna before frying it for a “smoky, fried taste.” How much you sear it is a personal choice, but he likes to blacken the bologna to make it a little crunchy.
Mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato are usually the toppings of choice, though some might prefer just mayo, yellow mustard, or even simple bologna and bread
Cheese or a fried egg are other common additions to a fried bologna sandwich. But purists prefer theirs without anything extra.
Where to Find a Fried Bologna Sandwich in Arkansas
This popular Russellville spot has been around since 1967, and its menu features a number of classics, like burgers and shakes. The fried bologna sandwich is made with Petit Jean Meats bologna and is well-known throughout Arkansas.
Listed as the Big “R” on the menu, this truck stop sandwich in Gurdon features a thick slice of bologna. It’s also one of Kat Robinson’s most-recommended spots for an Arkansas-fried bologna sandwich. facebook.com/sftruckstop
Since the mid-1980s, this popular Southern comfort food restaurant in Little Rock has been a central Arkansas staple. The fried bologna sandwich features a thick slice of all-beef bologna on sourdough with sauteed onions, mustard, and melted cheddar cheese. @homerswest
- by Erin Byers Murray