Big John’s Shake Shack in Marion, Arkansas, does three things unapologetically: Deck the walls with Elvis memorabilia, serve up more desserts than one person can possibly eat, and fry everything in sight.
Some friends and I took a trip across the river to check out the beloved shake shack yesterday. Loretta Tacker, wife of the founder, the late John Wayne Tacker, runs the 35-year-old business. She mills about tending her flock of customers and refilling glasses with sweet tea from a giant mason jar.
Things only get more charming from there.
Stacks of golden fried pies, all handmade by Loretta, sit in a little bakery case on the counter. Caddy corner on the other side of the counter, a number of whole handmade pies line the shelves of another bakery case. There is a moment, when you place your order, when you feel almost surrounded by pies.
Let me just say, for the record: Making the customer feel surrounded by pies should be a standard for all restaurants.
Big burgers, fries, thick shakes, and pies make this a pretty typical road side joint, but the sheer number of soft serve flavors make Big John’s stand out — amaretto, apricot, butter pecan, peanut butter, black cherry, coffee, German chocolate, crème de menthe, coconut, caramel, cheesecake, pistachio, rum, and many, many others.
There are also some interesting side items worth noting: the fried broccoli and cheese bites, the fried green beans, the fried pickles, the Texas Toothpicks (fried onions and jalapenos), and something called “Munchers” (fried tater tots with cheese and jalapenos.)
In other words: God help the wayward vegetable that lingers too close to the fryer.
My pal Amy described the menu as a number of variations on “fried” and “ranch.” (Indeed, every side item was served with a cup of ranch dipping sauce.) So in no way is this intended to be a health food joint. Get your artery-clogging fix and then wash it down with a cherry shake or a cup of bread pudding and soft serve, or a fried chocolate pie with ice cream. And enjoy every second of it.
Big John's Shake Shack, 409 Military Rd., Marion