I was having a disappointing night Friday at Weinfest in Altus, AR. The festival was great, located at Wiederkehr Village right on the vineyard, but the rainy weather and cold snap kept the attendees away and us vendors hiding away in our vehicles, keeping an eye on our storm-beaten booths. The storm didn’t seem like it was ever going to let up, so by about 7:00 p.m., after two hours of sitting around cold and wet and customer-less, I decided to take a dinner break. I drove back down the hill into town and I remembered what a cute little downtown area Altus had so that’s where I headed. I circled the city park and came across one little pub that looked open. It had a tiny little store front and a chalkboard sign out front advertising that it was open, so I decided to give it a try.
The interior was glowing and warm and welcoming, just what I needed on this cold, dark evening. It was completely empty except for one table, so I guess the nasty weather kept just about everyone home. I was greeted and seated by a charming and energetic waitress who gave me a run down of the place. She handed me a menu that publicized the beer and wine selection and informed me that the rest was a spoken menu. I gathered the cook or chef just prepared whatever he felt like that day and that was what was for dinner, like it or not. But I liked it.
I started off with a Salmon Creek Pinot Grigio, I just felt like treating myself on this blustery evening, which was delicious. While I sipped, the waitress told me what “Dan” had prepared that day, adding her own opinions about each dish. I was charmed number one, she called the cook by name, just like I was a friend of the family, and two, she informed me unabashadly about each dish. I decided on the special that evening: angle hair pasta with homemade alfredo and flake salmon sprinkled with bacon and a salad with classic ceasar dressing, also homemade.
While I waited for my food, I looked around a enjoyed the interior of the little pub. All the tables and chairs were antique. None of them matched perfectly, some tables had leaves that were propped open, some looked like end tables, but all were a warm, dark wood that seemed welcoming and homey. There was, what I guess you would call “flair” in other restaurants, all over the walls, but what was different about this place was that everything looked authentic. There were framed posters of old Guiness Beer ads, original paintings, low relief sculptural plates, and striped decorative banners hanging from the cieling. In the corner, I noticed an old, gray, charred looking stove. It looked like something that belonged in an American history musuem. It caught my eye when Dan, I assumed it was, went over and stirred one of the many steaming pots resting on it. I was so delighted they were actually using that stove! I think what endeared this place to me more than anything was when I saw Dan remove one little noodle from the steaming silver pot on the stove, my angel hair pasta, and chew on it to test its doneness. That’s exactly what I do at home! Perhaps all cooks do this, but getting to watch the care in which he prepared my dinner right before my eyes was what made me fall in love with this little place.
By now I was halfway through my salad and wine and bread with the BEST butter I have ever had and the warmth from the little pub (and the wine) was making me feel like this cold, rainy evening was all worth it. When it was all over and done with, I left feeling full, warm, satisfied, and happy.
So if you’re ever driving through Altus, Arkansas, I highly recommend taking a peek inside Kelt’s pub. Have some Arkansas wine, dine on Dan’s creation for that day, and leave feeling warm and satisfied. And if it happens to be cold, windy, and rainy on the day you go, it will just make the experience that much better.
You can visit the pub’s website here.