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Minute Man – “Arkansas Dairy Bars”

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One of Arkansas’s newest dairy bars is actually one of Arkansas’s most beloved, nearly lost restaurant chains.

 

Of course, I am talking about the Minute Man. Wesley T. Hall’s original concept restaurant came out of a 24-hour coffee shop he owned with two other partners at 407 Broadway in Little Rock, Arkansas, way back in 1948. Eight years into the operation, he bought out his partners and converted the place into a hamburger joint. Soon, he had franchised out the Minute Man name and product across the state and even further: to seven states and 57 locations.

Exterior shot of the original Minute Man location near UALR in Little Rock

Hall’s first restaurant was one of three in the nation to receive brand new microwave “Radar Ranges” from Raytheon to try out, and Minute Man pioneered microwave usage in fast food. This allowed for the creation of the Radar Deep Dish Pie – a disc of doughy crust atop the bubbling magma of the filling – in cherry, peach, apple or strawberry.

Burger Meister Harden flips a burger patty in the frying pan as surrounding Pan Am stewardesses look on inside the UALR Minute Man kitchen

He had a talent for figuring out what people wanted and got them to buy those things from his store – not just with good food, but with good marketing. Back in 1975, he teamed up with the Coca-Cola company to do something revolutionary: offer a real glass bearing the Minute Man logo with a drink purchase.

The exterior of the original Little Rock Minute Man is aglow with business and neon at night

1975 was also the year the Magic Meal was patented. It may be hard for some of you younger folks to believe, but it used to be that if you wanted to order something for your kid, it came off the same menu the adults used. Minute Man sold Magic Meals two years before McDonald’s began selling and promoting the Happy Meal (Minute Man would eventually sell the rights to Magic Meals to Burger King in the 1980s).

A young man sits in a dark colored convertible in the JFK North Little Rock, Arkansas, Minute Man parking lot next to the minute man sign

Minute Man also beat McDonald’s to the punch on a signature sandwich. The “Big M” was a double, full-sized patty burger that came with cheese, chopped onion, lettuce, tomato and a relish sauce which debuted in 1966 – a full year before the introduction of the Big Mac.

View of customers at tables in the interior of the El Dorado, Arkansas, Minute Man in 1971

Minute Man became part of the fabric of Arkansas food culture. Sadly, the chain dwindled over the years to a single location that still operates today in El Dorado.

Veterans in service duty uniform mill about outside the exterior of the Jacksonville, Arkansas, Minute Man

Or, at least, it had dwindled … until entrepreneur Perry Smith got involved, obtaining permission from the last Minute Man manager, Linda McGoogan. Smith has worked with a new team to bring the Minute Man legacy back into action and, in 2020, the first new Minute Man was opened in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

Air Force and Army veterans, wearing facemasks and service duty uniforms, gather under the signature globe lights of the Jacksonville, Arkansas, Minute Man

The spacious location north of Main Street retains much of the original Minute Man charm with large globe lights overhead and mementos from the original franchise run decking the walls. The smell of hot charcoal fills the space as burgers and a selection of Ark-Mex favorites are ordered, delivered and consumed.

Vintage Minute Man No. 19 Menu

The menu includes originals like the #2 Hickory Burger, the #6 Salad Burger, the Big M and, of course, those delicious, napalm-hot Radar Range pies. It’s also expanded to include rotisserie chicken, taquitos and burritos, which you can get with a really neat chimichurri sauce and guacamole!

What makes the new Minute Man a dairy bar is the addition of shakes –not just traditional chocolate, strawberry and vanilla shakes but Radar Range Pie shakes, which include the filling and crust from the classic favorites. I can heartily attest that these are absolutely magnificent.

Veterans wearing facemasks, one in service duty uniforms and one in a black leather jacket, talk inside the Jacksonville, Arkansas, Minute Man

What’s also magnificent is the mission the Minute Man is on: to help veterans start their own small businesses. The Minute Man Foundation aims to put “vetrepreneurs” into good jobs by creating a food truck program where vets receive assistance, training and the opportunity to take on a Minute Man food truck. The first of these trucks is already on the streets of Central Arkansas, sharing the Minute Man menu and building a new face for a brand that’s survived more than 70 years.

If you’d like more information about the foundation, click here. You can find more on the newly relaunched Minute Man brand, including new restaurants as they come online, here. And, if you’d like to learn more about the last of the original Minute Man locations in El Dorado, please, visit Tie Dye Travels. 

TUNE IN:

 

Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021

“Arkansas Dairy Bars: Neat Eats and Cool Treats” premiere, 7 p.m.

 

 

DONATE NOW:

 

Donate now at myarpbs.org/donatedairybars to support public media across Arkansas, and you can pre-order a DVD copy, companion book, T-shirt or other fun thank-you gift!

 

VISIT A MINUTE MAN LOCATION:

El Dorado, Arkansas

318 W. Main St., El Dorado, Arkansas

 

Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

 

Jacksonville, Arkansas

120 John Harden Dr., Suite 1, Jacksonville, Arkansas

 

Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Minute Man Food Truck

See the most recently updated Minute Man food truck schedule here.

LEARN MORE:

“Arkansas Dairy Bars: Neat Eats and Cool Treats” 

Minute Man Foundation

New Minute Man Locations

Historic El Dorado Minute Man Location