Readers of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette's Northwest Arkansas edition were asked to vote on the "best businesses in the region," and the "2011 Readers Poll Results" were recently published in "Best of the Best: Northwest Arkansas."
As the publisher noted, "Considering the sheer abundance of choices, this third annual Best of the Best readers poll provides more guidance than ever - from picking a hamburger joint to a home builder." There were eight main categories (people, places, dining, entertainment, health and beauty, shopping, home and finance, and services) with a number of choices within each.
More than 2,000 readers responded and cast their votes in the poll, which resulted in a list of winners and finalists.
In the "Dining" category alone there were more than 40 options to choose from, including "Best Coffee," "Best Country Cooking," "Best Chicken," "Best Pizza," "Best New Restaurant," "Best Outdoor Dining," "Best Restaurant for Kids," "Best Hot Dog," and many, many more.
This reporter was especially interested in "investigating" the "Best of the Best" winners for "Best Breakfast," "Best Pie," "Best Bakery," and "Best Dessert." Two Northwest Arkansas establishments captured those four titles: Village Inn
(breakfast and pie) and Rick's Bakery
(bakery and dessert).
I spoke with Carol Gray, General Manager of the Village Inn in Fayetteville, Ark., and asked her what it meant to her to be voted "Best of the Best" for "Best Breakfast" and "Best Pie." "We were proud. Very proud," Gray said. "It means a lot to us because it is the customers who are voting."
Gray shared the secret of her pies' success. "They are just really good," Gray said, noting that the top sellers are "French Silk and Country Apple."
"Bakers Square makes all Village Inn pies," Gray added. It was in 1983
that that the corporation owning Village Inn restaurants purchased Poppin' Fresh Pies "and Bakers Square Restaurants were born and the legacy of premium pies endured."
According to Bakers Square
, "We've all heard the phrase 'as American as apple pie.' The truth is pies originated in ancient Greece, became popular in Rome and were brought to America by the pilgrims. Bakers Square has taken this traditional favorite dessert and created the 'Best Pie in America!'”
Village Inn states that they have "The Best Pie in America." That claim is certainly backed-up by folks in Northwest Arkansas who voted Village Inn, with locations in Bentonville and Fayetteville, as being the place with the "Best Pie." Gray also mentioned the popularity of Pie Rush Wednesday and said that it is not uncommon for them to "bake 80 pies" on Wednesdays.
In addition, Village Inn was named the restaurant with the "Best Breakfast." Gray attributes that success to "the new V.I.B. with up to seven choices." The "INNcredible V.I.B.
" allows customers to choose four items from among 30 "Inn-Credible items" and there are "Supreme Items" that can be added as well. This option is available all day, every day and in Northwest Arkansas the cost is only $7.39. Being voted "Best of the Best," according to Gray, "makes us feel good" and then she went on to give overall credit to the customers. "We have the best customer base, the most loyal guests," Gray said. "We have some customers that come in two to three times per day. We get to know them and get close to them," she added.
Village Inn was a finalist for "Best Dessert," but the top spot went to Rick's Bakery.
The counters in Rick's Bakery are filled with desserts that would make anyone's mouth water.
A clerk told me that the "Strawberry Sensation" cupcake is one of their top sellers.
Even for this reporter who is not a big fan of brownies, the assortment of brownies looked luscious.
The clerk reminded me that the bakery was just around the corner and I tore myself away from the desserts to go take a look. Rick's Bakery was voted "Best Bakery" in Northwest Arkansas and it is easy to see why.
Whether by nature (it's in the genes of folks born in NWA) or nurture (most newcomers quickly become fans), folks in Northwest Arkansas are die hard Arkansas Razorback fans. So it was no surprise to see a wide variety of Razorback cupcakes and cakes available for purchase at Rick's Bakery. I would venture to guess they are also among the top sellers at Rick's Bakery.