Posted on July 1, 2020
Ribbon Cutting: Off The Rail Café held a ribbon cutting Tuesday with the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the opening of the new restaurant. Off The Rail Café is located at 220 E. Main Street in downtown El Dorado. Above, from left, Jake Brumley, Teri Beth Brumley, Saxon Morgan, Nichole Davis, Sawyer Morgan, Angela Morrison (owner), Brandon Baker, Dean Morrison (owner), Irma Buelna, Jordan Vonneumann, Levi Espino, Yvette Swilley and Bill Luther.
El Dorado News-Times
El Dorado residents have been enjoying Dean Morrison’s breakfast and lunch menus for a couple of months now, but the opening of Off the Rail Cafe, a new restaurant downtown, was made official yesterday with a ribbon cutting that the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce participated in.
“It’s been a great day, the business has been very well received,” Morrison, who owns the restaurant and cooks, said Tuesday.
Off the Rail started serving guests on May 12, the day after Gov. Asa Hutchinson lifted some restrictions on dining inside of restaurants. Morrison said he’s seen the effects of the pandemic in his clientele, which has skewed younger for the most part, but that he thinks it may be helpful in the long run to have had the slower opening.
“The restrictions make your staff more aware of what’s going on. When you open a new restaurant it’s chaos during the first month,” he said. “Walking into the situation instead of running has probably helped us a little bit. People are getting used to the norm.”
Morrison said he started in the restaurant business at 16 in Tampa, Fla., where he grew up. He moved to Arkansas when he was around 30, he said, and has been the general manager for several country clubs around the state, including the El Dorado Golf & Country Club.
Off the Rail Cafe serves breakfast and lunch, with options for the health conscious and those looking for some Southern comfort food. Morrison highlighted the chocolate gravy, which is served over biscuits and is an Arkansas-original.
“I’ve got some options that you probably won’t see around other restaurants,” he said.
The cafe’s breakfast menu includes items like stuffed French toast, which Morrison said was his biggest seller, along with different kinds of homemade omelettes, avocado toast and a variety of pancakes and French toast flavors.
“I thought El Dorado had a need for a nice breakfast place where you can get some of the unique items you won’t see a lot of other places, maybe only in big cities,” Morrison said.
The lunch menu offers items like the ‘strawberry fields salad,’ a fresh spinach salad topped with candied pecans, strawberries and grilled chicken breast; homemade pimento cheese and chicken salad sandwiches; authentic Cuban sandwiches, made on Cuban bread with roast pork, Swiss cheese and ham; and grilled barbecue shrimp sandwiches.
Morrison works with his wife, Angela, who also owns her own business, a hair salon across the street from Off the Rail. In the future, he plans to start a supper club, where local residents can reserve a spot for a dinner that will offer several entree choices, as well as running specials for breakfast and lunch diners.
He said he’s currently working to secure an alcohol permit, and will likely serve wine.
Right now, diners have the option to sit outside, which Morrison said many utilize, though social distancing is observed inside the cafe. Off the Rail Cafe is located in the rail car in Corinne Court by the El Dorado Guest Quarters on Main Street.
“We’ve stretched out outdoor dining. We’ve got umbrellas, tables,” he said. “I even brought some tables from the dining room out onto the patio. I think in this part, everybody feels a little more comfortable eating outside.”
Richard Mason, a local developer who owns the Union Square Guest Quarters, said he is happy to have Off the Rail Cafe as a neighbor.
“Dean has a lot of experience in restaurant operations, and his menu is outstanding,” Mason said. “His business has really taken off, and with the addition of outside seating in the courtyard, it adds to the ambience of our downtown.”
Guests of the Guest Quarters receive a complimentary breakfast from Off the Rail Cafe, which both Mason and Morrison said has been positively reviewed.
“My goal in finding someone to open the restaurant in the train car was focused on having an excellent breakfast for the Union Square Guest Quarters guests. We are getting rave reviews, and our Guest Quarter business is notching up,” Mason said. “I couldn’t be more pleased.”
“We’re happy to work with Richard Mason. He’s given me a great opportunity,” Morrison said. “We’ve turned the Guest Quarters into basically a bed and breakfast.”
Mason said he believed the addition of Off the Rail Cafe could help other businesses downtown, too.
“Adding to the number of downtown restaurants brings in more retail business, and as in other cities where they have restaurant rows, they find out the more restaurants, the more business everyone has,” he said.
Off the Rail Cafe is open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch service begins at 10:30 a.m. The cafe also offers takeout, and a staff member will bring orders out to diners. Call 870-639-8080 to learn more.
Off The Rail Café, located at 220 E. Main Street in downtown El Dorado, held a ribbon cutting Tuesday with the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Above, from left, Jake Brumley, Saxon Morgan, Angela Morrison & Dean Morrison (owners) and Sawyer Morgan. (Contributed)