There are plenty of beloved eateries in Little Rock, but perhaps only one that causes diners to tap out before they can finish their biggest menu item. Cotham’s in the City has become world famous for its quadruple hubcap burger, after being featured on the Food Network show “Man Vs. Food.” The hubcap features a whopping four burger patties that add up to a total of one pound of meat.
“Whenever that airs, people come in to buy that,” said Erin Griffin, who has co-owned and operated Cotham’s with her husband John since its opening in 2001. “We’ve had two people ever finish it. It’s practically impossible, so it’s more of a novelty. But people will come from countries like Ireland and come here and order a quadruple. It’s crazy.”
Cotham’s has managed to thrive despite the fact that it’s only open 15 hours a week, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri. The Griffins have tried serving breakfast and dinner in the past, but found it didn’t work because the surrounding area is packed with 9-to-5 businesses and the State Capitol, leaving nothing to draw people to the neighborhood on nights and weekends.
But what makes it work is its staggering popularity at lunch, with the joint particularly packed with lawmakers and their staffs during the annual legislative season. Griffin notes that the unusual arrangement is hugely popular with her own staff.
“Our kitchen staff works 30 to 35 hours a week due to prepping, cooking and cleaning up,” said Griffin. “We’re paying our staff higher wages than ever, so many don’t even need a second job. And our wait staff can make great money while still having time to pick their kids up from school and go to their baseball games.”
Yet despite all those pluses, Griffin explains that her biggest challenge currently is finding enough staff.
“We used to have stacks of applications for servers because it’s so great here, but now we can’t get enough applications for serving or kitchen staff. It’s unbelievable, and I don’t know where the workers are. We are proud that we stood by our staff and hired everyone who wanted to come back after the pandemic faded.”
Another part of the magnetic draw for patrons are the daily plate specials that Cotham’s serves up with two sides for just $10.49. Mondays feature ½ burger steak (which is also served daily due to its popularity), while Tuesdays have chicken and dumplings, Wednesdays have chicken fried steak, Thursdays have fried chicken, and Fridays spotlight pork chops.
Catfish is another menu favorite, and is a daily fixture at the restaurant. And for dessert, the eatery offers a Mississippi Mud pie that costs $4.99 for a half portion and $8.99 for a full.
Cotham’s slogan is “Where the Elite Meet to Eat,” a reference to the many legislators who eat there regularly due to the restaurant’s close walking proximity to the Capitol building. But Griffin also notes that President George W. Bush dined there while he was in office, and Bill Clinton favored the original location in Scott, Ark. throughout his time as governor.
As she considers her two decades of history with the restaurant, Griffin notes that the current economic climate is extremely difficult to deal with, yet she shows resilience in the face of the monetary tsunami the nation faces.
“We never want to raise our prices more than once a year, and we’ve already done this year’s while the costs are still going up, and it makes this a brutal time to open a restaurant,” explained Griffin. “Absolutely anyone that’s opening one right now rather than having one in existence has lost their mind, in my opinion. It’s difficult on all sides, with inflation, staffing and everything. But we’re still here, and we’re going to stay.”
Cotham’s in the City is located at 1401 W. 3rd St. in Little Rock. Call (501) 370-9177 or visit cothams.com.