Samantha Tompkins, an Ashdown, Arkansas, native and formerly chef at Pecan Point Gastropub & Brewery in Texarkana, will take over as proprietor and chef of The Flying Crow, a restaurant in a refurbished railcar along Front Street in the downtown entertainment district. Tompkins said she plans to present new twists on old favorites with an emphasis on fresh dishes, including some locally-sourced food.
The only thing she bemoans a bit is the size of the kitchen. "It is a tiny kitchen, which is a challenge that I haven't had to work with before, but it gives me a chance to really be creative and get to do some interesting problem solving," Tompkins said.
She said the menu will be mostly sandwiches, salads and appetizers. Think of it this way: picnic chic.
"You're going to have really wonderful charcuterie and little dips and sandwiches and things that you're familiar with, like a pimento sandwich but with a unique twist on it," she said.
She expects to open sometime in September, but the date isn't set yet. Her hours are tentatively set as from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays — with exceptions.
Tompkins said she might experiment with evening hours, too, when events are held downtown and things start popping.
"Because the daiquiri train is just a little ways down the road and doing so well, I'm thinking that it would be really fun to do some evening hours once we've been open for a little while," she said, with circumstances ripe for tapas, appetizers and hors d'oeuvres.
There are certain dishes she looks forward to making.
"One of the things that I'm really excited about is the smoked salmon bagel. It's not something that I've seen in town a lot," Tompkins said. "I want to do a deviled egg du jour kind of thing where I have deviled eggs but the flavors change all the time."
Fresh fruits, salads and a charcuterie plate will be on tap.
"I'm going to be getting meat from Sullifarm and Kitchen," Tompkins said, summer sausage and more. Sullifarm specializes in local pasture-raised meat.
She'd like to work with other nearby food suppliers, too, with farm-to-table sourcing.
The chicken salad sandwich was popular at the prior version of The Flying Crow. Tompkins said she has the original recipe for that version and she may work it into a menu special.
But she'll also have her own versions of the classic chicken salad. One of them has apricots, green apples and pecans, she said.
Resurgent, not derailed
David Peavy owns the railcar that the new restaurant will call home. He's been looking for a new restaurateur since Emily Graham left to refocus her work at her own bakery, the nearby Graham Slam Bakery.
He's made various improvements and additions to the space and he said real plates and cutlery will be used.
"I'm excited that Samantha is making the Flying Crow to fly again," he said. "I'm looking forward to her raising the bar to make this an entertaining dining experience. We are all fortunate to have her as our skilled, creative chef."
Peavy revamped the Crow's interior himself as a labor of love, including vintage advertisements and other visual reminders of the role the railroad had in shaping Texarkana history.
Decades ago, the railcar was a Santa Fe Railroad lounge car built by Pullman-Standard circa 1940. Reportedly, it transported movie stars between Los Angeles and Chicago with the first-class ride named the Super Chief.
Situated at 305 Front St. near the railway lines, Amtrak station, the former Union Station, the 1894 City Market, Broad Street businesses and Front Street Festival Plaza, The Flying Crow is in the thick of both downtown's resurgent activity and markers of Texarkana's past.
"What's really cool is watching the little kids come in and just seeing trains come by and their eyes light up, and everybody getting their picture made out there going to lunch," Peavy said in an earlier interview.
Tompkins attended the culinary program at Texarkana College and remembers being pushed to work hard during her time there. When she graduated, she started at Pecan Point and eventually became executive chef, a job she really enjoyed.
"I loved planning Valentine's Day dinners, catering for different clients and stuff," Tompkins said, noting she wants to introduce people to new flavors they may not have tasted before but in a way that is "familiar and comforting."
"I hope to take this experience and be able to expand on it and do other things in the area," she said, noting that, as a history buff, she appreciates the unique, historical location in a train downtown.
"I'm excited to share some of that history with people that are curious about it," Tompkins said. n
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