GRAVETTE – A popular restaurant in Gravette is now under new management since Joe Martinez, owner of Hollywood’s Cafe, sold his business to Hillary Drain. Drain took over restaurant operations on March 30 and changed its name to Southern Yank Cafe.
Hillary explained that she went to work in Hollywood as a dishwasher in August 2021. When she learned that Joe wanted to retire, she let him know that she would be interested in buying the cafe because she had often dreamed of having her own restaurant. Since Martinez only served breakfast and lunch and then closed at 1:30 p.m., they continued to work together during those hours. Then Joe would leave, and from November she would keep the cafe open in the evenings.
Drain says she chose the name of the cafe because she considers herself a Southern Yankee. She was born in South Florida, then, because her father was a Navy man, moved to Virginia, Maryland, and finally to Hinckley, Minnesota, where she grew up.
Hillary and her husband moved to northwest Arkansas in 2006 and purchased property in Washington County. She moved to Gravette in 2020 to help her mother since her father had health issues. When she got bored and felt she had too much free time, she accepted the job in Hollywood.
Hillary’s husband was an Army man and they moved to various places in the United States and Europe. She has a long career in catering and has over 30 years of experience in cafes and restaurants across the country and overseas.
After moving to northwest Arkansas, Hillary worked with the Jr. Master Gardeners, Washington County 4-H Club, as a parent volunteer. She taught food science to young people and helped the club become the first nonprofit vendor on the Washington County Fairgrounds, where it operated a food stand during Bikes, Blues and BBQ. His daughter Samantha was captain of the winning 4-H Food Bowl team that went on to national competition.
Drain says she wants to focus on a combination of Yankee cuisine and Southern hospitality at Southern Yank. She also showcases dishes from the European countries where she has lived. It offers lunch and evening dishes that change every day.
Hillary changes the breakfast menu. She says if a customer walks in and wants an omelet, she’ll make one, but she plans to phase out omelets and offer skillet breakfasts instead.
Hollywood has long been known for good Mexican food, but Hillary plans to eliminate much of the menu south of the border. She will continue to serve the popular Mexican nachos and stuffed potatoes, but is ditching tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and taco salad, telling herself “if a person wants Mexican food, they can go to a Mexican restaurant.”
Hillary is introducing many new items to the regular menu and to her daily specials. Many new vegetables, sides, meats and desserts appear on the evening menu.
Hillary emphasizes that the food prepared at Southern Yank is safe and hygienic. The cafe is ServSafe certified by the National Restaurant Association and Hillary is certified as a ServSafe Food Safety Officer, accredited by the American National Standards Institute.
Southern Yank hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Hillary says she can extend the hours to 9 p.m. as the days get longer. Saturday hours are 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. The cafe is closed on Sundays, but Drain plans to be open on Sunday, May 8, for Mother’s Day, and Sunday, June 19, with promotions on both days.
Southern Yank is located at 209 Main Street SW, just east of the Baptist Church. The cafe’s phone number is 479-787-8442 if anyone wants to place a takeout order. Drain plans to hold a grand opening in the near future, but urges diners not to wait to come in, get to know each other and sample some Southern Yank fare.