Bob Green never fancied himself a gourmet, simply a foodie who thrived on delivering a menu of meat and three veggies to a less than discriminating clientele in his Oak Street establishment.
The restaurant is still there even if Bob is not, having departed this veil some time ago. But he carved a niche in the congregation of eating spots in Conway, feeding and hosting a wide range of people from the hoi polloi to noted gentry.
This may be old hat to many in these precincts, yet Bob’s Grill has stood the test of culinary times. So be advised that the legacy of the original remains. And if your footsteps take you there consider the fact that one treads on hallowed carpet.
"Give ‘em what they want and they’ll come back," was his mantra
In later years the motto was and probably still is: "If it happens in Conway, it’s talked about at Bob’s Grill."
Bob Green was the embodiment of the hometown restaurateur, clad in a white apron, affable in tone and outgoing, whose only concern was dishing out down-home vittles. He never compromised with quality. What his bill of fare lacked in culinary sophistication was more than made up by its wholesomeness, food to please a healthy appetite - and even a gourmet,
Green and the restaurant business were synonymous - he starting off as a bus boy at a tender age working for an uncle in a Michigan restaurant. He took to the business of cooking eagerly and it wasn’t too long before he moved up the restaurant chain brewing coffee and then becoming a fry cook.
At year’s end, Green found himself in charge of the place.
He made his bow in the Conway restaurant business in 1957 in a nondescript spot called The Country Inn. He held forth there for about a year before solidifying his stature in the business. He took over the restaurant at the now defunct 64-65 Motel. For the next 10 years, Bob Green was a star of the establishment, and his reputation as a staple in the food business in Conway was assured.
Even though the motel location at the confluence of Highways 65 and 64 had certain positive attributes, he felt a longing to operate a restaurant in the downtown area.
He wasn’t to be denied, and in the years ahead he found himself doing business in a small eating-place on Chestnut Street adjacent to the Kordsmeier furniture company. The year was 1980. Business was brisk, but it wasn’t the main drag restaurant he longed for. Fortune smiled on him soon afterward, and he leaped at the chance when a storefront on Oak Street presented itself. It is the present location.
The place was much larger and it contained space for an expanded kitchen. It was a fortuitous move, and business boomed.
Green was never concerned with the competition. When the fast food craze surfaced, he was not deterred; he shrugged his shoulders and paid little attention to it. His domain was a kitchen that served wholesome family meals. Fried chicken and burritos were the stars of his menu.
It’s been said he was the first to introduce pizza here. Bob made what he called "pittsa" and local students soon became addicted to its wonders.
When Bob died, his two daughters took over and operated the place until they sold out to Jim and Paula Durand. Leslie and Jim Marshall are the currant owners, having taken over in 2004.
The ambience of Bob’s Grill has changed very little over the years. Its furnishings are from another era; the old steam table hasn’t undergone much revision; the walls are still festooned with photos, some new and some ancient; and paintings. The food - the Blue Plate Specials - still beckons with its distinctive smells.
It is inimitably Bob’s Grill. To say that some of the offerings are well executed and addictively comforting may not be an exaggeration. The long time visitors would apparently agree.
The "fellas" still congregate and try their best to solve the problems of the day while consuming coffee. Once coffee was priced at 10 cents a cup.
Bob was urged to go up on his price of coffee at one point. "I refused. I said, "We make coffee until they get tired of drinking it and we get tired of making it. It all works out."
Anecdotes about Bob Green remain fixed. One story deals with a customer who ordered fried chicken one day. Green dutifully placed three pieces of chicken on the fellow’s plate, two pieces of dark meat and one piece of white. The fellow looked on in dismay and told Bob he wanted only white meat. Thereupon Green reached for the plate and scraped the two pieces of dark meat off the plate and handed it back to the startled customer.
Green denied the story but he held no rancor for those telling it. "It goes with the territory," he laughed.
Oldsters remember some of the catchphrases that amused. One said: "This is a high class place; act respectable". A sign warns patrons that all complaints be held in abeyance since the cook is "short tempered".
Today Bob’s Grill still owns other trappings of olden times, but its atmosphere has not suffered. The new owners made sure of that, even though some changes are apparent - such as food service on Sundays and bingo at other times.