River Valley Eats

RIVER VALLEY EATS | Kat Robinson: Delaware Deli has homemade waffle cones

The Italian sandwich contains Capicola, Black Forest Ham and Genoa Salami, generously offered with all the fixings, choice of dressing and one of five cheeses. (Courtesy Photo/Kat Robinson)

Arkansas 22 was once a vibrant, essential link between Fort Smith and the crossover at Dardanelle on the Arkansas River. Once Interstate 40 came through in the 1970s, much of the traffic that once crowded this stretch moved over to the faster road, leaving behind a gorgeous, lingering highway with some of the River Valley's best views.

What it did not leave were a lot of restaurants. Between the edge of Dardanelle and Paris, there are just a handful of spots. The emergence of the Delaware Deli and Ice Cream Shop a few years ago was a delightful surprise. Though it came to open right before the pandemic, its switch to window service (and incidentally, classification as a dairy bar) meant customers could still get a good hot meal and their ice cream fix.

Now, in 2023, there's no slacking of visitors to the bright red-white-and-blue station in the tiny Delaware community. Picnic tables are often occupied, even on weekdays, with locals grabbing sandwiches and chips, while on weekends folks heading to destinations like Mount Magazine and Mount Nebo drop in to grab and go.

Service is back along the counter, where eight big tubs of premium ice cream tempt. The specialty is sandwiches, both hot and cold, served on your choice of bread or wheat or white hoagie. The combinations are marvelous -- like in the Italian, which contains Capicola, Black Forest Ham and Genoa Salami, generously offered with all the fixings, choice of dressing and one of five cheeses. There's also the Deluxe, which swaps the Capicola for Roast Beef. An excellent Reuben, a smartly matched turkey sandwich, and even a three-cheese grilled cheese are all great hand-helds to take with you or consume outside.

Burgers are also on the menu, quarter- and third-pound varieties with a selection of different toppings, as well as a fish sandwich and chicken tender sandwich. Baskets and even pizzas are also offered.

But the real reason a traveler should darken the door is the ice cream -- and what it comes in. Delaware Deli makes its own waffle cones, both in vanilla and in chocolate. These pliant yet crispy vessels have no staleness to them. They're wide, and they fill well with two, three and even four scoops of whatever variety is tops that day, whether it's a rich praline cream, a deep chocolate, a bright strawberry or a creamy huckleberry. The hand-scooped flavors change frequently, so every visit offers a new opportunity for experimentation.

Delaware Deli and Ice Cream Shop is located at 26168 E. Arkansas 22 in Delaware. Call 234-4555 or visit DelawareDeli.com.

  photo  A generously dressed turkey sandwich can be paired with potato salad for a tasty lunch to eat in or carry out. (Courtesy Photo/Kat Robinson)
  photo  Perhaps Delaware Deli's biggest claim to fame is its homemade waffle cones, created in both vanilla and chocolate and filled with everything from traditional chocolate to huckleberry ice cream. (Courtesy Photo/Kat Robinson)