The Skyline Cafe, located at 618 Mena Street in Mena (Polk County), is one of Arkansas’s oldest restaurants. It is one of Mena’s oldest businesses still in operation and lays claim to being the oldest eatery in town. Since opening its doors in 1922—though some sources indicate 1921—the Skyline Cafe has operated under various names, including Picchi’s, the Harvey Cafe, and the Skyline Cafe. However, its location has not changed in over a century.
Originally opened by John Picchi, the restaurant was first named Picchi’s. It changed to the Skyline Cafe after the U.S. Forest Service began construction of Skyline Drive (which extends from Mena to the Queen Wilhelmina State Park at the top of Rich Mountain and serves as the starting point for the Talimena Scenic Byway) in the 1920s and 1930s. New owners later changed the name to the Harvey Cafe, but it eventually reverted back to the Skyline Cafe.
The cafe survived the Great Depression, tornado damage in both 1993 and 2009, and COVID-era closures and restrictions. In September 2022, the cafe celebrated 100 years in operation, even though the exact opening date is unknown. Patrons can still expect to pay cash for their meals, as the Skyline Cafe has never accepted checks, credit cards, or debit cards. The cafe serves breakfast all day and lunch.
Notable patrons include former Arkansas governors Dale Bumpers, Bill Clinton, and Asa Hutchinson; radio and motion picture personalities Chester “Chet” Lauck and Findley Norris “Tuffy” Goff of Lum and Abner; and screen legend Robert Mitchum. Local sources report that Mitchum frequented the Skyline Cafe while filming Home from the Hill, a 1960 adaptation of the novel written by William Humphrey. Additionally, the film crew for Expedition Unknown: Hunt for ExtraTerrestrials (a television show on the Travel Channel) dined at the Skyline Cafe in 2017 while filming an episode on the Board Camp Crystal Mine near Mena.
The Skyline has received many awards over the years, including Tripadvisor Certificates of Excellence in 2014 and 2015, “Best of Mena—Breakfast” in 2014 and 2016, and “Polk County Readers’ Choice—Breakfast” in 2017. In 2023, the Skyline Café was nominated and advanced as one of twelve finalists for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the Division of Arkansas Heritage.
For additional information:
Clancy, Sean. “A Century of Service.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 13, 2022, pp. 1E, 6E. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/sep/13/a-century-of-service (accessed June 13, 2023).
Coogan, Harold. Mena Centennial History 1896–1996: A Photographic History of the City of Mena, Arkansas. Murfreesboro, AR: Looking Glass Media, 1996.
Horn, Elizabeth. “Skyline Cafe among Finalists for Arkansas Food Hall of Fame.” Mena Star, February 3, 2023. http://www.menastar.com/news/article_6cb5e38a-a404-11ed-9543-8fc2d350cabf.html (accessed June 13, 2023).
Johnson, Melanie. “The Historic Restaurant in Arkansas Where You Can Still Experience the Old American South.” Only In Your State, March 10, 2023. https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/arkansas/historic-regional-restaurant-ar/ (accessed June 13, 2023).
Robinson, Kat. “Skyline Cafe: Mena, Arkansas.” Tie Dye Travels, January 25, 2016. https://www.tiedyetravels.com/2016/01/skyline-cafe.html?m=1 (accessed June 13, 2023).
Mysti L. Gates
University of Arkansas Rich Mountain
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