By Paige Carswell
It looks like a hole in the wall.
And, housing an atmosphere of truck drivers, casino-goers, college students, petroleum and delicious food, Carolyn’s Café
is definitely a unique experience.
Nestled into the back of a truck stop on 804 E. Madison in Arkansas City, the café has been a go-to for night owls for years. Known as APCO to frequenters, the walls are generally bare, the ceiling lights are harsh and the wooden tables are covered with carvings of the names of the previous diners. “We never really started letting people write on the tables,” said Jim Glodowski, employee,
looking around at the tables, laughing. “They just do it.”
Most recently renamed Carolyn’s, the place has gone through several changes in the past. Glodowski has worked in the restaurant for the past eight years, and has seen the names, specials and customers pass through. “Wherever they get their gas from, that’s who it’s named after,”
Glodowski said, “but it’s always APCO East.”
Besides providing studentswith meals that are as close to home-cooked as some get to during their time at school, Carolyn’s offers another specialty. The restaurant opens at 10 p.m. and stays open until 2 p.m. the next day, perfect for those looking for a late-night meal that isn’t a McDouble.
“That’s why I like it,” said Amelia Lutz, communication senior. “It’s never really crowded, the food is cheap and delicious, and I can get in and out of there without a temper tantrum because there’s generally nothing to complain about.”
A total of 15 people work in the building, which includes the truck stop in the front, said Glodowski, including one cook at a time in the back.
Jevyn Voss, athletic training freshman, said “I have friends that have gone hundreds of times. I love how you never know who will be there—it’s always a different experience despite it seeming like a shady little restaurant.”
Carolyn’s offers a variety of breakfast foods, from 75-cent eggs to pancakes to biscuits and gravy. But, there are items that people tend to gravitate toward on the menu, Glodowski said. “I would have to say the cheese fries are really popular,” he said. “And the breakfast burrito is the
drunk man’s favorite.”
Hunter Rockhill, music sophomore, has his own favorite when he goes to the restaurant. “I like the late night chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes,” he said.
Rockhill is also a fan of the business hours. “It’s a truck stop, so it’s open really early in the morning, which is great for the late night munchies. The people who work there are pretty down to earth.”
The special for now is homemade chicken noodles on Tuesday night until close on Wednesday afternoon. Green beans and corn are served with them during the day for $5.25, but “people don’t want a lot of vegetables at night,” Glodowski said, so they are served on a bed of mashed potatoes for $4.50 until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
The best part of the restaurant, Glodowski said, is the atmosphere. “We’re kind of informal down here,” said Glodowski. “We like to have fun.”
And, whether it’s the food or the hours, customers keep coming back to the tiny station housing the even tinier restaurant in Arkansas City.
“It’s just a little jewel of Cowley County,” said Voss.
Paige Carswell is a senior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.