Business

Tailgaters adds state honors to list of awards

Named as 2018 "Best Burger Restaurant"

By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
A pair of national outlets recently named a local restaurant as the state’s best as USA Today teaming up with TripAdvisor recognized the top-rated burger restaurants in all 50 states, and Tailgaters won the 2018 award in Arkansas.
The national accolades are nothing new for the downtown Hope eatery; in 2017, Delish.com proclaimed Tailgater’s signature Applewood Bacon Cheeseburger as the “Best Bacon Burger.”
Sharon Caldwell, co-owner and principal operator of Tailgaters, said she learned of the USA Today/TripAdivisor honors when she received an unexpected phone call from northwestern Arkansas.
“We got a phone call from someone who saw it in USA Today that TripAdvisor’s Number One burger in Arkansas was awarded to Tailgaters. We looked it up and found the article in USA Today, and then I started getting calls that it was on Channel 11 out of Little Rock, and it just kind of took off from there,” she said.
Since the award became known three weeks ago, Caldwell said the visitors from all over the state have ventured down to Hope to try a burger.
“Seven or eight a day are coming from out of town,” she said afterwards, “We’ve had them say that they saw it in the USA Today.”
Unlike the previous 2017 award for “Best Bacon Burger From Every State” as presented by Delish.com, which cited Tailgater’s Applewood Bacon Cheeseburger, no particular hamburger was named in the USA Today/TripAdvisor citation.
Caldwell said that Tailgaters currently has 10 different burgers on the menu.
“It could have been any one of them,” she said, “but they did not single out one, they just said ‘Best Burger.’”
Among the featured speciality burgers are the Applewood, the Avocado, the Mushroom Swiss, the Southern Slaw, and the Jalapeno.
“We are blessed and privileged to get this honor, and we are blessed and privileged to have the support of this community. Never did I imagine when we opened up seven years ago that this would take off like this,” she said.
Over the past seven years, the Applewood Bacon Cheeseburger has been by far the best selling food item, according to Caldwell.
In addition to awards, the local eatery has also attracted a series of famous persons and VIPs, ranging from Hope’s hometown former President, Bill Clinton, to current Governor Asa Hutchinson, and even his Democratic opponent, Jared Henderson ate and visited potential voters two weeks ago. Then-reigning Miss America Betty Cantrell stopped by for a burger after a singing performance in August 2016.
Caldwell also credits the restaurant’s awards and success to a steady succession of mostly young high school and college-aged employees, who she affectionally calls “My kids…”
“I think it is all about caring about your people that you work with. That’s the number one thing. I’ve never called my employees an ‘employee.’ They are all ’my kids’ and I treat them like my kids. I’ve been very, very blessed to have working for me, and who I have had working with me the past few years. I couldn’t do this with out them,” she said.

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