Every morning at about 2:45am on Wheeler Ave in Fort Smith, there is a line that stretches out the door of a gas station for a solid hour. What is all the excitement about? Well, it's not to get fuel and a donut, that's for sure. It's because there is a family run business that has some of the most delicious fried food and breakfast items that you will ever eat. You say to yourself, gas station food? Yes, but this isn't an ordinary gas station.
The Hydration Station is a family owned chain that has been in business for over twenty years. If you live in Fort Smith, then you know what this place is, and if you are going to visit the area, then you need to make this your designated lunch stop. There is a whole menu served here daily, but we will talk about some of the delicious favorites. Now generally when you go out for fried fish, it might be a disappointing experience.
I have gone to Red Lobster time and time again, and it always seems like the fish and chips are either too moist or not crunchy enough. Let me tell you that when you go to the Hydration Station, the first thing you will notice is how the catfish has a nice crunch. The skin is perfectly fried, and there is something about the seasoning that doesn't taste like anything else. And it's true that the manager/lead cook Jaselyn has a lot of experience in the kitchen.
She always has a smile and welcomes every customer like it is her home away from home. On top of that, the rest of the staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful. They are quick to get your order, even before it's your place in line. The service is very fast, and the entire store is kept immaculately well considering how much foot traffic it gets.
It's hard to explain how delicious the coating on the catfish is, but the fish itself is delicious too. And when you consider the affordable price, the chunks of catfish that you get are huge. You might not expect such a hardy lunch when you walk into a gas station, but you will get it here. Now there are a few side dishes that you'll want to try.
The mashed potatoes are always piping hot and ready to order, they are also made fresh throughout the day. The same goes for the white gravy, which is made fresh every night, and the biscuits here are made fresh. For a different taste, you have to try the fried macaroni and cheese bites. I guarantee you have had nothing like them before.
The chicken strips here are also delicious, and you can get the regular flavor or the spicy flavor. I will tell you now that the spicy flavor is extremely popular. Again, the coating on the chicken has an excellent crunch, but the meat inside is still juicy. When I've eaten chicken strips from chain restaurants lately, it was like eating a piece of jerky.
I don't mind getting an entire meal for my kids from the Hydration Station when I am busy, because I know the chicken is juicy and fresh, and the sides are hot, and you end up saving money when you think of the quality of the food. There are other items to choose from, such as the egg rolls and the fried burritos.
The steak cut potato wedges are also available in regular and spicy, and again the flavor is exceptional. These are made with real potatoes and not that fake stuff. When I say real potato wedges, I mean chunks with a nice coating on them. They aren't over fried either, just enough for that delicious flavor to come through.
The Hydration Station also serves a full breakfast, and everything is made fresh and in house. Whether you want a ham and cheese croissant, a breakfast burrito or a biscuit, you will leave here feeling satisfied in the morning. You don't need to settle for fast food when you can get delicious home cooking right here.
I'd highly recommend stopping here if you have never experienced the delicious fried food, but especially the catfish. This store has everything you could want, and it is more important than ever to support our local family owned businesses. The Hydration Station has been the focal point of Fort Smith for decades, and the food is delicious.
Location: 3316 Wheeler Ave, Fort Smith, AR 72901