Benji Arslanovski mixes home cooking with down-home service and adds a lifetime of experience to serve up one of Mansfield’s favorite restaurants.
People swarm Our Place for omelets and pancakes every morning, then line up for chicken-fried steak for lunch. The home cooking isn’t the only thing on the menu, though.
“It’s where everyone knows everyone,” Arslanovski, 46, said. “We have regulars. We know what they eat. If someone doesn’t come in for awhile, we have customers that go check on them.”
Arslanovski opened the diner in 2008, but he had been preparing for it for most of his life.
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His father, Otto, immigrated from Yugoslavia in 1962, met his mother, Carole, in a restaurant kitchen in southern Illinois where she was a waitress and he was washing dishes. She taught him how to cook and they soon opened their own restaurant. They moved to Burleson to be near his mother’s parents and opened Our Place there in 1986. Arslanovski, who was 15 at the time, was not thrilled.
“I hated it,” he admitted. “They would call me when someone didn’t show up. I wanted to hang out with my friends.”
The family closed the restaurant after Carole’s death in 1996, then both of his brothers took turns re-opening and running the Burleson restaurant. Arslanovski had moved on, selling food to restaurants. But food service wasn’t done with him yet.
“I love cooking, so I did miss it,” he said.
His secrets are cooking everything fresh and using quality meats, he said.
“It costs more, but I think it’s better,” Arslanovski said.
One of the restaurant’s favorites is also the cheapest - free. Our Place gives diners a free bowl of soup with lunch.
“They’re my dad’s recipes, 40 different soups,” he said. “We stick with the same ones every day. Taco soup on Fridays is the most popular.”
The soup is so popular that it almost got Arslanovski sued. In April, Our Place made news when an attorney threatened legal action against the restaurant when it ran out.
“I was shocked,” Arslanovski said. “I left early. He came in at 2:45 p.m., 15 minutes before we closed. On Monday, I got a letter. I thought ‘What the heck?’ My attorney said put it on Facebook. I did. By 3 o’clock that day, I had five networks calling me.”
The attorney, who wanted $2.25 for the missing soup and $250 for attorney fees, soon dropped the issue.
Arslanovski decided to turn the incident into something good.
“It was so negative,” he said. “Anyone who donated a can of soup got 10 percent off their meal. We collected 530 cans of soup and gave them to Bethlehem Baptist’s food pantry.”
Sandy Harvey has been a server for two decades, the past six at Our Place. She says Arslanovski keeps things fun.
“I love it,” she said. “I’ve always worked for big corporations. This is my first mom and pop. I love the customers and the owner.”
Working in a family-owned place lets her get to know her customers, she said.
“The way the business is run is different,” Harvey said. “I treat my customers as if they were at my place eating dinner. That couple that just pulled up? As soon as I saw them, I started their decaf coffee.”
Jack and Faye Roberts, who have been coming to Our Place since the doors opened, advise arriving late on Sundays.
“If we come on a Sunday, we go home from church and take a nap, then come here,” Faye Roberts said. “It’s packed.”
The couple say they eat there almost every day, sometimes twice a day, and have tried everything on the menu. Jack Roberts recommends breakfast, while his wife favors the pot roast and taco soup.
“They have the best coffee in town,” she said.
Even musician Kelly Clarkson, a Burleson native, recommends the place, once checking in on Facebook and posting that Our Place has the best cornbread in the world.
All this popularity has led to people lining up out the door, Arslanovski admits, but he’s figured that out, too, adding more parking three years ago and building an enclosed patio with seating for more than 100 this spring. And he’s not done yet, planning to pave even more parking for his customers in the near future.
He considered opening another restaurant in Fort Worth, but said he didn’t want to take away from the Mansfield location.
“When we first opened, I worked 14 hours a day,” Arslanovski said. “I was chef, dishwasher, cashier, busboy. I loved it.”
Arslanovski says he still puts in about 60 hours a week, but he has a lot to love at home, too. He and wife, Samantha, have been married for three years and have a 10-month-old son, Carter.
“There’s nothing in my life that I’d want to change right now,” Arslanovski said. “I’m blessed.”
Our Place Restaurant
915 W. Debbie Lane