November Edition: 10 Dishes You Need to Know

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For reasons unbeknownst to me, certain dishes seem to fall under the radar. Every few months I’ll highlight some of these dishes, tell you what makes them so good, and hopefully inspire you to check them out for yourself, if you haven’t done so already. In no particular order, here are the 10 Dishes You Need to Know.

Skillet Bread at South on Main
This is a rotating menu item, so you’re best option is to ask for it and see if the restaurant has all of the ingredients to whip some up. Think of this as a doughier naan covered in shredded brisket, cheese, and whatever else chef Bell wants to put on top. Next time you’re at SoM, cozy up to the bar and polish off this skillet bread with an Old Fashioned.

Fried Quail at Natchez
Certain restaurants are just good at frying things. Natchez is one of those places … and nothing tops their fried quail–a small, delicate bird which holds up well to the deep frying and is typically paired with a faro and diced root vegetables at the downtown Little Rock restaurant.

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Pork Tamales at La Regional
I am constantly on the prowl for good, traditional, non-Delta tamales. La Regional’s pork variety are the absolute best I’ve come across in the area—better than Izzy’s and better than the Jalisco food truck in front of Colonial on Markham (which are both excellent). The pork-to-masa ratio is damn near 1-to-1, the meat is super tender and each tamale is about $1. This is the time of year to really enjoy tamales, so bring it on down to La Regional in SWLR.

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Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s on Markham
I’m guessing this dish is often overlooked by the general public, but the delicate pieces of white fish resting in a thick and spicy sauce, makes it a must-order each time I’m at this Chi’s location. It’s certainly not a stand-alone dish, but rather, it’s best paired with other dishes like beef chow fun and moo goo gai pan.

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Egg White Omelet at Mugs Café
Sometimes you just want a good ol’ omelet for breakfast and it’s nice to know you can get one that won’t clog your arteries at Mugs Café. Frying an egg to perfection should never be taken for granted and Mugs knows does it better than just about anyone in the area. Remove the egg yolks, add some roasted veggies, and you’ve got yourself a fine breakfast.

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Mixed Grill at Desi Den
Never heard of Desi Den? This Indian restaurant located near I-30 in Bryant is a hidden gem! If you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine, opt for the mixed grill, which is a sizzling skillet full of chicken vindaloo, shrimp, broccoli, asparagus and other assorted items.

The Works at Trio’s
Technically, this sandwich probably shouldn’t be on a list like this. I’m guessing most Little Rockers know The Works, but hey, maybe you need a reminder of the sandwich’s excellence. How does grilled pimiento cheese on sourdough bread with poblano peppers, thin, fried green tomatoes and bacon, sound? Creamy, crunchy, tart and a little spicy—it’s all there!

Broiled Atlantic Salmon at Ciao Baci
This dish has my name written all over it. I love both salmon and grilled Romaine, and the chef Owen gets all crazy and adds fried onion rings and beet hash to the mix. I’m in. It’s also doesn’t hurt that Ciao Baci isn’t stingy with its fish portions.

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Black Cod Samfaina at The Terrace
Speaking of fish, my goodness, have you tried the black cod samfaina at The Terrace? Also, why has it taken me damn near three years to eat at this restaurant? Shame on me! This beautiful piece of pan-seared cod is accompanied by a deliciously salty ragu of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and onions.

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Calzone at The Pizzeria at Terry’s
Do you love a classic, Neo-style pizza? Well then, The Pizzeria at Terry’s is the place for you. And if you enjoy said pizza but instead like it folded in half and stuffed with various ingredients and topped with Bonta Toscana Garlic Sauce, then order the calzone. It’s both chewy and crispy, with just enough char on the edges to impart that wonderful smoky flavor.

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The Little Rock Food Blogger Round-Up

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Little Rock’s food scene is at an all-time high. With it, comes an increase in writing on blogs, publications and social media. This is a good thing. These insights and opinions get people talking, helping lead to a stronger food community. The Little Rock Food Blogger Round-Up grabs links from a variety of sources throughout the city, putting them all in one post for your reading pleasure. So, let’s get to it.

It’s Travel Week over on Rock City Eats. Resident writer Daniel Walker takes a look at his favorite place in the entire world … Dallas.

Here’s an area blog I bet you didn’t know about. It’s called Cook Book Wall, and it’s good!

Fancy Pants has a foodie tool review, so go on over there, check it out and enter to win. The contest closes on November 14th.

Arkansas Foodies really doesn’t like the Keurig 2.0.

Sync’s Stephanie Maxwell gives you the full rundown of this weekend’s Arkansas Cornbread Festival, which is now in its fourth year. There’s plenty of great info in the piece.

Food trucks going brick and mortar? Emily Van Zandt has the latest on some of your favorites.

It’s time to find Super 7 … at least I think so. Here’s my latest installment of The Dish. I check out the taqueria located near Barrow and Kanis.

Kat Robinson is down in Louisiana at Cajun Landing.

Check out this cocktail round-up from Joel DiPippa over at Southern Ash.

LR Foodcast takes a tour of Westrock Coffee.

Emily VZ’s in-depth article on chef Travis McConnell is food journalism at its finest. Definitely give it a read.

BTW…the pic above of strawberry cake has no tie to the post. I just love me some strawberry cake.

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Around Town: Wonderful Evening at The Next Course Dinner, Benefits Youth Home, Inc.

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I was invited out last Thursday night to attend The Next Course, the annual fundraiser dinner benefitting Youth Home, Inc., which was held in the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. All proceeds from the evening will be used to purchase, repair, and update kitchen equipment for the residential and day treatment campus located on Colonel Glenn Road. This is a huge deal when you consider the kitchen prepares over 114,000 meals per year.

As you might expect, given the setting, the dinner was formal, yet I found the overall atmosphere to be very relaxed, interactive and quite fun. There were silent auctions and donations you could make with your phone throughout the night, and, of course, food, and plenty of it–five full courses, to be exact, along with one intermezzo and one cheese course.

The talents of chefs Stephen Burrow, Shane Henderson, Gilbert Alaquinez and Anne Woodson were on full display the entire evening, as course after course came out, accompanied by a quick videos displayed on an enormous projection screen, showing each chef cooking the dish you were about to eat. This playful, yet informative spin on a typical fundraiser dinner was what separated The Next Course from so many other similar events.

After an hour-long wine reception outside the hall, guests sat down to a first course of Arkansas tomato gazpacho with smoked hominy, avocado, cola-braised plantation quail fritter and corn shoots, which was paired with Project Paso Sauvignon Blanc. Honestly, this proved to be my favorite overall dish of the evening, as I appreciated the addition of cream to the gazpacho, making it ideal for the fall season.

The second course of smoked pork confit with an ancho hoe cake, demi-glace agrodolce and housemade corn nuts, along with a third course of butter poached shrimp were both delicious, but it was the fourth course of Maple Leaf Farm’s sorghum-braised duck leg with a baked grit custard that really stole the show. A fork-full of tender duck meat and creamy grit custard had me hoping this dish eventually makes it on 42’s menu, if it hasn’t already. By the time I got to the dessert course of peanut butter cheesecake with a banana chip crust and a chunk of bacon brittle, I was ready to wave the white flag. With stomach space dwindling, I was only able to eat half of my dessert.

Great food aside, the evening was about giving to the Youth Home, Inc. If you weren’t able to attend, but are interested in learning more about this non-profit mental health provider located right here in Little Rock, please go to their comprehensive website. And please consider coming out to next year’s event.

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The Dish: Time to Find Super 7 Grocery Store

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I’m willing to bet that an overwhelming majority of people reading this post have never heard of Super 7 Grocery Store, much less eaten at this hole-in-the-wall taqueria/store located at 1415 John Barrow Road. Frankly, it’s not much to look at from the outside. There’s no glitzy sign, no eye-catching name—it looks like a thousand places you’ve driven by a million times before and never given much thought to check out.

Like many of Little Rock’s top taquerias (La Regional and Mercado San Jose come to mind), Super 7 also doubles as a mini grocery store. On this day, I opted to skip the store side and head right for the restaurant.

As I sat down, my tablemate informed me that Super 7 offers a daily buffet ($8.99). After hearing this information, I immediately rose to my feet and headed to the back of the establishment and found a small, yet fresh assortment of dishes such as refried beans, stewed chicken, rice and taquitos.

“Buffet Me” would have dived right in, but fortunately, he died sometime in his mid-20’s. Now that I’m 37, buffets of any variety, even something as enticing as Super 7’s, are just a bad idea. So, we sat down and ordered a few sandwiches … a wise choice, indeed.

Ten minutes later, a beautiful beef milanesa torta ($6.50) arrived at the table. There’s really no telling how many tortas I’ve eaten in my lifetime, but I can assure you it’s a pretty high number. I’d put Super 7’s torta among some of the best I’ve put away.

But what separates this torta from so many like it? Essentially, it’s the little things—like super fresh bread, perfectly fried beef, ripe avocado and spicy pickled jalapenos—that make a huge difference. Heck, even the shredded American cheese, which you so rarely see, was a nice touch. This torta was big, but not gigantic, and somehow managed not to fall apart into a jumbled mess.

Give it a try. I think you’ll agree that it’s one of the better sandwiches in town.

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