Popular restaurants often make their mark by having certain dishes that build a steady following. But I’ve always been fascinated by some of the lesser known, under the radar dishes that give a menu variety and depth. Here are my 20 Underrated Dishes at 20 Popular Restaurants…
House Made Ricotta at The Pantry: The bacon-wrapped dates, meat board, and deviled eggs get all of the attention when it comes to starters at The Pantry, but do not hesitate to order this creamy ricotta. It’s simple but delicious, and I’m guessing is the only house-made version in town.
Pork Loin at Maddie’s Place: We’ve all got our go-to dish at Maddie’s Place … fried chicken, catfish po’boys, shrimp and grits, bbq shrimp….you name it. But the pork loin with sweet potato hash and butter soaked Brussels sprouts, all in a house-made Worcestershire sauce, is insanely good. And it never gets any attention. Pro tip, don’t go to Maddie’s if you’re counting calories.
Eggplant Parm at Capeo: It’s not the best dish at Capeo, but this hearty portion of eggplant Parm is about half the price ($19) as most other entrees and is delicious. If you can resist the Duck Valentine or the pork chop, the eggplant Parm is a great option.
Meatloaf at Table 28: Who in their right mind orders meatloaf at one of the swankiest restaurants in town? My wife does. Thankfully, she gave me a few bites and I can tell you that it’s pretty damn good. The meatloaf is served with a side of asparagus and mashed potatoes, and, like all dishes at Table 28, is beautifully presented.
Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s: This dish is served at the Shackleford location, and it’s one I’ve been touting for a few years. The delicate white fish is light and packs a flavor punch … especially if you are one who enjoys spicy food.
Israeli Couscous with Romaine at South on Main: This is really just a general plug for all of Chef (and former vegetarian) Matt Bell’s vegetarian options at South on Main. Most of them are outstanding, but fall under the radar, due in large part to more popular, meat-centric dishes like catfish, duck, rabbit, and steak.
Blackened Ribeye at The Faded Rose: When most folks (ok…at least some) think of TFR, red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, and fried catfish po’boys come to mind. But for the money, you might not find a better steak in town than their blackened ribeye.
Fried Shrimp at Doe’s Eat Place: Speaking of steak, when you go to Doe’s, it is absolutely essential to order a 3-lb Porterhouse (medium rare). And while the tamales get all of the attention as a pre-steak appetizer, the jumbo fried shrimp are the better option. The breading is thick and the seasoning is sparse, but that’s ok, because dunking each one into the tartar sauce makes up for any inadequacies.
Greens at Gus’s: This only applies to the downtown location, as I’m not a fan of the WLR venue. Anyways, while it does have its fair share of detractors, the downtown Gus’s has very good fried chicken … and greens. The chicken gets all the attention, but the greens are also a must-order.
Leeks at One Eleven: The yellowfin tuna tartare is a popular meal starter, but the meager leek might be the way to go at One Eleven. Or hell, order both. The warm leeks are paired with pecans and bleu cheese.
San Francisco Cioppino at Trio’s: Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Peck Salad just as much as the next guy, but the seafood at Trio’s is very underrated. Try the Cioppino, which is loaded with sea bass, mussels, clams, shrimp, and scallops. Just note, many dishes rotate in and out of the menu at Trio’s, and the Cioppino is one of them.
BLT Wedge at Big Orange (both locations): Big Orange is a burger dining destination for most folks, but I go for the salads, and while I typically order the more popular Thai Chop, my daughter opts for the underrated BLT Wedge. Now, I know what you’re thinking … wedge salads are so boring. Not Big Orange’s version, and it’s just as beautiful as it is tasty.
Chicken Caldo at El Palenque: I believe this is a Saturday only dish, so don’t get all pissy with me if you go on Friday night and it’s not available. But if you happen to be at El Palenque on a Saturday, get it. There’s probably damn near half a chicken hiding in that large bowl of head-cold-curing chicken broth.
Chef Salad at Vino’s: You know all of those awesome toppings that the fine folks at Vino’s put on their pizzas? Well, they also put them in a bowl … over lettuce … with your choice of ham, turkey, or chicken, and it’s a great alternative to pizza.
Thai Chicken Burger at The Southern Gourmasian: The steamed buns and spicy chicken and dumplings get all of the attention, as they rightfully should, but do not pass up the Thai Chicken Burger at The Southern Gourmasian. How they get ground chicken to taste so juicy is beyond me. It’s one of my favorite burgers in town. And yes, chicken can be a burger.
Beef Tenderloin at Kemuri: It’s hard not order that fancy, flaming sushi roll at Kemuri. In a town starving for quality sushi, this restaurant provides a good option. But damn, the beef tenderloin with onion rings is a must-order. And this is coming from a guy who doesn’t get too excited over steak.
Meatball Sandwich at Raduno: The pizza, for obvious reasons, gets a lot of play at Raduno, but you also might want to consider splitting a meatball hero with a buddy. Tack on a Caesar salad for good measure. It’s pretty damn good, too.
Cheese Pizza at Layla’s: The Yogurt Plate or even a basic gryo are probably the two most popular dishes at Layla’s, but if you enjoy a nice, basic pizza, order the cheese pie. It’s something like $5 or $6 and is loaded with mozzarella. The pizza is no frills, but definitely one of the best values around.
Squash Blossom Veggie Sandwich at Hillcrest Artisan Meats: Going vegetarian at H.A.M.?!?!! Hear me out. I’m not saying this is an every-visit-kinda-sandwich, but if you’re looking for a change of pace, consider the very underrated Squash Blossom. This sandwich includes alfalfa sprouts, avocado, red onions, pepper jack, and tomatoes.
Taro Chips at Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co.: Sweet, salty, and wildly addictive … a bag of taro chips to go with an order of dumplings is an absolute must.
Last week, we checked out what was going on over in Midtown … and now Little Rock Restaurant Month starts in West Little Rock. Remember, instead of participating restaurants from all over the city offering specials throughout the entire month, different areas of the city each get a week of specials. August 15-21 marks WLR’s turn. Below, you’ll find a complete listing, as well as a few of my takes…
$1 off chicken salad & fresh fruit
Big Orange (west location)
Free cheese dip or hummus with purchase of burger
Bobby’s Country Cookin’
$1 off dinner & drink
My take: Nice opportunity to check out Bobby’s if you’ve never done so … the food is solid and the service is fast.
Cantina Cinco de Mayo
Free kid’s meal with purchase of 2 entrees at regular price
My take: This is a very underrated restaurant and a perfect place to take the kiddos to enjoy a good deal … and meal.
Prix fixe, $33 three course meal; starter, entrée, dessert
Casa Manana (west location)
$13.95 pollo chiltepin with Michelada
My take: I’ve never had this dish, but the Michelada, alone, makes it a good deal.
½ off off select appetizers with purchase of entree. Choose from: artichoke & spinach dip, bayou broccoli, Al’s favorite popcorn shrimp, onion mum or crab beignets.
Corky’s Ribs & BBQ
$2 off off Cajun shrimp dinner. Bring this coupon in.
Del Frisco’s Grill
Prix fixe 2-course lunch for $20 or 3-course dinner for $35.
Bogo – buy 3 casseroles, get 1 free.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Free award-winning fries with the purchase of a bacon cheeseburger & drink
My take: The fries are pretty damn good … there’s no denying that.
Fonda Tequila Bar
$12 chicken mole plus 1 Dos Equis
My take: The service can be inconsistent at Fonda, but the food is good, and I’m guessing this mole might be worth a visit.
Grady’s Pizza & Subs
25% off a salad or our fresh & delicious pasta dishes. 1 per table, 1 per visit.
$10 sweetie pie – mini pie baked fresh using highest quality seasonal ingredients, topped with house-made fresh whipped cream.
My take: You know I love Honey Pies, so I would definitely recommend taking advantage of this deal. If you’ve never been to the newly opened shop, this is a perfect opportunity to try out the goods without committing to an entire (bigger) pie.
$14.95 – 14” pizza up to 3 toppings with a side of Razorback sticks with cheese
Layla’s (west location)
$7.25 gyro sandwich with fries and drink
My take: You already know Layla’s is great, and this is a solid deal.
15% off any sandwich or entrée.
My take: Here’s another very underrated restaurant that doesn’t get a ton of publicity. The wings here are some of the best in town.
Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some
$10 hotiyaki wings & beer
$14.50 candied bacon & peach pancake with fresh-squeezed orange juice mimosa
Free cheese dip or salsa trio with purchase of an entrée or salad.
My take: While the cheese deep is nice, in my opinion, the salsa trio is definitely the way to go. And make sure you get the chipotle, tres chiles, and zucchini.
$10 14” pizza* (Monday)
Additional offers: Tuesday: buy one/get one* Wednesday: pasta specials* Thursday: kids eat free* *see server for details.
My take: Some of the better pizza in Little Rock, but probably doesn’t get a ton of attention because of its far WLR location.
Ocean at Arthur’s
Bogo – buy any 2 entrees or specialty sushi, get 1 dessert. Valid up to $9. Dine-in, dinner only.
Bogo – buy one small cheese dip with dinner, get a second cheese dip free.
Bogo – buy 1 entree at regular price, get the second 1/2 price. Not valid with other specials.
Sky Modern Japanese
Bogo – buy 1 appetizer, get 1 half off. Also: $5 featured cocktails
Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
Free child’s feast with purchase of adult entree. Dine-in only.
My take: My kids love Taziki’s … probably one of their top 5 spots in town.
The Butcher Shop
$19.95 12-oz. ribye dinner with salad & potato
My take: Solid seems to be the overwhelming theme of this post. The Butcher Shop gives you a nice bang for your buck with this $20 steak deal.
The Main Cheese
25% off total bill. Lunch & dinner
My take: I’ve never been to The Main Cheese, but 25% off your total bill makes this one of the best deals of the week.
Free appetizer. Mention “Little Rock Restaurant Month” to receive offer. 1 per table, dinner only.
My take: I’m not sure if this is a specific, pre-selected appetizer, but they’re all great, so it’s worth it.
The Purple Cow
Free soft drink or tea with any of our new menu items. New items include: supreme cheeseburger, turkey pesto burger, & black bean burger, just to name a few.
The Tavern Sports Grill
$15 half rack ribs, coleslaw & baked beans with Flyway Migrate
My take: The Flyway Migrate makes this a solid deal.
There are so many really cool events and dinners coming up in the very near future around Little Rock. One is even tomorrow. Check out all of the details below…
Bring your best and most inventive dish using tator tots to the 2nd Annual Naterator Tots Cooking Contest on September 17 from 6-8 p.m. at Dunbar Community Garden (1800 Chester Street). 100% of all donations will go to the Naterators JDRF OneWalk team. There’s a $30 entry fee for contestants and just $5 per person to come sample and vote on your favorites. Click here to enter. I love this event, even had my own entry last year, and can tell you that creating a dish around tater tots is a ton of fun.
On Wednesday, August 17 from 6-9 p.m., Boulevard Bread Company is hosting a class featuring Summit beers with house-made charcuterie. Cost is $45 per person and space is limited. Call the restaurant for reservations. I went to one of Blvd’s wine and cheese events a few months back and had a fantastic time … and am guessing this one will be as well.
For Lost Forty Brewing’s next #FreshCutMonday on August 15 from 4-9 p.m., come try the Hoppy Lager … a collaboration brew in support of Ales for ALS. This beer was brewed at Rebel Kettle using a proprietary hop blend provided by YCH Hops in collaboration with Lost Forty Brewing, Stone’s Throw, Flyway, Vino’s, Bubba Brews, Moody Brews, Leap of Faith, Damgoode Pies and Blood Eagle. Lost Forty will donate the proceeds of each pint of Hoppy Lager to ALS Research.
It’s no secret I love kBird, the tiny eatery serving fantastic Thai food in Hillcrest. Lovers of the restaurant will be happy to know they will be hosting a series of Khantoke dinners held at the restaurant on Friday, August 26, September 9, and September 23. Reservations can be made starting tomorrow at 2 p.m. by e-mail only to email@example.com. Seats will be assigned based on the order that e-mails are received … and a confirmation will be sent to you by return e-mail. From kBird: “Please let me know the specific date you wish to attend, and how many spots (up to 6) you are reserving. also, please list a second “fallback” date if another one would work also. If you want to attend more than one dinner, let me know that in your e-mail. if by there are unreserved seats at 10 pm on Monday, August 15, you will be added to the additional dates. The cost will be $40, tax included, BYOB. Will start around 7 p.m.. Food will be served family-style and pretty much all at the same time. No substitutions.”
Another one of my favorites, The Root Cafe, is hosting a locally-sourced, 5-course, communal table dinner prepared by Chef Jonathan Arrington and crew tomorrow, August 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. For tickets, click here.
Chef Matt Bell of South on Main will host the Little Rock No Kid Hungry Dinner on Monday, October 24. This multi-course dinner starts with a reception at 6 p.m. and features guest chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line in Memphis and Levon Wallace of Cochon in Nashville. Tickets cost $175 and table hosting opportunities are available. For more information, contact Emily Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-551-3470.
As many of you already know, Little Rock Restaurant Month is in full swing AND has taken a new approach with things this year. Instead of participating restaurants from all over the city offering specials throughout the entire month, different areas of the city each get a week of specials. August 8-14 marks Midtown’s turn. Below, you’ll find a complete listing, as well as a few of my takes…
Free appetizer up to $6 with purchase of a large pizza
Arkansas Burger Co.
My take: Solid deal on a good-to-great burger.
20% off food purchases
Mention restaurant month to get your discount (Alcohol not included)
My take: Another great deal here and Baja does some very good food, especially the Pig Sooie and Cuban tacos. The Triple Dipper appetizer is also a winner, as are the burritos.
Big Orange Midtown
Free cheese dip or hummus with a purchase of a burger or salad
Boulevard Bread Company
$12 Harissa and honey wings served with lemon, cilantro & buttermilk
My take: I’ve never had these wings, but I love Boulevard and can’t imagine this being anything but awesome.
Cafe Bossa Nova
$3 off menu price – deep fried mahi mahi strips encrusted with Panko bread crumbs, served on corn tortillas. Topped with napa cabbage, pink chipotle sauce, a mango radish salsa and fresh cilantro with a side of rice and beans.
My take: Bossa Nova doesn’t get a ton of press, so I guess it could be considered underrated. The food is fantastic.
$33 3-course prix fixe: starter, entrée, and dessert.
$17.99 all-day 3-course set menu per person. Includes starter, entrée, and dessert.
My take: True story…I’ve never eaten at Cantina Laredo, but have heard solid reports.
$9.99 Fish ceviche with michelada
$13 fried green tomatoes with grilled shrimp and remoulade.
My take: I love fried green tomatoes. I love grilled shrimp. And I love remoulade. This seems like a no-brainer.
$25 3-course dinner 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
My take: Jump on this one because it’s a great deal on great food. If you’ve never been to Ciao Baci for dinner, this is a perfect opportunity at a lower cost.
Damgoode Pies (2701 Kavanaugh Blvd. & 6706 Cantrell Rd.)
$5 off any 18” pie and half off any appetizer
$18 jumbo crab cakes with remoulade sauce over field greens with a side of avocado slices and roasted chicken salad.
Heights Taco & Tamale
Free cheese dip or salsa trio with purchase of an entree or salad
Hillcrest Artisan Meats
$1 off any sandwich order
My take: I’m pretty sure every human living in Little Rock loves H.A.M. and getting a $1 off any sandwich this week might inspire another visit.
15% off total ticket – mention Restaurant Month to get discount (excluding alcohol)
1/2 off happy hour 7 AM -9:30 AM Monday-Friday: buy one item, get second item of equal or lesser value half-off (includes smoothie, juice, or food. Excludes smoothie bowls.)
Bogo – buy any sushi roll, get one free (of equal or lesser value)
My take: Best sushi in town, and honestly, this is one of the best deals on the page. The Crazy Monkey Roll is tops. *Update* this deal applies to traditional rolls only. So no Crazy Monkey Roll.
20% off off lunch or dinner. Also: chef’s choice — free appetizer for lunch with purchase of one entrée
My take: Have only eaten at La Terraza once, but I came away impressed. Nice folks and good food.
Layla’s Gyros and Pizzeria (9501 N. Rodney Parham)
$7.25 Gyro sandwich with fries and drink
Leo’s Greek Castle
$9.99 Gyro platter
The Oyster Bar
$3 off 1 lb. shrimp
Potbelly Sandwich Shop
Free milkshake with purchase of a “big” size pastrami sandwich
Riverdale 10 VIP Cinema
$15 chicken tenders, fries and beer of the day.
My take: You can get chicken tenders at a movie theater? Go figure.
Taziki’s (8200 Cantrell Rd.)
Free child’s feast with purchase of adult entree. Dine-in only. Monday- Wednesday 5 PM – 9 PM
My take: Taziki’s is a regional chain serving solid, consistent food. And my kids love it, so I love it.
The Fold Botanas Bar
Free queso with the purchase of any taco plate. Limit one per table.
The Purple Cow (8026 Cantrell Rd.)
Free soft drink or tea with any of our new menu items. New items include fried green beans, supreme cheeseburger, and turkey pesto burger, just to name a few.
$1 off our topsy turvy nachos
My take: The ultimate dive bar serves better-than-expected food.
30% off in celebration of our 30th anniversary. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch! Dine-in only. Mention Restaurant Month for discount.
My take: 30% off your entire meal puts this deal right at the top. Get the Farmers Market Splendor.
$1 off gelato