Archive for category Around Town

100 of the Best Appetizers in Little Rock

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Skillet Bread at South on Main

 

Save this list, bookmark it, print it out … do whatever you have to do to file it away and use it as the ultimate reference guide for the best appetizers in Little Rock. Below is a combination of reader response and personal favorites. If there are any glaring omissions, please add them to the comment box. Also, make sure to check each restaurant’s current menu, as some of the appetizers are seasonal items.

Bruschetta, Hummus, or Baba Ganoush at YaYa’s
My Take: A friend once told me about the magnificence of YaYa’s baba ganoush and she was absolutely right.

Brussels Sprouts or Fried Hummus Bites at North Bar

Bacon Wrapped Dates, Truffled Deviled Eggs, House Made Ricotta, Cheese Spaetzle, Pomme Frites, Brussels Sprouts at The Pantry
My Take: In retrospect, I probably should have typed “See the entire Starters menu at The Pantry.”

Crawfish Dip with Fried Wontons at Skinny J’s
Crab Au Gratin at Cajun’s Wharf

Skillet Bread, Fried Chicken Livers, Pork Rinds, Fried Oysters or Smoked Oysters at South On Main
My Take: South on Main got a ton of love on this post, as it should, the appetizers are all fantastic. But my personal favorite is the Fried Oyster Steamed Bun, which is listed below.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip at Saddle Creek Grill
Cheese Fries at Rebel Kettle

Pimento Cheese, Bread & Butter Plate, or Smoked Jalapeño Pimento Cheese, or Black Eyed Pea and Poblano Hummus at Lost Forty

Burgundy Mushrooms or Cheese Dip at Dizzy’s
Quail Lollipops, Poutine, or Foie Gras at Table 28

Fried Shrimp at Doe's

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s

 

Fried Shrimp or Tamales at Doe’s Eat Place
Grilled Oysters, Meat Pies, BBQ Nachos, or Truffle Fries at Maddie’s Place

Fried Black Eyed Peas or Spiced Pecans at Capital Bar and Grill
My Take: Those spiced pecans are crazy addictive and an absolute must-get on any visit to CBG.

Spicy Pimento Cheese with Soft Pita Chips at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
The Caprese at Deluca’s

Shrimp Tchoupitoulas, Rose’s Hot Red Pepper Shrimp, Stuffed Mushrooms, Rose’s Fries, Fried Artichoke Hearts, Fried Green Tomatoes, or Cajun Popcorn at The Faded Rose
My Take: Good gracious was TFR mentioned a lot on this thread. All great choices, but give me those wedge fries with the buttermilk dressing any day.

Baba Ganoush at Layla's

Baba Ganoush at Layla’s

 

Onion Rings or Fried Green Tomatoes at Cotham’s in the City
Cheesesteak Egg Rolls at Del Frisco’s Grille
Crab Cakes at Sonny Williams’ Steak Room
Yellowtail or Hamachi Nigiri at Kemuri
Burrata at Raduno
Cheese Fries or Quesadilla at Buffalo Grill
Hummus or Baba Ganoush at Layla’s
Hummus with Pita Bread at Mama’s Gyros Grill
Fried Mozzarella Sticks at Dugan’s Pub

Baked Pimento Cheese at Boulevard Bistro
My Take: I’ve written about this appetizer several times in the past and it really is a unique and delicious spin on a Little Rock classic.

Fried Gulf Oysters or Crispy Chicken Livers at Red Door
Calamari Fries, Tuna Tataki, Spinach Dip, Queso Fundido, or Hot Crab Dip at Trio’s
Salsa Trio at Local Lime
Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp at Samantha’s Tap Room and Wood Grill
Tamale Pie at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
State Fair Fries (with Side of Jalapeño Ranch) at Big Orange
Crab Stuffed Artichoke at Capers
Tortilla Soup at Casa Manana
Heirloom Tomato Plate, Goat Cheese Moouse or Baked Camembert at Brave New Restaurant
Cheese Dip at Reno’s Argenta Cafe
Ceviche Tostadas at El Porton
Crab Cake at One Eleven at the Capital
Grilled Meatballs and Stuffed Eggplant at Ristorante Capeo
Bread and Butter at Bruno’s Little Italy
Fried Portobello Slices or Shrimp & Brie Quesadillas with Mango Salsa at Loca Luna

Leeks at One Eleven

Leeks at One Eleven

 

Falafel, Tabouleh, Hummus, or Baba Ghanouj at Zam Zam Grill
My Take: I’ve heard good things about this place, probably time to check it out.

Cheese Dip at Riviera Maya
Calamari at Zaffino’s
Tuna Tataki at Hanaroo
Fried Green Tomatoes at The Main Cheese

My Personal Favs
Smoked Trout Nachos at Flyway Brewing
Chicken Nachos at El Palenque
Ceviche at Local Lime
Pupusas at Rosalindas
Fried Oyster Steamed Buns or Cauliflower Popcorn at South on Main
Fried Yuca at La Terraza Rum & Lounge
Pimento Cheese (Toast) or Radishes at The Root
Ceviche at Kemuri
Leeks at One Eleven at the Capital
Triple Dipper at Baja Grill

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El Palenque Take-Out Comes Up Short, Flyway and The Root Shine

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You know I love El Palenque. Heck, I’ve written about my favorite hole-in-the-wall many times over the past few years, and usually, in glowing terms. Unfortunately, Saturday’s take-out came up way short. There are certain dishes I  typically order at El P, like the shrimp burrito or chicken nachos, but this time around I went with an unknown, the Bistek a la Mexicana, which came with a sizeable portion of sliced beef and grilled onions, green peppers, and tomatoes. The beef was bland, tough, and fairly chewy and was only saved by the accompanying, tasty grilled onions. I’m not a huge fan of green bell peppers, especially when they’re cut into huge chunks. Also, serving what was basically fajitas with soft, corn tortillas, instead of flour, was also a mistake. On the positive side, I love the new interior of the restaurant. The décor is a little over-the-top for such a small place, but I like how all of the tables and chairs have individualized art work.

The Root Café continues to impress. In a rare move, I decided to eat dinner at the popular SoMa restaurant, then turn right back around and eat breakfast there the next morning. Both ended up being excellent meals. By now, you’re probably wondering why I give so much damn love to the place. The simple truth is I enjoy the food and the space, and I’m just very comfortable dining at The Root. For dinner, we shared a variety of appetizers, including the “Toast” which came with slathered pimento cheese topped with relish, the bacon deviled eggs, the fried beef empanadas, and the radishes. Everything, and I mean everything, was spot-on. And while I enjoyed my shiitake with quinoa entrée, I’m beginning to think that ordering the “small” plates at The Root is the way to go. This offers you a ton of variety and the price is quite affordable. For breakfast the next day, I kept things simple with my donut muffin, although I did snag a few bites of my tablemates’ pancakes and Root Benny. All were great, proving once again that The Root still serves the absolute best breakfast in town.

Flyway Brewing continues to serve excellent bar food to go along with quality beer. I’ve been tad critical of Flyway about small portion sizes and that issue seems to be a thing of the past. I ordered last weekend’s Special, the catfish po’boy with pickled carrots, okra, and a side of remoulade. The two pieces of catfish were thin, perfectly fried and extended a good inch past both sides of the bun. I washed it all down with a crisp, blonde beer that was light and quite refreshing. As always, service was fast, friendly, and super attentive. Flyway has that wonderful neighborhood vibe to it and I highly recommend checking the place out if you haven’t done so already.

Get the calamari fries appetizer at Trio’s. Strips of calamari “steak” (no tentacles here) are served with a delicious heirloom tomato marinara and fried pepper rings. The appetizer was large, so I also ordered a small side Peck Salad and treated the calamari as my entrée. That was a pro move on my part.

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Comprehensive List of the Best Cheese Dip in Little Rock

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I rarely eat cheese dip. It’s not that I don’t love melted cheese, it’s just not a dish I seek out. That said, I do understand and respect how important cheese dip is to the identity of our local food scene. So, last week I posted this question on Facebook: “What is your absolute favorite cheese dip in the Little Rock area?”

In all, 43 different restaurants were mentioned in the thread, an extremely high, albeit, not surprising number given the extreme popularity of this dish in Little Rock. Here are how the results broke out…

Top 5 Vote Getters

Heights Taco & Tamale Co. (23)
Mexico Chiquito (16)
Big Orange (15)
Local Luna (14)
Dizzy’s (11)

My Take: Commenters have mentioned the dynamite cheese dip from several of these restaurants before on this blog, so I’m not surprised to see so much love and support for these top five. Dizzy’s and Loca Luna are not places in my regular rotation, so I can’t personally attest to them–but it gives me a “no-fail” app to try when I check out these places.

Other Popular Cheese Dips

Local Lime (10), The Fold (8), Lost Forty (7), El Porton (6), La Hacienda (6), Baja Grill (5), Buffalo Grill (5), Senior Tequila’s (5), Canon Grill (4), Casa Manana (4), El Palenque (3), The Faded Rose (3), Gadwall’s (3), Cheers in the Heights (3), Cantina Laredo (3)

My Take: From this list, I’ve had the cheese dip at El Porton, Baja Grill, Local Lime, and The Fold. All were quite enjoyable. Can you believe I’ve never even been to Buffalo Grill? What should I order, besides the cheese dip? Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the food at Canon Grill, Cantina Laredo, or Senior Tequila’s, so I don’t see those cheese dips happening in my immediate future.

Others Receiving Mentions

Purple Cow, Alley Oops, Izzy’s, Super 7, Tacos 4 Life, Taco Pronto, Red Door, Taqueria Karina, Chuy’s, Trio’s, North Bar, Prospect Bar, On the Border, Santo Coyote, Town Pump, Blue Coast Burrito, Samantha’s, Boudreaux’s, Markham Street Grill, Gypsy’s, Cactus Jack’s

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Tacos at Karina & HTT, Burge’s Smoked Turkey Salad

Tacos at Karina

Tacos at Karina

 

Does it get any better than good tacos? The answer is no. They’re so damn tasty, and, at many places, quite inexpensive. Taqueria Karina Café (5309 W. 65th St.) is one such place. They have a variety of tacos, all reasonable (something around $2), and all absolutely delicious. On my most recent visit, I opted for one each of the pastor, lengua, and chicken. The pastor is the one that really stood out, but I also enjoyed the tender chunks of beef in my lengua (tongue) taco, though fully understand this isn’t for everyone. That said, if you enjoy lengua, it’s an excellent option. The tacos are fairly small and topped with chopped, fresh onion, and cilantro, and a hearty appetite can put down three of these bad boys with no problem. I also ordered a side of refried beans, which were good, but had a thinner consistency than I prefer. The kitchen was slow on this particular visit, as it took over 30 minutes for the food to hit the table, pretty poor with such a basic order from one person.

Speaking of tacos, Heights Taco & Tamale Co. now has Ahi tuna tacos on the menu … and they are pretty darn good. They come with crunchy corn shells, but I substituted soft flour for my order. The barely seared tuna is bright and beautiful and pairs well with a dab of guac and fresh jalapeno. For a taco plate, it’s a fairly light offering, which is good because I’m working on my beach bod. The tacos came with rice and bean. Both sides were tasty, especially the smoky beans, and I although I enjoyed the taste of the rice, it was a tad undercooked and little crunchy. All and all, it was a great lunch with wonderful service.

Anyone besides me ever walk into Burge’s and buy a large tub of Smoked Turkey Salad? Before you go rolling your eyes, it took me a week to finish, but oh what glorious week it was … one filled with smoky, salty, pulverized turkey. Sometimes I’d open the fridge at night and grab a quick spoonful. It goes by the nickname “Turkey Crack” and for good reason … it’s absolutely addictive stuff.

You know what’s awesome? Take-out at kBird. Especially when you grab an order of the best dish in Little Rock, the Green Papaya Salad, and head home with it to pig out on your back porch. Sweet, salty, tangy, spicy … this dish covers everything and is always spot-on in execution. Seriously, has anyone ever had a bad green papaya salad at kBird? Is that even a thing?

In what’s becoming almost a weekly trip for me, I once again headed over to the Arkansas Heart Hospital for a bowl of $5 ramen. This one was loaded with shrimp. The toppings change each time and there’s really no telling what surprise lies ahead when it comes to the ingredients. Crab, scallops, pulled pork, pork belly … you name it.  Remember folks, the ramen is only served on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

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