Archive for category Misc.

20 Underrated Dishes at 20 Popular Restaurants

Pork Loin at Maddie's Place

Pork Loin at Maddie’s Place

 

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

Meatloaf at Table 28

 

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

Israeli Couscous with Romaine at South on Main

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

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s Eat Place

 

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.

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Leeks at One Eleven

 

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.

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Chicken Caldo at El Palenque

 

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

Beef Tenderloin at Kemuri

 

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

Taro Chips at Three Fold

 

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.

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My Favorite Dishes from Summer 2016

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It’s been a nice summer, and, per usual, I’ve done my fair share of dining out. Soooo… in no particular order, here are some of my favorite dishes from the past few months.

Thai Chop Salad at Big Orange Midtown: It’s now between this salad and the Peck Salad at Trio’s for my favorite in town. The blending of sweet and salty flavors certainly stands out with the Thai Chop, as does the plentiful portion of medium rare chunks of ribeye.

Doughnut Muffin at The Root: One of the very first things I ate in Little Rock, and as far as baked goods go, still one of the best. The cinnamon/sugar exterior is what makes this muffin so very good. Just make sure you pair it with a cup of Mountain Bird Coffee.

Poutine at Table 28: Let’s get one thing straight … the lack of cheese curds eliminates this from being authentic poutine, but that’s where my negativity begins and ends. Pork, mac and cheese, and fries make for a quite unhealthy, albeit delicious dinner starter.

Green Papaya Salad at kBird: I won’t say this is the best dish in Little Rock because I haven’t eaten every dish in town, but I will say that it’s one of my absolute favs. Be forewarned, this salad can get a little spicy (some days more than others), but if you can handle it, I assure you the freshness of the papaya and the crunchiness of the peanuts will make you order this salad again and again.

Farmers Market Splendor at Trio’s: Waaaay back in 2015, this dish made me first fall in love with Trio’s. What’s not to love about local, fried okra, purple hull peas, squash, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes?

Fried Catfish at Brewsters II Café: Simply put, this is the best fried catfish I’ve come across in Little Rock. Not that I’m an aficionado on the subject, but if you find better, please let me know. The super crunchy cornmeal crust and hearty catfish filets make this dish shine. Brewsters is such a hidden gem.

Smoked Trout Nachos at Flyway: Honestly, with just a single piece of fish on each chip, these nachos don’t look all that impressive, but they are very tasty bar food. Flyway has slowly gotten better and better over the past several months with its edibles. The nachos are a perfect example of why this NLR craft brewery has more than just good beer offerings.

Breakfast Tacos at Mugs Café: I’ve written about these tacos in the past and them falling on this list is a testament to their consistency. I’m not typically a fan of breakfast tacos made with corn tortillas, but these somehow work, due in large part to an excellent chorizo.

Dumplings at China Wok: Thank you, Mr. Pinter, for this fantastic recommendation. Whether steamed or panned fried, China Wok’s pork dumplings (8 for $4.50) are absolutely delicious and an amazing value. The wrappers are soft, thick, and downright addictive.

Cinnamon Roll at PattiCakes: Hey, Conway is only about 30-40 minutes away…and the cinnamon rolls at PattiCakes are definitely worth the drive. I love how they are gooey, but not too gooey, and, like everything else at PattiCakes, are super fresh.

Jagerschnitzel at The Pantry: I go back and forth whether this or the green papaya salad at kBird is my favorite dish in Little Rock, so that alone should tell you about my feelings towards the jagerschnizel. It includes four of my favorite things on earth: fried pork, mushrooms, gravy, and greatness.

Mess o’ Greens at South on Main: These greens were a nightly special when I was at South on Main for a concert. How does a pile of mixed greens topped with cured, shaved egg yolks, sound? The answer … pretty damn good.

Wafflewich at Arkansas Fresh Cafe: At 39, you tell yourself not to eat waffles when they are served as the main component of a breakfast sandwich. And then you walk into Arkansas Fresh Cafe and all hell breaks loose. You win, Arkansas Fresh, you win.

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April Offers a Ton of Events in Little Rock

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At the Bernice Garden Farmer’s Market

 

April is an insanely popular month for food and drink events here in Little Rock. And for good reason … everyone wants to take advantage of this fabulous weather. Here’s a rundown of (almost) everything that’s going on, inside and out.

Jazz in the Park is this Wednesday, April 6th from 6-8 p.m. at the River Market. This free jazz concert series will be held in the History Pavilion (at the base of the Junction Bridge) in Riverfront Park on Wednesday nights in April and September. Limited seating is available and lawn chairs are welcome for this family (and leashed pet) friendly event. No coolers, but beer, wine, soft drinks and water are available for sale. This week’s performer is Acoustix with Rod P.

The Good Earth Garden Food Truck Meet-Up is this Thursday, April 7th from 5-8 p.m. at 15601 Cantrell Road.

The West Little Rock Food Truck Festival will be on Saturday, April 9th from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at 6400 Divide Parkway. Click here for event updates.

Flyway Brewing is having its Blues, BBQ, & Beer Fundraiser this Saturday, April 9th from 2-10 p.m. The brewery is partnering with Championship Pitmaster Tony Graham and Head Chef of the Clinton Foundation Gilbert Alaquinez to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Pulled pork and smoked chicken bbq plates will be sold for $10 each. All food proceeds and a portion of beer proceeds will be donated to assist Arkansas families with travel and treatment expenses.

The 2016 Jewish Food and Cultural Festival is on Sunday, April 10th from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium. The festival will include “traditional Jewish foods such as old fashioned corned beef sandwiches, lox, bagels and cream cheese, kosher hot dogs, rugelach and many more wonderful Jewish delicacies.” Admission is free.

The Bernice Garden Farmer’s starts back up this Sunday, April 10th from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.. This is a fabulous farmer’s market, so please consider making it down there on Sunday.

Big Orange Midtown offers you the opportunity to have dinner with Tom Schlafly, founder of Schlafly Brewing in St. Louis, on Thursday, April 14th at 6:30 p.m. It’s a 4-course, 5-beer, off-menu dinner. Tickets cost $65. Yellow Rocket does a great job with these types of dinners, and I’m sure this one will be no expection.

CARTI’s Ragin’ Cajun Bash is also on Thursday, April 14th from 6-9 p.m. at War Memorial. Tickets are $45 in advance, $55 at the door. Click here for tickets or call (501) 296-3406.

Wildwood’s 18th Annual Wine & Food Festival is on April 15th from 6:30-9 p.m. inside the Cabe Festival Theatre Center. More than 100 specially selected wines and beers are paired with chef’s edibles. For tickets, click here.

The Root Café is throwing its 2nd Annual Pie Bake-Off & Recipe Swap on Saturday, April 16th at 4:30 p.m. “Bake your best traditional pie for our panel of judges. Bring copies of your recipe to swap with other pie bakers. Judges will award 5 Blue Ribbons and one Best-in-Show award.” This is super fun, laid back event with tons of great pie.

Also on April 16th, Kent Walker Artisan Cheese is looking for “Any Excuse to Party.” Click here for all of the details.

Pulaski Tech’s signature fundraising event has a new name and format. “Diamond Chef Arkansas: Recut” is comprised of a preliminary and final competition, all held on the same day (April 21st from 6-9 p.m.) at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. In previous years, the two stages were held months apart. Event-goers can now also expect heavy hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening instead of a sit-down dinner. Tickets are $125 per person. For more information, click here.

The Dogtown Farmers’ Market gets going on Saturday, April 23rd from 7-10 a.m. at 420 Main Street in Argenta. Chef Matt Bell of South on Main will have a cooking demo and there will be live music by The Salty Dogs. That’s a good combo.

April 23rd is also the date for the International Food Festival at the Islamic Center of Little Rock (3224 Anna Street) from 12-6 p.m.

The Turkish Food Festival will take place Saturday, April 30th from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. at The Little Rock Raindrop Turkish House (1501 Market Street). The festival will feature delicious food, culture exhibits, folk dances, music, whirling dervish, children’s area, crafts and more. For tickets, click here.

“90th at Night!” Wild Wines is on April 30th from 7-10 p.m. at the Little Rock Zoo (which turns 90 this year). This is one of the state’s largest food and wine events with food from 50 restaurants and more than 200 high-quality wines to sample donated by O’Looney’s Wine & Liquor. General Admission are $75 in advance and $90 at the door. The Reserve Room Experience is $150 in advance and $200 at the door. Must be 21 or older to attend. Please bring ID. For tickets, click here.

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The Absolutely Definitive 30 Best Seafood Dishes in Little Rock

Shrimp a la Plancha at El Palenque

Shrimp a la Plancha at El Palenque

 

Even though Arkansas is a landlocked state, good seafood can be had here in Little Rock. You just need to know where to find it. Here is a nice rundown of my top seafood dishes in the area that I’ve eaten over the past 3+ years.

Shrimp a la Plancha at El Palenque
Here’s a little secret you may or may not know… Chef David Martinez is one of the best cooks in the city. Judging by the always packed restaurant, you do know. Order the Shrimp a la Plancha, a beautiful plate of grilled shrimp and onions with refried beans, rice, and avocado.

Thin Fish at The Faded Rose
If you are a lover of fried catfish, I just don’t think you will find any better than what The Faded Rose is cranking out with this super thin, fried-to-perfection version.

Black Cod Sarafina at The Terrace

Black Cod Samfaina at The Terrace

Black Cod Samfaina at The Terrace
A beautiful piece of pan-seared cod is accompanied by a deliciously salty ragu of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and onions.

Tasman Glazed Salmon at Trio's

Tasman Glazed Salmon at Trio’s

Specials at Trio’s
It’s really difficult to narrow it down to one dish, so I’ll just recommend that you keep an eye on Trio’s rotating fish specials. I recently had the glazed salmon, which was amazing, as was my cioppini, a bowl of mixed seafood of scallops, mussels, grouper, and shrimp.

Catfish at South on Main

Catfish at South on Main

Catfish at South on Main
The first thing I ever at South on Main, this seared catfish is still a staple on every seasonal menu. Chef Bell is a master at pairing it with other ingredients, making this fairly light dish a must-order.

Salmon at The Pantry Crest
When you look down at your plate of salmon with a side of asparagus, couscous, and spinach, you think “What the hell is so special about this dish?” And then you take a bite of the most perfectly cooked, simply seasoned salmon in town … and it all makes sense.

Crawfish Etouffee at The Faded Rose

Crawfish Etouffee at The Faded Rose

Crawfish Etouffee at The Faded Rose
A hearty portion of mildly spicy, slightly thickened, blond roux with a plentiful supply of small crawfish tails is topped with a pile of seasoned rice.

Bouillabaisse at Boulevard Bistro

Bouillabaisse at Boulevard Bistro

Bouillabaisse at Boulevard Bistro
Check to make sure it’s on the menu, as I think they rotate the bouillabaisse in and out. This dish is a seafood lover’s paradise.

Walleye at Brave New Restaurant
It’s been a few years for me, but I do remember the walleye being quite delicious and a signature Little Rock dish. To not include it on this list would be a travesty. Well, that’s a little dramatic, but you know what I mean.

Fried Shrimp at Doe's

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s
Doe’s does some pretty mean fried shrimp. The soft, lightly fried crust is what I enjoy most about these jumbo-sized bad boys.

Red Fish at Maddie's Place

Red Fish at Maddie’s Place

Redfish at Maddie’s Place
I love red fish. Maddie’s seared red fish with garlic grits, green beans and crawfish etouffee sauce is as beautiful as it is tasty.

Ensalada del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale

Ensalada del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale

Ensalada del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale
This beautifully presented salad includes skewers of medium-sized, well-seasoned shrimp resting atop a bed of crisp, chopped romaine lettuce. Perfectly ripe slices of avocado and mango sit on the edges.

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda's

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s
Admittedly, the actual shrimp in this dish are average at best, but they impart such a wonderful flavor to the broth, making it a must-order on any visit to Rosalinda.

Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci

Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci

Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci
Ciao Baci’s version of shrimp and grits isn’t on the regular menu, so keep an eye out of it. Chef Owen uses top-notch shrimp, which make all of the difference.

Scallops at One Eleven

Scallops at One Eleven

Scallops at One Eleven
I rarely order scallops in Little Rock, but One Eleven has an excellent supplier, so if you’re hankering for some sweetness of the sea, this is it.

Green Shrimp Curry at kBird

Green Shrimp Curry at kBird

Green Shrimp Curry at kBird
Sweet, a little sour, and a tad spicy … the green shrimp curry really has it all to ignite your taste buds.

Shrimp Diablo at El Palenque

Shrimp Diablo at El Palenque

Shrimp Diablo at El Palenque
This dish is probably the spiciness plate I’ve ordered while living in Little Rock. That said, I’m a little bit of a wimp, but if you like hot, order the Shrimp Diablo.

Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose

Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose

Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose
Much like the delicious crawfish etouffee, TFR’s shrimp and grits features a delicious blond roux and plump, perfectly cooked shrimp.

Sushi at Kemuri

Sushi at Kemuri

Sushi at Kemuri
Any of Kemuri’s numerous sushi rolls are a hit. Like its sister restaurant, Oceans, if you’re in the mood for the best sushi in town, expect to find it at either of these two spots.

Tilapia Assada at Bossa Nova

Tilapia Assada at Bossa Nova

Tilapia Assada at Bossa Nova
I know most folks are down on tilapia right now, but Bossa Nova’s version, a pan-seared piece of fish with basil pesto, is pretty damn good.

Fried Catfish at Flying Fish
It’s Little Rock … you know I had to mention fried catfish a few times on this list. Like most everything at Flying Fish, the catfish is consistently good.

Crispy Squid Filet (or Calamari Snitzel) at Table 28
Tender, meaty strips of squid filet are beer-battered, fried, and then served with cocktail sauce. This is not your run-of-the-mill calamari.

Shrimp Tacos at Baja Grill

Shrimp Tacos at Baja Grill

Shrimp Tacos at Baja Grill
The shrimp tacos aren’t necessarily my first choice when dining at Baja Grill (Pig Sooey is), but that’s not to say they aren’t great. They are … mainly because the shrimp are a tad blackened and a little spicy.

Citrus Tuna Ceviche at Local Lime
This redesigned ceviche at Local Lime includes chunks of Ahi tuna, avocado, along with cucumber, lime, cilantro, and a ginger citrus jalapeno vinaigrette.

Boiled Crawfish at The Faded Rose

Boiled Crawfish at The Faded Rose

Boiled Crawfish at The Faded Rose
Hey, it’s crawfish season (until about mid-late May). On Wednesday nights starting at 4 p.m. (and until they run out), you can grab yourself a platter of the mud bugs. Just make sure to order a beer, as they tend to be spicy, but in a good way.

Buffalo Ribs at Lassis Inn

Buffalo Ribs at Lassis Inn

Buffalo Ribs at Lassis Inn
Eating Buffalo ribs at Lassis Inn is something every Little Rocker should do at least once in their life. This bottom-dweller fish is definitely an acquired taste, but if you enjoy yourself a meaty, hearty fish rib, these are for you.

Grilled Oysters at South on Main
Oysters, check. Butter, check. Parmesan cheese, check. What’s not to love?

Stock Pot at The Pantry
This dish is changing constantly, but no worries, it’s only a matter of if it will be “really good” or “great.” Delicate white fish, broth, and root veggies often provide the foundation of one of my all-time fav Pantry dishes. Keep an eye out as I don’t see this dish currently on the menu at either restaurant.

Mama Chi's Spicy Fish at Chi's

Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s

Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s
Delicate pieces of white fish rest in a thick and spicy sauce, making Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish a must-order each time I’m at this Chi’s location.

Shrimp Po’boy at Table 28
This po’boy doesn’t get near the attention as some of the other around town, but it’s just as good. Chef Rains loads it with fried shrimp, kale slaw, and pickled peppers.

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