Archive for category Restaurant Review
There’s a good chance that most people reading this post have never even heard of Taqueria Karina. But for those who have experienced the restaurant at 5309 W. 65th Street, you know the food is worthy of high praise.
And that’s exactly what I’m about to do.
It all starts out with a chips and salsa combination that is, to date, the best I’ve come across in Little Rock. The chips are thin, crisp, and absolutely fresh–perfect for dipping into the warm, soupy, slightly spicy salsa. In my experience, most Mexican restaurants in this area either do a good job with the chips or the salsa, but not both, and more often than not, neither. So kudos to Karina for starting the meal off right.
I’ve only eaten at Taqueria Karina three times, so while my knowledge of the menu is still fairly limited, I can definitely recommend leaning towards beef and pork options, as the chicken tends to be on the dry side. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken isn’t bad, but the beef and pork are far superior … especially the pork. On my most recent visit, I ordered the Burrito de Carnitas, a plate that included a large tortilla stuffed with a heaping portion of tender, shredded pork meat, as well as a serving of rice and beans. The pork was magnificent, seriously, like really magnificent. For the most part, the chef kept the fatty pieces off the plate, which was very appreciated. The rice was fine–nothing stellar–but no worries from my end, as accompanying rice is usually viewed as a plate filler for me. The refried beans were a little runny for my liking, but again, this comes down to personal preference.
If you’ve never been to Taqueria Karina, I highly recommend trying this underrated hidden gem in SWLR. And if you have been, please let me know what you like and dislike.. It will be difficult to divert from the burrito, but I’m willing to try.
Remember Acadia? It was the restaurant located in the heart of Hillcrest off Kavanaugh with the bad ass deck. Well, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, it’s now La Terraza Rum & Lounge—a restaurant specializing in South American dishes, many of which fuse with other flavors from around the world.
The menu is a little different, a characteristic often frowned upon by many Little Rock diners. We love our comfort food dishes, the meat and potatoes, our shrimp and grits … things that have been on menus around here for 30+ years. And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, a restaurant like La Terraza not only has a place in Little Rock, but its success, along with other ethnic establishments like kBird and Lulu’s, is absolutely critical for the continued growth of our local food scene.
This is all just a long-winded, soapbox way of saying La Terraza Rum & Lounge is a place you might want to consider checking out.
I did just that on Tuesday afternoon.
My tablemate and I sat outside on the lovely deck and enjoyed some of this springtime weather. Lunch started with a complimentary cup of white bean soup, followed by our order of the beef carpaccio and arepas. We gobbled up both apps and the soup. I was particularly impressed with the beautifully presented carpaccio, which was highlighted by a generous topping of basil aioli. The mini, cheese-filled arepas are purposefully bland (think pupusa) but elevated by a spicy jalapeno jelly. For my entrée, I opted for the Pernil al Horno, a pile of baked, thinly sliced pork, covered in a thin, brown gravy, which came with a pile of black beans and rice and plantains. This dish flat out hit the spot. The pork was tender, and while the plantains were somewhat bland, a forkful with each of the plate’s components was where the dish truly shined. My friend ordered the Stroganoff de Pollo, a creamy concoction of chicken, mustard, and pickles over what were essentially kettle chips. He seemed as pleased with his order as I was with mine.
Overall, the food and service proved to be outstanding, traits that will definitely lead to a return visit. Is La Terraza an elite Little Rock restaurant? It’s still too early to say, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Notes: Menu offers a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches. Other dishes include: paella, grilled salmon, rib-eye served on a hot, lava stone, and arroz con leche. As the name of the restaurant suggests, the menu features several rum-based cocktails. Wine is also available. Hours of operation: Tuesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. 3000 Kavanaugh Blvd.
Table 28 is without question one of the most underrated restaurants in all of Little Rock. Over the past 2+ years, the food coming out of the Chef Scott Rains’ kitchen has been innovative and sophisticated, while remaining unpretentious.
But from day one, there’s been something holding the restaurant back … a drab atmosphere. Quite honestly, it just wasn’t the kind of restaurant I wanted to hang at on a regular basis. And make no mistake, restaurants, nowadays, have to bring more to the table than just dynamite food. Competition is steep, and a fun, inviting atmosphere is every bit as important as the culinary creations coming out of the kitchen.
As many of you already know, Table 28 recently got a complete makeover. Last Friday night was my first chance to check out the new digs, and simply put, I was blown away by everything … in a good way. The setting was fresh, inviting, and hip, but not cold and sterile, and definitely a space I now felt comfortable spending a few hours in.
And the best part? The restaurant was packed.
There was a definite energy in the place. People were talking and having fun, but at a volume that you could still have a nice conversation with your tablemates. Heck, there was even some light, live music playing in the corner of the restaurant.
The service, per usual, was outstanding, as was the food. Our table gobbled up an order of quail lollipops with hot sauce and bleu cheese, as well as a delicious plate of mushrooms covered in mozzarella and shaved truffles. You can never go wrong with the lollipops, which I consider to be Table 28’s signature appetizer (small plate). For my entrée, I opted for the blackened sea bass with succotash … a dish that proved to be delightful and well-executed. Sea bass is my favorite fish and Chef Rains pulled off his version to perfection.
My dinner companions ordered the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and asparagus, the calamari snitzel with cabbage confit, and the Cioppino San Fran, a hearty bowl of bass, scallops, shrimp, and squid ink pasta. I heard no complaints. For dessert, we split the s’mores bar and lemon cheesecake, which were both delicious and gorgeously presented.
The bottom line is this … with a sophisticated décor to pair with elite food and wine menus, Table 28 is now a Top 5 dining destination in Little Rock.
Lulu’s Latin Rotisserie & Grill has been open for a few months now, and truth be told, I drive past the WLR restaurant no less than four times a day. That stretch of Bowman is on my way to just about everything important in life. But here’s the deal … fair or not, with previous occupants like Bill’s Country Kitchen and Anatolia, I’ve been quite hesitant to dine in the space.
I know, it’s a shitty rationale.
But over the past several weeks, I’ve kept my eye on social media and heard good reports from friends about WLR’s newest restaurant, and as my family debated on where to eat last Friday night, Lulu’s popped into the ol’ noggin.
The first thing that surprised me upon entry was the number of people inside the restaurant … the place was practically full. Granted, Friday nights are busy for restaurants, but it was a pleasant surprise to see Lulu’s already being embraced by the community.
It’s easy to see why.
Although the cozy interior and festive Latin music playing softly in the background makes you want to be in the space, the real draw is the food.
We started off with an order of chicken empanadas (3, $6). Perfectly fried, buttery and flaky, these empanadas are a perfect way to begin a meal at Lulu’s, due in large part to the insanely addictive accompanying Aji amarillo and Lulu’s green sauce.
For entrees, our table of four split a half chicken with two sides ($11.50) and the grilled steak platter ($15.95). I rarely order steak at restaurants, and, in fact, had planned to go all-in with the chicken, but the table next to us got the steak. One look at their platter made me re-think things. I’m glad I did. The flat-iron cut was cooked to a perfect, and I mean perfect, medium rare and drizzled with a fresh, vibrant chimichurri sauce. It came with a nice side salad and some pedestrian fries, but my goodness, that steak! Like everything else on the table, you end up dipping it in all of the sauces.
And guess what? The flavorful and tender rotisserie chicken was just as good, as were the sides, highlighted by a delicious rice and beans combo. Our other side of fried yucca, with just a hint of natural sweetness, was also a hit, and again, spot-on when dipped in the Aji amarillo sauce.
Here’s another added bonus about Lulu’s … the place serves cocktails. Judging by the Caipirinha my wife and I split, the folks at Lulu’s have a good handle on alcoholic beverages. Fear not, you can even get a pisco sour, although I can’t vouch for that one … yet.
In the end, my family of four got out of Lulu’s for $36 (+ tip), which I considered an excellent value for the amount and quality of food. It’s only been one visit, but I’m a huge fan of this restaurant, and only hope the rest of Little Rock continues to embrace it.
Did You Know?
Lulu’s now offers a Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Here’s the menu … regular menu options are also available.
Lulu’s Latin Rotisserie & Grill
315 N. Bowman Road, Suite 2
Hours of operation: Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (lunch and dinner); closed Monday
Take-out available; family pack rotisserie chicken meals available