By Jarred Kibbey
When people ask me what my favorite place is in Little Rock, the answer is always the same – kBird. I have been a big fan (major understatement) of kBird since it was a food truck parked in a dark alley behind a tattoo parlor in Hillcrest. When it closed to open a brick-and-mortar, I think I went through withdrawals. When a small note was posted on Facebook that the brick-and-mortar would be open for lunch, I promptly ditched class and made it there before Richard had even fired up the wok. He even asked how I got there so fast.
I have been an evangelist of kBird for almost as long as kBird has existed. If you have talked to me about food for more than a minute, I have told you about kBird. If you have let me pick a place to go to lunch, it is likely kBird. More than once, I have taken important business clients there because I believe in the place and the quality and the consistency of the food.
If you aren’t familiar with kBird (shame on you), it isn’t like most restaurant experiences. The building sits in a residential neighborhood near a school. It isn’t clearly marked and is the definition of hole-in-the-wall. It is literally a one man show with Richard doing most of the prep work and all of the cooking over a single wok. For this reason, wait times can be fairly long during peak times and dishes often come out separately due to limited cooking capability, which can seem strange to the uninitiated, but please bear with the unique process and you will be rewarded with some of the best food Arkansas has to offer.
So what is my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant in town? Pad Phrik King (PPK). It can be dumbed down and described as “meat, rice, and spice,” but it is so much more than that. While the dish looks pretty unassuming, the complex flavors from the dry curry and green peppercorns is unlike anything I have ever had in Arkansas (or really anywhere in the country, but more on that later). This is the starter dish I always recommend to people. Skip the Pad Thai and the Fried Rice. They are both great, but they are the “safe” dishes because everyone knows them. Be adventurous, order something you aren’t familiar with and get the PPK.
I was recently on vacation and decided to visit a spot that has garnered national attention for serving locally-sourced northern Thai food. I was hesitant to go there. What if my opinion of kBird changes? What if this meal blows me away and I will feel like I am settling for kBird just because it is Little Rock, but knowing that better is out there? I convinced myself to go there and I am happy to report back, I didn’t think it was that great. Yes it was good, possibly great if I had nothing to compare it to, but when compared to the flavors served at kBird it was a pretty forgettable meal.
So people of Little Rock (and beyond), go to kBird. Be adventurous and get something different. If you already go to kBird, keep going. Places like this are rare and the restaurant business is a tough one, so we need to do all we can to make sure it is around for a long time.
600 N Tyler St
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 11AM–2PM, 5–8PM; Thursday & Friday 11AM–2PM; Closed Saturday & Sunday
Phone: (501) 352-3549