It was another great year of covering food, and per usual, my eating experiences were filled with many highs and lows. This post is dedicated to my favorite dishes in Little Rock for 2015. This isn’t a “Best Of” post. These aren’t necessarily the best dishes in the city, just my favorite plates of food I ate over the course of the past 12 months. And this isn’t a rambling, kiss ass-fest. Just a nice list of dishes with some brief descriptions. If you get a chance, please try them all out in 2016.
Tofu Pad Thai at kBird – It’s a staple in Thai cuisine and kBird does it righter than rain. You’ll be tempted to get the chicken, but the tofu is where it’s at.
Burrata at Raduno – Who in their right mind wouldn’t eat the hell out of a ball of mozzarella? The burrata is the perfect way to start a meal at Raduno.
Breakfast Taco at South on Main – These are best breakfast tacos I’ve found in LR. Bell and his crew serve them during brunch service, and they come with a fried egg, chorizo, and diced red onions.
Vermicelli Bowl at Mike’s Café – It’s your typical Vietnamese vermicelli bowl, but there’s something about the texture of the noodles that separate this one from the competition.
Fries at Boulevard Bistro – These wildly addictive fries (or frites) are a must-order on any visit to Boulevard.
Beet Salad at The Fold – They’ve changed this dish up a bit, but it’s still fantastic and if you love pickled beets, you should definitely get an order or two for the table.
Bread Pudding at Maddie’s – As with most dishes at Maddie’s, you will literally get fatter just reading it off the menu. This is classic, stick-to-your-bones bread pudding.
Yazoo at Layla’s – This double crusted, cheese stuffed pizza is one of the most underrated dishes in all of Little Rock. It never gets mentioned with some of the best pies in town, but it should.
Leeks at One Eleven – Ten dishes from One Eleven could have ended up on this list, but I particularly enjoyed the side plate of warm, tender leeks with pecans. And as always, plating, right behind taste, is a top priority to the kitchen.
Green Papaya Salad at kBird – If you’ve never had green papaya salad, or for that matter, Thai food, then broaden your horizons a bit in 2016 and head down to kBird. Start with this sweet and tangy salad.
Brick-Pressed Prosciutto at H.A.M. – This is the best sandwich in Little Rock, and honestly, it’s the brick pressing everything together that makes it so damn good.
Fried Shrimp at Doe’s Eat Place – Little Rock, keep your Delta-style tamales and give me an extra order of these jumbo fried shrimp. I almost like them more than the 3-lb., medium rare Porterhouse. Almost.
Farmers Market Splendor at Trio’s – This seasonal dish is a collection of local veggies all on one plate. The fried okra is not to be missed and neither is the corn salad or sliced tomatoes.
Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci – Damn, I really had a lot of good shrimp and grits in 2015, and Ciao Baci’s version on it’s tasting menu was also spot on. Using top-notch shrimp makes all the difference for this very picky Gulf coast guy.
Ramen at The Southern Gourmasian – Early in 2015, I was in Charleston (a titan in the southern food scene), and had a bowl of ramen at one of the city’s top spots. A week later, I tried the ramen at The Southern Gourmasian, which ended up being a lot better.
Watermelon Sorbet at Ciao Baci – Oh, hello again, Ciao Baci. We fortunately stumbled upon this dessert, as the staff at CB happily substituted the watermelon sorbet for the usual dessert course on the tasting menu.
Pork Shoulder at Table 28 – Without question, this was the best barbeque I ate in 2015 inside the Little Rock city limits. I think it’s a seasonal menu, so check things out before you head to Table 28 in search of this smoky, super tender and surprisingly lean pork shoulder.
Italian Sausage & Peppadew Pizza at Deluca’s – I’m including Deluca’s (even though it’s in Hot Springs) on this list. Why? Because it’s my damn list and this is the best pizza anywhere. The sweet and spicy combination of the Italian sausage and pappadews is irresistible.
Scallops at One Eleven – I rarely order scallops in Little Rock, but One Eleven has an excellent supplier, so if your hankering for some sweetness of the sea, this is it.
Mashed Potatoes at South on Main – One bite, yes, one bite of my buddy’s mashed potatoes (on the chicken fried steak plate) lands this on my list. With so many restaurants doing piss poor mashed potatoes these days, I no longer take great ones for granted.
Buffet at Al Seraj – No, technically a buffet isn’t a dish, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recognize this hidden gem of a spot in WLR. Go try out the $10 lunch buffet and tell me that isn’t some of the freshest, best tasting Mediterranean food around.
Fried Chicken at CBG – The supper crunchy crust and moist meat is what separates this fried chicken from the rest in this town.
Pancakes at The Root – Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of ordering pancakes, but The Root’s pancakes are just too hard to resist.
Green Gumbo at CBG – Finicky gumbo eaters may frown upon this greens-based version, but you’ll find nothing but love for it from me.
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 paradise for seafood lovers, and really is the only time I’ll recommend ordering mussels in this city (pictured at the top).
Pork Loin at Maddie’s – Listen, we all know and love Maddie’s Place by now. It’s no secret they churn out some of the best food in town. And while it’s tough to pass on the BBQ shrimp and/or shrimp and grits … please, please, please give this pork loin with house-made Worcestershire sauce and butter-soaked Brussels a shot.
Chicken Milanesa Torta at Super 7 Grocery – My goodness, this is such an underrated sandwich. Super 7 is located on John Barrow Road and is a perfect quick lunch spot, especially if you have an affinity for tortas. A pounded- then fried- chicken breast is never a bad thing.
Fried Spring Rolls at Fantastic China – I am always on the prowl for a good egg/spring roll and about the only one worth a damn in LR is at Fantastic China.
Jagerschnitzel at The Pantry – I’d adopt this dish and make it part of my fam if I could. Earlier this year, I described it as a big food hug, and I’ll stand by that. Thin pork is breaded, fried, placed over a bed of spaetzle, and topped with the most delicious gravy and mushrooms.
Smoked Bologna Sandwich at Sim’s BBQ – This sandwich will not be on next year’s list because my wife won’t allow me to eat it more than once every three years. This widow-maker consists of a slab of smoked bologna topped with slaw and soupy bbq sauce.
Posole at Trio’s – Honestly, this was one of the true surprises of the year. Never did I think I’d find honest-to-goodness authentic posole at Trio’s. Folks, this stuff is the real deal … especially those insanely tender piles of shredded pork.
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.
Blackened Ribeye at The Faded Rose – The ribeye at The Faded Rose is just a great cut of meat prepared to perfection and all at a very reasonable price.
Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s – This eatery in NLR gets very little attention from folks south of the river. If you go, get this mammoth bowl of shrimp soup. The creamy tomato broth and intense shrimp flavor make it a winner.
Pickle Fried Chicken Taco at Heights Taco & Tamale Co. – The unique combination of flavors in this compact taco lands it in my top 50.
Ceviche at Local Lime – The ceviche at Local Lime got a total redesign. Talk about going from a zero to a hero. Sit at the bar with an order of it and a frozen margarita and you’ve got yourself a damn good Friday night.
Deviled Eggs at The Pantry – As long as I eat the deviled eggs each year, expect them to end up on this list. They’re so creamy and delicious and cute and just awesome. The Parm crisp topper takes it to another level.
Duck Neck Poutine at South on Main – Man, they had this on Special one night and it was so freaking good. No cheese curds like traditional poutine, but the perfect fries, bits of duck neck meat, and thick gravy made up for that.
Shrimp Po’Boy at Table 28 – We have no shortage of great shrimp po’boys in this town and Table 28’s is the best, due in large part to the enormous shrimp Chef Rains throws on it.
Rosalinda Plato at Rosalinda’s – The thin beef steak, sliced avocado, and a mixture of rice and beans is just too good not include on this list.
Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s – I’ve written about this dish countless times, and unlike some other dishes at Chi’s, it never disappoints. Beware…it can be quite spicy, which I view as a good thing.
Chicken Tenders at Franke’s – Some things never change, like the awesomeness of Franke’s fried chicken tenders. Dipped in honey mustard, it doesn’t get much better than these babies.
Pork Dumplings at Three Fold – With limited options on a purposefully small menu, quality through consistency is the name of the game over at Three Fold. No item better represents this than the steamed pork dumplings.
Thin Fish at The Faded Rose – If I had the metabolism of a 15-year-old and the cholesterol level of a marathon runner, I’d eat this fried catfish once a week.
Baked Pimento Cheese at Boulevard – Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of pimento cheese, but have learned to love it over the past 4 years. That said, there’s no denying the greatness of the baked version at Boulevard.
Wedge Fries at The Faded Rose – Best fries in the city. I love them, much like a mama cheetah loves her young cats. That made no sense, but you get my drift.
Monkey Bread at Mylo Coffee Co. – Every now and then I break down and order a pastry at Mylo Coffee Co. In 2015, it didn’t get better than that mini monkey bread.
Chicken Enchiladas w/ Verde Sauce at El Palenque – El Palenque is the best Mexican food in Little Rock and the chicken enchiladas sit at the very top of the menu’s awesomeness. My wife could eat this dish 5 times a week.
Chicken Burger at David’s – The beef burgers tend to fall on the greasier side of late, so I usually opt for this slightly healthier ground chicken burger.
Queens Deluxe Pizza at NYPD – This pizza gets almost no love, and that’s a shame, because with it’s plentiful toppings and thin, chewy crust, NYPD really is some of the best pizza in town.