Monthly Feature, By Jarred Kibbey
Each month, Jarred highlights one of his favorite dishes from around Little Rock.
There are few dishes that I have found in Little Rock that I can place on a list for “best sandwich,” “best breakfast item,” and “best lunch* item,” but the lox bialy at Boulevard Bread Company is firmly on each of those lists for me.
Lox isn’t something I ran across growing up in rural Arkansas. To be honest, I didn’t even know what lox was for the longest time. Once I found out, the idea of eating fish for breakfast wasn’t something that sounded appetizing – or even a good idea. Where I grew up, there was only one way to prepare fish, deep fried with a cornmeal batter. So I avoided it as long as I could.
When I finally tried lox, it was at Boulevard Bread. I was instantly hooked and had to order another one the next day. The cured salmon goes so well with the chewy onion bialy, briny capers, sliced red onions, cream cheese, mixed greens, and tomato. I am not sure what it is about this specific sandwich, but I have ordered similar dishes at other places and nothing comes close.
I have tried other variations of the sandwich at Boulevard when they were out of the onion bialy. I have tried it on a cheese bialy, but it isn’t the same. It needs the sharpness of the onion cooked in to the bialy. I have tried it on the multigrain bread, and it doesn’t hold up as well as the bialy. I have a friend who swears by subbing the cream cheese for goat cheese, it takes it to a whole other level. I want to try it, but I just can’t bring myself to mess with something I love so much.
I crave this sandwich and come to Boulevard specifically for it. Boulevard has a wonderful, creative brunch menu and I have tried many of the dishes. I say “tried” and not “ordered” because I always bum a bite off someone else at the table, because I am always going to order the lox bialy. Ordering the same dish every time is something I really try to avoid, but I just can’t help it when it comes to this sandwich.
*Note: lox bialy is only served until noon. I was severely disappointed when I tried to order one for a late lunch and subsequently threw a temper tantrum when I got back to the car.
I recently wrote about a tasty, $3.87 fried chicken lunch at Edwards Food Giant.
And it got me to thinking … are there other extremely reasonable, kinda quirky places to find a nice lunch in Little Rock? The answer is yes. One such place is the Arkansas Heart Hospital (1701 S. Shackleford Road) where, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (from 11am-2pm), you can order a $5 bowl of ramen. With tax, the total cost comes to $5.55.
That’s a real $5.55 because there’s no tip involved.
Yes, it’s a simple, no frills cafeteria-style lunch, but if you’ve never eaten at Coby’s (name of the cafe), I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the fast service, and, more importantly, this satisfying bowl of ramen.
Each day brings a different version of the soup. Today, I had a pork-based broth with noodles, chicken, cilantro, pickled onions, a marinated egg, parsnips, and carrots. While this certainly isn’t the most authentic bowl of ramen you’ll ever it, the flavors are delicious, and the overall bowl is hearty enough to fill you up. This was my second experience with Arkansas Heart Hospital ramen, and while the first time was good, this time around was even better because of an improved broth. Again, Coby’s rotates proteins in the ramen, and you’ll see anything from a slab of steak to shrimp to pork belly.
Here’s a tip … ask for it spicy. It’s still not very spicy, but anything less would be a little underwhelming, IMHO.
If you’re looking for a quick lunch that’s super cheap, check out Coby’s. Heck, if you’re a fast eater like me, you can get in and out of there in less than 20 minutes. And if you don’t like seeing other humans, you can even sneak out of the side patio door.
And another thing, Coby’s has a nice patio area … perfect for devouring a bowl of ramen on a 70-degree winter’s day in Little Rock.
Whether it’s by myself or with a friend or two, one of my favorite things to do is sit at one of our local bars, have a drink and/or bite to eat, and just take in the scene. Last week, Mallory’s new feature got me thinking about which places I like to hang. Here are my 10 of favorite bars, almost all located inside traditional restaurants. Are they the best bar areas in town? Maybe, maybe not … it’s very subjective, but for a variety of reasons, they definitely suit me.
Big Orange Midtown
Visually speaking, this, or the bar at One Eleven, are the most appealing. The bar at Big Orange Midtown is absolutely gorgeous and is stocked with some of the best liquors in town. From a diner’s perspective, it’s a wonderful place to have a meal and a nice beer or cocktail. The restaurant is never too loud and during the evening hours has a very nice, mellow vibe around the bar. Service is always attentive and drink specials tend to be quite creative.
What to order: Thai Chop Salad w/ Steak and a Lost Forty Honey Bock
It’s not big, and it can get a tad loud, but if you can find a seat, the bar at Pantry Crest is a great spot to watch a game, have an appetizer or two, and down one of the restaurant’s seasonal cocktails or local beers on tap.
What to order: Truffle Deviled Eggs and Stone’s Throw Beer (whatever’s on tap)
Most folks wouldn’t think to hang at Trio’s for its bar, but as you probably know by now, I love the restaurant, and that includes the very underrated bar area. Head Bartender Merrick Fagan is a wizard with his cocktail creations and just an overall good guy to chat with (when he isn’t too busy). The bar is quiet, has a big television to watch a game, and is usually occupied by a few folks, which inevitably leads to fun conversations.
What to order: Shrimp Spring Rolls (or any appetizer special) with a Pineapple Rum Daiquiri
I should go to Raduno’s more often, especially because I really do enjoy the bar. It’s long, can accommodate a large amount of people, but never feels uncomfortably hectic. For all you beer lovers, the on-tap selection is one of the best in Little Rock. There’s also a big, beautiful television, perfect for watching a game.
What to order: Caesar’s Salad and a beer flight
South on Main
Probably my favorite bar in Little Rock. It’s just a cool place to hang, and for lack of a better term, it has that Cheer’s vibe to it. With more and more shows going on, it can get loud in the restaurant, but even then, it’s still nice to hang at the bar. Head Bartender David Burnette is the best in the business, and whether you’re in the mood for a sophisticated cocktail or a nice wine pairing, David always has some great recs.
What to order: Fried Oyster Steamed Bun and Old Fashioned
Heights Taco and Tamale Co.
HTT is often very loud, but I do enjoy finding a seat at the bar (btw, the seats are very comfortable) and having a quick cocktail. I say quick because HTT is very popular, and I hate taking up a seat for too long. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and the drinks, whether its a beer on-tap or a cocktail, are usually spot-on.
What to order: Tamales and a Frozen Mojito
Did I say South on Main was my favorite bar? Well, then Flyway is my second favorite. For some reason, I just feel at home there. The bartenders are always super friendly, the beer is outstanding, and the food just keeps getting better and better. The place is never a madhouse, but always seems to have a steady stream of neighborhood friendlies. The massive television right above the bar doesn’t hurt matters.
What to order: Smoked Trout Nachos and a beer flight
This is a bar’s bar. It’s no frills and somewhat dark, but just a perfect place to grab a beer. And Maddie’s seems to always have a nice beer selection. If you’re rolling solo, it’s also a great spot to grab a quick lunch or dinner.
What to order: Grilled Oysters and Bubba’s Brews Arkie Ale
Boulevard on Main Street
Hey, it’s not all about the booze. Boulevard is my favorite coffee bar. I’m there each Friday morning and love spending about 20 minutes on my phone, while enjoying a great cup of coffee. Blvd is another place that has a steady stream of customers, and because this is Little Rock, there’s a good chance you’ll know 1 out of 10 people who walk in.
What to order: Small cup of coffee and a slice of bread-of-the-day
Don’t worry, West Little Rock, I didn’t forget about ya. We all know that Local Lime has the best bar in the area … another Yellow Rock Concepts creation that’s easy on the eye and warm on the soul. Ok, that was a little sappy, but you know what I mean. Local Lime’s bar just feels cool and is a perfect place to hang, especially if you don’t feel like waiting on a table on a busy Friday night.
What to order: Chips and Salsa and a Frozen Margarita
I was never a big fan of fried catfish until I moved to Little Rock about five years ago, and now I love it. Funny how that works out. Same can be said about pimento cheese. Anyways, my newfound love for the fried version of this bottom-dwelling fish has led me to seek out places that specialize in it.
Restaurants like … Eat My Catfish in Little Rock. Here’s how yesterday’s lunch turned out (which was also my first time at the restaurant).
I had two tablemates for lunch, so I was able to try out a few menu items. I ordered the fried crawfish po’boy and added a side of fries. The fries were solid, fairly ho-hum, but still good enough for me to devour 80% of the basket. Unfortunately, however, the po’boy bordered on terrible. The pieces of crawfish were small, over-battered and almost all fell out of the sandwich with one bite. The somewhat dry, bland bread was also a disappointment. Happily, a couple bites of my buddy’s fried catfish and chicken tenders turned the meal around. The piping hot fish was well-seasoned, crispy, and overall, just an excellent version of this Southern classic. Same can be said for the meaty chicken tenders. And while I didn’t get to try the hush puppies, they certainly passed the eyeball test.
Eat My Catfish is a fast casual, order-at-the-counter restaurant with friendly, attentive service. Think of it as a catfish version of David’s Burgers, without someone screaming at you upon walking through the door. Heck, the cashier even called me “honey,” which was cool.
My small-ish po’boy, basket of fries, and Diet Coke ran about $12 (and I added a $1 tip). I wouldn’t categorize this as an insane value, but it was reasonable.
I won’t be rushing back to Eat My Catfish, but the food was certainly good enough to inspire a return visit. The fried catfish can hold its own with the Flying Fish and The Faded Rose’s of the world … and folks on my FB claim the boiled crawfish and shrimp are the real deal. Go check out the menu, and you’ll see that Eat My Catfish is heaven for lovers of fried food. Fried chicken tenders, catfish, pickles, shrimp, and cheese … it’s all there.