The Junkie: Burger King’s “New” Chicken Sandwich

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Monthly Feature, By Jim Rassinier

Ah, Burger King. I’ve never really liked you. About the only time I’ve ever eaten here was when something was on special, like the Whopper for 99 cents back in the 90’s or the current 10 nuggets for $1.49. BK is on the lower end of my fast food choices; and at the bottom of that barrel has always been their utterly miserable chicken sandwich.

A brief history: Burger King way back in 1978 was having issues with their reputation and image. To address this, they realized that their way of making sandwiches was far more flexible than McDonald’s, and with Wendy’s coming fast on their heels, they decided to create an entire new line of “adult” type of sandwiches. Why they decided to make every one of these new sandwiches look like a hoagie beats the hell out of me.

I digress, the Original Chicken sandwich was the only one that had any lasting appeal, and I’ve never even understood why that was. It was a sad excuse for a sandwich, with chicken so processed it seemed like it should compete with the $1 value chicken sandwiches at most other fast food restaurants. Oh, sure, every couple of years they’d come up with a new take on the sandwich, such as their Italian chicken version (which just added mozzerella slices and a really lousy marinera) or their Cordon bleu iteration (adding ham and swiss cheese, naturally) but at the end of the day, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. These sandwiches were always lackluster.

So color me pessimistic when I heard BK was introducing a “New” Chicken Sandwich. I’d seen this song and dance since childhood, and I was expecting another tube-steak looking monstrocity, perhaps with extra pickles this time around.

Ladies and gents, dare I say this sandwich is actually legitimate! Almost on par with Wendy’s, and that is a bold statement. The chicken is both crispy and juicy, and you get a sizable piece of thick chicken breast from BK for the first time EVER. Now, there is nothing fancy about this sandwich. It is simply placed on a bun with lettuce, tomato and a bit of mayonaisse. But that actually works in favor of the sandwich because it allows the chicken to shine and be front and center of their latest creation.

Now, let’s be clear: This isn’t on par with Chick Fil A, but if you enjoy Wendy’s caliber of chicken sandwiches, you should definitely try this new item. All I can say is the next time I’m hungry and pass by a Burger King, I may not brush it off like I have the past few decades. Oh, and while you’re there, order the $1.49 nuggets. That’s a good deal, no matter who you are.

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The Dish: Black Pepper Chicken at China Garden

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Monthly Feature, By Jarred Kibbey

Each month, Jarred highlights one of his favorite dishes from around Little Rock.

The second floor of the UALR Bowen School of Law Library likely still smells like Chinese food. Black Pepper Chicken to be more specific. Dinner meal D17 from China Garden to be exact.

I remember the first time I tried China Garden. It was during finals on my 2L year. We had been studying all day and we were stressed, tired, and hungry. A friend suggested we go get takeout from this Chinese place right down the road. I had driven by this restaurant a hundred times and nothing about its bright orange and unkempt exterior made me want to try it, so my response was, “no thanks, I would rather not get food poisoning.” They returned 15 minutes later and raving about the black pepper chicken, so I had to try a bite. I was hooked and demanded that we get takeout from there the very next day.

The chicken bits are perfectly fried and then tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. And like any good fried guilty pleasure, it is plenty salty. If you look closely at each piece, you can see small crystals of what I can only assume are salt or sugar. (note: I have other ideas of what these small crystals could be, but The Mighty Rib asked me to refrain from posting my thoughts). I recently went back there before writing this piece to see if it was like I remembered and it did not disappoint.

To say I ate this dish often in law school would be an understatement. I was a regular there. I frequented it so many times that once after winter break was over the owner asked where I had been. I wasn’t sure what he was getting at, so I asked. He simply responded, “I haven’t seen you, but I know school has started back, because I asked a professor if school wasn’t back in session of if you had graduated.”

Like many dishes that I truly love, I shared this with many classmates, who then shared it with others. During my last year of law school, you could find someone enjoying this dish somewhere in the library almost round the clock, if you didn’t see it being eaten, you could most certainly smell it. That is what I am confident that the smell of black pepper chicken still lingers in the Bowen Law Library.

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Readers’ Guide to Great Desserts in Little Rock

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Cheesecake at The Pantry

I asked it … “What is your favorite dessert at a Little Rock restaurant?” And you came through with 50+ suggestions of great desserts from around town. Check them out below, and if you do get a sweet tooth, definitely make sure with the restaurant beforehand, as some of these desserts are seasonal. Thank you to everyone who commented on the thread!

Any Pie or Cake at Alley Oops
My Take: This was the only suggestion that was mentioned multiple times but was never specific in which dessert to order. I’ve had the strawberry cake at AO and it was fantastic.

Apple Cheesecake at Baja Grill
Banana Cream Pie Milkshake at Big Orange

Blueberry Lemon Bread Pudding, Four-Layer Delight Pie (aka Possum Pie), Tres Leches at Bossa Nova
My Take: I’ve never had dessert at Bossa Nova, but after reading this thread, and it getting multiple suggestions, that will soon change.

Chocolate Creme Brûlée at Brave New Restaurant
Flourless Chocolate Cake at Bruno’s Little Italy
Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae at The Buffalo Grill
Chocolate Creme Brûlée at The Butcher Shop Steakhouse
Mexican Brownie at Cantina Laredo
Dark Chocolate Torte, Panna Cotta at Capeo

Banana Pudding at Capital Bar and Grill
My Take: 100% no bullshit here … this is the best dessert in Little Rock. Talk about insanely addictive.

Tres Leches at Chuy’s
Six Layer Chocolate Ganache Cake at Community Bakery
Cheesecake at Copeland’s
Hot Milk Cake at Dempsey Bakery

Churros at El Torito
My Take: This was my addition to the list, mainly because El Torito doesn’t get a lot of attention and their baked goods are legit.

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Dessert Counter at Franke’s

 

Bread Pudding at The Faded Rose
Cinnamon Creme Pie, Peach Cobbler at Franke’s
Sour Cream Chocolate Cake at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
Fudge Brownie Pie at Honey Pies
Bread Pudding, Strawberry Shortcake at Izzy’s

Ginger Cookies at kBird
My Take: They don’t always bake them, but if you see a jar of ginger cookies sitting by the register, buy them all and thank me later.

Cappuccino Creme Brûlée at Kemuri

Ginger Cookie at kBird

Ginger Cookie at kBird

 

Bread Pudding, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie at Maddie’s Place
My Take: I can only vouch for the bread pudding, but it’s truly glorious.

Baklava at Mama’s Gyros Grill
Chocolate Banana Muffin at Mylo Coffee Co.

Pom Pom Pom at One Eleven
My Take: There should be like 20 desserts from One Eleven included on this list.

Ice Box Pie at Oyster Bar

Apple Torte, Cheesecake, Chocolate Salami, Nutella Creme Brûlée at The Pantry
My Take: The cheesecake got the most mentions on this thread, as it should. If you’ve never had it, just get it. Simple, plain, and no added toppings. The magic is in the crust.

Brownie, Fudge Ice Cream Pecan Ball at The Pizzeria
Chocolate Creme Brûlée at Cafe Prego
Shakes at Purple Cow
Chocolate Sack, Tres Leches at SO
Banana cake at Soul Fish

Fudge Brownie Pie at Honey Pies

Fudge Brownie Pie at Honey Pies

 

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Table 28
My Take: Surprised there was no mention of Chef Rains’ s’mores dessert. Consider this the official mention.

Chocolate Creme Brûlée at The Terrace

Arkansas Strawberry Shortcake, Bailey’s Cheesecake, Banana Delight, Raspberry Cream Pie at Trio’s
My Take: They take a freaking tray around after every meal, so you knew Trio’s would land on this list multiple times. I think the strawberry shortcake is a tad overrated. Pro tip…order the banana delight and top it with strawberries.

Phyllo-Wrapped Brownie at YaYa’s
Gelato at ZAZA

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Wonton Soup is the Way to Go at Pho Thanh My

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I love wonton soup, always have , always will.

Truth be told, much of it is a sentimental thing, as I remember eating a bowl of wonton soup as early as age four. When I got sick as a kid, my dad would always bring me home a vat of it. Nowadays, restaurants don’t tend to put much love into wonton soup. It’s the boring inclusion on a combination plate, usually served in a tiny cup that takes about two minutes to down.

But there’s good news. If you love wonton soup as much as I do, you really need to check out Pho Thanh My. It’s listed as “M2” on the menu and is a massive bowl of broth, filled with wontons, thinly sliced pork, chopped green onions, and cilantro. Here’s the thing that separates this wonton soup from many others out there … PTM serves its standard plate of herbs, sprouts, and jalapenos with it, just like they do with their pho. So, in essence, it’s this kicked up, awesome version of a classic.

The wontons, themselves, are pork-filled and have a nice, firm bite to the wrapper. They are they star of this soup, as they should be. I think it’s absolutely essential to add the jalapenos and sprouts to the soup. You probably don’t want to eat the actual slices of jalapenos if you’re a wimp like me, but resting them in the broth as you eat adds an amazing flavor to the soup.

At $8.95 for a huge bowl, you’re also talking about an excellent value, as I’ve yet to consume it all. Just be careful, if you’re a slob like me, you might not want to wear the best clothes. Much like a good bowl of pho, this wonton soup tends to splatter.

Listen, this post isn’t meant to knock the pho at PTM. It’s solid, but I think Mike’s Cafe is a tad better. When I want pho, I go there. When I want great wonton soup … the best I’ve found in Little Rock … I go to Pho Thanh My.

Side note, service tends to suck sometimes at Pho Thanh My, but it was spot-on for yesterday’s lunch. Fast, friendly, and very attentive, it was nice to see the service match the great food.

Pho Thanh My
302 N Shackleford Road
Open Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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