1. Where were you born and how long have you lived in Little Rock? I was born at St. Vincent Infirmary, moved to Bryant when I was 8, returned to Little Rock after college graduation in 1981 and other than living in Springfield, Mo., from 1992 to mid-1995, I’ve been in Little Rock ever since.
2. What cuisine would you rate as your most favorite? I’d have to say Mexican, or at least Tex-Mex. I adore high-quality guacamole, cheese dip and tamales. And you can take the other basic Mex ingredients and combine them in almost any way and I’ll like the result. I used to frequent a greasy-spoon place called Pancho’s La Casita that was in a pink building on Broadway just east of Interstate 30, where every dish looked the same. We called it “brown with cheese.” Great low-rent stuff.
3. What city (that you’ve never been to) would you enjoy visiting solely for the food? Nice, France. Best country to eat in the world (sorry, Italy) with painfully fresh seafood to boot.
4. Where’s the best place you’ve eaten in the past year, and what did you order? Brave New Restaurant. Heirloom tomato platter as an appetizer and pan-seared walleye with a blueberry beurre blanc for the main course.
5. Where is your go-to Little Rock pizza place? Vino’s. Been eating pizza there for decades, but my last pie was the best I’ve ever had — sausage and mushroom with extra cheese. Damn, it was fine. (Love Iriana’s, too, and Gusano’s — the traditional, not Chicago style — is underrated by most.)
6. What Little Rock chef would you have cook in your home…and what would you have he/she prepare? Paul Novicky, who has been off the scene for years. I’d let him design the multi-course menu, but I’d ask that it include a soup and a fish dish with a sauce. Soups and sauces often reveal a chef’s level of expertise, in my opinion. And he was the culinary brains behind the much-missed Spaule in the Heights, for years LR’s top fine-dining spot.
7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? Doe’s tamales, the evening fish special from Brave New and banana pudding from the Capital Bar and Grill. Schizophrenic theme for the meal, but each course is excellent in its own inimitable way. If you’ve never had the CB&G’s banana pudding, do it. Now.
8. Where’s the last place you ate for lunch and what did you order? Business lunch at Bosco’s — blackened fish sandwich (served just as a filet with no bread or lettuce/tomato) with remoulade and fries. Got extra remoulade and used that for both the fish and the fries.
9. What Little Rock restaurant have you never eaten at that might surprise people? Romano’s Macaroni Grill. I tried to go a couple of times when it first opened but there were really long waits. I just never got back. I rarely do national chains, and I rarely eat in West Little Rock (other than The Pantry), so I guess I’ll never go, and I’m sure that won’t bother me too much.
10. What Arkansas celebrity, dead or alive, would you enjoy having a drink with? Johnny Cash — no doubt about it. Would love to hear his stories and generally bask in his considerable brilliance. (Billy Bob Thornton would be No. 2 for same reasons.)
Kelley has been reviewing restaurants (for publications like the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Times) for more than 25 years.