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Recent Eats: Deluca’s, El Torito, The Pizzeria & Big Orange Midtown

Recent Eats: Deluca’s, El Torito, The Pizzeria & Big Orange Midtown
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Quick thoughts from my latest eating experiences from around the Little Rock area…

Deluca’s Pizza

I went down to Hot Springs five months ago to try the then new cheeseburger at Deluca’s. The hockey puck-shaped beef patty covered in gooey American cheese and placed on a potato bun with two slices of pickles on the side was an absolute winner. Fast forward to last week for Round 2. Once again, this burger didn’t disappoint, although the beef was a touch salty. The juiciness of the meat is damn near insane, so much so, that owner Anthony Valinoti now hands out bibs with each burger. I tossed mine aside. That was a mistake. I also tried out a new menu item, the cheesesteak, which proved to be non-traditionally delightful. Calm down, Philly cheesesteak purists, this one is a little different than the norm. Deluca’s piles thinly sliced rib-eye on a toasted roll. The meat is topped with onions, peppers, and mushrooms, along with a thinner cheese sauce that leans more towards an Arkansas cheese dip. The end result is a big, glorious mess of a sandwich. Oh, we also ordered a meatball and peppadew pizza. Crazy, I know, ordering pizza at Deluca’s. Per usual, it was outstanding and a tad saucier than usual, which I really enjoyed.

El Torito

Ever heard of El Torito? For whatever reason, the taqueria/grocery store on Bowman near Whole Foods still has that hidden gem feel to it. I’ve tried out most of the menu over the past several years. The shrimp and beef fajitas are fantastic, as are any of the burritos, but the true star is the pastor tacos. Why? Because of those pineapple chunks that pair wonderfullly with the tender pork and slightly spicy sauce. If you’ve never tried El Torito, I encourage you to do so. There’s also a wonderful bakery inside, home of the best churros you’ll find in the area.

The Pizzeria

I love The Pizzeria. I love the atmosphere, the food, the bar, and the service. It’s become one of my favorite restaurants in Little Rock, but until last week, I’d never tried out the brunch service. My first visit proved to be a little bit of a mixed bag, yet one where the positives outweighed the negatives. We didn’t enjoy our appetizer of Sausage and Cheese Balls. Simply put, the balls were dry (no giggles, please) and the portion was small. And while I loved the personal-sized French press, the coffee, itself, was a little weak for my preference. And while my beautifully presented jar of creamy Overnight Oats with chia, coconut, granola, grapes, raspberries, and blueberries was tasty, it was also small and left me wanting more. The Pizzeria substitutes frittatas for pizza during brunch, so we tried out one with shrimp. For those new to the frittata game, think of it as a wood-fire baked omelette/pancake concoction. For Chinese food lovers, imagine a delightful shrimp egg foo young. It’s a winner.

Big Orange Midtown

It was another good showing for Big Orange Midtown. As I mentioned on Facebook, they’ve gotten rid of most of those horrible metal chairs in favor of a comfortable, wood variety. My ass thanks them. As for the food, the fries, both the regular and sweet potato, were on point, as was my wife’s turkey burger. I still don’t know how they get ground turkey to taste so good, but they do. I even tried the grilled grouper sandwich for the first time. For whatever reason, I keep trying to convince myself I’ll enjoy grouper. I don’t, and that has nothing to do with Big Orange’s preparation. It was well-seasoned and cooked just right.