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Recent Eats: Vino’s, Layla’s, Ohia Poke, & Franke’s

Recent Eats: Vino’s, Layla’s, Ohia Poke, & Franke’s
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Thoughts from my recent eating around Little Rock…

I checked out the new Ohia Poke, located on 220 W 6th Street, for a very early lunch on Friday. I say “very early” because Ohia actually opens at 10 a.m., which is pretty cool. Anyways, I ordered a “medium” bowl filled with white rice, along with chunks of tuna, salmon, shredded crab, masago, edamame, cucumbers, and a delicious sweet and savory “Aloha Classic” sauce. The number of ingredient choices was pretty impressive, and while the fish didn’t blow me away with its tastiness, the overall bowl of items, including that delicious rice, left me leaving Ohia quite satisfied. The meal seemed fairly healthy and the price point, around $9-$10, was spot-on. I left full but not stuffed, which was exactly what I was looking for. The service was friendly and the workers seemed genuinely concerned about my dining experience. Ohia is a fast casual eatery that will really need to capture the quick-eating downtown Little Rock lunch crowd to make it. Based on what I had this first time around, I think they have a very good chance of doing so.

It had been almost a year since my last visit to Layla’s, and it’s kind of crazy how I even ended up there last Thursday night. My family and I originally walked into the U.S. Pizza on Rodney Parham, mainly because I had a salad craving and that addictive dressing was calling my name. Unfortunately, even with a half-empty restaurant, no one was very interested in seating us. So after 2-3 minutes of standing at the hostess desk, we got back into the car and drove across the street to Layla’s. Glad we did because the food was outstanding, including my gyro and the small bowl of baba ganoush and 9-inch cheese pizza we all split. Outside of some slightly dry chicken in my wife’s gyro, everything else about the meal was excellent. Props as well to the great service.

Sometimes I forget how charming Vino’s can be … and sitting there last Saturday night while waiting on my to-go order was a nice reminder of what an iconic spot it is in Little Rock. The alluring aroma of beer and pizza combined with some awesome people-watching makes Vino’s a very cool place. Has the pizza fallen off a bit? Yes. It’s gotten a bit doughy and the bottom lacks a nice crispiness. That said, it’s still some of the top pizza in Little Rock. Truth be told, the best way to eat Vino’s pizza is to heat up the leftovers in a cast iron skillet for about 5 minutes, then blast each piece in the microwave for 20 seconds. This method produces a crispy bottom and nice, warm toppings.

I showed some love for Franke’s yesterday on the blog with this piece for OnlyinArk.com, and I also happened to eat lunch at the Rodney Parham location last week. No surprise, my veggie plate, which this time around included eggplant casserole, cabbage, and fried okra, hit the spot. The fried okra was the star of the plate, but that nice chunk of ham in my cabbage, while canceling my “vegetarian” experience, was a welcome sight.