I really wish it hadn’t taken me so long to go to Southern Table, the lovely restaurant featuring small bites, shared meat and cheese boards, and wines, located on the edge of downtown Little Rock in the old Kent Walker Artisan Cheese building.
Better late than never.
And while it was just one visit, I’m already looking forward to going back. That’s mainly because chef/owner Margie Raimondo is doing something a little different for Little Rock. Simply put, it feels like you’re breaking bread in her personal villa. The atmosphere has a wonderful balance of casual elegance, with white table cloths adorning each table but also rustic jars of preserves sitting on shelves along the wall. The outside patio is just as nice, offering a tranquil setting with a spectacular view of our state’s capitol building.
Southern Table’s slogan is “Meant to be Shared,” and that’s exactly what our table of three did on a rainy Saturday afternoon. I started with a glass of white wine, which was delicious, but a little light on the pour. We scanned over the menu and decided to start with an order, each, of Tuscan Liver Pâté and Crab Dip. Chef Raimondo then came over to chat with us, as she does with each table, and ended the conversation by saying, “Ok, now I’m going to go cook for you.”
I’d never heard a chef say this before, and it even caught me a little off guard.
But I loved it.
Dining is designed to move at a slower pace at Southern Table. You order a glass of wine, you talk, you eat some crab dip, you talk, and you drink some more wine. It’s a true social experience, an almost forgotten art in today’s American culinary scene.
With all that said, the food better be good.
The aforementioned liver pâté, while not my cup of tea, was certainly a well-executed version. The smooth textured concoction was loaded with capers, anchovies, and garlic, and spread nicely on the accompanying slices of toasted baguettes, which I’m only guessing came from Boulevard Bread. I loved the creamy crab dip. A heavy hand of actual crab made this warm dip a must-order for my next visit. The same could be said about our Cured Salmon Bruschetta with Avocado Pesto. I’m a sucker for anything smoked salmon and this shareable item did not disappoint, mainly because of the smart decision to serve the fish on a softer, untoasted bread.
Southern Table also offers a different Weekend Special on Fridays and Saturdays. Red Snapper with Zucchini Rice (served in a lobster bouillabaisse) was the featured dish on our visit, and we think twice about ordering it. Smart decision, as I ended up loving it. The delicate, perfectly cooked red snapper rested in a hearty, thick red broth, along with white rice and a plentiful amount of shrimp. There’s a lot going on in this bowl, but most of it worked. The shrimp proved to be a bit mundane, neither adding nor detracting from the overall dish. The hit was when you got spoonful of fish, rice, and broth all in one bite. For the folks who think you can’t get a great piece of fish in Little Rock, keep your eye on Southern Table’s specials.
We finished the meal with orders of house-made peach cobbler and vanilla pudding, the latter of which was just fantastic. Warm, gooey, and filled with soft pieces of ripe banana, this dessert rivals any banana pudding I’ve had in a restaurant.
Southern Table struck me as a perfect place for a romantic date night or even an ideal spot for a quiet evening with friends and family. Its warm, cozy atmosphere, along with good wine and great food, make the new-ish Southern Table a big hit.
Need to Know
Wine Wednesday: 4-7 p.m.
Wedneday–Saturday: $5 after 5 p.m. (select beer & wine from 5-7)
Monday & Tuesday evenings: Available for special events. Call to inquire.
323 S Cross St
Hours: Wednesday-Friday 11am-9pm; Saturday 10am-9am
Phone: (501) 379-9111 (reservations accepted)