Posts Tagged Al Seraj

Unique Randomness: BBQ News, Buffets Galore, & Table 28 Shines at Italian

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Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…

Chef Scott Rains at Table 28 hosted our latest TMR dinner and proved once again why he can hold his own with any chef in this region. Every dish from the 6-course Italian dinner delighted, with highlights including the Warm Tripe Alla Parmigiana, the Grilled Octopus with Spicy Limoncello Vinaigrette, and the crowd favorite Fennel Dusted Sweetbreads, Sweet & Sour Onions, Duck Bacon, Brussels, & Vinaigrette. Kudos to Rains and the entire staff for a delightful evening.

Is it just me or is that area off Rodney Parham (near Franke’s) experiencing somewhat of a resurgence? With Al Seraj, Flavor of India, Taj Mahal, and what looks to be an almost open Asia Buffet … it’s time to dub that area Buffet Row. And I mean that in a good way.

What will happen to the old Savoy space? Do you think another high-end restaurant will go in there? Would it succeed? It’s a little bit of a funky location, but not any crazier than Table 28, which is just down the block.

We did a poll over on Facebook this week about the best French fries in Little Rock. A quick scan of responses had Big Orange as the favorite with Maddie’s Place a close second. Hard to argue with that.

As previously stated on Twitter, what is up with so many places dumping mac & cheese on a perfectly good hamburger? Doesn’t this seem ridiculous or am I being overly critical? Probably the latter.

I stumbled upon another fantastic local baker, this time at Sunday’s Bernice Garden Farmers Market. Twiggy’s Treatery, based out of Sherwood, does all sorts of sweet treats, like strawberry tarts, oatmeal cream pies, banana bread, and chocolate chunk cookies (with Izard Chocolate). It was my first time trying them out, so I can only vouch for the oatmeal cream pie, but it was fantastic and definitely will inspire future purchases from Twiggy’s.

My buddy Rob over at WaterVeg has ramped up production of his aquaponic lettuce. For $12 a basket, you get four plants of living produce, one each of red and green Romaine, and red and green Bibb. I just received my first basket the other day and couldn’t be more pleased with the quality and taste. You can order the basket on a weekly, biweekly, and monthly basis, and each one is delivered right to your front door.

Lost Forty is set to up its bbq game with the addition of some monster smokers. This is potentially great news for a city lacking in top-notch bbq. I think the main question now becomes who will run and oversee these bad boys?

Doesn’t that former FRESH Eatery space near the Capitol seem like a wonderful opportunity for someone? While it may not be the ideal dinner destination, it strikes me as a perfect spot for lunch.

Finally, Sharon Woodson over at Honey Pies recently announced that she’ll be going brick and mortar with a WLR location. Sharon is so passionate about what she does, works her tail off, and is determined to make the very best pies around. All the best to her!

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Soft Pretzels, Mr. Chen’s, and One Awesome Mojito

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Thoughts from my recent food adventures around Little Rock…

I know many folks love Mr. Chen’s, and while I’m not saying the place is bad by any stretch of the imagination, I am saying it gets a little too much credit for being the best Chinese food in Little Rock. I wasn’t overly impressed with the Salted Crispy Chicken dish, which, as expected, was salty, but its real shame was the lack of an accompanying sauce with the chicken. Again, it wasn’t bad, but could have been a lot better. I was also a bit underwhelmed by the Taiwanese Pan Fried Noodles, a plate highlighted by tender beef and shrimp, but there was also this lackluster pile of noodles which proved almost too difficult to cut.

So, just where is the best Chinese food in Little Rock? To me, it’s Fantastic China … and my lunchtime combo of oyster sauce with mushrooms, fried rice, and fried spring roll did nothing do dissuade me from that line of thinking.

Count me as a fan of Flyway’s new array of soft pretzels, which includes a lavender salt pretzel with honey mustard that I devoured with my pale ale at the bar, while my bar mate crushed the espresso salt pretzel with stout chocolate sauce. If you’re looking for a unique sweet treat, this is one is for you. Flyway has a variety of pretzels now on its regular menu which pair wonderfully with a their selection of beer.

A quick shout out to the folks over at Mugs Café. I popped in a few weeks back, and, as always, loved my cup of coffee. The place is so consistent, seems to always have a steady flow of customers, and is a true gem for the Argenta District in NLR.

Am I saying Al Seraj is a Top 10 restaurant in Little Rock? No. I won’t compare it with the likes of Table 28, South on Main, One Eleven, etc. But the $10 lunch buffet of Mediterranean delights makes the restaurant 100%, without a doubt, one of the best fast casual spots in town. BTW … if you’re interested, I think the dinner buffet costs a buck or two more.

I finally tried the frozen mojito at Heights Taco & Tamale and damn was it good. This drink, along with Local Lime’s frozen margarita, proves Yellow Rocket has truly mastered the frozen cocktail concept. Well done. And as for HTT, it really needs to be said … what a gorgeous bar. Also, props on that massive flat-screen television right in the dead center.

After the UALR men’s basketball game the other night, my buddy and I had dinner and beers at The Pantry Crest. The place was hopping but our food orders came out fast, no small feat when a restaurant is that full. My seared salmon with spinach, quinoa, and charred asparagus was absolutely perfect, as was my friend’s burger (so I was told…never got a bite). Seared salmon is not a sexy dish, especially at a place like The Pantry Crest, but if you’re looking for something a little lighter, order it.

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The WLR Food Scene is on the Rise

Al Seraj

Al Seraj

 

Right off the bat, for the sanity of this post, let’s consider everything west of 430 to be WLR.

Even with the recent closures of 1620 Savoy, Igibon, and Ponchito’s, one could make the argument that the food scene in this area of town is really starting to improve.

Anchoring things down out west are longtime residents like The Pantry, Arthur’s, and The Terrace.

Heck, you can always get a good lunch at Franke’s, Pho Thanh My, and Chi’s. Some of the better burgers in town are found at David’s and Big Orange. Need a good cup of coffee? Keep driving past Starbuck’s in favor of Guillermo’s. Local Lime has the best margarita in Little Rock. In the mood to crush some chicken wings? Lazy Pete’s is the place to go. Got a sweet tooth? Mickey’s still serves up my favorite cupcakes and at a very reasonable price. Even fine-dining is about to get a facelift, as folks can expect to see renovations to Table 28 in 2016.

My point is this … if you get past many of the larger chains infiltrating the area, WLR has developed a solid foundation of restaurants, at least over the past 4 years since I’ve lived here. What’s exciting to me are those newer, somewhat smaller places that have popped up over the past 4-5 months, restaurants like Flavor of India, Al Seraj, and most recently, Lulu’s Latin Rotisserie & Grill.

The $10 lunch buffet at Al Seraj, featuring items like hummus, baba ghanoush, chicken shawarma, and falafel is really worth checking out. And if you read the blog this week, you already know how I feel about Lulu’s. The steak, alone, is worth one Saturday night of your time. Flavor of India is a perfect spot to pop-in on a weeknight for some quick take out.

It’s this diversity in cuisines that truly has me excited about how much the WLR food scene has grown … and where it’s heading.

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Lunch Buffet at Al Seraj is the Real Deal

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Let me start off by saying that I detest buffets. Hate them. Loathe them.

So why did I thoroughly enjoy my experience at Al Seraj’s lunch buffet? Well, it didn’t feel like that typical, mass feeding frenzy with sad food that’s been sitting around for hours. Granted, we were there early, right after everything was just put out, but the presentation of the numerous items led me to believe that attention to detail was critical for the staff at Al Seraj.

The buffet included classics like: chicken shawarma, gyro meat, chicken kababs, falafel, hummus, basmati rice, tahini dip, baba ghanouj, stuffed grape leaves, and tabouli salad, just to name a few.

I was particularly impressed with both the baba ghanouj, which rivals any in town, and the freshly sliced gyro meat. The latter was a nice touch, as Al Seraj seems to pride itself in slicing and serving the meat from the spit just minutes, if not seconds, before you select it from the buffet. The real magic, however, is when you get like eight different items all on one plate and start mixing flavors.

Al Seraj is the space formerly occupied by Great Wraps, and a part of me is just excited that any restaurant other that GW now resides in that spot. But the truth is that Al Seraj seems to be a quality establishment churning out fresh, tasty Mediterranean food at a reasonable price. The lunch buffet is $9.99, which is an unbelievable value given the quality of food.

Hopefully this restaurant will do well, stay in business, and add to our growing list of quality Mediterranean options here in Little Rock. It’s only been one visit for yours truly, but so far, so good.

Important info: Buffet runs Monday-Sunday (11 a.m.-3 p.m.); Adults ($9.99), Ages 9-12 ($7.99), Ages 4-8 ($5.99), Under 3 (free)

Al Seraj Mediterranean Restaurant
11400 N. Rodney Parham
501-954-2026
Hours: Monday-Saturday (11 a.m.-9 p.m.); Sunday (11 a.m.-7 p.m.)

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