Posts Tagged El Palenque

El Palenque Take-Out Comes Up Short, Flyway and The Root Shine

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You know I love El Palenque. Heck, I’ve written about my favorite hole-in-the-wall many times over the past few years, and usually, in glowing terms. Unfortunately, Saturday’s take-out came up way short. There are certain dishes I  typically order at El P, like the shrimp burrito or chicken nachos, but this time around I went with an unknown, the Bistek a la Mexicana, which came with a sizeable portion of sliced beef and grilled onions, green peppers, and tomatoes. The beef was bland, tough, and fairly chewy and was only saved by the accompanying, tasty grilled onions. I’m not a huge fan of green bell peppers, especially when they’re cut into huge chunks. Also, serving what was basically fajitas with soft, corn tortillas, instead of flour, was also a mistake. On the positive side, I love the new interior of the restaurant. The décor is a little over-the-top for such a small place, but I like how all of the tables and chairs have individualized art work.

The Root Café continues to impress. In a rare move, I decided to eat dinner at the popular SoMa restaurant, then turn right back around and eat breakfast there the next morning. Both ended up being excellent meals. By now, you’re probably wondering why I give so much damn love to the place. The simple truth is I enjoy the food and the space, and I’m just very comfortable dining at The Root. For dinner, we shared a variety of appetizers, including the “Toast” which came with slathered pimento cheese topped with relish, the bacon deviled eggs, the fried beef empanadas, and the radishes. Everything, and I mean everything, was spot-on. And while I enjoyed my shiitake with quinoa entrée, I’m beginning to think that ordering the “small” plates at The Root is the way to go. This offers you a ton of variety and the price is quite affordable. For breakfast the next day, I kept things simple with my donut muffin, although I did snag a few bites of my tablemates’ pancakes and Root Benny. All were great, proving once again that The Root still serves the absolute best breakfast in town.

Flyway Brewing continues to serve excellent bar food to go along with quality beer. I’ve been tad critical of Flyway about small portion sizes and that issue seems to be a thing of the past. I ordered last weekend’s Special, the catfish po’boy with pickled carrots, okra, and a side of remoulade. The two pieces of catfish were thin, perfectly fried and extended a good inch past both sides of the bun. I washed it all down with a crisp, blonde beer that was light and quite refreshing. As always, service was fast, friendly, and super attentive. Flyway has that wonderful neighborhood vibe to it and I highly recommend checking the place out if you haven’t done so already.

Get the calamari fries appetizer at Trio’s. Strips of calamari “steak” (no tentacles here) are served with a delicious heirloom tomato marinara and fried pepper rings. The appetizer was large, so I also ordered a small side Peck Salad and treated the calamari as my entrée. That was a pro move on my part.

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Quick Hits: Biscuits, Ramen, Lollipops, and Some Darn Good BBQ

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Thoughts on my recent eating experiences around Little Rock…

Kudos to Arkansas Heart Hospital on the delicious $5.55 bowl of ramen it cranks out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sorry if that sounds like a promotion on my part, but people get pissed at me when they go on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, only to find out the ramen isn’t available those days. Chef Smith does a nice job of rotating the protein included with each bowl, so whether it’s seared scallops, pork belly, or a slab of beef, I really think you’ll be satisfied with any version. My latest bowl, which included a pile of veggies, along with a sous vide egg and beef short ribs, was fantastic.

I sampled some V-Day cookies a few weeks back from Kelso’s Cakes and was not only impressed by their look but also the taste. I don’t know a lot about Kelso’s, but it’s definitely a baker you should follow on Facebook and consider ordering from in the future.

It sounds crazy, but the marinated tofu sliders at Flyway Brewing really are legit. Yes, I not-so-secretly love tofu, and what the folks at Flyway are doing with it is fun, and, above all, delicious. Those little pickled, spicy carrots served alongside the slider don’t hurt matters either. Damn, those things are absolutely addicting. Anyways, wash it all down with a nice brown ale and call it a day. Even though it’s tofu, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Speaking of beer, I did something very fun a few weekends ago … partook in a sour beer tasting at Flying Saucer in downtown. Kudos to my friends Wes and Leighanne for setting it up and selecting the beers. My knowledge of sour beers is quite limited, but I did enjoy the taste of the ones I’ve tried in the past. My favorite this time around was the New Belgium 2016 La Folie Sour Brown Ale, but honestly, I enjoyed them all. Props to Flying Saucer for carrying such a nice selection.

Shocker alert!!! El Palenque is kinda good. Don’t roll your eyes … you know I heart the place. Suggestion: order the huevos rancheros. It’s a small plate of over-easy eggs topped with rancheros sauce, along with rice, beans, and tortillas.

David’s Burgers is still one of the better options in town, but damn, ease off the salt shaker. Salt lick aside, the service is still some of the best in town. Having a guy ready at all times to dump a pile of steaming fries on your table is a wise move on the restaurant’s part.

HB’s Bar B.Q. is the best restaurant barbeque I’ve had in Little Rock. It’s that simple. The sliced brisket is nothing to write home about, but the pulled pork sandwich certainly is, as are the sides of potato salad and beans. And I love the casual, down-home atmosphere of the place. The only disappointment is that it took almost five years for my dumb ass to finally check out HB’s. Good things happen when I actually listen to folks.

Go check out Table 28’s Happy Hour. It’s Monday-Friday from 4-6:30 p.m. and features an assortment of reasonably-priced small plates like quail lollipops ($6), fried Brussels ($3), and pork belly sliders ($8). Domestics are $2, drafts $5, house wine$5, and well drinks $5. After the redesign, the place has such a nice vibe, making it a perfect spot to anchor down on an late Friday afternoon. It doesn’t get much better than a nice beer and some quail lollipops.

I’m sorry, I just can’t get on board with King Cake. Granted, most of what I’ve tried in the past is the grocery store variety, but I wasn’t even all that impressed with the one from Boulevard Bread Co. It was much better than what you’d find at Kroger, but, tradition aside, it’s just not a dessert I’ll ever crave.

And finally, something I WILL crave in the future … the chicken biscuit from Delta Biscuit Co. The owner, Hayne Begley, did a pop-up event last week at Honey Pies, and I got to try out his much anticipated food. Color me impressed. The biscuit itself is solid, but combine it with a piping hot, perfectly fried (and enormous) chicken breast and sweet honey, and you have a damn near perfect sandwich. It’s early and I still have no idea what to expect from Delta Biscuit Co., but the food is definitely worth getting excited about.

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Reader Poll: Favorite Tacos in Town

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We’re back at it again, trying figure about what some of your favorite culinary delights are here in Little Rock. This time around, let’s look at another subjective food item … tacos. Here’s the question posed on Facebook…

What restaurant in the Little Rock area serves your favorite tacos?

We had 58 comments, with 26 different places being mentioned and 60 total votes. As always, these are very informal polls, so please treat this post as just a nice resource for quality taco options in our area.

Fives places really stood out in terms of votes. El Palenque received the most votes with 9, followed by Local Lime (7), The Fold (6), Guadalajara (5), and Heights Taco & Tamale Co. (5). I thought this was a nice mix of hole-in-the-wall spots with some of your more bigger, popular restaurants. Personally, I’ve enjoyed tacos at 4 out of 5 places… sorry Guadalajara, I’ll get to visit you in the near future. Specific standouts include: the Beans & Greens Taco at Local Lime, the Pollo y Poblano at The Fold, and the Pickled-Fried Chicken Tacos at HTT. Don’t get me wrong, I love El Palenque, but often find myself passing on tacos in favor of burritos, enchiladas, or the caldo.

The second tier of top taco spots included: Taqueria Jalisco San Juan (food truck in the Colonial Liquor parking lot), Chuy’s, Taqueria Karina Cafe, and Eliella. For me, Eliella really stands out in this group. The tacos there are small and simple, but pack big flavor. I’m not surprised to see Chuy’s this high up the list … it’s a very popular spot and they do make their own tortillas. Is it one of the better tacos in town? In my opinion, no, but the chicken soft tacos are very solid and reasonably priced. Karina, on 65th Street, is a hidden gem, and is certainly worthy to receive this many votes.

What really stood out about this particular poll was the number of single vote mentions. Seventeen restaurants received one vote. They include: El Alamo Grill, Cinco de Mayo, Fonda, Maddie’s Place, El Torito, Samantha’s, Senior Tequila, Taco Bueno, Taziki’s, EJ’s, La Regional, Tacos 4 Life, El Porton, Mexico Chaquito, SO, Baja Grill, Taco Beer Burrito. To me, the real surprise here was Baja Grill receiving only one vote. There are some really good, eclectic tacos (Pig Sooie and Cuban) being served up at Baja. Cinco de Mayo is very underrated, as is El Torito off Bowman Road. The chicken tacos at El Porton are excellent, as are the tacos at La Regional. One place that didn’t make the list but I feel deserves a mention is South on Main. They do a fantastic breakfast taco with chorizo on the brunch menu.

Finally, a few reactions from readers…

Daniel Ford: “Not sure if they’ve got overall best, but the Diablo Shrimp at The Fold is my favorite single taco.”

Brandon Olvey: “For my money, nothing touches the chorizo and carnitas tacos at Local Lime.”

Johnna Jaynes Feldman: “I really just love a basic taco crispy, ground beef and cheese at Senior Tequila.”

Tom Allen: “Not well versed in tacos, but I do like The Fold and was surprised by the fish tacos at EJ’s.”

Stephanie Baker Brock: “It will be Tacos for Life when it gets here. For now, I have to drive to Conway to get them.”

Alicia Tuggle: “Never been to El Palenque yet, still on the list though. Baja Grill, Taco Beer Burrito, and Local Lime are my favs.”

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Boulevard Bistro, Rodney’s, and El Palenque All Shine on Recent Visits

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Baked Pimento at Boulevard Bistro

 

Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…

I went to my first “biker bar” last week, that being Rodney’s Handlebar & Grill on the side of I-30, and I gotta tell you … it was nothing like I expected. But in a good way. Well, honestly, I was not sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised with the clean, comfortable, and inviting setting. The menu was simple, but well-executed, due in large part to the skills of Matt Clark (formerly of Waffle Wagon fame). My chicken BLT with onion rings was spot-on, as was my buddy’s fried bologna sandwich. Go check the place out … I feel quite confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Plus, you can tell people that you ate at a biker bar, which is good for street cred.

I took my in-laws to South on Main for the first time. Stellar service and excellent food and drinks seem to have kept me in good standing, for the time being. My Old-Fashioned still rates as the best version in town, and the same can be said for the restaurant’s double patty cheeseburger with bacon jam, which came with a side of fries and soaked salad. We love our burgers in Little Rock–as evident by the almost-rioting that breaks out when I bring it up on the blog–and South on Main’s version has quickly become a personal favorite. The melted pimento cheese and crusty exterior of the patties are what put it over the top. I rarely order a cheeseburger for dinner in such upscale settings, but this one is the exception.

It looks like Honey Pies is beginning to crank up its coffee service, which is good news because the pies and ice cream are on point. I ordered the fudge brownie and apple pies for a party and both were well received. Honey Pies is now offering $5 mini pies, which is a nice alternative, especially if you want to try out a pie without making a major commitment.

Maybe giving food tours in Little Rock is my new thing…because I really enjoy it. I was honored to give a tour to a wonderful group of folks who were the high bidders for the “Saturday Night in the Heights” silent auction item at this year’s Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance fundraiser. We visited three popular restaurants—Boulevard Bistro, ZAZA, and Heights Taco & Tamale Co.—all on foot, and had a fun time tasting some of Little Rock’s most popular dishes. The frites and baked pimento cheese at Boulevard made the cut, as did the Forager pizza at ZAZA, and the frozen mojitos and chocolate cake at HTT, just to name a few. Special thanks to all of the restaurants for donating to such a wonderful cause and to Brad and Tammy for their winning bid. Here’s to next year!

I can’t get over the amazing veggies coming out of my Fall Farmshare Basket from Rattle’s Garden. The zucchini, purple-hull peas, green beans, and peppers are all wonderful. If you are interested in participating if future programs with RG, please contact their Facebook page. I can’t recommend Tara and her produce highly enough.

Another shout out goes to Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, a meat share program I’ve been participating in for the past year. I tag the company a lot on my FB posts, so many of you know how much I cook with their meats on a weekly basis. Go check out their website, as they’ve really streamlined the ordering process, while offering good deals on top-notch meat.

It’s easy to forget about the unassuming El Palenque tucked back off Rodney Parham, but that would be a mistake. I love the simple shrimp burrito, even for take-out, which is what we did on Sunday. A side of refried beans with the burrito is also a pro move.

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