Posts Tagged kBird

Tacos at Karina & HTT, Burge’s Smoked Turkey Salad

Tacos at Karina

Tacos at Karina

 

Does it get any better than good tacos? The answer is no. They’re so damn tasty, and, at many places, quite inexpensive. Taqueria Karina Café (5309 W. 65th St.) is one such place. They have a variety of tacos, all reasonable (something around $2), and all absolutely delicious. On my most recent visit, I opted for one each of the pastor, lengua, and chicken. The pastor is the one that really stood out, but I also enjoyed the tender chunks of beef in my lengua (tongue) taco, though fully understand this isn’t for everyone. That said, if you enjoy lengua, it’s an excellent option. The tacos are fairly small and topped with chopped, fresh onion, and cilantro, and a hearty appetite can put down three of these bad boys with no problem. I also ordered a side of refried beans, which were good, but had a thinner consistency than I prefer. The kitchen was slow on this particular visit, as it took over 30 minutes for the food to hit the table, pretty poor with such a basic order from one person.

Speaking of tacos, Heights Taco & Tamale Co. now has Ahi tuna tacos on the menu … and they are pretty darn good. They come with crunchy corn shells, but I substituted soft flour for my order. The barely seared tuna is bright and beautiful and pairs well with a dab of guac and fresh jalapeno. For a taco plate, it’s a fairly light offering, which is good because I’m working on my beach bod. The tacos came with rice and bean. Both sides were tasty, especially the smoky beans, and I although I enjoyed the taste of the rice, it was a tad undercooked and little crunchy. All and all, it was a great lunch with wonderful service.

Anyone besides me ever walk into Burge’s and buy a large tub of Smoked Turkey Salad? Before you go rolling your eyes, it took me a week to finish, but oh what glorious week it was … one filled with smoky, salty, pulverized turkey. Sometimes I’d open the fridge at night and grab a quick spoonful. It goes by the nickname “Turkey Crack” and for good reason … it’s absolutely addictive stuff.

You know what’s awesome? Take-out at kBird. Especially when you grab an order of the best dish in Little Rock, the Green Papaya Salad, and head home with it to pig out on your back porch. Sweet, salty, tangy, spicy … this dish covers everything and is always spot-on in execution. Seriously, has anyone ever had a bad green papaya salad at kBird? Is that even a thing?

In what’s becoming almost a weekly trip for me, I once again headed over to the Arkansas Heart Hospital for a bowl of $5 ramen. This one was loaded with shrimp. The toppings change each time and there’s really no telling what surprise lies ahead when it comes to the ingredients. Crab, scallops, pulled pork, pork belly … you name it.  Remember folks, the ramen is only served on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

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Top 10 Restaurants to Take Out-of-Towners

South on Main

South on Main

 

Living in Little Rock for almost five years has allowed me to build up a strong list of restaurants to bring my out-of-town guests. These places aren’t necessarily serving the absolute best food in town, but they are restaurants with an excellent combination of food and atmosphere, while also truly reflecting the essence of Little Rock.

South on Main

I’ve said it for a few years now, but South on Main’s unique offering of dynamite, elevated Southern food and cocktails in a setting that also hosts amazing concerts makes it one of our top restaurants to take out-of-towners. Simply put, it’s the entire package … all in a casually cool setting with consistently excellent service. It’s a good idea to keep up with the concert schedule on their website and be sure to make reservations/purchase tickets in advance. South on Main is also open for Sunday Brunch, serving popular items like biscuits, breakfast tacos, and fried oysters eggs Benedict.

What to Order: Old Fashioned with The Double: Two All-Beef Patties, Comeback Sauce, Pimento Cheese, Bacon Jam, Fries and a Soaked Salad

Doe’s Eat Place

The place where Bill Clinton hung out will always be a cool draw to non-locals, making Doe’s inclusion on this list a complete no-brainer. Oh, and Doe’s also happens to serve one of the best steaks in town at a fairly reasonable cost. While I’m not a huge fan of the Delta-style tamales, they should be the start of any meal, along with the deliciously addictive fried shrimp. Save room for soaked salad and buttered Texas toast, perfect for dipping in the meat juice from your medium-rare, 3-lb Porterhouse. Doe’s is no-frills but absolutely charming and one of the most historically relevant restaurants in town.

What to Order: 3-lb Porterhouse (make sure to call ahead and reserve on busy nights)

The Root Cafe

The Root Cafe

 

The Root Cafe

Little Rock’s only true farm-to-table restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it has long served the best breakfast in town, this charming SoMa District cafe recently started serving dinner as well, which is great news, especially if you enjoy dishes like pork belly, arancini, and beef tenderloin. While a grant allowed ownership to double the size of the restaurant and create a kitchen area that is better suited to handle bigger crowds, The Root maintains a quaint, down-home feel that has made it wildly popular with locals.

What to Order: Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast; hamburger for lunch

Flyway Brewing

Flyway Brewing, located in North Little Rock’s Argenta District, played a large role with Little Rock’s craft beer scene catching up with the rest of the country. There are usually about 9-10 beers on tap, so even your pickiest beer connoisseur should be able to find something that suits their palette. Stouts, IPAs, brown ales, and wheat beers … Flyway has it all and the food isn’t too shabby either. The limited menu is filled with several hits, like smoked trout nachos, soft pretzels, and marinated tofu sliders. Flyway’s atmosphere is casual and unpretentious, a true reflection of Little Rock mentality.

What to Order: Bluewing beer (blueberry wheat) with Duck Confit Nachos

Capital Bar and Grill

CBG has been through some ups and downs over the past few years, but there’s still no denying its importance to Little Rock’s dining scene. More importantly, located inside The Capital Hotel, CBG is a restaurant many out-of-towners will actually check out. And that’s a good thing, because Capital Bar and Grill has gotten its groove back, serving the classics in a sophisticated setting with just the right amount of Southern charm and elegance.

What to Order: Pimento Cheese (appetizer) and Duck Pot Pie

Lassis Inn

Lassis Inn

 

Lassis Inn

It isn’t fancy and may not be in the nicest area of town, but the old-school setting and insanely small booths at Lassis Inn will leave your guests with lasting memories. And so will the fried catfish and buffalo ribs. If you’re really feeling crazy, order one of the ice cold 40-oz beers. Does Lassis serve the best fried catfish in town? In my opinion, no. But it’s still damn good and the history and charm behind this restaurant make it a must-stop for folks looking to get a true taste of Little Rock.

What to Order: Fried Catfish, Buffalo Ribs, Fries, and Tomato Relish

The Pantry Crest

Restaurants and food can be so damn subjective, but The Pantry Crest is one of the very few restaurants that’s beloved by all. And let’s face it, when you have out-of-towners, sometimes you need a sure thing with a restaurant. The Pantry Crest is a sure thing. European comfort classics never tasted so good, at least not in this town. With a beautiful decor, elite service, and a menu that includes such dishes as lasagna, truffle deviled eggs, and charred Romaine Caesar Salad, The Pantry Crest is a perfect spot to take non-locals. And I have … many times. FYI, the original location in WLR is just as nice.

What to Order: The Pantry Board and Cheesecake 

kBird

kBird

 

kBird

Much like Lassis Inn, kBird isn’t much to look at, but hole-in-the-walls are my thing and I’m a firm believer they are the backbone to any city’s dining scene. kBird is the best Thai food you will find in this area, or, for that matter, any area. It’s that good, and if your guests are more concerned about where the locals are eating, as opposed to trendy spots with overrated food, kBird is an excellent option. The menu is quite small, which means everything is great. Side note, if you see a jar of ginger cookies sitting by the register, order at least one, if not all of them. It’s probably the best cookie you’ll eat in Little Rock.

What to Order: Green Papaya Salad

One Eleven

One Eleven

 

One Eleven

Truthfully, I feel a little foolish putting two restaurants (CBG being the other) that are located under one roof. One Eleven, located inside The Capital Hotel, is as fine-dining as you’ll get in Little Rock, and sometimes out-of-towners are in search of elegance. Make no mistake, One Eleven is more than just a beautiful setting. The food and service are absolutely elite, and while the restaurant may not view itself as a “special occasion only” type of place, for most of us, it is.

What to Order: Seared Diver Scallops with Potato Gnocchi

The Faded Rose

Little Rockers love New Orleans and folks around here just can’t get enough of the food associated with this city. The Faded Rose has been serving up Cajun & Creole-influenced dishes for almost 35 years … all in a casual setting that seems to always be full. The menu rarely changes and includes staples like shrimp and grits, thin fish, and a blackened rib-eye. The food is consistently good, as is the service, making it a perfect place to take out-of-towners.

What to Order: Crawfish Etouffee 

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Around Town: Star of India Shines, Mixed Bag at Mr. Hui’s in WLR

Saag Paneer at Star of India

Saag Paneer at Star of India

 

Thoughts on my recent eating experiences around Little Rock…

I’ve never been to Star of India for dinner, which, after last Friday night, I’m realizing was a big mistake. Everything we ordered (no buffet at night) was pretty much fantastic, including vegetable samosas, saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, chicken tikka, and lamb with garlic. Specifically, the chicken tikka with its tender, flavorful chicken and grilled onions and peppers was the hit of the table. I’m a mixer and there’s not a better cuisine to mix than Indian food. The flavors and textures all meld together, making for a wonderful, spice-filled plate of food. Service was excellent, which came as no surprise, as Mr. Sami has one of the best reputations for hospitality in our local food industry. I’ve always associated Star of India with being a popular buffet lunch spot, but after seeing a full restaurant on a Friday night, it’s evident the dinner service also does quite well.

It’s way early to truly form an opinion of the restaurant, but my Friday afternoon lunch at Mr. Hui’s in the Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center (near Belk) didn’t exactly inspire me to come racing back. Servers didn’t seem very knowledgeable of the menu, which, to their defense, was quite expansive. I decided to be a little adventurous and order the Frog Hot Pot, which did include a ton of tasty frog, but it was oddly served on a cast iron fajita-type skillet. Granted, it came out sizzling and piping hot but it was a weird presentation, and overall, the food was too salty and saucy. The frog was definitely the best part. Thumbs up on the the steamed dumplings appetizer as well as my buddy’s entree of squid with pork, but my other friend’s seafood clay pot didn’t agree with me at all. It tasted and smelled like the sea … and not in a good way. Take my opinion with a grain of salt , as my three other tablemates enjoyed the soup. In the end, Mr. Hui’s strikes me as a restaurant where you need to find 3-4 dishes you really like and just stick with them. This isn’t a bad thing, but it may take you a few visits to figure it out.

Going 2+ months without kBird isn’t a good thing, so I was happy to get back to one of my favorite lunch spots in town last week. I kept my lunch light and simple, ordering my standard green papaya salad. By now you’re sick of me saying it’s on of the best dishes in town, so I’ll just mention that it was as good as usual. Fresh, spicy, sour, and slight sweet … the trademark characteristics were all there.

We checked out another great concert at South on Main on Saturday night, and, of course, also ate a bunch of food. We started out with the addictive fried cauliflower popcorn, along with the skillet bread of the evening, a pickled carrots and beet concoction with goat cheese. Big thumbs up on the cauliflower. I also enjoyed the toppings on the skillet bread, but thought the bread itself was small and dense.  In the past, the bread has been bigger and lighter, making it not only more visually appealing but tastier. The four entrees that hit the table were all hits. I can only speak for the Snapper with Zucchini Latkes and Tomato Jam, but I also heard good reports on the Stuffed Pepper with Cous Cous, the Rabbit Leg with Country Ham, and the Grilled Ribeye. I washed everything down with an Old Fashioned, a Hemmingway Daiquiri, and a cup of coffee to end the evening,which were all excellent. The snapper has quickly become one of my favorite dishes at South on Main. I love how crispy they get the fish skin and the tomato jam adds a delicious sweet and smokiness to the dish. The plate is light and fresh, making for a perfect late night dinner. Well, it was late for me. I’m old.

 

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There’s Plenty to Do Around Little Rock in the Next Few Weeks

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There are so many really cool events and dinners coming up in the very near future around Little Rock. One is even tomorrow. Check out all of the details below…

Bring your best and most inventive dish using tator tots to the 2nd Annual Naterator Tots Cooking Contest on September 17 from 6-8 p.m. at Dunbar Community Garden (1800 Chester Street). 100% of all donations will go to the Naterators JDRF OneWalk team. There’s a $30 entry fee for contestants and just $5 per person to come sample and vote on your favorites. Click here to enter. I love this event, even had my own entry last year, and can tell you that creating a dish around tater tots is a ton of fun.

On Wednesday, August 17 from 6-9 p.m., Boulevard Bread Company is hosting a class featuring Summit beers with house-made charcuterie. Cost is $45 per person and space is limited. Call the restaurant for reservations. I went to one of Blvd’s wine and cheese events a few months back and had a fantastic time … and am guessing this one will be as well.

For Lost Forty Brewing’s next #FreshCutMonday on August 15 from 4-9 p.m., come try the Hoppy Lager … a collaboration brew in support of Ales for ALS. This beer was brewed at Rebel Kettle using a proprietary hop blend provided by YCH Hops in collaboration with Lost Forty Brewing, Stone’s Throw, Flyway, Vino’s, Bubba Brews, Moody Brews, Leap of Faith, Damgoode Pies and Blood Eagle. Lost Forty will donate the proceeds of each pint of Hoppy Lager to ALS Research.

It’s no secret I love kBird, the tiny eatery serving fantastic Thai food in Hillcrest.  Lovers of the restaurant will be happy to know they will be hosting a series of Khantoke dinners held at the restaurant on Friday, August 26, September 9, and September 23. Reservations can be made starting tomorrow at 2 p.m. by e-mail only to kbirdlittlerock@gmail.com. Seats will be assigned based on the order that e-mails are received … and a confirmation will be sent to you by return e-mail. From kBird: “Please let me know the specific date you wish to attend, and how many spots (up to 6) you are reserving. also, please list a second “fallback” date if another one would work also. If you want to attend more than one dinner, let me know that in your e-mail. if by there are unreserved seats at 10 pm on Monday, August 15, you will be added to the additional dates. The cost will be $40, tax included, BYOB. Will start around 7 p.m.. Food will be served family-style and pretty much all at the same time. No substitutions.”

Another one of my favorites, The Root Cafe, is hosting a locally-sourced, 5-course, communal table dinner prepared by Chef Jonathan Arrington and crew tomorrow, August 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. For tickets, click here.

Chef Matt Bell of South on Main will host the Little Rock No Kid Hungry Dinner on Monday, October 24. This multi-course dinner starts with a reception at 6 p.m. and features guest chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line in Memphis and Levon Wallace of Cochon in Nashville. Tickets cost $175 and table hosting opportunities are available. For more information, contact Emily Roth at eroth@strength.org or 512-551-3470.

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