Posts Tagged Layla’s

Quick Hits: A Progressive Dinner, Thoughts on Layla’s, Mt. Fuji, and Big Orange Midtown

Fried Shrimp at Doe's

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s

 

I haven’t been to Layla’s in a very long time (maybe over a year), due in large part to it being located in the same parking lot as El Palenque. I tend to lean towards Mexican food when faced with such food dilemmas. Any who, the food has always been outstanding at Layla’s (see: yogurt plate and Yazoo pizza), but Tuesday night’s gyro sandwich was just lacking in taste. The meat was a tad dry and the sandwich needed more than just meat, Tzatziki sauce, and onions. The addition of tomatoes and/or lettuce would do wonders for this sandwich.

Have you ever participated in a progressive dinner? There are many variations, but basically, you have drinks/apps at one restaurant, entrees at another, and desserts at a third spot. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to experience different cuisines, all in one evening. Last Friday night, we started out at La Terraza Rum & Lounge in Hillcrest with some fantastic mojitos, as well as a plate of yuca frita and a meat and cheese board. The mojitos, alone, make La Terraza a place worth checking out, but our food was just as impressive. The raspberry, coconut, and black spiced mojitos are all can’t-miss, and combined with the great food, and personalized service, La Terraza is a place that should be packed on a Friday night. Next, we hit Kemuri for our main course. I choose the Red Dragon Roll and an order of ceviche, the latter of which was a wonderful combination of squid, shrimp, and avocado lightly dressed in a spicy sauce. Service was great and especially impressive, considering Kemuri had a packed house. Kemuri proved yet again why it’s one of our very best restaurants in Little Rock. We finished the night off with desserts and coffee at Trio’s. I had a few bites of a deliciously rich peanut butter and chocolate cake and my tablemates partook in the tres leches. In the end, the night was a total success, with all three restaurants shining with regards to both food and service.

Mt. Fuji gets almost no attention. That’s a shame because it’s really one of our better quick sushi-fix, hole-in-the walls in town. The spicy tuna roll was a hit, as was my pork ramen, and my kid’s chicken teriyaki. The restaurant isn’t fancy, and it won’t be the best sushi you’ve ever eaten, but the food is quality and an excellent value.

Go to Honey Pies for a cup of coffee. I can’t speak to some of their “fancier” java creations, but a regular cup of pour over Leiva’s Coffee is outstanding.

There’s just something so comforting about devouring six fried shrimp, a plate of fries, some toast, and a small bowl of soaked salad at Doe’s. Sure, the steak gets a lot of attention, but I’ve always been a big fan of fried shrimp and Doe’s is my go-to spot for them. And that soaked salad! Did I mention the soaked salad?

It was a mixed bag during yesterday’s lunch at Big Orange Midtown … the sweet potato fries were their usual awesome selves, but our order of truffle-garlic-herb fries were woefully salty, to the point where we just had to stop eating them. My Thai Chop with chicken was outstanding, and while I definitely prefer the steak that accompanies the salad, the chicken was also a nice option.

About twice a year, my daughter and I do the chef’s tasting at South on Main. It’s a truly personalized, 4-6 course dining experience that’s developed and executed by Chef Matt Bell. Give him a week or two of notice, but other than that, I recommend staying out of the way and letting him do his thing, which the other night were dishes like Oysters 3 Ways, Duck Confit with Greens, and refined execution of “Steak and Potatoes.”

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An Almost Complete List of the Very Best Soups in Little Rock

Gumbo with Cheese Grits at Maddie's Place

Gumbo with Cheese Grits at Maddie’s Place

 

It’s getting cold outside … and that means only one thing … we want soup! So I’ve taken the time to come up with a list of my very favorite options here in the Little Rock area. Now, don’t get all crazy on me. As you’ll read, I am very lenient with my definition of “soup.” If it’s warm and somewhat liquefied, it lands on this list. I hope you enjoy, and if you see a soup you want to try, please make sure to contact the restaurant and make sure it’s available. Soups come in go on menus and many of them are daily specials. Finally, this isn’t a complete list of the very best soups in Little Rock.  That’s why I put “Almost” in the title. If you have more suggestions, please let us know.

Ramen at The Southern Gourmasian
As far as I can tell, this is the only ramen in Little Rock worth a damn, but boy it is fantastic. The broth is rich and flavorful, and while the noodles are the centerpiece of any bowl, the star in the dish are the chunks of pork shoulder scattered throughout the broth.

Green Chile Stew At Local Lime
If you held a gun to my head and made me pick just one, this is my favorite soup/stew in Little Rock. I’m addicted to green chiles and this seasonal special is a can’t-miss.

Chicken & Dumplings at The Faded Rose
Thicker than most versions with smaller, rolled dumplings, TFR’s chicken and dumplings are a Friday favorite of long-time Little Rockers.

Gumbo at Maddie’s Place
As you know, Maddie’s Place is right next door to TFR, and to no one’s surprise, they do a darn good gumbo. Pro tip: ask them to add a scoop of cheese grits right on top. A reader told me about this brilliant suggestion a few years. Just spreading the word.

Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s
Everything at Rosalinda’s is fantastic, but this time of year is ideal for trying out a heaping bowl of shrimp soup. The rich, tomato-based broth is filled with veggies, shrimp, and even whole, hard boiled eggs.

Pho at Pho Thanh My
While I don’t think it’s the best pho in town, I do think it’s a nice option for people in the WLR-area. You’re talking about a pretty standard pho (get the rare beef) that is sure to hit the spot on a cold day.

Pho at Mike’s Cafe
This is absolutely, positively the best pho in Little Rock. It’s the real deal … the beef-based broth is filled with noodles, cilantro, jalapenos, and chopped green onions.

Pho at Pho and More (Jacksonville)
Three phos in a row!?!? Yup. What can I say, I love me some pho. And guess what? This is the best one of all. A reader told me to drive up to Jacksonville and try out Pho and More. She was 100% correct. I promise it’s worth the drive.

Chicken and Dumplings at Trio’s
I’ve only had these once (and they are only available on Thursday’s lunch service) but you’re talking about a very simple, traditional, rolled version of a Southern classic.

Torn Wonton Soup at Chi’s (Shackleford location)
This is a combination of wonton and egg drop soup that leans more towards wonton. Does that make sense? Good, now go try it because although it sounds a little odd, it’s actually very good.

And the reader picks…
Tomato Gorgonzola at Capeo, Ramen Bowl at Kemuri, Lentil Soup at Layla’s, Tortilla Soup at Casa Manana, Chicken Soup at El Porton, Cheese Soup at Scallions, Tomato Bisque at Zaffino’s, Gumbo at The Faded Rose, Hot and Sour Soup at Fu Lin, Tom Yam at Kbird, Chicken & Dumplings at Homer’s (East Roosevelt location on Thursdays), Lemon Chicken Soup at Taziki’s, Chicken Tortilla Soup at Taqueria Karina, Veggie & Dumplins at South on Main, White Bean and Ham Hock at Maddie’s Place, Roasted Red Pepper at Cafe Prego, Roasted Pepper & Crawfish Bisque at Mike’s Place (Conway), Tortilla Soup at Riviera Maya, Mulligatawny at Big Orange Midtown, Poblano Cheese Soup at Trio’s, Red Curry at Zangna Thai, Turkey Black Bean Chili at Capers, and Mushroom Bisque at Ciao, Chicken Caldo at El Palenque (Saturdays), Shrimp Curry at Kbird, Hearts of Palm Soup at Bossa Nova, Polentina at Boulevard, Tortilla Soup at Loca Luna

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20 Underrated Dishes at 20 Popular Restaurants

Pork Loin at Maddie's Place

Pork Loin at Maddie’s Place

 

Popular restaurants often make their mark by having certain dishes that build a steady following. But I’ve always been fascinated by some of the lesser known, under the radar dishes that give a menu variety and depth. Here are my 20 Underrated Dishes at 20 Popular Restaurants…

House Made Ricotta at The Pantry: The bacon-wrapped dates, meat board, and deviled eggs get all of the attention when it comes to starters at The Pantry, but do not hesitate to order this creamy ricotta. It’s simple but delicious, and I’m guessing is the only house-made version in town.

Pork Loin at Maddie’s Place: We’ve all got our go-to dish at Maddie’s Place … fried chicken, catfish po’boys, shrimp and grits, bbq shrimp….you name it. But the pork loin with sweet potato hash and butter soaked Brussels sprouts, all in a house-made Worcestershire sauce, is insanely good. And it never gets any attention. Pro tip, don’t go to Maddie’s if you’re counting calories.

Eggplant Parm at Capeo: It’s not the best dish at Capeo, but this hearty portion of eggplant Parm is about half the price ($19) as most other entrees and is delicious. If you can resist the Duck Valentine or the pork chop, the eggplant Parm is a great option.

Meatloaf at Table 28

Meatloaf at Table 28

 

Meatloaf at Table 28: Who in their right mind orders meatloaf at one of the swankiest restaurants in town? My wife does. Thankfully, she gave me a few bites and I can tell you that it’s pretty damn good. The meatloaf is served with a side of asparagus and mashed potatoes, and, like all dishes at Table 28, is beautifully presented.

Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s: This dish is served at the Shackleford location, and it’s one I’ve been touting for a few years. The delicate white fish is light and packs a flavor punch … especially if you are one who enjoys spicy food.

Israeli Couscous with Romaine at South on Main

Israeli Couscous with Romaine at South on Main

Israeli Couscous with Romaine at South on Main: This is really just a general plug for all of Chef (and former vegetarian) Matt Bell’s vegetarian options at South on Main. Most of them are outstanding, but fall under the radar, due in large part to more popular, meat-centric dishes like catfish, duck, rabbit, and steak.

Blackened Ribeye at The Faded Rose: When most folks (ok…at least some) think of TFR, red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, and fried catfish po’boys come to mind. But for the money, you might not find a better steak in town than their blackened ribeye.

Fried Shrimp at Doe's Eat Place

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s Eat Place

 

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s Eat Place: Speaking of steak, when you go to Doe’s, it is absolutely essential to order a 3-lb Porterhouse (medium rare). And while the tamales get all of the attention as a pre-steak appetizer, the jumbo fried shrimp are the better option. The breading is thick and the seasoning is sparse, but that’s ok, because dunking each one into the tartar sauce makes up for any inadequacies.

Greens at Gus’s: This only applies to the downtown location, as I’m not a fan of the WLR venue. Anyways, while it does have its fair share of detractors, the downtown Gus’s has very good fried chicken … and greens. The chicken gets all the attention, but the greens are also a must-order.

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Leeks at One Eleven

 

Leeks at One Eleven: The yellowfin tuna tartare is a popular meal starter, but the meager leek might be the way to go at One Eleven. Or hell, order both. The warm leeks are paired with pecans and bleu cheese.

San Francisco Cioppino at Trio’s: Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Peck Salad just as much as the next guy, but the seafood at Trio’s is very underrated. Try the Cioppino, which is loaded with sea bass, mussels, clams, shrimp, and scallops. Just note, many dishes rotate in and out of the menu at Trio’s, and the Cioppino is one of them.

BLT Wedge at Big Orange (both locations): Big Orange is a burger dining destination for most folks, but I go for the salads, and while I typically order the more popular Thai Chop, my daughter opts for the underrated BLT Wedge. Now, I know what you’re thinking … wedge salads are so boring. Not Big Orange’s version, and it’s just as beautiful as it is tasty.

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Chicken Caldo at El Palenque

 

Chicken Caldo at El Palenque: I believe this is a Saturday only dish, so don’t get all pissy with me if you go on Friday night and it’s not available. But if you happen to be at El Palenque on a Saturday, get it. There’s probably damn near half a chicken hiding in that large bowl of head-cold-curing chicken broth.

Chef Salad at Vino’s: You know all of those awesome toppings that the fine folks at Vino’s put on their pizzas? Well, they also put them in a bowl … over lettuce … with your choice of ham, turkey, or chicken, and it’s a great alternative to pizza.

Thai Chicken Burger at The Southern Gourmasian: The steamed buns and spicy chicken and dumplings get all of the attention, as they rightfully should, but do not pass up the Thai Chicken Burger at The Southern Gourmasian. How they get ground chicken to taste so juicy is beyond me. It’s one of my favorite burgers in town. And yes, chicken can be a burger.

Beef Tenderloin at Kemuri

Beef Tenderloin at Kemuri

 

Beef Tenderloin at Kemuri: It’s hard not order that fancy, flaming sushi roll at Kemuri. In a town starving for quality sushi, this restaurant provides a good option. But damn, the beef tenderloin with onion rings is a must-order. And this is coming from a guy who doesn’t get too excited over steak.

Meatball Sandwich at Raduno: The pizza, for obvious reasons, gets a lot of play at Raduno, but you also might want to consider splitting a meatball hero with a buddy. Tack on a Caesar salad for good measure. It’s pretty damn good, too.

Cheese Pizza at Layla’s: The Yogurt Plate or even a basic gryo are probably the two most popular dishes at Layla’s, but if you enjoy a nice, basic pizza, order the cheese pie. It’s something like $5 or $6 and is loaded with mozzarella. The pizza is no frills, but definitely one of the best values around.

Squash Blossom Veggie Sandwich at Hillcrest Artisan Meats: Going vegetarian at H.A.M.?!?!! Hear me out. I’m not saying this is an every-visit-kinda-sandwich, but if you’re looking for a change of pace, consider the very underrated Squash Blossom. This sandwich includes alfalfa sprouts, avocado, red onions, pepper jack, and tomatoes.

Taro Chips at Three Fold

Taro Chips at Three Fold

 

Taro Chips at Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co.: Sweet, salty, and wildly addictive … a bag of taro chips to go with an order of dumplings is an absolute must.

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Little Rock Restaurant Month Hits WLR

Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo

 

Last week, we checked out what was going on over in Midtown … and now Little Rock Restaurant Month starts in West Little Rock. Remember, instead of participating restaurants from all over the city offering specials throughout the entire month, different areas of the city each get a week of specials. August 15-21 marks WLR’s turn. Below, you’ll find a complete listing, as well as a few of my takes…

Alley Oops
$1 off chicken salad & fresh fruit

Big Orange (west location)
Free cheese dip or hummus with purchase of burger

Bobby’s Country Cookin’
$1 off dinner & drink
My take: Nice opportunity to check out Bobby’s if you’ve never done so … the food is solid and the service is fast.

Cantina Cinco de Mayo
Free kid’s meal with purchase of 2 entrees at regular price
My take: This is a very underrated restaurant and a perfect place to take the kiddos to enjoy a good deal … and meal.

Capers
Prix fixe, $33 three course meal; starter, entrée, dessert

Casa Manana (west location)
$13.95 pollo chiltepin with Michelada
My take: I’ve never had this dish, but the Michelada, alone, makes it a good deal.

Copeland’s
½ off off select appetizers with purchase of entree. Choose from: artichoke & spinach dip, bayou broccoli, Al’s favorite popcorn shrimp, onion mum or crab beignets.

Corky’s Ribs & BBQ
$2 off off Cajun shrimp dinner. Bring this coupon in.

Del Frisco’s Grill
Prix fixe 2-course lunch for $20 or 3-course dinner for $35.

Diane’s Gourmet
Bogo – buy 3 casseroles, get 1 free.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Free award-winning fries with the purchase of a bacon cheeseburger & drink
My take: The fries are pretty damn good … there’s no denying that.

Fonda Tequila Bar
$12 chicken mole plus 1 Dos Equis
My take: The service can be inconsistent at Fonda, but the food is good, and I’m guessing this mole might be worth a visit.

Grady’s Pizza & Subs
25% off a salad or our fresh & delicious pasta dishes. 1 per table, 1 per visit.

Honey Pies
$10 sweetie pie – mini pie baked fresh using highest quality seasonal ingredients, topped with house-made fresh whipped cream.
My take: You know I love Honey Pies, so I would definitely recommend taking advantage of this deal. If you’ve never been to the newly opened shop, this is a perfect opportunity to try out the goods without committing to an entire (bigger) pie.

Razorback Pizza
$14.95 – 14” pizza up to 3 toppings with a side of Razorback sticks with cheese

Layla’s (west location)
$7.25 gyro sandwich with fries and drink
My take: You already know Layla’s is great, and this is a solid deal.

Lazy Pete’s
15% off any sandwich or entrée.
My take: Here’s another very underrated restaurant that doesn’t get a ton of publicity. The wings here are some of the best in town.

Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some
$10 hotiyaki wings & beer

B-side
$14.50 candied bacon & peach pancake with fresh-squeezed orange juice mimosa

Local Lime
Free cheese dip or salsa trio with purchase of an entrée or salad.
My take: While the cheese deep is nice, in my opinion, the salsa trio is definitely the way to go. And make sure you get the chipotle, tres chiles, and zucchini.

NYPD Pizza
$10 14” pizza* (Monday)
Additional offers: Tuesday: buy one/get one* Wednesday: pasta specials* Thursday: kids eat free* *see server for details.
My take: Some of the better pizza in Little Rock, but probably doesn’t get a ton of attention because of its far WLR location.

Ocean at Arthur’s
Bogo – buy any 2 entrees or specialty sushi, get 1 dessert. Valid up to $9. Dine-in, dinner only.

Santo Coyote
Bogo – buy one small cheese dip with dinner, get a second cheese dip free.

Senor Tequila
Bogo – buy 1 entree at regular price, get the second 1/2 price. Not valid with other specials.

Sky Modern Japanese
Bogo – buy 1 appetizer, get 1 half off. Also: $5 featured cocktails

Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
Free child’s feast with purchase of adult entree. Dine-in only.
My take: My kids love Taziki’s … probably one of their top 5 spots in town.

The Butcher Shop
$19.95 12-oz. ribye dinner with salad & potato
My take: Solid seems to be the overwhelming theme of this post. The Butcher Shop gives you a nice bang for your buck with this $20 steak deal.

The Main Cheese
25% off total bill. Lunch & dinner
My take: I’ve never been to The Main Cheese, but 25% off your total bill makes this one of the best deals of the week.

The Pantry
Free appetizer. Mention “Little Rock Restaurant Month” to receive offer. 1 per table, dinner only.
My take: I’m not sure if this is a specific, pre-selected appetizer, but they’re all great, so it’s worth it.

The Purple Cow
Free soft drink or tea with any of our new menu items. New items include: supreme cheeseburger, turkey pesto burger, & black bean burger, just to name a few.

The Tavern Sports Grill
$15 half rack ribs, coleslaw & baked beans with Flyway Migrate
My take: The Flyway Migrate makes this a solid deal.

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