Posts Tagged Little Rock

Buzz Word: Three-Pound Porterhouse at Doe’s

SAM_3989

BUZZ WORD is back! Each month, a word is posted over on The Mighty Rib Facebook page, followed with a request for reader suggestions centered-around the term. One of the suggestions is randomly picked, dish is eaten, and a review is written.

This month’s BUZZ WORD was “steak.”

As expected, many folks weighed-in on this one. Some suggestions would have downright bankrupted me…see Arthur’s.

Thankfully, Doe’s won out.

You know Doe’s, the Little Rock landmark/institution that’s still just as famous as any restaurant in town. But guess what? I’ve only eaten there once, and only ordered the fried shrimp and tamales. Yes, don’t laugh, this was my first time to eat steak at Doe’s. For the past year or so, a buddy of mine has been pestering me to order the steak. “Shalin, just go to Doe’s, order the 3-lb Porterhouse and get it medium rare. Just do it.”

And that’s exactly what I did.

A Porterhouse is a thick-cut, monster-sized piece of meat comprised of a t-shaped bone that separates two sections of the meat—the larger short loin and the smaller tenderloin.

So we ordered the 3-lb. Porterhouse ($19.95 per pound), which came with fries, buttered toast and soaked salad. The steak was served family-style, and, along with the accompanying side dishes, comfortably fed our lunchtime table of four. What stood out was the no-frills simplicity of this steak. It’s as primal of a meat-eating experience as you’re going to get in a restaurant. The slab of meat is broiled and then brought to the table soaking in its own deliciously fatty juices.

One bite and it’s obvious why this steak is so damn popular. That combination of the crispy charred crust and tender, medium-rare meat is what separates this steak-eating experience from so many others. There was just the right amount of fat laced throughout the meat, providing for a rich buttery flavor, and a soft texture throughout.

Truthfully, I’m not a lover of steak. The biggest compliment I can give Doe’s is that I not only loved my Porterhouse, but I honestly can’t wait to go back and do it again.

This Little Rock landmark lived up to the hype.

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Hot Dog Mike Goes Small, Comes Up Short

WOOPIGHOTdog

WOOPIGHOTdog

Yesterday, I paid my first visit to the new Hot Dog Mike storefront, located on 3rd Street in downtown Little Rock. If you’ve been living in Little Rock for any amount of time (and haven’t taken up residence under a rock), you certainly know the story behind this place. Surprisingly, this represented my first Hot Dog Mike experience of any kind.

Upon entry, I was immediately thrown by the size of the space. It’s very cozy. No tables, no chairs … just some real estate to stand, along with a beautiful wooden counter and a work area behind it. Frankly, I loved the joint. It’s what a little hot dog shop should be … just a quaint spot to pop in, get a dog and run out.

Unfortunately, the setting represented the best part of my eating experience.

My buddy stepped up to the counter and ordered two hot dogs–one of which, the WOOPIGHOTdog (bacon, cole slaw, red onion, along with barbecue and sriracha sauce), seemed very intriguing.

Hot Dog Mike wasn’t in the shop, but a very kind, yet tad overwhelmed worker began to slowly construct the dogs. What ensued was disappointing beyond words. The boiled hot dogs were scooped from a huge pot of water, loaded onto a pedestrian bun, and topped with cole slaw, chopped red onions and the aforementioned sauces.

I expected some delicious handmade slaw, but what I received was the creamy, straight-from-the-grocery-store-tub version. Its greatness was only surpassed by the strip of pre-cooked bacon, delivered from a Hormel bag. The hot dog, itself, was thin and resembled that of an inexpensive variety.

But let’s get something straight…a hot dog is a hot dog. Most of us have grown up eating these cheapo ones and have been quite content. The overall taste of the WOOPIGHOTdog (yes, I just ended up only eating half of my friend’s hot dog) was pretty darn good—sweet, salty, creamy and even a tad spicy. It’s obvious HDM knows his flavor combinations. Sadly, however, the hot dog was just a reflection of the laziness that permeated throughout the entire business model.

A look inside

A look inside

Scooping cole slaw from a tub that’s sitting in a cooler (that’s sitting on the floor,) (*correction, 6-inches off the floor), is a huge turn off. That slaw, along with other ingredients, should have been sitting in easy-to-access bins. And how about frying up a little bacon or mixing some fresh slaw right there in the store? The smell alone would draw in customers. Heck, even some nice store background music would have elevated the experience.

In years past, Hot Dog Mike’s food obviously went over quite well in the Little Rock community. Those days are over. A permanent storefront brings higher expectations. And whether it’s duck confit over a sweet potato hash, fried catfish, or something as simple as a hot dog, people in this town now desire better ingredients that are executed with care and precision.

Sure, the WOOPIGHOTdog tasted fine…but I could have gone to the grocery store and re-created nearly the exact same dog, at a fraction of the $4 price tag.

Make no mistake, the Hot Dog Mike storefront has a world of potential. A super cool, hip, hot dog shop (with a philanthropic owner), serving dynamite food, is exactly the type of place Little Rock needs.

Here’s hoping HDM gets there.

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The Dish: Gus’s Fried Chicken

2013-09-02 10.34.51The dish…on just one dish!

Count the Shalin household as huge fans of Gus’s Fried Chicken. I picked up a take-out order this afternoon, marking my inaugural visit to the Little Rock location. A few months back, Gus’s was the final leg in our 2-day, 18-stop Eat Memphis Tour. A bit over-seasoned and a tad underwhelming was the overall consensus that time around.

Not so much on today’s visit.

Our chicken was absolutely perfect. I’m also delighted that the 20-minute drive home did nothing to diminish the quality of our meal. The pieces of chicken had a crispy, perfectly fried coating, with meat that was moist and juicy throughout. These were characteristics shared by every piece—from the breast right down to the leg. And even with a long drive home, the chicken was still piping hot, like it seemingly had just come out of the fryer.

A wonderful blend of spices provided for a little slow burn on the back end of each bite; this certainly wasn’t overpowering (even for children), but enough to ignite our taste buds.

Quotes I heard from my kids: “Dad, can we go to Gus’s for my birthday dinner?” Later on: “This is better than beef soft tacos.” That last quote was from my 4-year-old. I can honestly say there is no greater compliment that kid hands out than the vaunted “better than beef soft tacos.” It’s like her James Beard Award…seriously.

It’s also worth noting that our meal came with sides of baked beans and cole slaw. Each, on its own, left something to be desired. However, mixed in perfect harmony, the sweet and creamy slaw with the tangy beans was a match made in heaven.

The 12-piece chicken dinner, with the sides of beans and slaw (and bread), ran about $30. Expect that to feed a typical family of four, with a few pieces for leftovers.

Great service and food–Gus’s Fried Chicken certainly lived up to the hype.

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Q to the A: Chocolate Fountain Incident and Egg McMuffin Guilty Pleasure

Maddie's Place

Maddie’s Place

Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Erin for her answers!

1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? I’ve been here for 5 and a half years.

2. What one Little Rock restaurant has never let you down in terms of food and service? Maddie’s Place. I’ve been a fan of this restaurant ever since they opened. While I don’t get there as often as I would like, the food is consistent and delicious and it’s run by good people. It also happens to be one of the “must see” places to stop when my parents come to town. Not only do they love the food, but we realized early on that they have a bit of history with Chef Brian Deloney. It’s a cool story.

3. What under-the-radar spot would you recommend to a new Little Rock foodie? Personally, I don’t think I’m cool enough to know any under-the-radar spots. If I’ve been to a restaurant, I think that it’s already be noticed and recognized as being great. With that said, I’ll answer this with a restaurant that gets forgotten simply because it’s not in a typical dining destination area. That spot is Natchez. It’s tucked into an office building that is easy to pass by, but once you step in, you wouldn’t know. Chef Alexis is a kind, warm and welcoming restaurateur who is creative in her menu writing while keeping it comfortable. She makes you feel like you are a guest in her own home. Don’t think of downtown just as where you work. There is great food there! By the way, if you visit and see a shrimp or gnocchi dish on her menu, you’d be silly to miss either.

4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? Smartfood Popcorn (I’ll take it over a bag of chips any day), an Egg McMuffin, white cheese dip and homemade Linguine and White Clam Sauce. My dad and I have been making this dish together for years. We first got the recipe out of a Junior League cookbook and it evolved and improved as our food knowledge grew. The tradition started because my mom was traveling a lot with her job so the two of us spent a lot of time menu planning and cooking together during my middle and high school years.

5. Where can the absolute best dessert in town be found? I tend to not order dessert while dining out, but I often spring for it at Trio’s. While they stock a pretty amazing dessert tray full of homemade treats, it’s their Strawberry Shortcake that I can’t turn down. Arkansas strawberries, homemade shortbread and fresh whipped cream…can’t go wrong! If I’m out and about and need a sweet treat, my go-to orders would be a chocolate chunk cookie from Community Bakery, a lemon bar at Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches or an iced sugar cookie at Sweet Love Bakes.

6. What is the craziest thing you’ve done related to food? As far as eating weird things, I’ve not done anything really crazy. While living in Cairo I probably ate camel (it’s inevitable there) and intentionally ordered hot dog & calamari on my Pizza Hut. But the craziest thing I’ve done related to food also happens to be one of the messiest. A good friend hosted a party to help me raise funds for a charity walk I was participating in. Her cats had been locked up in a room all day away from the party so we were tidying up the kitchen before we went to bed so they could have free reign of the house again. Well, all was going well until I picked up the chocolate fountain. As I was rounded the corner to the laundry room (where we were going to stash it) it began to wobble on the tray I was holding. Pretty much went downhill from there, literally. Chocolate went everywhere. Down the front of me, on the floor, on the wall, pretty much ruined the new shoes I was wearing. But we laughed so very hard and we ended up meeting my fundraising goal that night!

It's time for Erin to pay Leo's a visit!

It’s time for Erin to pay Leo’s a visit!

7. How would you describe the Little Rock food scene? This is an interesting question. I know many diners are not satisfied with our current options and wish that restaurants would go for it and take risks. But a lot of people are satisfied with the options we have and love the old standards. So who am I to judge what they deem as “good”? That is an individual decision. With that said, I would describe our food scene as “proud”. Our local restaurants have a lot of pride in the use of ingredients from local farms, pride in creating dishes that share their idea of comfort and culture with us and a lot of pride in making some of Little Rock’s most beloved dishes, even if they’ve been around for half a century.

8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? I’m of course torn between nostalgic memories of food and a big adventure. At this point, I think my heart will win. I’d fly to my hometown (I have a few of them) of LeRoy, NY and eat Beef on Weck, Pizza Land pizza, wings and fried dough, fresh corn on the cob from McKenzie’s farm (purchased at the unmanned road-side stand that runs on the honor system), salt potatoes, Perry’s ice cream and a Friday night Fish Fry dinner at the LB Grand. And then I wouldn’t eat for a week!

9. What restaurant would people be surprised you’ve never dined at? This is a tough one. I’ve been to a lot of places once, often because a friend says “I can’t believe you haven’t been, we have to go”. Still, some may be surprised that I haven’t made it to Leo’s Greek Castle. I love breakfast, perhaps more than any other meal, but somehow I just haven’t made it there. I’m happy to hear the new owners are doing a great job and am going to try to get there soon.

10. What food celebrity would you like to have dinner with? Lee Anne Wong. I first “met” her when she was a contestant on Top Chef and I’ve continued to be a fan ever since. She loves food, is incredibly knowledgeable and, I imagine, full of a ton of stories from her work and travels. She seems pretty laid back too, so I think she’d be a lot of fun to share a meal with.

Please go follow Erin on Twitter!

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