Posts Tagged Natchez

November Edition: 10 Dishes You Need to Know

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For reasons unbeknownst to me, certain dishes seem to fall under the radar. Every few months I’ll highlight some of these dishes, tell you what makes them so good, and hopefully inspire you to check them out for yourself, if you haven’t done so already. In no particular order, here are the 10 Dishes You Need to Know.

Skillet Bread at South on Main
This is a rotating menu item, so you’re best option is to ask for it and see if the restaurant has all of the ingredients to whip some up. Think of this as a doughier naan covered in shredded brisket, cheese, and whatever else chef Bell wants to put on top. Next time you’re at SoM, cozy up to the bar and polish off this skillet bread with an Old Fashioned.

Fried Quail at Natchez
Certain restaurants are just good at frying things. Natchez is one of those places … and nothing tops their fried quail–a small, delicate bird which holds up well to the deep frying and is typically paired with a faro and diced root vegetables at the downtown Little Rock restaurant.

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Pork Tamales at La Regional
I am constantly on the prowl for good, traditional, non-Delta tamales. La Regional’s pork variety are the absolute best I’ve come across in the area—better than Izzy’s and better than the Jalisco food truck in front of Colonial on Markham (which are both excellent). The pork-to-masa ratio is damn near 1-to-1, the meat is super tender and each tamale is about $1. This is the time of year to really enjoy tamales, so bring it on down to La Regional in SWLR.

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Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s on Markham
I’m guessing this dish is often overlooked by the general public, but the delicate pieces of white fish resting in a thick and spicy sauce, makes it a must-order each time I’m at this Chi’s location. It’s certainly not a stand-alone dish, but rather, it’s best paired with other dishes like beef chow fun and moo goo gai pan.

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Egg White Omelet at Mugs Café
Sometimes you just want a good ol’ omelet for breakfast and it’s nice to know you can get one that won’t clog your arteries at Mugs Café. Frying an egg to perfection should never be taken for granted and Mugs knows does it better than just about anyone in the area. Remove the egg yolks, add some roasted veggies, and you’ve got yourself a fine breakfast.

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Mixed Grill at Desi Den
Never heard of Desi Den? This Indian restaurant located near I-30 in Bryant is a hidden gem! If you’re unfamiliar with the cuisine, opt for the mixed grill, which is a sizzling skillet full of chicken vindaloo, shrimp, broccoli, asparagus and other assorted items.

The Works at Trio’s
Technically, this sandwich probably shouldn’t be on a list like this. I’m guessing most Little Rockers know The Works, but hey, maybe you need a reminder of the sandwich’s excellence. How does grilled pimiento cheese on sourdough bread with poblano peppers, thin, fried green tomatoes and bacon, sound? Creamy, crunchy, tart and a little spicy—it’s all there!

Broiled Atlantic Salmon at Ciao Baci
This dish has my name written all over it. I love both salmon and grilled Romaine, and the chef Owen gets all crazy and adds fried onion rings and beet hash to the mix. I’m in. It’s also doesn’t hurt that Ciao Baci isn’t stingy with its fish portions.

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Black Cod Samfaina at The Terrace
Speaking of fish, my goodness, have you tried the black cod samfaina at The Terrace? Also, why has it taken me damn near three years to eat at this restaurant? Shame on me! This beautiful piece of pan-seared cod is accompanied by a deliciously salty ragu of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and onions.

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Calzone at The Pizzeria at Terry’s
Do you love a classic, Neo-style pizza? Well then, The Pizzeria at Terry’s is the place for you. And if you enjoy said pizza but instead like it folded in half and stuffed with various ingredients and topped with Bonta Toscana Garlic Sauce, then order the calzone. It’s both chewy and crispy, with just enough char on the edges to impart that wonderful smoky flavor.

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10 Dishes You Need to Know in Little Rock

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For reasons unbeknownst to me, certain dishes seem to fall under the radar. Every few months I’ll highlight some of these dishes, tell you what makes them so good, and hopefully inspire you to check them out for yourself, if you haven’t done so already. In no particular order, here are the 10 Dishes You Need to Know.

Bibimbap at Hanaroo
Bibim…what? Bibimbap is a very traditional hot pot Korean dish filled with rice and vegetables and topped with a soft-boiled egg. While most folks order Hanaroo’s sushi, the often overlooked bibimbap is where it’s at. This is Korean comfort food at its best, and if you’re willing to branch out just a bit, Hanaroo’s bibimbap is a great option.

Greek Salad at Little Greek Restaurant
Yes, save the speech … I know Little Greek is a chain, but it’s a really good chain. Is it better than Layla’s? No. But their Greek salad, loaded with onions, beets, fresh greens and potato salad, is dynamite.

Meat Pies at Maddie’s Place
Heck, pass on the shrimp and grits and fried catfish for once and order the meat pies as an entrée. They’ll be sure to please. Rich cuts of beef inside a flaky, buttery empanada-like crust doesn’t sound like a bad lunch to me.

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Cheesecake at The Pantry
Cool name aside, forgo The Pantry’s chocolate salami in favor of their cheesecake. This is coming from someone who isn’t a huge fan of cheesecake. It’s the best I’ve come across in Little Rock, due in large part to that insanely awesome brûléed top. The thing is a work of art.

Chicken Sandwich at David’s Burgers
Why on earth would you walk into David’s and order a chicken sandwich (instead of a typical beef burger) every now and then? Two reasons. One, your fat ass might be interested in living past 45, and two, it’s pretty tasty. David’s does things differently by putting a slight grind to the chicken. This yields a thin patty that stays juicy throughout the grilling process.

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Chicken Tostada at Taqueria Karina
This beauty is comprised of a crispy fried tostada lined with a thin layer of refried beans, then topped with marinated chicken, diced tomatoes, lettuce, grilled onions, cheese and sour cream. Resist the temptation to smash the entire concoction into your pie hole, as most of it will end up on your khakis (speaking from experience).

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Cheeseburger at Terry’s Finer Foods
Yes, I’m a hypocrite, but sometimes a good cheeseburger can cure all that ails you. We love our burgers here in Little Rock, but I’m not sure many people know about the one at Terry’s. It’s a thicker patty covered in cheese (of your choice) and served on a soft bun with all the usual fixings. It’s classic and simple and oh so good.

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Sauteed Mushroom in Oyster Sauce at Fantastic China
I adore this dish’s simplicity. All you’re talking about is some chopped mushrooms and green onions in a delicate, sweet and savory oyster sauce, but it really hits the spot. This light dish makes for a perfect during-the-week lunch.

Rabbit Fettuccine at Natchez
Granted, you might walk into Natchez and the rabbit fettuccine isn’t even on the menu that day. But switching things up has always been a trademark of the menu, and the rabbit fettuccine’s inclusion on this list is really just a general endorsement of Natchez’s fantastic handmade pasta.

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Cherry Shaved Ice at Le Pops
Everyone goes into Le Pops with one thing on the mind … popsicles! But have you tried one of Laurie’s hand-shaved ices? Get the cherry (real cherry syrup) and watch how fast you gobble up the powdery snow.

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Buzz Word: Goin’ Fishin’ at Natchez

Pompano with Lentils & Walnuts

Pompano with Lentils & Walnuts

I will post a “buzz word” on The Mighty Rib Facebook page–then ask for reader suggestions for one dish that includes the word. One is randomly picked, dish is eaten, and review is written.

Our word was fish. Plenty of wonderful suggestions flowed in via the comment box, but in the end, Zara’s “Any fish from Natchez” won out.

You’ll find no complaints from me. I’d been to Natchez just a few weeks ago, even ordered the tile fish, and was blown away by the quality and freshness of their product.

Would history repeat itself? Yes and no.

No, in that the tile fish wasn’t the Catch of the Day last Tuesday. It was pompano. Yes, in that the fish lived up to my prior experience, and may have been even exceeded it.

Natchez’s pan-seared pompano, a firm yet flaky white fish, proved to be just what I was looking for in a nice, light lunchtime option. The mild-tasting fish—which rested on a bed of green lentils—was elevated by Chef Jones’ brilliant use of a brown butter sauce that both added flavor and moisture to the lentils and pompano. Toasted walnuts also gave the dish a nice added layer of texture. The generous portion of lentils resting under the fish were well-seasoned and tender to the bite.

My slight criticism with the pompano dish was with its overall presentation. A contrasting-colored ingredient, such as a sliced roasted red pepper, needed to be on the plate to make for a more visually appealing dish.

But make no mistake, the taste was fantastic…and when it comes to a truly great piece of fish, Natchez is your place.

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Q to the A: More Love for The Pantry…But None for Sliders

Mylo Coffee Co.'s Kouign Amann

Mylo Coffee Co.’s Kouign Amann

Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Evan H. for his answers!

1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? My whole life, so 34 years.

2. Where do you go for the absolute best fried food in town? This may sound odd, but Star of India. They have some of the best samosas and pakoras. I’m an absolute disciple of that place and if I’m not eating there at the very least once or twice a month something terrible had happened to me.

3. Who makes the best cocktail? I really like what they do at The Pantry. They’re extremely knowledgeable there and always keep things fresh. Though I must admit the area of cocktails is an area in which I’m not as well versed as I’d like to be.

4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? In n Out Burger and Taco Cabana. Two fast food chains that very sadly are not in central Arkansas but I always make a point to eat when I’m around it. Double doubles with animal fries and the breakfast burritos remain to this day some of the greatest things I’ve ever eaten!

5. What is your most memorable Little Rock dining experience? It’s tough to pick. On the finer dining side of things there was a restaurant a few years back called Vermillion Water Grill that had the best seafood I’ve eaten in Arkansas. But another old restaurant called Diego’s Hogs Breath Cantina introduced me to the buffalo wing as a young man, and I’ve yet to find a wing that could touch it since. Sadly it, too, closed.

6. What dish are you just plain tired of seeing on menus in Little Rock? Sliders. I just don’t get them. It seems like a pointless food fad and they’re everywhere. I must admit I have a lot of irrational hostility to sliders in general. It’s a problem, really. If its not White Castle, just make the whole darn burger. If you’re not making a small burger, call it tapas. I could go on and on…

7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? They wouldn’t go well together but I’d say the bio mushrooms at The Pantry as an appetizer, the chicken shai korma at Star of India (made extremely spicy) for the main course, and I’d hate to go back to The Pantry for their cheesecake or chocolate salami (because they really are fantastic), so I’ll say Mylo’s Kouign Amman. Since they’re opening a store I’d say that counts and those things are absolutely incredible.

Time for a Natchez Visit

Time for a Natchez Visit

8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? It’s probably cliche, but I’d go to Yountville, California and eat at the French Laundry. That is absolutely my dream meal. That, or Babbo in NYC. I really believe Mario Batali is an absolute genius, and is really the person who spearheaded the locavore, farm to table stuff we see today. He was pushing that as true Italian cuisine way back on Molto Mario (which, incidentally, is the greatest cooking show of all time, in my opinion).

9. What is your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant? Other than Star of India (recurring theme there) Pho Thanh My is fantastic, and Layla’s, if that counts.

10. What is one Little Rock restaurant you’ve never eaten at that may surprise people? Well, I haven’t eaten at Natchez or South on Main yet, so I guess those would be the places. Dying to try both, though. What might surprise people, however, is I never eat at Big Orange. People always look at me like I have three heads when I tell them I don’t like that place. They’ve definitely carved out a great niche for themselves, though, and they clearly know what they’re doing.

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