Posts Tagged Raduno
Whether it’s by myself or with a friend or two, one of my favorite things to do is sit at one of our local bars, have a drink and/or bite to eat, and just take in the scene. Last week, Mallory’s new feature got me thinking about which places I like to hang. Here are my 10 of favorite bars, almost all located inside traditional restaurants. Are they the best bar areas in town? Maybe, maybe not … it’s very subjective, but for a variety of reasons, they definitely suit me.
Big Orange Midtown
Visually speaking, this, or the bar at One Eleven, are the most appealing. The bar at Big Orange Midtown is absolutely gorgeous and is stocked with some of the best liquors in town. From a diner’s perspective, it’s a wonderful place to have a meal and a nice beer or cocktail. The restaurant is never too loud and during the evening hours has a very nice, mellow vibe around the bar. Service is always attentive and drink specials tend to be quite creative.
What to order: Thai Chop Salad w/ Steak and a Lost Forty Honey Bock
It’s not big, and it can get a tad loud, but if you can find a seat, the bar at Pantry Crest is a great spot to watch a game, have an appetizer or two, and down one of the restaurant’s seasonal cocktails or local beers on tap.
What to order: Truffle Deviled Eggs and Stone’s Throw Beer (whatever’s on tap)
Most folks wouldn’t think to hang at Trio’s for its bar, but as you probably know by now, I love the restaurant, and that includes the very underrated bar area. Head Bartender Merrick Fagan is a wizard with his cocktail creations and just an overall good guy to chat with (when he isn’t too busy). The bar is quiet, has a big television to watch a game, and is usually occupied by a few folks, which inevitably leads to fun conversations.
What to order: Shrimp Spring Rolls (or any appetizer special) with a Pineapple Rum Daiquiri
I should go to Raduno’s more often, especially because I really do enjoy the bar. It’s long, can accommodate a large amount of people, but never feels uncomfortably hectic. For all you beer lovers, the on-tap selection is one of the best in Little Rock. There’s also a big, beautiful television, perfect for watching a game.
What to order: Caesar’s Salad and a beer flight
South on Main
Probably my favorite bar in Little Rock. It’s just a cool place to hang, and for lack of a better term, it has that Cheer’s vibe to it. With more and more shows going on, it can get loud in the restaurant, but even then, it’s still nice to hang at the bar. Head Bartender David Burnette is the best in the business, and whether you’re in the mood for a sophisticated cocktail or a nice wine pairing, David always has some great recs.
What to order: Fried Oyster Steamed Bun and Old Fashioned
Heights Taco and Tamale Co.
HTT is often very loud, but I do enjoy finding a seat at the bar (btw, the seats are very comfortable) and having a quick cocktail. I say quick because HTT is very popular, and I hate taking up a seat for too long. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and the drinks, whether its a beer on-tap or a cocktail, are usually spot-on.
What to order: Tamales and a Frozen Mojito
Did I say South on Main was my favorite bar? Well, then Flyway is my second favorite. For some reason, I just feel at home there. The bartenders are always super friendly, the beer is outstanding, and the food just keeps getting better and better. The place is never a madhouse, but always seems to have a steady stream of neighborhood friendlies. The massive television right above the bar doesn’t hurt matters.
What to order: Smoked Trout Nachos and a beer flight
This is a bar’s bar. It’s no frills and somewhat dark, but just a perfect place to grab a beer. And Maddie’s seems to always have a nice beer selection. If you’re rolling solo, it’s also a great spot to grab a quick lunch or dinner.
What to order: Grilled Oysters and Bubba’s Brews Arkie Ale
Boulevard on Main Street
Hey, it’s not all about the booze. Boulevard is my favorite coffee bar. I’m there each Friday morning and love spending about 20 minutes on my phone, while enjoying a great cup of coffee. Blvd is another place that has a steady stream of customers, and because this is Little Rock, there’s a good chance you’ll know 1 out of 10 people who walk in.
What to order: Small cup of coffee and a slice of bread-of-the-day
Don’t worry, West Little Rock, I didn’t forget about ya. We all know that Local Lime has the best bar in the area … another Yellow Rock Concepts creation that’s easy on the eye and warm on the soul. Ok, that was a little sappy, but you know what I mean. Local Lime’s bar just feels cool and is a perfect place to hang, especially if you don’t feel like waiting on a table on a busy Friday night.
What to order: Chips and Salsa and a Frozen Margarita
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: 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: 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: 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.
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.
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: 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 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.
Some of you may disagree with me, but for its size, I think Little Rock really does have a nice selection of quality pizza. I’m not saying we’re going to compete with New York and Chicago anytime in the next 1000 years, but pizza in Little Rock, like most towns, is a big deal.
So I posed this question on Facebook: “What are your 3 favorite pizza places INSIDE Little Rock?”
Right off the bat, I screwed up this informal food poll. By “INSIDE,” I meant to include NLR and anything within 20 minutes of downtown LR. Truthfully, I just didn’t want Deluca’s dominating the conversation, and with all due respect, Hot Springs is far enough away from the LR-area. OK, enough with the semantics, just want did we learn from this very informal survey?
Here are the results:
-195 total mentions
-Top vote getters: Vino’s (30 votes), Damgoode (24 votes), ZAZA (23 votes), Pizza Café (21 votes), Iriana’s (20 votes)
-The Top 5 places grabbed over 60% of the total mentions.
-Other top vote getters included (in order): U.S. Pizza, Raduno. Bruno’s, Terry’s, NYPD, Shotgun Dan’s, Capeo
1. My top three were Vino’s, NYPD, and Terry’s.
2. Vino’s getting the #1 spot surprised me. Sure, the place has been around forever, but often times, we fall in love with the new kid on the block. It was nice to see that Vino’s is still getting some deserved recognition for producing quality pies.
3. ZAZA and Damgoode being in the top 3 was not at all shocking. Both spots are wildly popular and have insane name recognition. I’m still not well-versed enough on Damgoode to put it anywhere near my top spots, and I feel ZAZA often struggles with consistency issues to warrant such acclaim. Admittedly, I go to ZAZA a lot, so I sample the pizza far more than other places in town, thus giving it many opportunities to shine or fall flat.
4. Terry’s, with only 6 votes, was a bit of a shocker. I expected more votes, however, the restaurant is small and is still fairly new (compared to other places). Several folks even commented on how they’ve yet to try Terry’s.
5. Capeo was in the same boat as Terry’s. I think the low votes were due to me not clarifying that NLR was part of the mix (until later in the thread) and its newness.
6. I have never been to Pizza Café. I know. Deplorable. That will change.
7. I may never understand this market’s love for U.S. Pizza. And that’s OK … food is highly subjective.
8. Raduno started slow with the votes, but finished strong and secured a Top 10 spot, no small feat for a new restaurant.
9. Shotgun Dan’s received 6 votes. Good God!!
10. Mellow Mushroom received 4 votes. And that’s all I got to say about that.
Thoughts from my recent food adventures around Little Rock…
The Southern Gourmasian’s Ramen
With fall finally arriving, it’s now the beginning of soup season. The Southern Gourmasian’s ramen bowl with pork shoulder, poached egg, noodles, and scallions joins other options, like the pho at Mike’s Café and Pho Thanh and the torn wonton soup at Chi’s, as some of my absolute favorite soups in town. The rich broth and tender shreds of pork are what separate this bowl of ramen from others out there. And by “out there,” I mean in other cities across the country, as there are only a handful of Little Rock ramen options.
Eggplant Casserole Done Right at South on Main
Chef Matt Bell loves him some eggplant casserole, and his latest version, which is included on the dinnertime roasted chicken breast plate, is a winner. Chunks of soft eggplant and buttery cornbread croutons make this irresistible side dish a perfect complement to the chicken and rice. As an added bonus, the plate includes a fried chicken leg topped with South on Main’s signature pepper jelly. Both preparations were spot-on. Portions are big and at $18, the dish is an excellent value.
Solid Sushi at Sushi Café West
Sometimes I just need my sushi fix and a recent lunch pop-in to Sushi Café West hit the spot. Nothing overwhelmed, nor disappointed. As a side note, I always love to eat sushi at lunch because most places, like Sushi Café West, put one or two specials on the menu. My two rolls cost $15, which isn’t a bad deal for sushi.
Table 28 Releases Fall Menu
I was fortunate enough to sample some of the new Fall Menu items over at Table 28 with my buddy Daniel Walker. Dishes that really stood out were the pumpkin soup, kale salad, fried shrimp po’boy, and an insanely delicious pumpkin toffee sticky pudding. Dan allowed yours truly to have a bite of the dessert before he devoured the rest like a rabid dog. All kidding aside, these dishes, along with my dinner from a month ago, only help solidify the fact that Chef Scott Rains is one of the very best chefs in Little Rock. His attention to detail, creativity, and overall consistent execution of dishes, are what separates him from much of the competition.
I Heart kBird
Getting tired of me fawning over kBird? Tough shit, the admiration ain’t stopping anytime soon. This Hillcrest restaurant serves as a beacon of hope for a market that generally lacks dynamic ethnic eating options. I’ll get off that soapbox and focus back on kBird–my recent bowls of shrimp green curry and green papaya salad vaulted the restaurant to my top lunchtime spot.
Trio’s Hosts Tercos Winery
Trio’s, in coordination with De Nux Distributors, hosted a meet-and-greet with Patricio Santos from Tercos Winery. Delicious appetizers–like the curry shrimp along with the fried wontons topped with raw tuna, avocado, and tahini–paired well with the delightful Malbec and Torrontes wines from the Argentine winery. Props to Chef Capi Peck and her crew for a nice evening of food and wine.
Just a Po’Boy at The Faded Rose
A quick lunch at The Faded Rose saw me order a fried oyster po’boy with French fries and a side soaked salad. We all know The Rose is a mark of consistency, and this lunch was no different. The oysters were fried to perfection, as were the fries, and my soaked salad hit the spot (and yes, even the green olives). Food came out fast, service was friendly, and once again, The Faded Rose delivered a good meal.
Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom
This is now the second time I’ve had an excellent salad at Raduno, the first being the Caesar and now the Farmer, a beautiful bowl of mixed greens, pancetta, poached farm egg, pecorino, and red wine vinaigrette. Props to the restaurant for not scrimping on the pancetta. I washed it all down with a glass of Kona Brewing Company’s Big Wave, a light beer which paired wonderfully with the salad. Big thumbs up to Raduno … the beautiful bar, impressive draft beer selection, and excellent food and service, made for a great dinner.