Posts Tagged South on Main

10 Can’t Miss Food & Drink Gifts … All Local

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Are you looking for a perfect holiday gift for that special foodie in your life? Here are 10 suggestions that are sure to please…

Izard Chocolate
Local chocolatier, Nathaniel Izard, has a shop located in the heart of Hillcrest (right across the street from Kroger). If you’re not a fan of handcrafted, artisan dark chocolate, this probably isn’t the place for you. But if you are … and also enjoy caramels and even fresh roasted coffee, Izard Chocolate is a must-stop. Bars, truffles, and chocolate-dipped caramels are the main draws. Purchase online, at the shop, or at various locations throughout Little Rock. Prices vary.

Pozza’s Pasta
Made in NWA’s Tontitown, this is a dried pasta made with unbleached flour as opposed to a semolina flour. It’s available in 12-ounce packages, including: 100% Whole Wheat, Spinach Spaghetti, Tomato Basil Linguini, Angel Hair, Parsley Linguini, and Traditional Spaghetti and Linguini. Purchase online or from Terry’s Finer Foods. Prices start at $5 per package.

WaterVeg Lettuce
Hey, not every holiday food gift has to be a caloric nightmare. I’m a huge fan of WaterVeg, a Little Rock-based aquaponics company specializing in lettuce delivered right to your doorstep on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. Go online to check out membership subscriptions or purchase a gift card. Baskets cost around $12 and that includes delivery.

Bonta Toscana Garlic Sauce
Amy Bradley-Hole sells a divine, slightly spicy garlic sauce that’s perfect on pizza, pasta, or  just about anything that is even remotely edible. You can find it all over Little Rock, including: Stratton’s Market, The Corner Store and More, Kent Walker Artisan Cheese, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Eggshells, Terry’s Finer Foods, Honeycomb Kitchen Shop (in Rogers). Amy also sets up shop at the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Prices start at $7 per jar.

RED Boards
Who in their right mind doesn’t love a handmade cutting board? Local woodworker, Randy Davidson, makes them in a variety of shapes and sizes, including: Arkansas-shaped, Razorback-shaped, checkerboard, squares, rectangles, and he even does custom boards. I purchased one of Randy’s boards last year for my parents and they absolutely love it. Available at Eggshell’s Kitchen Co. Prices range from $49-$165.

Egg Nog at South on Main
You really haven’t lived until you’ve tried David Burnette’s award-winning egg nog at South on Main. Lucky for you, it’s available to purchase this holiday season. Take a quart or two home with you or to a holiday party. Available beginning on December 4th at the restaurant. Price based on current dairy cost and is yet to be determined.

O’Looney’s Shamrock Selections
I’ve really tried to up my wine game over the past few months and a big part of it has to do with O’Looney’s Shamrock Selections, a monthly, curated selection of the best wines from around the world. Each month’s selection (usually two bottles) is carefully chosen by sommelier Keegan Sparks and his team. He keeps a keen eye out for wines that are unique, rare, and new to our market. Available for gifting in single-month, six-month, and twelve-month increments. Visit the store or go online. Cost is around $60, I think (need to check my credit card statement)

Gift Baskets at Rock Town Distillery
From single barrel whiskey to basil vodka, Rock Town’s products just keep getting better and better. Hard liquor is a great gift for the holidays, and the folks over at Rock Town Distillery are putting together some nice holiday gift baskets. Available to purchase at the distillery on 6th Street. Cost varies, but each basket maxes out at around $80.

Cookie Packages from Ann Potter Baking
Sarah Declerk of Ann Potter Baking is putting together holiday cookie packages, including: 6 decorated shortbread, 6 German chocolate roll-ups, 6 cinnamon roll-ups, and 6 monster cookies. Contact Sarah at annpotterbaking@gmail.com. I recently sampled the German chocolate roll-ups and can tell you they are fantastic. Cost is $45.

Grass Roots Farmers Cooperative
Show that special someone in your life how much you love them by purchasing a membership to Grass Roots Farmers Cooperative. They’ll get a monthly shipmetn of grass-fed, pasture-raised meat. I’ve been a member for over a year, and I not only love the taste and quality of the meats,but also the service. Members get discounted prices and free shipping. Heck, you can even order meat a la carte. Prices vary.

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Quick Thoughts on Deluca’s, McClard’s, Flyway, and Mike’s Cafe

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Some quick thoughts for my latest eating experiences…

Nachos at Flyway: I’m a regular at Flyway Brewing. Overall, it’s the best-tasting beer being produced in this area, and more often than not, the bar bites match the beer’s deliciousness. This was the case with my order of Gator Nachos, a Saturday special in honor of the Hogs taking on the Florida Gators. Rather than pile a bunch of toppings over a mess of chips, Flyway does their nachos on an individual basis … with a small hunk of alligator being the main attraction this time around. Eating alligator always sounds cooler than it tastes. In truth, it’s taste is rather mundane, so it really comes down to the accompanying ingredients, which on this afternoon was a fantastic bean and corn relish, along with pickled okra and carrots.

South on Main’s Cheeseburger: South on Main was open last night for a special concert by local artist Elise Davis. The restaurant’s usual menu was replaced by a collection of comfort food dishes like spaghetti, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken. I opted for an appetizer of boudin balls, along with a cheeseburger and waffle fries. The waffle fries were so good that my tablemate and I got another order. And don’t get me started on the cheeseburger. Although last night’s version was a slightly different take on South on Main’s typical double patty nighttime concoction, the slightly pressed mound of beef was as juicy as can be, and once again proved why it’s one of the best burgers in town.

I Heart Deluca’s: You know I love Deluca’s. Hell, I tell anyone who’s willing to listen about Anthony Valinoti’s pizza in Hot Springs. I love it so much that I rarely eat anywhere else in town. But … I actually went down there and dined at another restaurant. Feeling extreme guilt after our lunch, I had to stop by Deluca’s and get two pizzas to-go. Folks, no shocker here, but it’s just not the same. This is pizza that needs to be eaten at the restaurant. Consider this public service announcement.

The Cue at McClard’s: Yes, I finally went to McClard’s BBQ. It took me damn near five years, but I did it. And there were many things I loved about this iconic Hot Springs restaurant, like the parking lot’s smoky aroma, the warm and cozy interior, and the insanely addictive Half Spread (tamale, Fritos, chopped beef, beans, onions, and cheese) gut bomb.  Sure, it’s a total guilty pleasure, but it’s one I could see myself eating once or twice a year. It’s flat out tasty. I can’t say the same about the rather pedestrian chopped pork sandwich. Simply put, none of that wonderful smoke I caught a whiff of in the parking lot made its way into the meat.

Quick Stop at Rock Town Distillery: Had my first taste of the 12-month aged Rock Town’s barley bourbon whiskey … and I loved it. So much so that I bought a bottle (think it was $39) for the impending Thanksgiving holiday. In a word, this whiskey is very smooth. I may have also left with a bottle of the coffee liqueur made with Leiva’s Coffee.

Cookies for the Holidays: Sarah Declerk of Ann Potter Baking is putting together holiday cookie packages. The Thanksgiving package includes 2 dozen cookies for $45. There will be 6 decorated shortbread in a Thanksgiving theme, 6 German chocolate roll-ups, 6 cinnamon roll-ups, and 6 monster cookies. Pre-orders are needed and encouraged (annpotterbaking@gmail.com), and while it might be too late to get in on Thanksgiving, I’m told a similar package will be available for Christmas. I recently sampled the German chocolate roll-ups and can tell you they are fantastic.

Vermicelli Bowl at Mike’s Cafe: Does Mike’s Cafe (near UALR campus) ever disappoint? The answer is no. It doesn’t. If you’ve never been, please go, order either a vermicelli bowl or the pho and report back. Mike’s is such an underrated restaurant.

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Thoughts on Trio’s, The Root Cafe, and Izard Chocolate

From The Root Cafe's Dinner in October

From The Root Cafe’s Dinner in October

 

Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…

The annual TMR dinner at Trio’s“An Evening in Oaxaca”–was held last Thursday night in the Pavilion Room adjacent to the restaurant. Co-owner Capi Peck, Chef Shanna Merriweather, and crew put together a delicious 5-course meal for 50 guests, highlighting many of the ingredients and cooking techniques Peck picked up on her recent visit to Oaxaca, Mexico. The evening started with an open bar, which included a variety of tasty, mezcal-inspired cocktails created by Merrick Fagan, along with wine selections from Alexia Elichiry of De Nux Distributors. A table sat near the bar area, filled with guacamole, molotes (imagine an empanada), elote (street corn), and chapulines (grasshoppers) for entering guests to start the meal. Truth be told, I think many folks, including myself, loaded up on these starters, and by the time the actual 1st course hit the table, stomach space was at a premium. Here’s a quick run-down of the rest of the menu: (1st Course) shrimp cocktail with cactus, (2nd Course) squash blossom quesadillas, (3rd Course) Grilled beef tenderloin in four-chile sauce with chicharrones and chile de arbol, corn tortillas with Oaxacan red mole, chayote with roasted poblanos, quesillo, and chepiles, and black beans, and (4th Course) flan, pastel de tres leches, and copita de mezcal. From start to finish, the food was truly fantastic, and while I had to wave the white flag by the middle of the third course, I can tell you every dish was planned and executed to near perfection. Peck knows her way around a dynamite shrimp cocktail and this one with its bits of cactus was no exception. I also loved the perfectly cooked, medium rare tenderloin topped with the chile sauce, but felt like the bits of chicharones were a little tough and added a texture that wasn’t needed on the plate. This was all part of a main entree course that included the star of the evening, an intensely flavored red mole. Peck, herself, made the rounds to each table, topping dishes with the extra sauce while gabbing with guests, something no one in this town does better. Kudos to Peck and her entire staff for once again pulling off an amazing evening.

I attended The Root Cafe’s “Dinner in October” the following night. If you’re thinking, “Wait, The Root is open for dinner?’ The answer is no, not quite yet, but they will be probably sometime in early 2017. For now, diners can get a taste of things to come, as ownership puts together these monthly communal dinners in The Root’s charming, one-of-a-kind setting. Chef Jonathan Arrington and Pastry Chef Sara Slimp created a masterful, 5-course dinner that had a touch of sophistication, while still holding on to The Root’s unpretentious qualities. Highlights of the evening included a gorgeous plate of  red and black lentils (pictured above) with turnips, carrots, and apples, along with the main entree, a plate of pork belly, pinto beans, pickled boy choy, and cornbread pudding. While the dessert course of honey molasses layer cake was also a winner, the cake itself was a tad dry, but fortunately, had this amazing ginger infused, orange cream frosting that was also elevated by a spicy red chile sauce. Long story short … the food, company, and service were all fantastic. Keep an eye out on The Root’s Facebook page for details on the next ticketed dinner, which is typically held on the second Friday night of each month. I would not hesitate to sign up. The Root also does an open seating dinner on the 4th Friday of each month.

Have you ever been inside the Izard Chocolate storefront located just across the street from Hillcrest Kroger? You should. It’s a cool place and owner Nathaniel Izard is making a variety of excellent dark chocolate. Come to find out, he’s also starting to roast some of his own small-batch coffee. I’ve yet to try it, but if the coffee is anything like the chocolate, it should be a nice addition to the mix.

Speaking of coffee, did you know Honey Pies makes one of the better cups in town? I’m partial to their pour-over, which uses Leiva’s Coffee. And this from the store…”For every cup of coffee you buy, we donate a meal to a hungry child in Central Arkansas.”  Just a heads up, Honey Pies new-ish hours are Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m -7 p.m.

Quick hits: I sat at South on Main’s bar and downed an Old Fashioned while listening to the tunes of Shawn Camp last Wednesday night. Just an overall great evening. Taziki’s is quietly one of the best take-out options in town. The chicken pasta salad on the weekend is a must-order. Juice Bar in Midtown (near Big Orange Midtown) serves this wildly addictive acai bowl. It’s filled with 15+ healthy ingredients and perfect for breakfast. The Pantry does it again …  my go-to salmon wrap for lunch never disappoints. Shout out to our server, Bonnie, who once again proved why the restaurant has some of the very best food and service in town.

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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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