Posts Tagged The Root

Top 10 Restaurants to Take Out-of-Towners

South on Main

South on Main

 

Living in Little Rock for almost five years has allowed me to build up a strong list of restaurants to bring my out-of-town guests. These places aren’t necessarily serving the absolute best food in town, but they are restaurants with an excellent combination of food and atmosphere, while also truly reflecting the essence of Little Rock.

South on Main

I’ve said it for a few years now, but South on Main’s unique offering of dynamite, elevated Southern food and cocktails in a setting that also hosts amazing concerts makes it one of our top restaurants to take out-of-towners. Simply put, it’s the entire package … all in a casually cool setting with consistently excellent service. It’s a good idea to keep up with the concert schedule on their website and be sure to make reservations/purchase tickets in advance. South on Main is also open for Sunday Brunch, serving popular items like biscuits, breakfast tacos, and fried oysters eggs Benedict.

What to Order: Old Fashioned with The Double: Two All-Beef Patties, Comeback Sauce, Pimento Cheese, Bacon Jam, Fries and a Soaked Salad

Doe’s Eat Place

The place where Bill Clinton hung out will always be a cool draw to non-locals, making Doe’s inclusion on this list a complete no-brainer. Oh, and Doe’s also happens to serve one of the best steaks in town at a fairly reasonable cost. While I’m not a huge fan of the Delta-style tamales, they should be the start of any meal, along with the deliciously addictive fried shrimp. Save room for soaked salad and buttered Texas toast, perfect for dipping in the meat juice from your medium-rare, 3-lb Porterhouse. Doe’s is no-frills but absolutely charming and one of the most historically relevant restaurants in town.

What to Order: 3-lb Porterhouse (make sure to call ahead and reserve on busy nights)

The Root Cafe

The Root Cafe

 

The Root Cafe

Little Rock’s only true farm-to-table restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it has long served the best breakfast in town, this charming SoMa District cafe recently started serving dinner as well, which is great news, especially if you enjoy dishes like pork belly, arancini, and beef tenderloin. While a grant allowed ownership to double the size of the restaurant and create a kitchen area that is better suited to handle bigger crowds, The Root maintains a quaint, down-home feel that has made it wildly popular with locals.

What to Order: Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast; hamburger for lunch

Flyway Brewing

Flyway Brewing, located in North Little Rock’s Argenta District, played a large role with Little Rock’s craft beer scene catching up with the rest of the country. There are usually about 9-10 beers on tap, so even your pickiest beer connoisseur should be able to find something that suits their palette. Stouts, IPAs, brown ales, and wheat beers … Flyway has it all and the food isn’t too shabby either. The limited menu is filled with several hits, like smoked trout nachos, soft pretzels, and marinated tofu sliders. Flyway’s atmosphere is casual and unpretentious, a true reflection of Little Rock mentality.

What to Order: Bluewing beer (blueberry wheat) with Duck Confit Nachos

Capital Bar and Grill

CBG has been through some ups and downs over the past few years, but there’s still no denying its importance to Little Rock’s dining scene. More importantly, located inside The Capital Hotel, CBG is a restaurant many out-of-towners will actually check out. And that’s a good thing, because Capital Bar and Grill has gotten its groove back, serving the classics in a sophisticated setting with just the right amount of Southern charm and elegance.

What to Order: Pimento Cheese (appetizer) and Duck Pot Pie

Lassis Inn

Lassis Inn

 

Lassis Inn

It isn’t fancy and may not be in the nicest area of town, but the old-school setting and insanely small booths at Lassis Inn will leave your guests with lasting memories. And so will the fried catfish and buffalo ribs. If you’re really feeling crazy, order one of the ice cold 40-oz beers. Does Lassis serve the best fried catfish in town? In my opinion, no. But it’s still damn good and the history and charm behind this restaurant make it a must-stop for folks looking to get a true taste of Little Rock.

What to Order: Fried Catfish, Buffalo Ribs, Fries, and Tomato Relish

The Pantry Crest

Restaurants and food can be so damn subjective, but The Pantry Crest is one of the very few restaurants that’s beloved by all. And let’s face it, when you have out-of-towners, sometimes you need a sure thing with a restaurant. The Pantry Crest is a sure thing. European comfort classics never tasted so good, at least not in this town. With a beautiful decor, elite service, and a menu that includes such dishes as lasagna, truffle deviled eggs, and charred Romaine Caesar Salad, The Pantry Crest is a perfect spot to take non-locals. And I have … many times. FYI, the original location in WLR is just as nice.

What to Order: The Pantry Board and Cheesecake 

kBird

kBird

 

kBird

Much like Lassis Inn, kBird isn’t much to look at, but hole-in-the-walls are my thing and I’m a firm believer they are the backbone to any city’s dining scene. kBird is the best Thai food you will find in this area, or, for that matter, any area. It’s that good, and if your guests are more concerned about where the locals are eating, as opposed to trendy spots with overrated food, kBird is an excellent option. The menu is quite small, which means everything is great. Side note, if you see a jar of ginger cookies sitting by the register, order at least one, if not all of them. It’s probably the best cookie you’ll eat in Little Rock.

What to Order: Green Papaya Salad

One Eleven

One Eleven

 

One Eleven

Truthfully, I feel a little foolish putting two restaurants (CBG being the other) that are located under one roof. One Eleven, located inside The Capital Hotel, is as fine-dining as you’ll get in Little Rock, and sometimes out-of-towners are in search of elegance. Make no mistake, One Eleven is more than just a beautiful setting. The food and service are absolutely elite, and while the restaurant may not view itself as a “special occasion only” type of place, for most of us, it is.

What to Order: Seared Diver Scallops with Potato Gnocchi

The Faded Rose

Little Rockers love New Orleans and folks around here just can’t get enough of the food associated with this city. The Faded Rose has been serving up Cajun & Creole-influenced dishes for almost 35 years … all in a casual setting that seems to always be full. The menu rarely changes and includes staples like shrimp and grits, thin fish, and a blackened rib-eye. The food is consistently good, as is the service, making it a perfect place to take out-of-towners.

What to Order: Crawfish Etouffee 

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Thoughts on Deluca’s, Lost Forty, The Root, and Flyway Brewing

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Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…

Sadly, it had been about 10 months since my last visit to Deluca’s, my favorite pizzeria located in Hot Springs. I’d heard rumors about some slight changes to the dough, so anticipation was pretty high heading into Saturday’s visit. Long story short, the pizza, which was already some of the best I’ve eaten anywhere, is now even better. The crust is lighter, thinner, and has a crispier texture. It now leans more towards a classic NY-style pizza, with fold-able slices and fewer toppings. Our table opted for the classic cheese pizza, along with a Consigliere, the latter of which was topped with peppadews, fresh basil, and chunks of meatballs. The soft, tender meatballs, also a relatively new addition to the menu, were every bit as impressive as the crust, which is really saying something.  I should also mention our meal-starters … the Caprese Salad and a beautiful meat plate, both of which were excellent, although the Caprese would have definitely benefited from a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Service was stellar and our pies hit the table in a timely fashion. The entire experience was exactly what you look for when carving out a good chunk of a Saturday for a highly anticipated meal.

We hit Lost Forty Brewing on Friday night for a friend’s birthday party, one which was located in the brewery area just across from the main dining/drinking hall. If you’re thinking about having a party in this space, I highly recommend it. Being surrounded by thousands of beer cans, while eating and drinking for a few hours makes for a fun time. I tried two different beers, and while I was impressed by the my super cold and crisp Saison, I was equally unimpressed with the Hefeweizen, a wheat beer that just had a pedestrian taste to it.

Flyway’s Coffee Cake Stout is back, and as I found out last week, it really is better than ever. In fact, it’s one of the top 2-3 beers I’ve had in Little Rock. It’s dark, rich, and full of chocolaty, coffee flavor, thanks in large part to the brewery’s collaboration with Izard Chocolate and Mugs Café (cold brew from Onyx Coffee Lab Coffee). The food at Flyway is also progressing quite nicely. Although it might not be the most popular item on the menu, I highly recommend getting the Marinated Tofu Bahn Mi sliders ($8). The dish is a little small for the price, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in taste. I’m secretly a big fan of tofu and Flyway’s version hits the spot.

I love stopping at The Root in the morning for a cup of Mountain Bird Coffee and a house-made doughnut muffin. If you’ve never tried one of these “muffins,” you may want to consider doing so in the near future. It’s really a guilty pleasure, as the entire thing is covered in sugar. And here’s the best part … the coffee/muffin combo is only $3.88.

Speaking of sugar, have you been following Just Desserts by Zara? She has upped her game, adding fancier decorated cakes to her already strong arsenal of confections. I ordered a lemon curd cake for my wife’s birthday that was absolutely gorgeous, and, of course, tasty. Zara just posted that she’s now booked with private orders through March, but if you’re in need of a cake, you may want to still reach out to her, as openings sometimes become available.

Finally, a quick shout out to Sarah over at Ann Potter Baking who is teaching cookie classes on Tuesday, October 11 (5:30-7:30pm) and Wednesday, October 12 (6-8pm). For more information, contact her at annpotterbaking@gmail.com.

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There’s Plenty to Do Around Little Rock in the Next Few Weeks

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There are so many really cool events and dinners coming up in the very near future around Little Rock. One is even tomorrow. Check out all of the details below…

Bring your best and most inventive dish using tator tots to the 2nd Annual Naterator Tots Cooking Contest on September 17 from 6-8 p.m. at Dunbar Community Garden (1800 Chester Street). 100% of all donations will go to the Naterators JDRF OneWalk team. There’s a $30 entry fee for contestants and just $5 per person to come sample and vote on your favorites. Click here to enter. I love this event, even had my own entry last year, and can tell you that creating a dish around tater tots is a ton of fun.

On Wednesday, August 17 from 6-9 p.m., Boulevard Bread Company is hosting a class featuring Summit beers with house-made charcuterie. Cost is $45 per person and space is limited. Call the restaurant for reservations. I went to one of Blvd’s wine and cheese events a few months back and had a fantastic time … and am guessing this one will be as well.

For Lost Forty Brewing’s next #FreshCutMonday on August 15 from 4-9 p.m., come try the Hoppy Lager … a collaboration brew in support of Ales for ALS. This beer was brewed at Rebel Kettle using a proprietary hop blend provided by YCH Hops in collaboration with Lost Forty Brewing, Stone’s Throw, Flyway, Vino’s, Bubba Brews, Moody Brews, Leap of Faith, Damgoode Pies and Blood Eagle. Lost Forty will donate the proceeds of each pint of Hoppy Lager to ALS Research.

It’s no secret I love kBird, the tiny eatery serving fantastic Thai food in Hillcrest.  Lovers of the restaurant will be happy to know they will be hosting a series of Khantoke dinners held at the restaurant on Friday, August 26, September 9, and September 23. Reservations can be made starting tomorrow at 2 p.m. by e-mail only to kbirdlittlerock@gmail.com. Seats will be assigned based on the order that e-mails are received … and a confirmation will be sent to you by return e-mail. From kBird: “Please let me know the specific date you wish to attend, and how many spots (up to 6) you are reserving. also, please list a second “fallback” date if another one would work also. If you want to attend more than one dinner, let me know that in your e-mail. if by there are unreserved seats at 10 pm on Monday, August 15, you will be added to the additional dates. The cost will be $40, tax included, BYOB. Will start around 7 p.m.. Food will be served family-style and pretty much all at the same time. No substitutions.”

Another one of my favorites, The Root Cafe, is hosting a locally-sourced, 5-course, communal table dinner prepared by Chef Jonathan Arrington and crew tomorrow, August 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. For tickets, click here.

Chef Matt Bell of South on Main will host the Little Rock No Kid Hungry Dinner on Monday, October 24. This multi-course dinner starts with a reception at 6 p.m. and features guest chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line in Memphis and Levon Wallace of Cochon in Nashville. Tickets cost $175 and table hosting opportunities are available. For more information, contact Emily Roth at eroth@strength.org or 512-551-3470.

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News from The Root: Pie Bake-Off This Saturday, Expansion Update

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The Root’s 2nd Annual Pie Bake-Off is this Saturday, April 16th at 4:30 p.m. Participants are asked to bake their best traditional pie for judges and to bring copies of the recipe to swap with other bakers.

I’ll be helping out with the judging this year, along with the Arkansas Literary Festival speaker Harrison Scott Key, baker extraordinaire Zara Abbasi Wilkerson, and the Democrat-Gazette’s Eric Harrison. We’ll be awarding five Blue Ribbons and one Best-in-Show.

Pre-registration is appreciated but not required. To do so, just email: theroot@therootcafe.com for more information.

Admission is free for the contest, and The Root will have beer and other light refreshments for purchase during the event.

You may have also noticed some changes in regards to expansion are going on over at The Root. Says co-owner Corri Sundell, “Four shipping containers have been installed (out of eight total). They will become the new dining room (visible from Main Street) and one in back that will be a new walk-in cooler. The other four will be ready in about a month, and those will become a new kitchen and an office. We’ll be adding a second bathroom as well. Once the expansion is finished, The Root will be doing dinner four nights a week and also expanding our catering, baking, and canning and food preservation programs. In the meantime, we’re doing dinner twice a month–a ticketed prix-fixe dinner the 2nd Friday of each month and a counter dinner every 4th Friday as part of the new neighborhood event SoMa 4th Fridays.”

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