Posts Tagged The Root

100 of the Best Appetizers in Little Rock

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Skillet Bread at South on Main

 

Save this list, bookmark it, print it out … do whatever you have to do to file it away and use it as the ultimate reference guide for the best appetizers in Little Rock. Below is a combination of reader response and personal favorites. If there are any glaring omissions, please add them to the comment box. Also, make sure to check each restaurant’s current menu, as some of the appetizers are seasonal items.

Bruschetta, Hummus, or Baba Ganoush at YaYa’s
My Take: A friend once told me about the magnificence of YaYa’s baba ganoush and she was absolutely right.

Brussels Sprouts or Fried Hummus Bites at North Bar

Bacon Wrapped Dates, Truffled Deviled Eggs, House Made Ricotta, Cheese Spaetzle, Pomme Frites, Brussels Sprouts at The Pantry
My Take: In retrospect, I probably should have typed “See the entire Starters menu at The Pantry.”

Crawfish Dip with Fried Wontons at Skinny J’s
Crab Au Gratin at Cajun’s Wharf

Skillet Bread, Fried Chicken Livers, Pork Rinds, Fried Oysters or Smoked Oysters at South On Main
My Take: South on Main got a ton of love on this post, as it should, the appetizers are all fantastic. But my personal favorite is the Fried Oyster Steamed Bun, which is listed below.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip at Saddle Creek Grill
Cheese Fries at Rebel Kettle

Pimento Cheese, Bread & Butter Plate, or Smoked Jalapeño Pimento Cheese, or Black Eyed Pea and Poblano Hummus at Lost Forty

Burgundy Mushrooms or Cheese Dip at Dizzy’s
Quail Lollipops, Poutine, or Foie Gras at Table 28

Fried Shrimp at Doe's

Fried Shrimp at Doe’s

 

Fried Shrimp or Tamales at Doe’s Eat Place
Grilled Oysters, Meat Pies, BBQ Nachos, or Truffle Fries at Maddie’s Place

Fried Black Eyed Peas or Spiced Pecans at Capital Bar and Grill
My Take: Those spiced pecans are crazy addictive and an absolute must-get on any visit to CBG.

Spicy Pimento Cheese with Soft Pita Chips at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café
The Caprese at Deluca’s

Shrimp Tchoupitoulas, Rose’s Hot Red Pepper Shrimp, Stuffed Mushrooms, Rose’s Fries, Fried Artichoke Hearts, Fried Green Tomatoes, or Cajun Popcorn at The Faded Rose
My Take: Good gracious was TFR mentioned a lot on this thread. All great choices, but give me those wedge fries with the buttermilk dressing any day.

Baba Ganoush at Layla's

Baba Ganoush at Layla’s

 

Onion Rings or Fried Green Tomatoes at Cotham’s in the City
Cheesesteak Egg Rolls at Del Frisco’s Grille
Crab Cakes at Sonny Williams’ Steak Room
Yellowtail or Hamachi Nigiri at Kemuri
Burrata at Raduno
Cheese Fries or Quesadilla at Buffalo Grill
Hummus or Baba Ganoush at Layla’s
Hummus with Pita Bread at Mama’s Gyros Grill
Fried Mozzarella Sticks at Dugan’s Pub

Baked Pimento Cheese at Boulevard Bistro
My Take: I’ve written about this appetizer several times in the past and it really is a unique and delicious spin on a Little Rock classic.

Fried Gulf Oysters or Crispy Chicken Livers at Red Door
Calamari Fries, Tuna Tataki, Spinach Dip, Queso Fundido, or Hot Crab Dip at Trio’s
Salsa Trio at Local Lime
Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp at Samantha’s Tap Room and Wood Grill
Tamale Pie at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
State Fair Fries (with Side of Jalapeño Ranch) at Big Orange
Crab Stuffed Artichoke at Capers
Tortilla Soup at Casa Manana
Heirloom Tomato Plate, Goat Cheese Moouse or Baked Camembert at Brave New Restaurant
Cheese Dip at Reno’s Argenta Cafe
Ceviche Tostadas at El Porton
Crab Cake at One Eleven at the Capital
Grilled Meatballs and Stuffed Eggplant at Ristorante Capeo
Bread and Butter at Bruno’s Little Italy
Fried Portobello Slices or Shrimp & Brie Quesadillas with Mango Salsa at Loca Luna

Leeks at One Eleven

Leeks at One Eleven

 

Falafel, Tabouleh, Hummus, or Baba Ghanouj at Zam Zam Grill
My Take: I’ve heard good things about this place, probably time to check it out.

Cheese Dip at Riviera Maya
Calamari at Zaffino’s
Tuna Tataki at Hanaroo
Fried Green Tomatoes at The Main Cheese

My Personal Favs
Smoked Trout Nachos at Flyway Brewing
Chicken Nachos at El Palenque
Ceviche at Local Lime
Pupusas at Rosalindas
Fried Oyster Steamed Buns or Cauliflower Popcorn at South on Main
Fried Yuca at La Terraza Rum & Lounge
Pimento Cheese (Toast) or Radishes at The Root
Ceviche at Kemuri
Leeks at One Eleven at the Capital
Triple Dipper at Baja Grill

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Breakfast Options in Little Rock Are Limited, But Do Exist

Biscuits & Gravy at The Root

Biscuits & Gravy at The Root

 

I hear it all the time … “We really lack in breakfast options here in Little Rock .”  It’s a fair assessment, and while the food scene would be much improved with more quality breakfast spots, for this post, I wanted to focus on what we do have … and break things down into various groups.

Group 1 – Places I’d Highly Recommend (3)

The Root Cafe, At the Corner, Boulevard Bistro

Details: These three places are the three elite breakfast options in town. At the Corner and The Root both have great pancakes, but the go-to items are the breakfast burrito at At the Corner and the biscuits and gravy at The Root. The smoked salmon bialy and The Breakfast Sandwich are the stars at Boulevard.

Group 2 – Places I’ve Never Had Breakfast At, But Would be Shocked if it Wasn’t Great (2)

One Eleven at the Capital, Leo’s Greek Castle

Details: Granted, One Eleven is a pretty upscale place for breakfast, something many of us just aren’t looking for. But if you’re in the area and want to treat yourself to something special,  I imagine the breakfast at One Eleven is pretty fantastic. In terms of atmosphere, Leo’s is the complete opposite of One Eleven, but if the breakfast is half as good as their cheeseburger, then we’ve got ourselves a winner.

Group 3 – Places I’ve Never Been To, But REALLY Want to Try (2)

Taqueria Guadalajara, Gadwall’s Grill

Details: I give folks shit all the time for not getting in their cars and literally driving the extra mile to eat at different restaurants across the city. But I can be a hypocrite at times, because the reason I’ve never been to either Guadalajara or Gadwall’s is directly related to distance. From the looks of it, Guadalajara has a limited, 4-item breakfast. Gadwall’s does biscuits with chocolate gravy, from what I’m told.

Group 4 – Places I Know Nothing About, But Were Mentioned on the Blog (4)

BJ’s Market Cafe, Red Door, Littlefields, B Side

Details: As stated, I know nothing about the breakfast at these places. Maybe you do … and maybe they are great.

Group 5 – Place That is Just Plain Solid, But Not Spectacular (1)

Mugs Cafe

Details: Mugs Cafe has changed ownership and I haven’t been there in several months, but the place always served a very solid breakfast, including dishes like an egg-white omelet and breakfast tacos. The service has always been consistent, and although the menu won’t wow you, I’ve never left Mugs disappointed.

Group 6 – Places I Know Exist, But Ain’t Knocking Down the Door to Try (6)

Ozark Country Restaurant, Homer’s East and West, DownHome Restaurant & Catering, Frontier Diner, Delicious Temptations

Details: I haven’t heard many good things about Ozark, and while I’ve had good lunches at Homer’s East, the dinner at Homer’s West didn’t inspire a return visit. Truthfully, I’ve eaten breakfast at DownHome once, right when it first opened, but didn’t care for the food. That said, it was early in its existence, and it wouldn’t surprise me if things got a lot better. Frontier Diner makes a mean patty melt for lunch but is a difficult location for me to get to in the morning.

Group 7 – Places to Grab a Quick Donut, Pastry, Smoothie, Etc. (3)

Mark’s Do-Nut Shop, Mylo Coffee Co., I Love Juice Bar, El Torito

Details: Of course there are more than three of these types of places in town, but these are the three I recommend for a quick bite. The chocolate banana muffin at Mylo is elite and donuts at Mark’s are the best you’ll find in this area. Get the Acai Bowl at I Love Juice Bar … you’ll be good ’til lunch.

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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

pizza

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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