Food surprises are all around us in this town!

I’m finally beginning to dig deep into the Little Rock food scene. This often leads to discoveries in unexpected places. Here are just a few of the wonderful items in spots you may least expect to find them:

Lasagna, Wait…What?: The best places to get true, authentic Italian food are at the German/Czech restaurants. Insert sarcasm. In Little Rock, this is true. If you’ve had The Pantry’s lasagna al forno with its homemade pasta, and béchamel and Bolognese sauces, then you know what I’m talking about. To date, it’s the best lasagna I’ve had in this town.

Holy Cannoli!: Did you know there’s a fresh-made, filled-to-order cannoli spot in Little Rock? Didn’t think so. There is…but it’s not in a bakery. It’s in a deli…Mason’s Deli and Grill in the River Market to be precise. After spending a year in Boston, I know a good cannoli. Mason’s make good cannoli.

Office Pasta: Let’s just stick with the Italian theme. What if I told you there’s a lovely lady named Kay who’s been making hand-made pasta in an obscure office building café? Would you believe me? And guess what…she’s been doing it for the past 25 years in the same WLR location. Welcome to Milford Track, where you can get pastas in six different flavors with eight various sauces. It’s insane. Try the spinach pasta with low-fat alfredo and roasted veggies…and never look back!

Izzy's Beef Tamale

Izzy’s Beef Tamale

Taco Time: How in the world can some of the best tacos to ever touch my tongue be coming out of a LR suburb—from a food truck that never moves? Thank you Benton…and thank you Craig and Melissa at Baja Grill. Arkansas Foodies tipped me on this place months ago and my life hasn’t been the same since. Get the Cuban or the blackened mahi mahi or the pig sooie or the…oh heck, it doesn’t matter. Everything is great.

Big Time Tamale: In the past, I’ve purchased my tamales in some pretty obscure places. Let’s just say I wasn’t expecting much authenticity from the popular Izzy’s in WLR. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The beef tamale was perfection—moist, flavorful, well-seasoned, and a fantastic 1-to-1, masa-to-beef ratio.

I Heart Lentils: Hillcrest Artisan Meats is known for a lot of things…almost all carnivorous in nature. One day, I accidentally ordered a side of their lentil salad. Dear God! I polished it off in about two minutes and got a vat of it to-go. And ate that for dinner. Don’t like lentils? Don’t worry, neither did I. Intrigued, aren’t you?

Again, these are just a few of the unexpected culinary surprises I’ve found throughout Little Rock. Got some more for me? Would love to hear them!

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Michael Roberts May 7, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Seeing it all listed like that really hammers home what a weird city this is sometimes. Don’t forget the totally legit chicken and waffles we had from a food trailer deep in the ‘hood.

The Mighty Rib May 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Man, had 4 I left off…that was one of them.

Racheal Carter-Ragan May 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more on the lasagna al forno. The first time I tried it, (I grabbed a bite off of my sister’s plate, who I couldn’t believe chose to order it as a Czech place), and I was blown away!

The Mighty Rib May 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Racheal…the first time I tasted the lasagna, it was off my kid’s plate. I had one of those lean-back-in-my-chair moments.

EY May 16, 2013 at 10:38 am

I’ve had several of those, I’m happy to say. Had The Pantry’s lasagna on a date one night after we’d ordered The Board appetizer (mistake and I told him so). I managed a few delicious bites, but he took the leftovers home. He never called again…I missed the lasagna more than him. There is always something so enticing at The Pantry that I haven’t ordered it again. Gotta fix that.
I also love, Love LOVE the lentils at HAM.
For another unassuming favorite, I’d nominate the slaw from Southern Gourmasian. Any time I order from them (thank you workplace for inviting them on a regular basis!) I always get an extra side of slaw.

The Mighty Rib May 16, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Is this EY from Eat Ark comment box fame? Welcome!

Pantry and TSG really are as good as it gets in this town…just 2 fine places that also understand the importance of excellent service.

Don’t be a stranger, EY. Thanks so much for your comments!

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