Ever wonder what other foodies are thinking? Me too. Special thanks to Dan R. for his answers!
1. How many years have you lived in Little Rock? I’ve been in Arkansas five years now. My wife (a native) and I split time between Little Rock and Lake Village, deep in the Delta. One of my favorite things about Little Rock is our restaurant scene, and one of my favorite things about the Delta is that all the best food is served in someone’s home. Food-wise, I get the best of both worlds.
2. What is the first Little Rock restaurant you often recommend to out-of-town guests? As I often have friends and family visit from out-of-town, I have more than one answer to this question. My mainstay recommendation has been the Capital Bar and Grill — sometimes spotty service aside, they are putting out very creative stuff. I’ve liked the slow changes to the menu since Joel took over, and I’m watching the new drink menu roll-out (via their Facebook page) with anticipation. CBG is also my top spot for a power lunch, or really any time I want to impress somebody. For a fancier dinner, I recommend So. And, if I want to send someone somewhere where they can experience some of that down home Arkansas flavor, I send them to Cock of the Walk (out in Maumelle) for catfish, fried chicken, cornbread, and “all the fixins” (as they say). If Maumelle is too far out of the way, Flying Fish is a solid choice too.
3. Do you enjoy cooking at home? If so, what’s your favorite dish to prepare? I love to cook, but I’m still working on my chops. A great dish that is within my skill level is grilled flank steak. I marinate it overnight in a mix of canned green enchilada sauce, teriyaki marinade, and pureed fresh pineapple and cilantro. Cook for a few minutes per side, on a HOT grill. Meanwhile, reduce what’s left of the marinade in a saucepan over high heat, and use that as a sauce on the side. Let the steak sit a few minutes after cooking, and slice it with a serrated knife, against the grain.
4. What are a few of your guilty food pleasure items? A stuffy-crust “Hog” with pesto cream sauce from Damgood Pies. It’s an expensive pizza and probably contains a million calories, but I guess that’s what makes it a guilty pleasure.
5. Where is your favorite local beer? I don’t know anything about our local beer scene other than the fact that I live near the Diamond Bear Brewery and I can even buy cases there on Sundays, which is cool. I know our local beer scene is improving, but I personally have much to learn. Instead, I’ll give you a beer local to my original home of Northeast PA — Yuengling Lager. Some day, Yuengling will be distributed in Arkansas. Some day.
6. What one word would you use to describe the Little Rock food scene? Surprising! For a city this size, our dining scene is surprisingly impressive, and getting better all the time!
7. You have to put together a 3-course meal (app, entree, and dessert) from three different Little Rock restaurants. What would be your choices to create this perfect meal? Awesome question. Let’s see…. Appetizer: Fried Basil Leaves from Capeo. Entree: the amazing Gnocci, Chicken Livers, and Creamed Kale from Natchez. Dessert: Creme Brulee from The Pantry.
8. If you could jump in a plane this very second…where would you go and what would you eat? I’d fly right to NYC, head to one of David Chang’s places (i.e. Momofuku Noodle Bar), and I’d eat whatever they bring me.
9. What is the top place to dine in downtown Little Rock? Right now, I have to give this one to Natchez. I just can’t get enough of this place!
10. What food celebrity would you like to have dinner with? I’ll take Danny DeVito, we’ll go to Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, and we’ll see how many courses we can make it through before we’re asked to leave.