My brief thoughts on 10 recent eating and drinking experiences around Little Rock…

Atlas Bar
Other than the funky rolling chairs with arm rests that dug into my love handles, there was a lot to like about the new Atlas Bar in SoMa. The place has a cool, inviting vibe and a cocktail list that’s quite impressive. We passed on the food this time around, but did focus our attention on the libations, including drinks like La Diabla, a refreshing tequila-based cocktail and Melting Snow, a smooth concoction with Ketel One Vodka, sake, Giffard Elderflower, and lemon. The place was almost full, but with solid acoustics, our table of four was able to have a nice conversation. Service was fantastic, so kudos to Atlas Bar for getting off to a great start.

The Root Cafe
Chef Michael Reid and the folks at The Root knocked it out of the park the other night for dinner. My Seared Local Bass with sweet potato hash, charred cabbage, and smoked pepper beurre blanc–one of the evening’s specials–proved to be an absolute hit. The bass, which hails from Loanoke, swam in a buttery sauce and paired perfectly with the thick, smokey cabbage leaves and diced sweet potatoes. Some of the crispy bass skin managed to stay on the fish, while other bits found their way into the hash, which was something I enjoyed. The meatloaf with curried ketchup was also a hit, as were the desserts, with my personal favorite being the bread pudding. Heck, even my Honey Lemonade Ginger cocktail was outstanding. Service, which has at times been a real issue during past dinners at The Root, was warm and quite attentive. Put it all together and you’re looking at one of the better dining experiences Little Rock has to offer.

Watercolor in the Park
I finally tried out Watercolor in the Park, the new restaurant located in the Arkansas Arts Center. It’s a Keet restaurant, so I knew service would be outstanding, which it was. But the food also delighted, including a Honey Sriracha Fried Chicken Sandwich on a King’s Hawaiian Roll with house slaw and my Wagyu Corned Beef on Pumpernickel. While my sandwich was enjoyable,  I was definitely looking for more of a punch in taste from the black pepper aioli. The chicken sandwich, however, was perfection. The sizable, perfectly fried chicken breast had a nice balance of sweet and heat. Our appetizer of Prosciutto Deviled Eggs was a mild hit, and, although I do prefer the filling to be a little creamier, the presentation, highlighted by the crispy cured meat, was spot-on.

Attention people of the Little Rock area … please go to Rosalinda’s in Levy and order the 3 Tacos Hondurenos con Repollo … #54 on the menu. It’s three fried corn tortillas stuffed with chicken and topped with cheese, pickled cabbage, and salsa. My goodness, your life will never be the same. Ok, slight exaggeration, but at least you can sense my enthusiasm.

Middle Matters Food Truck
Desperate for a lunch suggestion, I went to Facebook the other day and asked you guys where I should go eat. Middle Matters came up, so I checked out the food truck which specializes in healthier options. It was stationed in front of Shuffles Ballet II/Full Out Barre on the day I went, but please check their Facebook page for location updates. Anyway, I ended up getting a delicious plate of spaghetti squash mixed with pesto and four turkey meatballs (“Spaghetti & Meatballs”), all for $7. As I noted, it wasn’t the most beautiful dish, but I wouldn’t hesitate ordering it again. I also appreciate how fast the food came out, as I was back in my car, wolfing down the meal, within 2-3 minutes.

Quicker Hits…
Ever been to Blue Sail Coffee in downtown? It’s one of the better cups of Joe in town and I was very impressed with the fast, friendly service. My stout Old Fashioned at Rock Town Distillery was a hit. The place was packed last Saturday night. No surprise, as the Rock Town seems to be killing it. Trio’s Tasman Salmon, a soy-glazed piece of fish with jasmine rice and a medley of pickled veggies gets a thumb’s up. Have you had Kemuri’s Spicy Salmon Poke Bowl? I highly recommend it. Finally, if you get a chance, please go check out La Patisserie at Pulaski Tech’s Culinary School. Folks can pick up lunch and/or dinner at the cafe for a very reasonable cost. My $2 Pressed Caprese Sandwich was very tasty, and monies (suggested donations) go towards the school’s student funds, which helps send students to regional and national cooking/baking competitions. Hours are Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. during the semester.

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