While the past several weeks have not been easy on any of us, it is nice to see many of our beloved local restaurants are still humming along, churning out some fantastic food. Below, you will find my 20 Favorite Restaurant Dishes During Quarantine. In no particular order…
- Chicken Parmesan Sandwich at Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom
Be forewarned, Raduno’s Chicken Parmesan Sandwich is currently only available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Trust me that you will want to order this sandwich. A massive panko-crusted, pan-fried chicken rests between two pieces of pesto-soaked Boulevard focaccia. Add some marinara, Parmesan, mozzarella, and fresh basil to the mix, and you have got yourself a perfect sandwich.
- Fried Chicken at Flyway Brewing
Flyway’s fried chicken is not to be missed. The crispy, yet not overly battered coating locks in the juices, making for a fried chicken eating experience like none other in this area. Keep an eye on their social media, as this dish isn’t offered every day.
- Taco al Pastor at Tacos El Gordo
I found Tacos El Gordo, a new-ish food truck located on JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock, by dumb luck. While searching for another nearby food truck that ended up not being on site, El Gordo caught my eye. Glad it did. The food was fantastic, particularly the Taco al Pastor, a corn tortilla filled with fresh onion, cilantro, and tender, yet crispy bits of pork, cut straight from the truck’s rotating meat spit.
- Beef Tenderloin at Trio’s
This Beef Tenderloin at Trio’swas the main course from a recent virtual wine dinner. Trio’s regular menu changes often, so keep an eye out for it. What impressed me most was how well this meat traveled, yielding a perfect medium-rare with soft, tender texture that barely needed a knife to cut through it.
- Thai Chop Salad at Big Orange
One of the very best salads in Little Rock, Big Orange’sThai Chop, even for takeout, is as good as ever. Romaine lettuce, red peppers, tomato, raw jalapeno, cilantro and toasted peanuts are all dressed with a sweet and salty ginger-soy vinaigrette. This is the vegetarian option, but you can add a protein for an additional cost.
- Chorizo & Potato Breakfast Taco at The Lab Food Truck
Chef Gilbert Alaquinez is manning The Lab Food Truckand has focused much of his attention on bringing Little Rock top-notch breakfast tacos, a dish that is mind-bogglingly hard to find in these parts. Alaquinez has several offerings, but the star is the Chorizo & Potato taco. The potatoes chunks are soft in the middle and crispy on the edges, and the spice-laden chorizo dispenses just the right amount of grease into the flour tortilla.
- Bialy with Smoked Salmon at Boulevard Bread Company
Boulevard’s toasted bialy with cream cheese, salmon, capers, mixed greens, tomato and red onion is one of those sandwiches that always sounds like a good idea. Lovers of smoked salmon, like me, will not be able to resist this one.
- Jumbo Cheeseburger at Shorty’s
No, I am not talking about Shorty Small’s in Little Rock. I am talking about Shorty’s, the no-frills burger joint in the heart of Conway. The jumbo cheeseburger, a double patty of beef dripping in American cheese will make your heart skip a beat, both literally and figuratively.
- Fried Catfish at Crazee’s Cafe
Crazee’sserves up my favorite fried catfish in Little Rock, and surprisingly, there is not much of a drop off for the takeout version. The fish, in all its heavy cornmeal-coated glory, maintains an excellent crispiness after transport.
- Party Platter at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
Because it includes so many different items, labeling Heights Taco’s party platter as a singular dish is not right. Its magic lies in the sheer enormity and deliciousness of the entire spread, which includes six Grilled Chicken Tacos, 6 Pulled Pork Tacos, one Dozen Delta-Style Pork Tamales, Cheese Dip, and Ground Beef Chili.
- Salvi Cake at Fidel & Co
I’ve enjoyed many of the baked goods at Fidel & Co, the East Village’s newest coffee shop, but the Salvi Cake is my clear-cut favorite. Short for Salvadoran, the Salvi Cake is a cheesy, subtly sweet pound cake with sesame seeds.
- Peoples’ Choice Burger at Ciao Baci
Under normal, non-quarantine circumstances, Ciao Baci’s cheeseburger is my favorite in town, but honestly, I was a little skeptical on how it would travel. I am happy to report there was a minimal drop off in quality for this thick-patty, pub-style burger with all the fixings.
- Meatballs at The Pizzeria
These meatballs at The Pizzeria are so tender and flavorful. They come swimming in tomato sauce with a mini loaf of bread, the latter of which is ideal for sopping up the sauce. They aren’t on the everyday menu, so make sure to ask for them.
- Strawberry Sourdough Danish at Serenity Farm Bread
A recent mini-road trip took me to Leslie, Arkansas where I was about to partake in a Serenity Farm’s magnificent sourdough strawberry Danish. The pastry has a somewhat firm texture, isn’t overly sweet, and has an unmistakable slight sour flavor. The tart strawberry center from what I can only assume is of local berries puts this confection over the top.
- Fajitas at Cantina Laredo
Included in Cantina Laredo’s dynamite meal deals is a fajitas family pack with chicken and beef, along with rice, beans, guacamole, tortillas, and chips. It is a lot of food at a great value, but more than cost and quantity, the flavor of the grilled meat really stands out.
- Curry Chicken Salad at The Root
You will not regret picking up a pint (or two) of The Root’s Curry Chicken Salad. It is made with local chicken, homemade pickles and toasted curry, but the ingredient that truly separates this chicken salad from many others is the bits of grilled carrots.
- Steak Burrito at The Fold: Botanas & Bar
If you’re looking for a dish to take on a socially-distanced picnic, the Steak Burrito at The Fold is a great option. Expect a ton of tender, sliced steak, mushrooms, and caramelized onions to fill the grilled flour tortilla. Before each bite, just make sure to dip the burrito into the accompanying white cheese dip, although that goes without saying.
- Road Hog Potatoes at Suttle’s Road Hog BBQ
Beebe is only a quick, 40-minute drive from the heart of Little Rock, so if you get a hankering for barbeque, head to Suttle’s for ribs, sandwiches, and a few side items. I imagine you will enjoy everything, but the head-turner is the Road Hog Potatoes. This small tub of cheesy mashed potatoes comes topped with their barbecue sauce and brown sugar.
- Strawberry Pie at Skylark Cafe
Remember that Leslie trip I mentioned? Well, I also went to Skylark Café to pick up several strawberry pies. Skylark’s version has a thick, graham cracker crust topped with a cream cheese-based layer, along with a pile of local, gelatin-mixed strawberries. It all forms what is possibly the greatest dessert in Arkansas.
- Italian Sausage and Mushrooms at Zaffino’s by Nori
I could include any number of Zaffino’s dishes on this list, but I opted for the Italian Sausage and Mushrooms. Penne pasta is tossed with Italian sausage, mushrooms, and a sweet marsala and basil cream sauce. The combination of sweet and heat makes for a satisfyingly comforting dish.