Is Buffalo Grill the ultimate Little Rock “townie” spot?
You know, the beloved restaurant that locals have frequented for as long as they can remember, but that might slip under the radar of folks
passing through? I think of townie spots as places that are reliably tasty, unfancy and comfortable- and where, even in a city the size of Little Rock, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to run into at least two people you know.
That often happens at Buffalo Grill, which made our June ‘Patio Bucket List’ for its breezy, unpretentious patio dining, and always-tasty eats.
One sign of a townie place: It doesn’t particularly look like much from the outside. Why? Because it doesn’t need to. It stays plenty busy feeding the regulars, who know a good thing regardless if t it came all dressed up. I’ve been going to Buffalo Grill for at least 30 of the restaurant’s almost 40 years, and until this week’s visit, I’ve never paid a whit of attention to its front-facing exterior.
This time, I looked, finding stacked gray concrete bricks that comprise a sort of front porch adorned with a smattering of traffic cones, a muted red sign with the name above the door in the recess of the porch, and some banners announcing curbside and takeout parking. So I came to a new revelation: when a restaurant’s most prominent part of its front entrance is stacked concrete bricks with traffic cones, its food is probably amazing.
That amazing food begins with what is no doubt one of the two most popular items on the menu (the other being Buffalo Grill’s signature steak-cut fries): the yellow cheese dip. Many people find Buffalo Grill’s among the best in this city that invented cheese dip. It’s just right- thick, savory and
unforgettable. It’s even more unforgettable for me.
Back in the mid-’90s, I was eating inside Buffalo Grill at a round table of eight with my family. It was lunch time on a particularly busy fall Saturday, during a Hogs game. Our table was wedged among several other full ones. We were happily awaiting our meal, including that glorious cheese dip, when someone behind us scooted their chair back, right into our server, who was delivering a large bowl of it to our table. It was like something from a movie. Our waiter stumbled, spilling the entire bowl of cheese dip directly onto my head, Nickelodeon style. Yep. I’d been slimed with possibly the most delicious melted cheese concoction in town, dripping all over my head, face, shoulders and clothes. It was shocking for me, and mortifying for our server. I’ll never forget what he said later, after I’d cleaned up in the restroom best I could: “I’ve been here almost 10 years, and I’ve never
done that– and this is my very last shift!”
We all had a hearty laugh, and ended up enjoying the rest of our (now comped, with the manager’s apologies) meal, as the remaining dip slowly coagulated on my clothes. All of that to say, I have incredibly vivid memories of exactly how Buffalo Grill’s cheese dip smells, tastes and feels dripping down my face. And I still crave the stuff. It’s just that good.
And nowhere is it better than when hanging out with friends on Buffalo Grill’s lovely patio. It, too, is no-frills, but the ceiling is high, the industrial fan is welcome, and the gorgeous plants at next door’s Botanica give it a fresh garden feel. With the spacious (no danger of falling servers) tables, it’s
comfortable and relaxed, and a nice spot to kick back with a beer or, in my case, a margarita. My group ordered a side of onion rings (so good and thick and crispy), the cheese dip, and an order of guac for the table. All were delicious. One thing I hadn’t remembered about Buffalo
Grill’s guacamole is that it comes with onions and black olives. It’s different, but it works.
The burgers are simple, but yummy. The fries are legendary, but my companion was in a basic potato chips mood. Our other companions shared a hearty, jalapeño-laden order of veggie nachos. I broke from my usual order of either the Reuben or the (also a local favorite) Club sandwich and got the taco salad, which comes dressed in chili and salsa and sour cream. Not fancy, but satisfying. Although I skipped them on this visit, please know that the cheese fries, covered in crumbly bacon and coated in cheese dip, are also ridiculously good.
I hope you can make a visit for a casual lunch or dinner, whether you’re a loyal regular or just passing through. One way or another, it’s bound to be a memorable meal.