Friday, December 22, 2006

AP's Seafood Buffet

Don't go for the seafood.

Ap's has been in Jacksonville for as long as I can remember and are one of the last of the old hard-line seafood establishments. Back in the day, seafood in Arkansas meant fried shrimp, catfish and deviled crabs. And at Ap's it still does. And I believe you will find that fare okay.

But if you go there for the Thai food, you will be more than pleasantly surprised. The first hint I had of it was the cucumber salad on the buffet. I mentioned that I liked that at the Thai restaurants, and the owner enthusiastically handed me a special Thai menu.

"You like Thai food?" she asked.

I looked over the menu and saw many familiar things and a couple that weren't so familiar. We vowed to come back and just eat Thai food at a later date.

Today we went and did just that. We tasted the chicken curry which was a very spicy and flavorful red Thai curry with lots of bamboo and chicken. The beef salad was fiery hot and had a strong herbal taste that I found quite pleasing.

At that point the owner came to our table and said, "They're making noodle, slow down!" And then she brought out a large bowl of noodle soup. That was worth the trip by itself.

A rich beef broth, spicy, with a hint of fish sauce and large tender strips of beef with noodles and fresh green onions. We got chopsticks and a couple of small bowls and lit into it like nobody's business. My eyelids are heavy as I sit before my computer.

Next time we'll try the Tom Yum Soup with shrimp and mussels in it. I'll bet it's even better than the noodle soup.

AP's Seafood Buffet
123 S. Jeff Davis Ave, Jacksonville Arkansas

Strongly recommend the Thai food!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Taqueria Karina and Cafe

In central Arkansas you'll find loads of what I call "white cheese" Mexican restaurants, all of them serving pretty much the same bland runny beans and lackluster entrees.

But lodged in a strip center way out on 65th street, you'll find an oasis of authentic Mexican food called Karina's. The friend that told me about the place swears it's Katrina with a "T", and corrects me when I say it without. Either way, I don't think they'll mind when you come in.

I'll caution you that most of the staff has a less than rudimentary grasp of the English language, so a familiarity with the cousine is going to be a big help to the non-Spanish speaking diner. On more than one occasion I've tried to ask questions about certain menu items, only to have the wait staff look at me without speaking and bring the actual dish to me a few minutes later. You learn to eat some interesting things that way.

There are generally a couple of specials on the board when you come in and so far all of them that I've tried have been very good. Yesterday I tried the "tres tacos de carnitas con arroz y frijoles," which were lightly sauteed corn tortillas wrapped around chunks of succulent, juicy pork roast, topped with onions and cilantro and served with beans and rice. The deep red chipotle pepper sauce that came in a little bowl was a perfect topping along with a few squeezes from the supplied lime wedges. For only $3.99, I left feeling quite satisfied.

We also tried the Xango, which is cheesecake wrapped in a flour tortilla, deep fried and served with icecream and whipped cream. One serving was enough to handle the three of us at our table.

The extensive menu has so many things that I have not tried before that it may take me years to get through them all. That's if I can get past the daily special that tends to be items that aren't on the menu. I reccommend that you stray from the familiar path of so called "Mexican food" and try some of the dishes like Chuleta de Puerco (pork chops) and the Sopa Tarasca (tarasca soup). At some point I intend to delve into the wonderful looking Mariscos (seafood) menu.

All in all, this place is deceptive. By all appearances it is a hole in the wall dive. But the food is very good and the folks are all friendly and helpful. You won't be disappointed. As long as you're not expecting your standard "white cheese" Mexican food...

5309 W 65th Street, Little Rock