Thursday, May 31, 2007


Seventh and Chester, beautiful downtown Little Rock.

I'm no stranger to Vino's. I worked down the street on 7th when they first opened across from Hungry's Cafe. And they've had the same lunch special ever since and that's what I always seem to get when I go there. A salad, a slice of pizza and a soft drink for $5.31. I'm sure the calzone is great, but I can't tell you first hand. I do know the salad and pizza are worth putting Vino's on your regular rotation of lunch venues.

It doesn't sound like much, but the pizza slices look like about a quarter of a pie, and the salad has cheese and peppers and olives and is fresh and delicious. I like the creamy Italian house dressing.

Vino's has a brewery on premises and they sell a lot of their brew so lots of folks must like it. Personally, I'm not much for ales and usually go for the lagered or pilsner style brews which they don't make. So, I skip the homebrew and buy a bottle of imported when I want to wash my pizza down with something more than iced tea.

Different, good and reasonably priced, give Vino's a try next time you're downtown for lunch.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Box

17th and Main Streets, Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas


Distilled down to one word, that's what it would be. But for most, it would come down to "hamburger."

Simply, the best burgers and fries in central Arkansas, and has been for longer than I can remember. The Box had already been there a long time when I started going in the seventies. It was called the Bandbox back then and was mainly a biker hangout. It's always been a good place for a cold beer in a dark brown bottle and there was a lot of color to the place back then as well. I remember a sign inside that said, "This ain't Burger King. You don't get it the way you want it. You take it the way we fix it." And the drink menu listed "Dr. Pecker" as a soft drink. Bikers in colors mingling with lawyers in suits and a few of us regular Joes for good measure.

I still laugh about the new owners cleaning the place up, back when? In the late eighties early nineties? Always thought the burgers weren't quite the same after they cleaned the grill. And the kitchy signs went away too.

But you can still get a great burger and fries there. Some things just don't change, and that's good. I can't recommend the "hot cheeseburger" enough. Hand patted fresh ground beef, grilled to perfection, on a bun with jalapeno jack cheese. If you've been going there as long as I have, you have always taken it "the way we fix it" and liked it. So just take it the way they fix it. Split a basket of fries with your companions and you'll leave happy. Might need a nap, but...

If you only have thirty minutes for lunch, you should probably skip this experience until a day you get off early or something. They'll get you in and out in time to take an hour lunch, but you'll use up the best part of the hour.

Depending on how many beers you have, you can get out of there for less than ten bucks easily. Burgers are $4.25 and a basket of fries is $2.75 and enough for two people. Iced tea comes in huge glasses that normally don't need to be refilled.

Not the healthiest lunch in town, but definitely one of the best...

Saturday, May 26, 2007


East McCain Blvd, North Little Rock, Arkansas

I've been seeing television ads for the last month or so for Ryan's and it looks pretty good. Driving down East McCain last week, I noticed that the old Fire Mountain restaurant next to the Post Office was now a Ryan's. So, we decided to try it out last night.

The first thing I noticed, and continued to be aware of the entire time we were there, is that if you don't weigh at least 300 pounds you're going to feel out of place. And, I don't take this as a good sign. I've been in lots of all-you-can-eat places and the good ones attract all different kinds of people. The others usually only attract the ones looking for plenty of food at a reasonable price.

And the price wasn't that cheap, either. It cost $24.00 for two of us to eat here which could have bought a very nice (though smaller portioned) meal at a made-to-order restaurant.

They grill steaks to order, along with pork chops and sausages, as part of the buffet. Nice touch, but not unique. There are lots of vegetables and salad and other entrees to choose from. Everyone should find something they like here.

But, I was a bit disappointed. If you had been to Fire Mountain you'd be hard pressed to tell if anything was different. And both of them are basically the same as the Golden Corrals, Western Sizzlin's, and Bonanza Steakhouses that came before them.

The food is okay, but not outstanding. Not much to recommend this place unless you are looking for bulk.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Salty Parrot

Riverfront Park
North Little Rock, Arkansas

You know, this restaurant/bar has so much going for it, it's hard to imagine how it could go wrong. It's on the water of the Arkansas River, it's outdoors in the fresh air, you can smoke, you can drink, there's music and food. What's not to love?

When we got there about 6:00 p.m., there were only a few people there. The Captain of the Arkansas Queen riverboat greeted us at our table and warned us that when they leave on their cruise at seven, they have to blow the horn and to hold on to our drinks because "it rattles the roof on this place." Turns out that was the least of our worries.

I ordered a beer when I got there and the bride ordered a mixed drink. Her drink arrived in about ten minutes, but no beer. I asked the waitress if she had forgotten it and she assured me that she hadn't. I assumed that she had and that the gentle reminder would quickly rectify the situation. It didn't. It was still another fifteen minutes before my beer finally arrived. By this time we were ready to order food.

A little about the food. It's all grill fare with a few salads and soups mixed in with the appetizers, elsewise pretty much sandwich fare. I ordered a hamburger and onion rings. Hard to go terribly wrong with that, which turned out to be correct. The burger was somewhat overcooked and dry, but had a nice flavor and was edible. The onion rings seem to be made on the premises and not frozen. A couple in our party got the catfish sandwich and I've never seen such an anorexic fish in my life. Someone commented that it was the best bun and piece of lettuce he'd ever had. The hotdog looked good, but who wants a hotdog when you're dining on the river. Food: lackluster and worth passing up.

The drinks were extremely slow in coming with the last beer that I ordered not coming at all before my bill was presented. Everyone in our party had extra drinks on the bill that had to be fixed. At first I thought it was the waitperson, but as I watched it became painfully apparent that the bottle-neck was at the bar. I watched as our waitperson stood at the bar with a customer's payment in hand waiting to cash out for more than thirty minutes, tears streaming down her face as the bartenders ignored her and waited on patrons at the bar. Keep in mind that I still didn't have my beer I had ordered nearly forty-five minutes prior. She assured me it was coming. Everyone was trying to cash out and leave but nobody was taking care of the cash register. Finally the bartender tells her that they've run out of change and sent someone to get some. What kind of idiot management runs out of change at 7:30 on a Friday night?

Finally I walked to the end of the bar and asked the bartender just how long he figured it should take to remove the cap from a bottle of beer. And informed him that I had been waiting for him to do just that for nearly an hour. He popped a top for me and I walked back around to check on the status of my bill, at least with something cold to drink while I waited.

Still no progress on the payment front and the lady in front of me getting no help either. So I asked the waitress if it was alright with her for me to take matters into my own hands. I assured her that it was obvious to everyone where the problem was and that she shouldn't stress over it. Didn't seem to stem the tears much, but she nodded a meek assent. I then informed the bartender that he was going to handle cashing the lady in front of me and myself out before he did anything else. And made it very clear that I wasn't going to take no for an answer.

Finally getting the woman ahead of me taken care of, I finally told our waitress that she could get the bill fixed later, keep the change (which gave her about a thirty percent tip) as long as she promised that the bartender would not get a cent of it.

Prognosis? Stay away from the Salty Parrot. It is so poorly managed and the food so mediocre that no amount of ambience and atmosphere could overcome the aggravation of trying to be a customer here.

No stars.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pierre's Gourmet Pizza Co.

4905 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
North Little Rock, AR 72116

(click the pic to make it bigger)

We got it to go (that's my blue willow plate in the picture), but the dining area is clean and pleasant with a large mural of the Little Rock/North Little Rock skyline with Pierre's location prominently placed. Their slogan is Pierre's knows pizza, and I'm inclined to think that's not too far from the truth. While I prefer a very thin crust with a bit of crunch and resistance to it, the hand thrown crust is very good and crisp around the edges.

The toppings are above average with the Pierre's Favorite being loaded down with pretty much all of it - pepperoni, canadian bacon, salami, beef, italian sausage, black olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, red and white onions, green peppers, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. That's it in the picture with the fresh slices of tomato. I like this one a lot. The herbs and spices that they add to it are a perfect complement and it had almost enough texture to the crust to support all that weight. Almost. We had to use a fork for the center half of the pieces.

The Venice Deluxe (olive oil, provolone, mozzarella and swiss cheese with basil)is more like a cheese bread and would be good to snack on with beer. Oh, speaking of which, they don't sell beer or wine at this establishment. Fine if you're a tee-totaler, but if you want a beer with it, take it home.

Pretty much all of the pizzas, unless you just order a pepperoni or something, have a "gourmet" flair to them. "A Taste of Greece," "Ron-A-Roma,"Baja Mexico," and "Demor Galor" are a few of the styles you can order. I'm planning to try them all.

I was pleasantly surprised at the salads. The "plain" garden salad comes with lettuce, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and parmesan cheese. Yes, artichoke hearts. That was a nice touch that tells me there's a lot of attention to detail in this kitchen. I like the home made Italian Vinaigrette dressing with it as well.

They also have calzone and sub sandwiches. I haven't tried either, but the menu makes them sound good.

On Tuesday night they have a special buy a large pizza and get a medium one topping for free. We may just make Tuesday pizza night at our house from now on. I wouldn't hesitate to reccommend that you give these folks a try. Better than average, maybe even better than most. We still have some exploring to do in the menu, but are optimistic that we won't be disappointed.

June 2007 UPDATE: The Tuesday special is a good deal, but the commenter is right - tell them to make the crust as thin as they can and cook it extra long. Otherwise it can be a tad doughy.