Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Assignment #3: Lifestyles or Popular Culture Review

My Fave GF Eateries in Little Rock!

Little Rock restaurant signs - made with Collage Maker

We journey to Little Rock at least 3-4 times per year. I have to eat Gluten-Free (GF) because I have Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity as well as allergies to wheat, rye, barley and avocado. I use Google or the Find Me Gluten Free app to find GF restaurants. We like to eat out a lot, especially when we travel. I've been riding around the country and sampling restaurants for the past 40 years; my husband even longer (I've only known about my problems with gluten for the past 20 years).

  Gluten Free sign from https://www.123rf.com

WARNING!!

Please be aware that if you're very sensitive to gluten, you have a severe allergy, or you have Celiac, that you're taking a big risk any time you eat out, anywhere.  There is ALWAYS a chance of cross-contamination.  If you tell them that you have Celiac or you're allergic, they may tell you that they can't guarantee that it will be completely safe.  All right, now that's over. Back to Little Rock!

Cache Restaurant

 My Cache meal from July, 2018

We usually stay downtown, near the Riverfront, so we've been going to Cache (pronounced like "catch") for years. You can check out their menu. Some of their food is really good, and some is mediocre, but that can vary depending on your visit. Like most of the places I'm reviewing here, they're a bit expensive (an entree will cost anywhere between $20 and $48, with one at $115). However, the portions are fairly large.  It's not that I love expensive food, so much; but I believe that most expensive or "fine dining" restaurants are more likely to cook from scratch and be more knowledgable about the ingredients in their food. Also, it's been my experience that their waitstaff tends to know more about the food, and about food in general. They know that this is part of their job requirements.  Also, restaurants in larger cities cater to a larger population of diners, so they're more likely to have customers that might have allergies or food intolerances. A smart restauranteur will prepare for any kind of food preference, intolerance or trend.

My Cache bread from July, 2018

One of the things I love about Cache is that they have GF corn bread (similar to an English muffin) that they serve you with the food if you ask for it. Also, they have a late-night menu of mostly-fried foods that includes GF fried alligator, calimari and more.  (They'll serve it to you at other times if you ask, too.) It's very good, and GF fried-anything is difficult to find at any restaurant.  I'm also supposed to be eating low-carb because I'm diabetic, so I typically avoid eating the fried food, and I usually only eat half of the muffin, but I'm very grateful that this good GF food exists. They also have a fun bar upstairs that sometimes has a small band. In general, they have great salads, appetizers and main dishes. I seem to recall that one of their waiters told me that their chef or owner had to eat GF, too, so that's why they're more aware of it and can easily accommodate you. They have a great location right on President Clinton Avenue. They change their menu often, so I can't recommend a particular dish at the moment. I urge you to give them a try.

Samantha's Tap Room and Wood Grill

My wood-grilled tacos from Samantha's, October 2018

Another favorite restaurant in the Riverfront area is Samantha's, on Main Street. We only recently discovered this place, but it's really good. It might be the best restaurant in Little Rock. We've only eaten there twice, but we both loved it (and we're a bit picky).  The first time, we were in town around 4pm (we had just flown in from somewhere), and we just wanted somewhere quick to eat. It was one of the few places open in the afternoon, so we took a chance.  We are so glad now that we did! 

Unique salt and pepper cups from Samantha's, July 2018

 I really like their ambiance as well.  For instance, they have obviously taken great care to have cool-looking flatware, salt and pepper shakers, etc. We had a really interesting grey-haired waiter last time. He seemed like someone who would be right at home in an old New Orleans restaurant/bar. He was a very funny "character," and yet also a good waiter.  The food is exceptional. They have a wide range of food, so you can eat light or get something cheaper like a burger. I love their grilled tacos.  They mark the GF foods on their menu, which is handy. I also liked the Chilean sea bass. It wasn't the best I ever had in my life, but it was quite good, especially for a land-locked state (it's not like you're going to find a Nobu in Arkansas). If you have just one meal in Little Rock, this should be your choice. The word is out, though, so make sure you make your "rezzy" in advance because they fill up quickly every weekend.

Heritage Grill Steak and Fin

My cheeseburger and fries (no bun) from Heritage Grill, January 2019
 
The restaurant in the Marriott, Heritage Grill, is also very good. They're better than your average hotel chain restaurant.  We have often stopped there for a late night snack.  Skip their breakfast buffet because it's not very good and *certainly* not worth the price.  Their regular lunch and dinner menu is excellent, however. Even their burgers and fries are outstanding (they're very large, though, so you might want to share). They don't mark GF foods on their menu, but they're good at going back to the kitchen to ask what's safe for me to eat.  They change their menu often. Now, I know why restaurants do this, but it's disappointing when you find something you really like, and then you come back and it's gone.  But you should be able to find something delicious there, regardless. We've never been disappointed. I love staying at the Marriott, too, but they tend to have expensive rooms.  Besides the food, they make excellent cocktails as well.

Dugan's Pub 

Dugan's steak salad from January 2019

Speaking of cocktails, we enjoy Dugan's Pub. They have decent food and are a little more reasonably-priced than the other places mentioned here (most of their food is under $10).  They have many great snacks, sandwiches, burgers, traditional Irish food, steaks and more. In the past few years, they have started marking their GF foods on the menu, which makes it more convenient for people like me.  I like all of their dishes. Their steaks are outstanding, and so is the steak salad. If you see their pan-fried brussels sprouts on the menu, make sure to order them because they're to die for.  We're not heavy drinkers, but my husband loves the Irish beer - Smithwick's - that they have on tap. If it's cold outside, I enjoy their Dreamy Winter Delight, which is hot chocolate with Bailey's and Amaretto (don't forget the extra whipped cream!).  They also have a yummy Dreamsicle drink (like the Creamsicles we ate growing up) that's good in hotter weather. (Yes, these are more like desserts than alcoholic beverages!)

Delicious hot chocolate drink from Dugan's, October 2018

Besides being a good sports bar, Dugan's also has great live bands some nights, and Wednesday is karaoke night (If you're in town on Friday nights, though, check out the karaoke at Damgoode Pizza down the street). If all that isn't enough, they also own the nice deli next door, Stratton's, which serves breakfast and lunch, as well as having a little upscale convenience store (with some great GF foods).

Wasabi 

My filet mignon meal from Wasabi's, January 2019

If you like ethnic food, there is plenty of that around the Little Rock area. We like to go to the Japanese restaurant Wasabi, which is a stone's throw from the Marriott. I'm not a sushi fan like my husband, so I order the filet mignon, which is cooked hibachi-style. You have to tell them that you must eat GF, so that they can be extra-careful.  It comes with grilled veggies and rice, and even their fried rice can be made GF. You can ask for GF soy sauce as well.  Don't get the soup or salad that comes with because they are not GF. Their delicious YumYum sauce is also not GF, unfortunately.  Of course, most sushi is GF, but don't order the California roll because the crab is usually imitation crab, which has wheat in it.

Brave New Restaurant 

My homemade peach ice cream from Brave New Restaurant, April 2018

For special occasions, we usually take Lyft over to my favorite restaurant in Little Rock, Brave New Restaurant. It's a bit further down the river.  They have a great view, and you can sit outside when the weather's nice. It's very pretty.  This is fine dining at its best. They cater very well to us GF eaters.  They even usually have GF crackers, baked fresh from Dempsey Bakery (a tasty GF bakery in Little Rock).  My husband and I love all of the food at Brave New Restaurant. I have yet to get anything there that was less than wonderful. They also make their own ice cream (which is delicious!) and coffee. Last time we went there, it had been raining. We saw this beautiful double rainbow that went from the downtown skyline to the river next to it. Photos don't do it justice!

rainbow over Brave New Restaurant patio, August 2018

All of these Little Rock restaurants have a full bar, so you can order some fantastic wines to go with your food (or other beverages as you prefer). Bon App├ętit!

Me with wine at Samantha's, October 2018

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