Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard

Review No. 176: Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard

1040 S. Amity Road

(501) 358-6221

80.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said:We had our twin 5-year-old grandsons for the weekend, and we like to keep things moving with them, so after our church’s Oktoberfest concluded, we tooled on over to Rita’s to try out this “Italian ice” thing they advertised. We figured pre-school boys were good guinea pigs for sugar products.

He Said: Yes, and what the heck, we were handing them back over to their parents later, so theycould deal with the inevitable sugar highs.

Though new to Conway, Rita’s has been in business since 1984, when Bob Tumolo, a former Philadelphia firefighter, opened the first store. Now owned by Argosy Private Equity and MTN Capital, Rita’s has its headquarters in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and has more than 600 Rita’s locations in some 30 states.

She Said: It’s the sugar CRASH that is most fearsome, and I’m not sure we entirely escaped that.

 

Ambience:

She Said: It’s bright and cheery, and the boys particularly enjoyed the Halloween decorations this little frozen treat parlor had put up, spiders and webs, etc. There aren’t a lot of tables, but L chose a table by the front windows to sit and enjoy our treats. (We certainly weren’t putting boys and ice cream in the car!)

He Said: It is indeed cheery, but small—there are only about three tables inside. Most folks take the icy treats away.

 

Drinks

She Said: Dear Reader, I have limited capacity to attend to things, and keeping two young boys alive while choosing frozen treats, along with keeping each of them from making a poor choice that would lead to a melt-down (see what I did there?) is all I can manage, so I didn’t notice if there were drinks at all, until later I saw He Said had a Mountain Dew and someone at some point also asked me if I wanted a bottle of water. The water was great.

He Said: Yes, they did have Pepsi products and water. I needed the super-caffeinated Mountain Dew since I had been kept up pretty much all of the previous night by one of these 5-year-olds, who shall remain nameless.

 

Food

She Said: I love ice cream, gelato, sorbet, fro-yo, all of it! And I was sure 5-year-old boys would like it, too. As we were new here, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to something fruity and refreshing. As mentioned, I was functioning with less decision-making time than usual with the boys, so when the staffer suggested I try the “Gelati” (which I thought was the plural of gelato…?) I said, sure! He even gave me a little bit to try. Gelati at Rita’s is a parfait of Italian ice and frozen custard, and my new BFF behind the counter suggested vanilla custard and then asked me what fruit flavor I like of “blah, blah, blah or mango?” You guessed it! I said, “Mango, please!” The friendly man was not mumbling, I just couldn’t pay attention while trying to figure out what the boys were doing or would want. I love mango (margaritas, La Croix, fresh slices on a hotel balcony in Hawaii), so in the interest of expediency, I ordered the proffered Gelati. Reader, it was lovely! While I’m not a huge vanilla lover, the custard was very thick and creamy and made a great complement to the fruity, light mango Italian ice. I did not finish it, however, because it is very sweet. I would have liked to order half of the small they sell.

The boys each chose blood orange Italian ice, which by the time they finished their small sizes was, as they laughed, “Italian soup!” that they happily sipped out of the cups. They showed off their dark orange tongues and giggled with glee as they dug into their treats. It was a wild success as far as they were concerned!

He Said: Also, of course, we had to take pictures of them sticking out their bright orange tongues and send them to their parents over the interwebs. It was a requirement in the by-laws of grandparenting.

For myself, I probably should have had the fatless Italian ice, since that would have been most pancreas-friendly, but since the twins were already having those, and since She Said was having that fancy-schmantzy Gelati, I knew that our dear readers would want a variety of selections reviewed, and so at great personal sacrifice I decided on a small cup of chocolate custard with chocolate fudge topping (what I got seemed more like chocolate syrup, but it was good anyway). I could have had one of several different kinds of cone, but I chose the cup instead. I wasn’t feeling the cone today. The custard really was delicious, smooth and creamy and cold and very chocolatey.

There are only 11 grams of fat in the chocolate custard here (less even than in vanilla!). The hot fudge adds only three more grams. A cone would have added more, so I was smart not to get one. But altogether the dessert cost me 14 grams of fat—which I could easily afford if I didn’t go overboard the rest of the day.

 

Service

She Said: Our counter attendant was super helpful, knowledgeable and chill (see what I did there? AGAIN!), and I appreciated his cheery service when I was a bit stressed myself.

He Said: Yes, we were something of a hot mess since we had not been here before, but the server was patient and helpful.

She Said: Yes, we were a soup sandwich!

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Two small blood orange Italian ices, one small Gelati, one small chocolate custard with chocolate fudge, plus a bottle of water and a bottle of Mountain Dew, all for $17.92 (for a party of four).

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 5 minutes.

 

Rating:

She Said:I’m putting Rita’s on my frozen treats short list, because the fruit flavors are very refreshing and the custard is rich and delicious, and the chance to mix the two is a sweet treat indeed!

He Said:You can get frozen custard other places in town, but this is as good as any of those, and it’s got the Italian ice to boot!

Is Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard good at what it’s good for? Yes! There’s nowhere like Rita’s in Conway for friendly frozen-treat offerings!

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

Pho Huyen

Review No. 175: Pho Huyen

1600 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 504-2449

79.1 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: If you’re not familiar with pho, it’s a kind of Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, herbs, and meat, usually beef. If you haven’t been down Dave Ward Drive lately, let me just clue you in that there’s a new “Pho Huyen” restaurant in town, opened in the place where Ceci’s Chicken ’n’ Waffles used to be. If your memory is not limited to the past couple of years, you might also remember that this used to be a pace called “Bleu Flame Burger,” a place that shut its doors before “Eat It, Conway” ever got to walk through them. So this is not a location that’s had a lot of good luck with restaurants—we can only wish Pho Huyen better fortune than previous tenants.

She Said:I’m small-town enough to crave a nice Sunday dinner after church, so hearing about a new pho establishment in Conway, I plotted for us to direct ourselves to this familiar location. I love ramen, and really miss Sumo, so I was excited and very ready to apply a big bowl of Asian food to my face.

 

Ambience:

He Said: The place looked completely different from what it was like during Ceci’s time here. It seemed smaller, as if another room had been taken away. Also, the new tenants seem to like sunny colors, with the walls painted a pastel yellow, and pictures of yellow flowers decorating the walls. It seemed like a kind of fast food like interior, the booths and tables not particularly fancy.

She Said: It felt like a South Dakota café in the late 1980s to me, with the pastels and white trellis décor, so I liked it. It made me feel like comfort food was coming my way. It isn’t big, and they’ve put about as much seating in the restaurant as comfortably possible, so it’s not particularly cozy, but it had a relaxed and welcoming vibe. I was happy to get a booth on the wall, though. I don’t love eating at a middle table, in front of God and everyone, even if it was Sunday.

 

Drinks

He Said: The specialty drink here is Bubble Tea (also known as “Boba Milk Tea”) a kind of Taiwanese fruity milk smoothie with tapioca pearls. They serve it with a wide straw through which you can suck up those dark, chewy pearls. Several flavors are listed on the menu, though when we ordered they had only banana, watermelon and mango. I had a mango bubble tea, which was delicious and different, sweet and icy.

She Said: I too swooned over my mango bubble tea. They also offer Vietnamese coffee, which I’ll try next time! The mango bubble tea was sweet, but not overly sugary, with subtle fruity flavor. A real treat1

 

Food

He Said: I entered the restaurant with the expectation that I’d be ordering some kind of pho, as the name suggested, but was surprised at the great variety of dishes on the menu. She Said and I decided to start with a couple of vegetarian tofu spring rolls. These tasted fresh and healthy, and the peanut sauce that came with them had a sharp kick to it. I enjoyed the spring rolls as a starter, though they were very sticky and I made the mistake of setting one down on my paper napkin. Don’t do that, dear reader, because you will never separate the napkin from the dough.

Since most of the pho choices included beef or pork, and my pancreas has issues with red meat, I opted for one of the rice plates that they have as an option on the menu. I ordered a stir-fried chicken rice plate and asked for fried rice to be substituted for the white rice that was on the menu. (This, I learned, added about $5 to the cost of the entrée, so be aware of that if you choose this path).

My entrée was really quite delicious. The chicken was tender and had been stir-fried with broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, onions, cornlets and bok choy. The fried rice was a hefty side order on its own, with eggs, peas and carrots mixed in. Together they created a tasty medley of fresh food. And there was plenty of it: I was not able to finish mine.

She Said: I was so happy we had started with those tofu spring rolls, as they were fresh, tasty and the peanut sauce (I avoided dipping into the chili side of the dish) really added to my enjoyment. I will be ordering those again very soon, I’m sure.

I was so determined to have pho that I lit on that section of the menu right away and began narrowing down, but once I flipped the page and saw the Vietnamese búnselections, I felt compelled to abandon my plan (and my pho-curious readers). And anyway, bún—a bowl of rice and grilled meat and veggies—is pho-adjacent, so I persisted. Most of the protein options are red meat, as that is the traditional dish from Hanoi, but they offer chicken and one or two other non-beef or -pork búns. Pictured on the menu is the pork and fried egg-roll bún, which includes the grilled meat, a sliced egg roll, peanuts and carrots over the rice noodles and lettuce, and I could not resist that combination. My one quibble was that I would have liked a lot more peanuts when the dish came, as there was a small spoonful on one side and when I went to mix it together with everything, much of it fell through to the bottom. The pork was almost like bacon, thin tendrils of meat and fat, very nicely grilled. The sauce that came with it had red chili flakes, but was not too spicy to overwhelm the flavors of the dish. I couldn’t eat all the noodles and lettuce but filled up on the stars of the show very quickly.

 

Service

He Said: We were met by a friendly server who sat us where we asked and took our drink orders right away. He took our food orders when he came back with the drinks, and jokingly told us he couldn’t pronounce the names of the food, but took orders by the numbers on the menu. Mine was, I believe, C-8.  The place was pretty crowded—we were with the after-church crowd on Sunday afternoon, and lots of people were there to try out the new restaurant. It took a little longer than might have been expected, and that may have been because they hadn’t expected quite such a rush. It was very typical new-restaurant difficulty, and to be expected. You don’t pay the server here, but you go up to the counter to pay, which did actually prevent me from asking for a box to take home my leftover fried rice.

She Said: I found the service very friendly and relaxed, which is very nice when you don’t know a lot about the cuisine you’re trying.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Two mango bubble teas, one order of tofu spring rolls, one stir-fried chicken rice plate with fried rice, one pork and egg roll bún, all for $45.20.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 21 minutes from arrival to appetizer, 33 minutes until the arrival of the entrees.

 

Rating:

He Said: The food was very good and somewhat unusual for Conway. I would probably be interested in a return trip to try some of the other things on the menu. Things are not cheap here, though, and they don’t have a liquor license. Not that it matters to me, but She Said might have something to say about it.

She Said: Ha! I wouldn’t mind taking it away and enjoying it with a glass of wine at home. But the food is delicious, and those tofu spring rolls are proof of a benevolent universe.

 

Is Pho Huyen good at what it’s good for? Abso-pho-lutely! We’ve never been to Vietnam, but if the food is this good there, we might have to go.

He Said: No. I vowed never to go there back in 1969, and this is as close as I’m getting.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

KFC

Review No. 174: KFC

2670 North Donaghey Avenue

(501) 336-8440

79.0 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said:We had a big-ol’ day ahead of us on Sunday, so we decided to hit the local KFC’s lunch buffet for efficiency and choice.

He Said: Colonel Sanders opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, in 1930, and 89 years later it’s still headquartered in Louisville. But now KFC is the second largest restaurant chain in the world (after McDonald’s), and has more than 22,000 restaurants in 136 countries. We’ve seen KFC restaurants in pretty much everyplace we’ve traveled in the world—in Prague, in Venice, in Xi’an, China, and in Kyoto, Japan, where the statue of the Colonel outside the door scared me, he looked so creepy with round staring eyes.

But we hadn’t been to the KFC in Conway for years—maybe ten years? Because we had some bad experiences here in the past. I remember going there once when the air conditioning had broken down and suffering through a really uncomfortable meal. And another time when we walked in and were told they had run out of chicken (How does a KFC run out of chicken? Isn’t that their whole raison d’être). Of course, we would still have paid the full amount for the buffet. So we left. And haven’t been back.

But that’s all water under the bridge. The Conway KFC is, I’m pretty sure, under different management than it was then. It’s also been cleaned up and has a new look inside. So I was glad we were giving it another try.

 

Ambience:

She Said: It’s bright and utilitarian in here, though not particularly cozy or comfortable. (Watch out for one of the biggest potholes I’ve ever seen in the driveway though! I was afraid if my car went into it, it wouldn’t come out. I left via a different way.)

He Said: Yeah, that was one giant pothole. But the restaurant is bright and cheery and clean (something you couldn’t say about it in the old days). It’s definitely a fast food place, and there aren’t a lot of pictures on the walls or anything. But it’s not any more uncomfortable than most fast food places.

 

Drinks

She Said:I surprised myself and went for a Diet Pepsi here, and it was fine; the soda machine seemed well calibrated.

He Said: Yes, they have Pepsi products here, which means they have Mountain Dew, which I’ll have when I can, if it’s not too close to bed time.

 

Food

She Said: We both chose the buffet in order to sample the most things. The buffet is not large, and the first time we went through it was out of chicken and biscuits, but the clerk said she would bring some right away. By the time I got my drink and was seated, the chicken and biscuits had appeared. I had two legs. I like KFC chicken; it’s really the code in my psyche for fast-food chicken, so I was happy to munch on these. I also tried a pasta salad, some macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes (plain, no gravy) and a biscuit. I also helped myself to a scoop of peach cobbler.

The chicken is a little greasier than some of the chain chicken joints, but it was hot and tasty, and fresh out of the oven, apparently. KFC’s mashed potatoes are quite good, as well, very creamy and tasty without gravy (restaurant gravies are often too peppery, so I just skip it usually), though they offer white and brown gravy on the buffet. I did not care for the pasta salad, which had a strong vinegar flavor I was not in love with—I only ate that first bite. The macaroni and cheese was very bland, so I stopped after one bite of that, as well. I did score a biscuit, and it was satisfying and flaky, and I also ate it plain. The peach cobbler had a nice, buttery crust and rich, peachy sauce, in a mass-produced kind of way, as well as a canned-peaches filling.

He Said: Yes, I had the buffet as well, which for me consisted of a wing and a breast, plus green beans and mashed potatoes and gravy. I wanted to get a biscuit when I saw that She Said had one, but when I went back to the buffet they were all gone again. And they never came back. So…that was a strike against them.

I agree that this is what southern fried chicken looks like for most of the world, because of KFC’s huge reach. I enjoy it, though, as well. No other chain has quite that same flavor or the crispy skin. Online nutrition charts declare that a KFC breast has 390 calories and 21 grams of fat, so not the healthiest thing in the world but not nearly as bad as it could be, since it does tend to be a bit greasy and pretty well fried.

I would concur with She Said in her assessment of the mashed potatoes. They are deliciously creamy and with the chicken gravy are very, very tasty. I get visions of Thanksgiving dinner when I eat those potatoes. The nutrition guide claims there are only four grams of fat in these, a claim I have trouble believing. But I hope it’s true.

The green beans were all right, but nothing to write home about. They tasted like they’d come out of a Green Giant can. As for the peach cobbler, this is normally not a dessert I’m particularly fond of. But it was sweet and creamy and fruity, and people who like peach cobbler will certainly like this dessert.

 

Service

She Said: Our counter attendant was friendly and helpful, and was also tasked with keeping the buffet stocked. As I said, the buffet was out of chicken and biscuits when we arrived, but was quickly restocked; however, the biscuits quickly ran out again and no more appeared.

He Said: I’ll just say “ditto” to what She Said said. I’ll tell you one thing: the service was miles ahead of what it was the last time we ate here, circa 2009.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Two lunch buffets, which include drinks, for $18.14. Note: this includes one senior discount, which they give at KFC starting I believe, at 55. Can’t kick about that.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 9 minutes from arrival to eating buffet food in a booth. Forever if you include He Said’s getting a biscuit.

 

Rating:

She Said:The favorites here, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and biscuits are solid offerings, but you may have trouble scoring them at peak lunch-buffet time.

He Said:I was pleasantly surprised by how much the place had improved, and wouldn’t mind catching a senior discount buffet here again sometime.

Is KFC good at what it’s good for? The menu mainstays are still tasty, but the supply had trouble meeting demand on the buffet.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

JinWei Chinese Express

Review No. 172: JinWei Chinese Express

2235 Dave Ward Drive, Suite No. 106

(501) 504-2014

78.4 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said: He Said wasn’t feeling well and we were in a Sunday mood, so take-out seemed like a good idea, and JinWei had been on my radar for awhile. We had recently returned from a trip to Iceland, and one thing we didn’t eat there was Chinese food, so I was craving some of those old favorites. We decided to eat at home while binge-watching the 2011 Showtime series, Enlightened.
He Said: There are quite a few Chinese places in town (not so many in Iceland, as it turns out), but we hadn’t yet been to JinWei. Sounded like a good way to pass a Sunday lunch hour, and to do it in our own home.

Ambience:

She Said: It’s bright, with light green paint and lots of natural light, and also pretty utilitarian. You can eat in here, but it wasn’t particularly inviting. When you walk in, it’s one big space with a counter on the far side where you place your order.
He Said: Yeah, I think most people order takeout here, but yes you can eat here. But as She Said said, it’s not especially inviting. Plain room, just a couple of small pictures on the wall, not much atmosphere. So we took the food home.

 

Drinks

She Said: We were taking out, and I intended to have mine at home with a lovely can of Presto sparkling rosé. My mind wasn’t changed by the refrigerator of bottled drinks behind the counter.
He Said: They do have Coke products here, but we didn’t buy anything to drink with our takeout.

 

Food

She Said: I have a pretty standard order at American Chinese restaurants, and it always includes cashew chicken and some kind of dumpling-wanton appetizer food product. The comprehensive menu offered both, and I was also able to choose fried rice to go with my cashew chicken, along with the cheese wantons I had to start with. The wantons were satisfyingly fried and rich with cream-cheese centers, and I dipped them in He Said’s sweet and sour sauce to make them even better. I got the order of four, and I’m glad I didn’t get the larger order, as I probably would have eaten all of them!

I had mixed feelings about the cashew chicken, though I mostly liked it. The cashews were not as plentiful as I would have liked… I ate almost all of them in my first helping from the container. The veggies included a few peas and carrots, water chestnuts and onions, but mostly there were baby corn and celery that were a little too ubiquitous; I don’t like cornlets. But the chicken was actually plentiful and very tender and flavorful, which is not always the case in cashew chicken dishes.

I also stole He Said’s egg-drop soup, and it meets the tasty comfort food test: rich, with mild flavor, but not overwhelming. Next time I have a cold, I’m going to get about 18 gallons of this.

He Said: Jones, how can you not like cornlets? Don’t they just make you think of Tom Hanks in Big?

The menu has a lot of standard Chinese dishes. I often go for a sesame chicken or a General Tso’s, both of which they have, but for some reason the Sweet-and-Sour chicken caught my eye and I went for that. You have the option of ordering the dish itself (small or large) or the meal, which includes egg roll and egg drop soup, and your choice of fried or white rice. I had the small meal with fried rice.

The meal came with several little packets of soy sauce, which I like to put in the fried rice. The rice was good, pretty similar to the better meals of fried rice available in town. The same could pretty much be said of the egg roll as well: it was tasty, firm and not greasy, again probably as good as any egg roll in town.

I really did enjoy the sweet-and-sour chicken: it was crispy on the outside, a little spongy in consistency, which is pretty much what you get with this dish, but very tender and delicious chicken, and the sweet-and-sour sauce was just the right flavor of sweet tanginess.

As for the egg drop soup, I never did taste that—She Said was all over it. But I was full anyway. They do not skimp on the servings here.

 

Service

She Said: The service was good; a man came to the counter to wait on us before we were even 100 percent decided on our choices, and another man brought our nicely—and securely­­—wrapped package of goodness when it was ready. We also noticed a woman waiting for her food got the wrong thing in her order, and after some confusion, the restaurant replaced her order with the right dish.

He Said: Right—prompt, courteous service. No complaints here.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One small order of cheese wantons, one small order of cashew chicken with fried rice, one small sweet-and-sour chicken meal (with fried rice, egg roll, and egg drop soup), all for $19.17.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 18 minutes.

 

Rating:

She Said: I found the chicken in the dish to be much better than most, and everything else was good, as well.

He Said: Good traditional Chinese-American fare, large helpings and reasonably priced (as Chinese food tends to be).

Is JinWei Chinese Express good at what it’s good for? Absolutely. This no-frills Chinese restaurant offers tasty standard dishes.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Review No. 171: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

1105 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 499-9849

76.7 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: Last week “Cream-Filled Doughnut Day” appeared on the calendar, and She Said and I decided it would be a very auspicious day on which to actually go to a doughnut shop and have ourselves some cream-filled doughnuts. Conway’s local Krispy Kreme was up on our schedule, so I was dispatched to Dave Ward Drive to hunt and gather for brunch.

Krispy Kreme is, of course, a huge American-based chain with more than a thousand stores in the United States and internationally. They were founded in 1937 by Vernon Rudolph, who bought a recipe for yeast doughnuts from a New Orleans chef and began selling them in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The rest is history, as the company began to slowly expand. In 2016 the company was bought by the Luxembourg-based JAB Holding Company, but it remains headquartered in Winston-Salem.

She Said:I know people were excited when Krispy Kreme opened in Conway, but we never felt the need to stray farther afield than Ed’s at the time. But given the national holiday and the need to review, it was time.

 

Ambience:

He Said: The Conway location is a little hard to get into when you are zipping by on Dave Ward, and it’s not completely clear where to turn in if you don’t know it; Hardee’s driveway being right there makes it hard to see in a split second which is the right driveway.

The inside is rather inviting for a chain doughnut shop, with a lot of doughnuts on display on the shelves, and a variety of drinks available. The place is pretty comfortable and doesn’t make you want to run for the exit when you walk in.

She Said: I didn’t go with He Said, and my ambience at home was lovely. J

 

Drinks

He Said: As mentioned, there are a good variety of coffees, teas, other hot drinks, and soda and other cold drinks, but I didn’t have any of them, since I was bringing the doughnuts home. But there were a lot of drinks I could have had if I’d wanted.

 

Food

He Said: They have a huge variety of both yeast and cake style doughnuts here, including a couple of brand new Reese’s peanut butter and chocolate variety doughnuts. But this was, as noted earlier, cream-filled doughnut day, so I got two chocolate iced doughnuts with “kreme filling,” one chocolate iced glazed doughnut with sprinkles, and one glazed blueberry cake doughnut (that one specifically for She Said).

The chocolate glazed doughnut was scrumptious—it was so much better than the one I had a few weeks ago because every bite was sweet, chocolatey and undry. The cream filled chocolate doughnut was even more tasty, with the sweet crème enhancing every bite with sweet goodness. Other doughnuts I’ve had in town, with a few exceptions (looking at you, Ed’s) seem like a lot of dry, chewy dough, with a hint of sweetness. Not so here. These are the real deal.

She Said:The cream doughnuts were indeed delightful, and I gobbled mine up with glee. I don’t eat a lot of this kind of treat, and now I can see why people do! The dough was the perfect complement to the lightly whipped cream center, and the whole treat was perfectly sweet. I found the blueberry doughnut merely passable, though, as if it were a Xerox of a blueberry doughnut, just not quite there, but not bad either.

 

Service

He Said: The woman who waited on me was patient, good-humored and efficient. I got no complaints here.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Four doughnuts (chocolate glaze, blueberry glazed, and two chocolate kreme filled, all for $5.50.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: Pretty much immediate from order to receipt and payment.

 

Rating:

He Said:I would not hesitate to stop here again if I’m in the neighborhood and craving a doughnut.

She Said:I’ll apply those cream-filled doughnuts to my face again! But I’ll go somewhere else for the blueberry cake.

Is Krispy Kreme good at what it’s good for? It certainly is! Sweet doughy deliciousness, especially if it’s got a creamy center.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

Skinny J’s

Review No. 170: Skinny J’s

2235 Dave Ward Drive, suite #201

(501) 358-6586

76.2 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: In the former location of the now defunct Roux’s Cajun Creole restaurant, a new Skinny J’s franchise has now opened on Dave Ward Drive. Skinny J’s, which bills itself as “not your average steak and burger joint,” may be familiar to Conway folks who are aware of its North Little Rock location. There’s also one in Jonesboro and one in Paragould. The first Skinny J’s opened in Cash, Arkansas, in 2009, when Cash native James Best returned home from culinary school and started his first restaurant, which soon moved into downtown Jonesboro and then spread to other sites in Arkansas.We had had a long day and were dang hungry, and decided it was time to give Skinny J’s a try.

She Said: I’ve socialized at the Argenta Skinny J’s quite often, so I was excited to see the sign go up on Dave Ward recently (Rest in Peace, Roux!). And we’d had two big nights of book parties at E.Leigh’s Contemporary Boutique locations in Little Rock and Conway for Mr. Catherine. I’m an introvert, so fun like that makes me really hungry for comfort foods (fat + carbs = love). We asked Erin, the original E.Leigh herself, to join us for this outing, so it made for a lovely afterparty.

E.Leigh’s Said: While I am quite familiar with the Skinny J restaurant in Argenta, I have only visited a couple of times. One of those visits happened to be for a glass of wine (or two) with She Said. When it was mentioned as an option for our Mr. Catherine After-Party, I was excited to get the chance to support a new, small business in Conway.

 

Ambience:

He Said: Skinny J’s is basically a sports bar and was very sports-bar-like in its interior. The restaurant is a good sized space but is divided into smaller areas, which make it a little cozier. There are TVs with different sporting events all around. We happened to be right under a TV that was showing the UCA Bears season-opening football game. This did draw my attention occasionally from the table conversation. But only occasionally.

We were seated next to a large party with four rather rambunctious children who had trouble sitting still and were not exactly quiet little mice. Fortunately, we have four dogs at home and so were not unaccustomed to such distractions. But this is the sort of thing you might run into in any sports bar.

She Said: Yes, American restaurants love to be loud, and this one is no different, but the large dining area is well arranged so you don’t feel like a cow in the feeding yard of the cattle ranch. We were in a cozier front space, and though the kids were active, they weren’t disruptive because the whole place was noisy. After the parties, the general sound level was a bit overstimulating to me, but it was still pleasant, as it was very casual and welcoming.

E.Leigh’s Said: I did notice that the restaurant was a little loud, but nothing I wouldn’t expect from a family-friendly, sports-bar type atmosphere. I agree that the way they broke up the space made it feel cozier. Overall, the space felt clean and appropriate for this type of restaurant.

 

Drinks

He Said: For the nonalcoholic diner, they have Coke products here, which in this case did mean that they had Barq’s Root Beer, which I ordered and was perfectly happy with.

She Said: I was ready to cocktail! So, I went with my old favorite, which is a big treat for me these days, the cosmopolitan. I didn’t see it on the drinks menu, but it’s rather standard, so I requested one. The restaurant is new, so our waitress said she’d double check that they could make it for me (I said a G&T would be a fine substitute if they couldn’t), and she returned quickly to confirm it was possible and to make sure that lemon vodka was all right. OMG, all cosmos should be made with it! It was even crisper and tastier than the usual cosmo. Thanks, Skinny J’s! With my meal, I had a lovely glass of the house cabernet. No complaints on the barend of this sports bar.

E.Leigh’s Said: Since I still had a 30-minute drive home to Little Rock, I decided to stick to having one beer only with our meal. I chose Flyaway’s Bluewing Berry Wheat Beer. It was delightful, however, anyone ordering this after me that night would be disappointed as I happened to finish off the keg with my order.

IMG_7955

Food

He Said: When they say this is “not your average steak and burger joint,” I guess they are mainly referring to the menu, which includes steaks and burgers but a wide variety of other stuff as well. Personally, I was paralyzed by choice when I first got the menu and was drawn in a few different directions. If you read these reviews regularly, you might have noticed that I order salmon a lot. They did have salmon on the menu, but I’ve learned that if the place doesn’t specialize in seafood there may be issues, usually overcooking issues, with salmon. So, I opted for one of the four different chicken wraps they have on the menu here.

Now I do have to keep the fat content down, as I may have mentioned before once or twice, so chicken is usually not bad. The Northeast Chicken Wrap that I ordered has fajita chicken, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, cheddar cheese and Chipotle ranch dressing, all wrapped in a garlic herb tortilla. None of this sounds too fatty—there’s a little bit of fat in the cheese and it’s possible there was some mayonnaise in the dressing, which always adds a lot of fat (there’s no online nutrition chart for Skinny J’s entrees). But this was a really delicious sandwich—the tortilla was tasty, and all the ingredients worked together to create a symphony in my mouth.

The wraps come with your choice of either chips or fries. Since chips are chips and this was a review, I went for the fries, and let me tell you, these were the highlight of the meal. If you haven’t eaten at a Skinny J’s before—and I hadn’t—you’ll be surprised that the fries are not the usual long thin pieces of potato, nor the plumper “steak fry” variety, but are cut in flat thin and crispy curls that make a pretty good case for being the best fries in town. Try them and see!

She Said: I, too, was frozen by choice perusing the menu. I was a little disappointed to find that the ahi tuna salad I love to get in Argenta is not on the Conway menu, so I was forced to look more closely at all the offerings. Looking for comfort food, I thought maybe they’d have a breaded chicken sandwich, but all their chicken was grilled, that I could find (good news for He Said!). After a couple of read-throughs, while nibbling on chips and guacamole (that I found a bit too seasoned) I settled on two things, which were also the top two items on E.Leigh’s list. I got out my game theory skillz and asked her to order before me, and I went with the item she didn’t choose. That was the hamburger and (of course), those amazing fries.

Skinny J’s offers a number of burger choices, and at the bottom of the list the menu reads, “hamburger $9.” This is my ultimate comfort food, and with the usual fixin’s and some mayo, I can be as happy as can be with a nice, chargrilled patty with mayo, lettuce, onions and pickles, a tasty bun and a side of fries. And I was. I wouldn’t say the burger is the best in Conway (I’m looking at you TC’s Midtown, and you, Burgers, Pies and Fries), but it hit the spot when I wanted to eat my emotions, and, I agree with He Said that these fries, a cross between a curly fry and a steak fry, are professional level.

E.Leigh’s Said: I also felt a little over-stimulated at first by all the choices, but quickly settled on two options: the crab cakes or a hamburger. I consider myself somewhat of a crab cake aficionado and anytime a menu has crab cakes, my ears perk up! The menu stated that the crab cakes were made in-house, which is a requirement of mine if I’m going to order crab cakes. I made a quick game-time decision to try the crab cakes, knowing that ordering crab cakes at a sports bar type atmosphere may not turn out well. I also ordered a side of the fries, since the crab cakes fall under the appetizer portion of the menu.

When the food arrived, the crab cakes looked to be the perfect level of crispy and not overly greasy, which I appreciated. While I love a crab cake filled to the brim with lump crab, I also have realistic expectations for a sports bar in Central Arkansas. While they weren’t “filled to the brim” with lump crab, they were very good. They had a good amount of crab and weren’t overly filled with breading. The remoulade was just right as well. The fries were absolute perfection and I think they were the stars of the show for our entire table. I had had the fries on one of my few other trips to the Argenta Skinny J’s, so I knew I was in for a treat. Bottom Line: GET THE FRIES.

 

Service

He Said: We had a very friendly server who had a sense of humor. She was attentive and, while she sometimes didn’t know the answer to a few of our questions because the place had been open such a short time, was quite willing to find the answers for us. We were also asked by three different people if everything was all right, so we did get a lot of good attention from servers.

She Said: Yes, attentive, professional, efficient and friendly service, everything I want in restaurant attention and nothing I don’t.

E.Leigh’s Said: As someone who is in the service industry, I appreciate great customer service. Skinny J’s didn’t disappoint, as I felt they gave us great service that night. It felt like Skinny J’s employees were all working together as a team to make sure every guest had a wonderful experience, as we had multiple employees stop by to check on us during our meal.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One guacamole and chips appetizer, one hamburger, one crab cakes order, one northeast chicken wrap, one extra side of French fries, one root beer, one beer, one cosmopolitan, one glass of house cabernet, all for $70.34 (for a party of three).

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 37 minutes from entry to entrees, with apps and drinks in between.

 

Rating:

He Said:I am pretty sure we’ll be back to try some of their other culinary delights here. It’s a cut above your typical sports bar and reasonably priced.

She Said:They had me at the cosmo and won me over forever with the fries.

E.Leigh’s Said: I will definitely return as it’s the perfect place to take my E.Leigh’s Conway employees for a work lunch or dinner.

Is Skinny J’s good at what it’s good for? Absolutely! A fun, casual environment with good food and friendly service. And those fries!

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

Love’s Donuts

Review No. 169: Love’s Donuts

317 West Oak Street

(501) 781-8888

75.7 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said:I needed some real motivation for my Wednesday-morning workout, so I promised myself doughnuts from a newer purveyor of this perfect food in Conway. After I put down my weights, I jumped in the car to make good on my promise.
He Said: I was busy and did not go along on the doughnut run. Hence, I was not responsible for the types of doughnuts brought home, and so can only comment on what was placed before me.

 

Ambience:

She Said: Love’s is cute, bright and friendly. You can get breakfast sandwiches and sausage rolls (kolaches) here, too, and you can also use the drive-up window for your order. I wanted to see all my choices, so I went in. This, by the way, is a little bit of a hassle because you need to park in back and walk through the drive-up lane to get to the store entrance. In the future, I will probably just roll on up.

 

Drinks

She Said:We did not sample their liquid wares. I was laser-focused on my doughnut mission.

 

Food

She Said: Well, waiting until after my workout meant that a lot of the pretty or special doughnuts had already gone to good homes in other people’s bellies, and I wasn’t even able to fulfill He Said’s order for a chocolate glazed doughnut. I did see that there were still apple fritters in the display case, so I knew I’d be just fine. To make it up to He Said, I got a glazed doughnut and two more frosted ones, a strawberry and a blue one with sprinkles.

The apple fritter was very good, satisfying and sweet, with the fried dough cradling the apple chunks very pleasingly. The glaze was just right. I will get this again. And even though I was craving it and had worked up a sweat for it, I couldn’t finish it, as it was pretty filling. I saved the rest for another day… and then He Said ate it!

He Said:Doughnut lovers are well aware that there are two chief types of doughnuts: the yeast doughnut and the cake doughnut. I don’t know whether they have cake doughnuts at Loves, because She Said only brought home samples of yeast doughnuts. Also, doughnuts can be filled with cream or custard or jelly, and again I don’t know whether such types are available here or not, since none were brought home to me.

Apparently, as She Said said, no chocolate doughnuts of any kind were left in late morning when she swung by, and she brought home a yeast doughnut with pink (strawberry), another yeast doughnut with a kind of bluish frosting and sprinkles or “jimmies,” a glazed doughnut (also yeast, as glazed doughnuts invariably are), and that apple fritter. I did end up eating both the frosted doughnuts and the glazed doughnut over the next couple of days, and I admit I finished the apple fritter as well.

The glazed doughnut was OK as glazed doughnuts go. The two frosted doughnuts just seemed pretty dry to me—the frosting wasn’t very generous and the yeast doughnut was not particularly undry (I avoid the “m” word because She Said can’t stand it). The best of the lot was indeed the apple fritter, as She Said asserts. If I were to go here again, that’s what I would order.

Now I admit it is possible that their cake doughnuts are more undry, or that any cream or jelly doughnuts they have would be more to my liking, so I might need to give them another chance, go early, and get something chocolate and/or filled. It’s also possible that the gourmet sandwiches are worth a look.

 

Service

She Said:The service was great! The woman who waited on me was very friendly and patient as I made my choices. My favorite aspect of the whole visit was when I was leaving, she called out, “See you tomorrow!” (Isn’t it pretty to think so…)

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One apple fritter, one glazed doughnut, one strawberry frosted doughnut and one frosted doughnut with sprinkles for $3.62.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 2 minutes from walking in the door to walking out with doughnuts!

 

Rating:

She Said:I thought the apple fritter was worth the trip, and next time I’ll go earlier to try find some more variety in the display cases.

He Said:I’ve definitely had better doughnuts in town, but I concede there may be better ones here if I get here early enough.

Is Love’s Donuts and Gourmet Sandwiches good at what it’s good for? It was good enough with the fritter and is worth another trip to sample more of their breakfast goodies.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

 

Local Patio Grill

Review No. 168: Local Patio Grill

912 Front Street

(501) 932-6123

75.2 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: We were having a nonreview meal at Pasta Grill a week or so ago, when we looked across the street and noticed that a new restaurant, the Local Patio Grill, had opened in the old John Daly’s Steakhouse space. This steak, salad and seafood place has been open for nearly a month at this location, and the name comes apparently from the seating that seems to be available on the patio jutting out toward Front Street from the second floor. I’m guessing that’s not getting much use in the 98-degree weather we’re having lately, but could be a nice option in the fall.
She Said: Yes, for the two weeks in spring and the two weeks in fall that it’s pleasant to be outside, that will be awesome! We thought this place would be a good place for a Friday night date, so off we went downtown Conway for dinner and drinks.

Ambience:

He Said: I don’t think they’ve remodeled much since the space had very recently been done over by the John Daly folks before their sudden closure about a year ago. We sat in a booth in the bar area, with about eight TV sets tuned to different stations across from us that gave the place a sports bar feel, though a rather stylish one, with gorgeous tin ceilings in the style of 100 years ago.

She Said: The vibe is “posh pub,” and I liked the feel. There’s a buzz and energy, but the dark accents and ceiling keep the room feeling almost cozy. It has a club feel, as well, and is definitely upscale, but not fussy. I felt relaxed and ready for the weekend.

One thing I will bring up, probably not very helpfully, is the name seems very strange to me. “Local Patio” is not the best choice… what other kind of patio would it be? “Far Away” or “Multinational Conglomerate”? And with The Patio Café literally down the street, it’s bound to be confusing. I also thought the menu could use one more proofreading session, but given that it’s a new establishment, I’m sure that will work itself out in time.

 

Drinks

He Said: They have Pepsi drinks here, so I ordered a Mountain Dew. I could have had a refill, but I declined, since I almost certainly would not have been able to sleep if I’d had another one.

She Said: They have cocktails and beer and wine. I perused the drinks menu and didn’t see my favorite, a cosmopolitan, so I requested it, but I was told I could only get the cocktails “on the list.” I think their liquor license was about 5 days old by then, so I’m hoping someday they get a little more expansive in their cocktail reach, especially once the weather turns toward actual patio weather. So, I went with my second choice, the “Skinny Margarita.” I enjoyed this drink very much, and actually prefer it to the syrupy sweet margaritas we’ve all become accustomed to: the “skinny” version is, I’m told, actually closer to the classic marg. This was nicely grown up, tangy but not sour, and very nice to sip on a hot day. To go with my meal, I had a glass of cabernet. It was a nice pour, in a proper glass, and was slightly fruity—but still pleasantly dry.

 

Food

He Said: Before we’d even looked at the menus, a server brought us a couple of rolls and a green salad with a light creamy dressing. We ordered the goat cheese bruschetta appetizer, which came as a kind of do-it-yourself kit with about eight pieces of toasted bread on one plate and about eight little balls of goat cheese flavored with what I think was a sweet balsamic vinegar. So you spread your own cheese on the bruschetta slices and it was delicious.

For my entrée it may come as a great surprise to readers that I ordered the salmon, which came with a mango chutney relish topping, and perched upon a short tube of wheat shell filled with a rice and vegetable medley. The presentation was beautiful and the different flavors and textures delightful. The salmon might have been slightly overdone for my taste, but as my wife always tells me, I should specify “medium” to the chef.

Of course, dessert was probably not something I should have had, but I was thinking of you all, dear readers, so I felt it was my responsibility to order the Chocolate Surprise. This was a round piece of chocolate cake with brown powdered sugar and vanilla ice cream. The “surprise” was a gooey chocolate center. This also came with a remarkable presentation—an outline of fork and knife in brown sugar. But the taste was the real treat. If you like chocolate (and if you don’t, I don’t even know why you’re reading this), you’ll love this dessert. I only have one complaint: I should have ordered my own instead of sharing it with She Said. It was not huge, and it was over all too quickly.

She Said: When I saw the goat cheese bruschetta “kit,” I was thinking it seemed a little chintzy, but actually, the goat cheese was so flavorful, that just that light spread on the bread was perfect. I loved this appetizer, and there were a lot of delicious-sounding choices on the list.

I had a harder time choosing my entrée, and I almost went with one of the runners up in the apps department. This restaurant takes standards and tweaks them, and a couple of times, something that sounded good originally got tweaked in a direction I didn’t want (maybe with tomatoes or spicy heat, for example). In the end, I went with the seafood pasta, which was shrimp, scallops and salmon over angel hair pasta in garlic oil, with diced, fresh tomatoes (which aren’t as objectionable to me as stronger tasting red sauces). Overall, I found this to be a guilt-free, fresh and healthy entrée, with lots of light protein that was tasty and filling but not heavy. I did think it needed a bit of salt and that the shrimp and scallops were both slightly over cooked. But I will order this again when I want to go out but don’t want to break the fat-macros bank.

 

Service

He Said: We got a lot of attention, from our server as well as from the woman who seemed to be the manager. The server checked back with us several times, and the manager was back at least three times. This may have been in part because we came early and there weren’t many in the restaurant, though by the time we were finished it was full. Anyway, we had a lot of service—nothing to complain about here!

She Said: The service was indeed attentive from many staffers, pleasant and efficient. The only hiccup I noticed was how long it took to get our dessert; but the beautiful presentation was worth the wait!

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Bruschetta appetizer, one Chef Seasoning Salmon, one Seafood Pasta, one “Chocolate Surprise” dessert, one glass Mountain Dew, one Skinny Margarita, one glass Cabernet, all for $76.95.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 28 minutes from arrival to entrées, though we did get salads and break immediately, and our shared appetizer also arrived in this window.

 

Rating:

He Said: This is a legitimate new addition to the finer dining scene in Conway. It’s a good (though not an inexpensive) complement to Mike’s Place and Pasta Grill.

She Said: This fills a great niche in Conway: posh pub. If the cocktail menu expands or becomes more flexible, it will be even better.

Is the Local Patio Grill good at what it’s good for? Absolutely! Posh pubs aren’t cheap, but they are definitely enjoyable, and this one offers interesting and tasty fare in an attractive and relaxing atmosphere.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Review No. 167: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

1345 E. Oak Street

(501) 504-2420

74.8 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said:It was a busy Saturday morning, and in an effort to fit in this meal between a treadmill run and an afternoon wedding, I asked He Said to run to the Popeyes less than a mile from our house to pick up food for a quick lunch at home. It turned out not to be so quick…
He Said: Popeyes was founded in a suburb of New Orleans back in 1972—the restaurant was actually named after “Popeye Doyle,” protagonist of The French Connection, which had just won the Best Picture Oscar. By 2002, Popeyes was second only to KFC in terms of numbers of units for a quick-service chicken chain. By now Popeyes has restaurants in at least 40 states and 30 foreign countries. And yet, to tell the truth, I did not even know there were any Popeyes locations in Conway until She Said told me it was next on our list to review. Partly that may be because I never have much reason to keep going east out of town on Oak Street beyond Conway Commons shopping center, and so didn’t realize it was just a block or so beyond, on the south side of the street.

Ambience:

He Said: The place looked like every other fast food place. It was bright and pretty clean, with a counter to place an order at. Nothing about the interior to put you off, but nothing to make you regret that you were picking up your food rather than dining in.

 

Drinks

She Said:I asked for unsweet iced tea, which He Said brought to me with no ice, so I added a bunch from the fridge, and it was fine.

He Said:In my defense, I had put ice in it. The ice had melted by the time I got the order home. They had Coke products here, but no root beer. The did have Fanta, and I went for a Strawberry Fanta drink. It was a tasty change and had no caffeine, which I was fine with.

 

Food

She Said: I had a two-piece chicken meal with dark meat, including a leg, a biscuit and French fries. The chicken was fine: It was crispy, not greasy. The seasoned fries were pretty limp by the time they came to me, which is not the best feature of fast food, which is going to be picked up often and taken home or to work, etc. The best thing was the biscuit, which was flaky and buttery. Overall, though, the meal was forgettable, and given the calories and fat grams, somewhat regrettable.

He Said: I had checked Popeye’s online nutrition guide before visiting the store, and had a few items that were pretty low in fat content so that I could eat healthy: The online nutrition chart showed what they called a “Naked Chicken Wrap” which had only 6 grams of fat, or a “BBQ Naked Chicken Po Boy” the thought of which, at just 7 grams of fat, made my mouth water. When I got to the actual store, however, I found that they do not have the wraps or the po’ boys on the menu here, so I had to regroup.

I ordered mild chicken tenders which I remembered did not seem to be especially fatty on the chart. Indeed, when I checked after coming home, I found that an order of three mild tenders had 14 grams of fat, so my 5-piece order must have about 24 grams. So that was within my pancreatic range, especially since I ordered green beans as my side, and those had only 1.5 fat grams. Unfortunately, I then realized that the biscuit that comes with every order has 15 grams of fat in itself. That meant that my entire lunch came in at a little over 40 grams of fat. That was a good 2/3 of my daily limit.

I have to agree with She Said that the chicken was crispy and tasty without being greasy—probably less greasy or fatty than KFC right down the street. The green beans were nothing to write home about—they seemed to come straight out of a can. As for the biscuit, I agree it was quite tasty—probably loaded with butter which was responsible for those 15 fat grams.

 

Service

He Said: Here’s where things get sticky. I placed my order at the counter and paid, then waited with my order number. And waited. And waited some more. It was 20 minutes before I got my food. And people ahead of me did not seem to be getting their orders any faster. It is possible that the drive-through was clipping along at a better rate, because I didn’t see that many cars lined up. Or it could be that people waiting in the drive-through line just gave up and drove off, which kept the line shorter. In any case, it would be hard to justify calling this “fast food.” We could have gone to sit-down restaurant and been served as quickly.

She Said:I was pacing the floor at home, wondering where the food was, hoping you hadn’t had some kind of tragic chicken accident, Ruud.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Two-piece chicken meal with dark meat, biscuit and French fries, with unsweet iced tea; five-piece chicken tenders with biscuit and green beans and a strawberry Fanta, all for $17.09.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 20 minutes after order was placed.

 

Rating:

She Said:Meh.

He Said: The chicken was probably as good as most fast-food places, and the biscuits were pretty good. And the price was not bad, but overall it was not a memorable meal.

Is Popeyes good at what it’s good for? It’s certainly not fast, and there’s definitely better chicken in town.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

 

Franke’s Cafeteria

Review No. 166: Franke’s Cafeteria

1101 Fendley Drive

(501) 932-6123

75 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: One of the oldest continually operating restaurants in Arkansas, Franke’s Cafeteria (named to the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame in 2018) celebrates its centennial this year. C.A. Franke, founder of the franchise, opened a doughnut shop in Little Rock in 1919, after spending the last years of World War I stationed there, and in 1924 turned the place into a cafeteria at 115 West Capitol. The restaurant became popular offering food made from scratch throughout the day, and at one time had restaurants in Hot Springs and in Fort Smith as well as Little Rock. Currently there are two Little Rock locations, and the Conway location opened earlier this year at the former site of the Dixie Café, which closed in 2017.

She Said: I had gone a couple of times to Franke’s downtown Little Rock when I was commuting to the Riverdale area for work, but hadn’t been back since the aughts. When they announced they were going to add a location in the former Dixie Café space—another restaurant I hadn’t visited much since my Riverdale workday life—I figured they’d be appealing to that former chain’s clientele, which isn’t usually our style of eating. But sometimes a gal needs a big ole plate o’carbs. So off we went for Sunday dinner.

 

Ambience:

He Said: The place looks exactly as it did when it was the Dixie Café—even the Dixie Café sign is still out front, though it’s faded and weather beaten—might be a good idea to get rid of that. It appears that nothing has been changed—it’s a fairly large space with relatively comfortable booths and tables. Long counters have been put in along the front and the right side of the building, behind which a number of servers are stationed to dish out your food, cafeteria style.

We did, however, arrive at exactly the wrong time, on a Sunday around 1 p.m., which is just the time to catch the after-church crowd. and I do mean crowd. There was a significant line that stretched halfway around the restaurant when we walked in, and that wasn’t all that fun.

She Said: I had some traumatic Dixie-Café-work-lunch flashbacks while standing in line, so I felt it was time to make some new memories here, as it does look exactly the same, down to the plastic plants in between the booths and the deep red half-walls. It definitely has a cafeteria feel, with diners carting their trays about and servers calling out to people. It was relaxed and social overall.

 

Drinks

He Said:They have Coke products as fountain drinks. These include Barq’s Root Beer. Which is what I had.

She Said:As they didn’t offer Prosecco at the drinks station, I went with my other summer fav, unsweetened iced tea. It was fine.

 

Food

He Said: They have a wide variety of main dishes, salads, sides and desserts here, and they have a featured item of the day, which on this day was meatloaf wrapped in bacon. In my pre-pancreatic days, I would have jumped at that, but I tried to be more fat-conscious, so I opted for the baked fish entrée, which was tilapia. I also had a salad, with lettuce and cucumbers and an Italian dressing, which seemed the lowest fat option. I had sides of cabbage and of a squash casserole and couldn’t resist a piece of pecan pie for dessert. And I should add that they don’t skimp on the servings here.

The quality of the food I had was quite good for the kind of restaurant this is. The baked tilapia was seasoned just right, was flavorful and not overdone. The squash casserole had a little bit of a sweet tang to it and was quite tasty. The cabbage wasn’t bad—it had a little peppery seasoning that She Said wouldn’t have liked but that I did. The cabbage also had corned beef mixed in, which a normal person would have liked but because I was trying to keep fat intake down I skipped eating. There was also a wheat roll with butter that was very nice as dinner rolls go. As for the pecan pie, this was for me the highlight of the meal. It was also the worst thing I could have had for my diet, since there is a lot of fat in nuts like pecans, but I only ate part of it and left a lot of the pecans, but loved the sweet pecany taste of the pie.

She Said: For my food goals these days, I too keep fat grams low (around 60 grams) most days, and my carb grams are over 200 grams each day, so I figured if I chose wisely, Franke’s might be just the place for me, and I was right! I indulged in the fried fish, which was flounder, and then chose higher-carb, lower fat sides to fill my tray: pasta-zucchini salad, mashed potatoes and a wheat dinner roll. Everything was very tasty, and I dressed up my potatoes with a little bit of butter instead of the offered gravy, which was a lot fattier, and also something I couldn’t trust not to be too peppery. The fish was good, but it was a lot more breading than flounder. I had some of the coating, but then just started opening it up and scraping out the fish, as I had some protein goals for myself, too. Seriously, the breading could stand up on its own. That’s a lot of breading. The fish was very good when I got to it: mild, nicely cooked and flaky. I also really liked the pasta salad, which wasn’t overly seasoned and made a nice showcase for the squash and zucchini in the dish. The mashed potatoes were the star of my tray: nicely whipped, perfectly salted and were perfectly yummy with just the addition of a pat of butter. I could eat those all day! The wheat dinner roll was also the kind of thing I come to southern eateries for. I was tempted by the biscuits, too, but that roll was the real deal.

I did have a couple of bites of He Said’s pecan pie, but the filling was too sweet: I could feel the sugar on my teeth and when it hit my system. I had to calm myself down with some flounder.

 He Said: Too sweet for YOU maybe. I thought it was just right.

 

Service

He Said: This is a little hard to judge, because it was a cafeteria. We got directions when we came in from one of the workers as to where to stand in line. The servers were friendly and helpful enough, though they did have some difficulty sometimes keeping straight all of the people in line at that hour, and I felt rushed in a few places, though that was probably more the result of the crowd behind me than the mood I was picking up from the servers.

You don’t pay right away here, but you save your ticket and you eat first, then pay before you leave. I didn’t realize why this was until we sat down and an attendant introduced herself and asked if we needed anything. What we had actually needed was someone to help us with our trays and finding a table to sit at, so it was kind of late to ask. But the attendant did bring She Said some butter for her roll, and offered to bring me a box to take my pie home in when it looked like I was flagging, but I rallied to down the pie instead.

She Said:As our dear readers know, this isn’t my favorite service model. If I’m going out, I want to sit down, take my time with the menu and have it brought to me. I’m klutzy, and I was wearing platform heels, so I was really nervous with my super full tray, just sure I was going to drop everything before we found a place to land. In the future, I’ll ask my server to bring me my drink so at least I won’t have to manage that ball in the juggling act. Our server was friendly and helpful, as was everyone we met. I do feel that this model makes you wait on yourself and then you feel guilty not tipping. (We tipped! We always tip!)

One thing I found confusing is how much things are. There is a menu at the front you can take, but it’s not super clear that you’re to do that, and in line the signage doesn’t communicate beyond a few specials very well what the prices are. If you’re watching your budget, go online first and sort it out.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: A green salad, a pasta salad, baked tilapia, fried flounder, cabbage, squash casserole, mashed potatoes, two wheat dinner rolls, and a slice of pecan pie, all for $35.67. Not the cheapest cafeteria meal I’ve ever had.

 

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 20 minutes in line.

 

Rating:

He Said: Franke’s gives you a lot of choices and their food is plentiful and tastes good. You might want to be careful how many sides you add because these can add up.

She Said:As southern cafeteria’s go, there’s a reason Franke’s has been around 100 years: They know your favorites and how to make them for a crowd.

Is Franke’s good at what it’s good for? Yes. It’s a southern cafeteria with a lot of tasty choices, where it’s easy to eat too much (and maybe spend too much).

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.