Faby’s No. 2

Review No. 15: Faby’s No. 2
1023 Front Street
(501) 513-1199
9.6 percent finished with reviews of Conway restaurants

The Situation
He Said: So apparently there are two of these in Conway, hence the number “2” attached to this downtown version of the place. It had been recommended to us, so of course we decided to give it a try for a review. It’s a little soon after our last Mexican restaurant review, but since there are, to quote myself, at least a thousand Mexican restaurants in Conway, that’s gonna happen from time to time! Faby’s is not entirely Mexican, though, since it also boasts “continental” food on its menu which as far as I could tell meant pasta.
She Said: Yeah, the menu is extensive, and it was a delightful place to come to celebrate your first day of retirement, Ruud! I had a tough workout that morning, so I was hungry. I could see right away there would be something for me here.

He Said: This is a nice place. Its downtown location makes it convenient for a lot of people for lunch, which is what we were here for. But also, being in an older downtown building, it had some style and solidity in its environs, and the walls with exposed brick in places decorated with large tasteful canvases of modern art, made for a comfortable atmosphere.
She Said: Yes, I thought it was quite lovely. I like the dark walls and brick you mentioned. It’s a large space, but doesn’t feel big or impersonal, and it’s always fun to come to downtown Conway!

He Said: Coke products. No root beer. Went to my go-to Dr Pepper.
She Said: I had unsweet iced tea, which was tasty, and they served it with a glass of ice on the side so I could administer the ice and adjust the strength of the tea myself. That was a nice touch!

He Said: I found the food to be rich and flavorful Mexican/American fare (I was tempted by the pasta, but went with the “combination” of three chicken tacos with refried beans and Mexican rice). They brought the usual salsa and chips beforehand, along with a small complimentary cup of tortilla soup. The chips were very fresh and light, and the salsa was really a notch above most places, not only because it was deliciously rich but because it was hot—and I don’t mean spicy, but heated as on a stove. This made for an extraordinarily tasty appetizer, and the tortilla soup was just as fresh and flavorful as the salsa.

The chicken tacos (I always get chicken tacos because chicken has far less fat than red meat) were as good as any I’ve had—the chicken was white and tender and there was a lot of it, and the crispy shells seemed made out of the same very fresh and light stuff as the chips. I asked for more salsa and added it to the tacos, which made them even better. The refried beans and rice were, again, as good as any I’ve had in Conway.
She Said: I wanted to at least try the “continental” side of things, so I started with the crab cakes appetizer, although, of course, I really started with the included chips and the tortilla soup, which were both excellent. The crab cakes were deep fried, but the crab meat was really good and tasted very fresh. I could only eat one, so I brought the other home. This could be a lunch on its own: You get two of the cakes, and the breading and rich seafood meat make them rich and filling. It comes with a small salad and a red sauce that more like a chunky-tomato spicy marinara. I didn’t eat much of that because I don’t like red sauces, but I tried a little, and it added some spice to the cakes.

For my entrée, I chose the taco salad from the lunch menu, and it was excellent. I chose shredded chicken meat (you can also get beef or fajita chicken). It wasn’t huge, but I couldn’t eat it all, as the salad was filling with guacamole, plenty of meat, cheese and a cheesy dressing. They serve it with queso on the side so you can add that, as well. The shell it came in was really delicious—the best I’ve ever had a taco salad in—fresh and crispy, but light, not greasy. Perfection! When I was finishing up but still picking, I broke off sections and dipped them in the queso. Yum! I will definitely be coming back here with this salad in mind!

He Said: The service was prompt and friendly, and the server responded quickly when I asked for anything. You must pay your bill at a window rather than from your table, which perhaps speeds things up at the end of the meal if you’ve got to get back to work after lunch.
She Said: Yes, everyone there was very friendly and helpful. We had questions, having never eaten there before, and our waitress was agreeable and always in a good mood. I thought everyone was very hospitable.

What We Got and What We Paid: Combination meal with three chicken tacos, refried beans, and rice, as well as crab cakes, a taco salad, and unsweetened iced tea, for $24.73 (Ruud got a senior discount, which is available on Tuesdays).

He Said: Good food, very reasonably priced, decent service and a nice atmosphere. This should go into our rotation.
She Said: Yes, we’ll be back here. I’d like to try the pasta dishes, but I don’t know if anything can ever get my mind off that delightful taco salad!

So…He Said and She Said: Go here, eat yummy food at a reasonable price, enjoy the service and the discount on Tuesdays if you’re a senior citizen!

Taylors’ Made Cafe

No. 14: Taylors’ Made Cafe
283 Highway 365

(501) 470-3322

9 percent finished with reviews of Conway restaurants based on current list


The Situation

She Said: I’ve been looking for a karaoke venue where we can inflict our sound stylings on unsuspecting central Arkansans, and I happened to notice that Taylors’ Made has lots of activities weekly, such as Monday movies and Wednesday karaoke. I wasn’t familiar with the restaurant, so I wanted to try it, as one of the reasons we started this multi-year journey of reviewing every restaurant in Conway was to break us out of our comfortable five go-to-restaurants. I realized I’d been here once before when it was a former iteration. I wasn’t teaching yoga, like I usually do on Wednesdays, and I was feeding a pre-cold so as not to get a cold. This place was just the ticket for a mid-week, high-calorie date night!

He Said:  I had my doubts about the legitimacy of this restaurant for this project, it being three and a half miles south of town on Highway 365. But the address is technically “Conway” according to their Website, so with some skepticism I allowed myself to leave the secure city limits and wander off into the barren wilderness toward towns with exotic names like “Mayflower.”



She Said: I like this place! It reminds me of South Dakota or Wisconsin supper clubs, not posh, but comfortable, and easy going, but still pleasant and appealing in a down-home, small-town, unpretentious way. There is a larger dining room, where we were invited to sit wherever we liked by the smiling and welcoming waitress. There’s interesting and attractive art on the paneled walls, and there is a full bar, with tables as well, to the left of the entrance. Beyond that is the Parachute Patio, which is an ample deck with a large stage for live music, a big permanent screen for movies and the set up for karaoke!

He Said: Well, the dining room was a little Spartan, I thought, despite the art, which was nice but sparse. I did enjoy the Parachute Patio, which seemed particularly comfortable in a casual way, though not necessarily where you’d want to go in an Arkansas summer.



She Said: Yeah, Ruud, we lucked into a semi-decent-weather night to try out the patio. But, Taylors’ Made is a big-old winner in my book inside or outside, because the cosmopolitan I ordered is perhaps the best I’ve had in Conway, or its outer reaches. It was perfectly “grown-up” whilst also being light and fruity for summer. It’s apparently not easy to make a cosmo as well as my brother Chuck taught me how to make at home, and the bartender at Taylors’ Made gets it. Total cosmo-awesomeness in a glass! This was a little surprising to me because in similar establishments in Wisconsin, I’ve been asked if I wanted my cabernet “on the rocks.”

He Said: I can see we’ll be returning here, if only for the cosmos. Me, I had a Coke. I got a free refill. There was lots of ice.



She Said: As I perused the menu upon sitting down to our table, I figured you’d be working hard to find something you can eat, Ruud, but I was pretty excited about the comfort-food extravaganza listed before me. Fried is the order of the day, because, of course, fried food is delicious. Of course, there were specials that weren’t fried, salmon and an ahi tuna offering, as well. A lot of dishes tempted me, fried chicken, fried shrimp, burgers, etc., but too much frying and my delicate-flower constitution don’t always get along. Given my carb-loading efforts, I was a little disappointed with the lack of pasta offerings, but I finally settled on a burger.

The Eat It, Conway! project has changed this for me, but, for the past several years, I’ve limited my burger intake to about one a quarter because I’m not that comfortable eating beef for health and humane reasons, but a great burger is one of my top-five favorite foods. It’s also a lot of calories in a fatty-carby package, which was just what the doctor ordered. I’d heard that the onion rings here are stellar, so I did something I almost never do: I sacrificed my beloved French fries to substitute onion rings. I’m so glad I did. The burger came just as I ordered, which was a nice change from the forced-cheeseburger-fun-march of Sonic recently, with lettuce, pickles, onions and mayo only. They didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked, and it may have been a little north of the medium I usually prefer, but I didn’t mind at all. It was perfectly satisfying in a way fast-food burgers never are. And those onion rings were mighty fine, the carby-coating was tasty without being greasy. It was really a great burger meal, and I actually felt some dread knowing I would have irresistible cravings for just this meal in the very near future.

He Said: This menu was quite challenging for someone looking for low-fat options. I believe every one of the appetizers was fried, and just about all of the sandwiches. There was a grilled chicken sandwich, but there was also a grilled chicken dinner, so I went for that. I was tempted by the salmon special, but the fact is I learned a lesson a long time ago that most of these kinds of “down-home” restaurants that do not have salmon as a regular item on the menu will inevitably overcook it, and if you’ve overcooked salmon—if you cook it beyond “medium”—you’ve ruined it. So I went with the grilled chicken, which came with a choice of two sides, the least fatty of which appeared to be the rice pilaf and the green beans. For less than two bucks extra, I could add a dinner salad, so I did.

The salad was actually really good—just lettuce with some grated cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and croutons, and some low-fat ranch dressing. I was quite happy with it. The rice pilaf was also very tasty, and the meal came with a dinner roll which, after I asked for butter, was very flavorful. The green beans were not bad—they pretty obviously came from a can, but they did have some bacon in them, which I needed to eat around, since bacon is anathema to the pancreas. The chicken, however, was a disappointment. I suppose it’s true of most grilled chicken breasts, but there was nothing there but the chicken breast—no kind of sauce or spice to dress it up a little. So it was basically dry and not particularly tender. I ate some of the rice with each mouthful, which made it more palatable.



She Said: Everyone here was very, very friendly, casual, laid-back and hospitable. The waitress checked on us without being omnipresent, and when we moved to the patio for karaoke, where we saw more than one table enjoying something that seemed to be a bucket of bottled beers, another waitress made sure we had eaten and didn’t need anything. The service was a big part of the easy-going, fun-night-out vibe I had here.

He Said: The friendliness was there for sure, and they were very accommodating about our moving to the patio. I suppose it’s part of their “thing” to have the waitress not write down the order, but that always annoys me a little, since unless the server has a perfect memory, s/he often either gets something wrong or has to come back and clarify something. So I was glad when the waitress came back and asked about my side dishes again, since otherwise I’d have ended up with mashed potatoes instead of rice, and there’d have been hell to pay! Well, probably not, but it was better than bringing the wrong item. And she did bring me butter for the roll right away when I asked. But my main advice: let your servers write down the friggin’ order! Who cares if they have good memories? Isn’t getting the order right our goal here?


What We Got and What We Paid: Hamburger with onion rings (substituted for the fries), grilled chicken breast with rice pilaf, green beans and a roll, a side salad, a soda, a stellar cosmopolitan and a glass of red wine for $33.07.


She Said: I had a great time (and I’m sure everyone who heard our rendition of “Jackson” did too)! The comfort food was on point, and the karaoke was a fun addition. I’ll be back, maybe in my yoga clothes after teaching gentle basics.

He Said: I imagine we’ll be back for cosmos and karaoke, and maybe I’ll treat everyone with my personal signature karaoke number, “Born to be Wild”! (“Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway!”). But I’ll see if there’s something else I can order next time.


So…He Said and She Said: Go here for a great vibe, tasty comfort food and Parachute-Patio fun. But you’ll have a tough time eating healthy.


El Parian Mexican Restaurant

No. 13: El Parian Mexican Restaurant
2585 N Donaghey Ave # 101

8.4 percent done with Conway restaurants based on the current list

(501) 513-1313

 The Situation

He Said:  There are somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand Mexican restaurants in Conway, so it’s high time we reviewed one. El Parian is a good place to go for lunch because they are extremely quick. We decided, however, to give it a try for an evening meal.

She Said: El Parian is definitely in our rotation of restaurants we frequent. We go often for lunch or even during the week, but this was a Saturday post-movie, and I was, as always, craving a margarita.



 He Said: It’s colorful and kind of cliché, with booths brightly painted with stereotypical Mexican scenes, and TV sets usually tuned to soccer games. But it’s a pleasant and friendly atmosphere.

She Said: I like the colorful carved booths and the openness of the restaurant. On this night, someone seemed to be setting up for karaoke, but nothing happened whilst we were there. Too bad; we have a mean version of “Jackson” we could have busted out.



He Said: You’ll have to ask my wife about the margaritas. For myself, there are a number of soft drinks available, as well as iced tea and lemonade. I had the unsweetened iced tea, which was just what you’d expect unsweetened iced tea to be. It was not sweet. And it was tea. And there was ice in it.

She Said: I went with my regular drink here, the large, frozen mango margarita. It was delightful. It’s like grown-up ice cream. It’s definitely large, but I didn’t need a second drink.  



He Said: The menu has a lot of choice for a fairly typical Mexican place. There are a number of vegetarian combinations on offer, and you can get tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and fajitas with chicken as well as beef. The salsa is fairly bland, and if you like your Mexican food laced with a lot of hot sauce you might be disappointed, though you can probably add some heat yourself with condiments. The fajitas are a particular favorite here, and my daughter will order them every time. This night I did a personalized combination, ordering a hard-shell chicken taco and a chicken enchilada with red sauce (you can also have the option of cheese sauce).

The combo came with Mexican rice and refried beans. I found the food satisfying and palatable: it is “authentic” to the extent that non-Mexican North Americans might like it. The rice and beans were a cut above most places, the red sauce was tasty, and the chicken was lean and tender.

 She Said: I ordered vegetarian combination A, which includes refried beans, a cheese enchilada and a chalupa, which is nice, because it includes guacamole. The combinations include the choice of red or cheese sauce, and since I don’t like tomatoes, I always choose cheese. It’s good, and I like being able to easily and deliciously avoid meat. There are a number of “vegetarian” combinations (one of which includes shrimp… ?), and I always order one of these platters. The variety and portions are perfect. I think it’s a tasty supper. It’s not particularly fresh and light, but in this vein of Mexican restaurant, that’s not to be expected.



He Said: The service is always great here. The waiters pride themselves on getting to you quickly and filling your order fast. We waited just over five minutes to get our food. I did have to remind the waiter that I had ordered an iced tea, but he quickly brought it after the reminder. This kind of speed, as I mentioned before, makes this an ideal lunch place for those poor souls who have to get back to work. And the food is quite inexpensive here, not really much more than fast food except you get waited on and can have a drink.

She Said: I think the service here is always stellar, friendly, without being overbearing: fast and attentive. They check on you, but never hover. A lot of restaurants could take service lessons from El Parian.


What We Got and What We Paid: Two combination plates, one with chicken taco, chicken enchilada and refried beans with and Mexican rice plus iced tea, and one with refried beans, cheese enchilada and chalupa, plus a margarita for $27.41.

 He Said: Still probably my favorite Mexican restaurant in Conway. Or at least the most reliable. I expect to be back, especially for lunch.

 She Said: Yes, it’s old reliable. Heavy, but tasty, with a delightful mango margarita to boot!

 So…He Said and She Said: Go here for quick, affordable “American-Mexican” food, tasty drinks and great service.




Sonic (Oak Street)

No. 12: Sonic (Oak Street)
1890 E. Oak Street
7.8 percent done with Conway restaurants based on the current list

The Situation

She Said: I needed a quick lunch between running errands in Little Rock and a conference call with clients, so Ruud came to pick me up and we rolled to our neighborhood Sonic to snag some fast food and bring it home. That way he could see our new puppy on his lunch hour. We had recently returned from a two-week trip to China and were in the mood for something easy and familiar.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be clear: I love Sonic. I mean actual love. When I’m going to gut-bust on the calorie count with fast food, Sonic is my go-to. This is probably because when we moved here in 2003, you were in England, Ruud, and my sweet friend Sarah traveled the 1,000 miles with me to Arkansas from South Dakota and dog and cat wrangled with me as I closed on the house in Conway and managed the move. On move-in day, I was trapped with the animals in the guest room as the movers unloaded, and we were famished. Sarah went hunting and gathering and came back with bags of burgers and fries from Sonic, which I had never heard of before. Sitting on the floor in our guest room, starving, stressed and overwhelmed, that burger tasted better to me than any burger I had ever had.

There’s an idea in market research (my day job) that we all create a code around the first time we experience something, an emotional nut that forms in our minds that will almost always remain inviolate unless something catastrophic overrides it. Clearly, I was a blank slate on which that delicious Sonic burger wrote what was to be a very long love story. Every time I indulge in their food, I recall the feelings of that first taste, the satisfaction, the soothing flavors of quick calories and emotional eating to-go.

He Said: Well, the thing I like about Sonic is that it’s a flashback to an earlier time—as a kid, if my family wanted to go out to eat, what we could afford was essentially a drive-in restaurant, “Dog & Suds,” where I could get a hot dog and a root beer delivered by a carhop and eaten in the car. And in high school, “dinner and a movie” was often taking the girl to a drive in (most likely A&W) for a burger, and then to a drive-in movie, so you could have an entire date and never leave your car. Those were the days.

Both drive-in theaters and drive-in restaurants are pretty much a thing of the American-Graffiti past, but Sonic, almost single-handedly, continues that tradition.  Of course, in late July in Arkansas you’d be out of your mind to sit in the car and eat, so we got the food and took it home. We aren’t completely crazy, after all.


She Said: Ah, now you’re making me want A&W, Ruud! But, you’re right: Sonic has a little more “mood” than other fast-food places because of the people who bring the food to your car in your parking spot, instead of the conveyor-belt feeling of drive-up windows. It’s also the kind of place, since you’re not going to get out of your car, where you can wear your $5, knee-length, elephant-print pants from the Mong Kok market in Hong Kong and your 30-year-old Violent Femmes concert t-shirt if you feel like it. Or so I am told. The ordering system also means you can take all the time you want with the menu because you push the button to order when you’re ready. We took a lot of time, because Ruud wasn’t as familiar with the goodness of Sonic as I was.

He Said: There is no question that I am the world’s slowest orderer, which is always a problem in the drive-through. But this isn’t a drive-through, it’s a drive-in. As for ambience, it basically depends on what the inside of your car looks like, because that’s the ambience here. The inside of mine looked fine, even with the Violent Femmes T-shirt.


She Said: Don’t forget the dog-hair that your car likes to accumulate. Sonic is the Starbucks of soda and cold drinks, with many drinks and multiple customizable options. I don’t like sweet drinks, so I’m not one of those people with a Sonic drink order as individual as my fingerprints. Even so, I’m pretty happy with Sonic because the unsweet ice tea I get there is really stellar. It’s not too strong (which hurts my stomach if I drink too much of it because I’m old), and is tasty and nicely iced.   

He Said: Yes. I was intrigued by the plethora of “add ins” that were available for infusing your soft-drink (obviously, this contributed to my drawn-out ordering performance). What I chose was the root beer with a shot of vanilla. A brilliant choice, as it turns out.


She Said: I’ve explained how I feel about the food, now I’ll write about the actual order. For this Sonic visit, I chose my standard, plus dessert, because I was advised that Sonic has “great ice cream.” On the menu, I could not find a hamburger listed. They only list cheeseburgers in various iterations, so I always order a “cheeseburger with no cheese,” which makes me feel ridiculous, though apparently, this is a “Sonic Burger”—which is not listed on the menu poster that I could find—plus half the time it comes with cheese anyway. On this visit, I ordered a cheeseburger, no cheese and no tomato, with mayo, and French fries, an unsweet tea, along with a hot-fudge sundae. I got a cheeseburger with no tomato. If I had to pick an error, I’d rather have them leave the tomato on, as then I can reach in and take it off. The melted cheese is unfixable, and I am the one person you’ve met who doesn’t like cheddar cheese. So, this time I wasn’t that happy with the burger (though the emotional eating-my-feelings code was still discernable). The fries there are good, not great, and these were a little wilted. I love the iced tea, and the ice cream sundae was tasty, though I thought they were a little lean on the hot fudge. I love Sonic, but for all the calories I consumed in this meal, I wasn’t completely satisfied. So, I guess this was a low in our relationship.

He Said: You definitely got hosed on your order, Jones. It is pretty weird to have a fast food joint in which “hamburger” is not an option. As for me, it’s incredibly difficult to find a healthy option on the Sonic menu. It appears at first that every single item on the menu is fried. If your eyesight is really good, though (which mine is not—fortunately I had Jones with me to read the fine print), you may notice that it is possible to get a grilled chicken sandwich, rather than a breaded and fried one. And so that’s where I went. The chicken was lean and the sandwich tasty—at least as good as can be found at other fast-food places.

If you want to eat healthy and are planning to go to Sonic, here’s a tip: like many other large chains, Sonic has a nutritional chart available online at http://fastfoodnutrition.org/sonic/chart

This chart reveals some rather alarming facts: A bacon cheeseburger at Sonic, for example contains 59 grams of fat—which is more than the total amount of fat that I can comfortably eat in an entire day. A Super Sonic Double Cheeseburger with Mayo has 87(!) grams of fat. The Deluxe Ultimate Chicken Sandwich has 39 grams, but my Grilled Chicken Sandwich had only 20 grams of fat. Still a good amount for one item in my daily diet, but doable. Of course, I foolishly added Tater Tots to that amount. They were pretty crispy and delicious actually, but did add another 19 grams of fat to my lunch. Still, I escaped with less than 40 grams of fat for that meal. I just needed to be really careful the rest of the day. And you should be careful and take it easy when ordering at Sonic.


She Said: I usually have very friendly service at Sonic, though it can be hard to hear over the intercoms in the order bays if the staffer isn’t speaking clearly. Today, our waitress came to the car, checked every item with us (though I should have opened up the burger to make sure it had no cheese) and told us she had given us extra napkins, etc. I usually tip a few bucks, as the wait stuff have to deal with weather and wildly dressed customers, or so I hear.

He Said: The server was perky and the order came quickly, so nothing to complain about there, but to have your order ignored and to get a cheeseburger anyway is a definite problem.

What We Got and What We Paid: Cheeseburger (!), medium French fries, medium iced tea, hot fudge sundae, grilled chicken sandwich, medium tater tots and a medium root beer with a vanilla shot for $17.80.


She Said: I’ll give Sonic more chances because of how I felt about them all those years ago, but I wish they would stop making me eat cheeseburgers.
He Said: I probably won’t be going too often—the food tastes good, but it’s hard to eat healthy here. I might return just for the soda with the add-in, though.

So…He Said and She Said: Pretty good fast food at a reasonable price, with some tasty options for drinks but limited options


805 Monroe St, Conway, AR


The Situation

He Said: The situation here was that it was lunchtime, I was hungry, and my wife called and said “Let’s go to lunch.” So we thought we’d try this new soup and salad place, which opened in Conway on May 23. It was, I believe, a request from one of our loyal readers.

She Said: Yes, I was coming from Jazzercise and was trying to be good after a “weighty” Fourth of July weekend. Several friends and readers had asked us to check this place out, so it seemed like a great option.



He Said: This is clearly a place mainly intended for takeout. Apparently they even have a delivery option that you can ask for online at https://www.mealonthefly.com/store/menu/merchant/snag-a-salad


As a takeout place, the interior is not particularly fancy. There are 11 small tables and the décor is pretty bare, though it is bright and not unpleasant. They actually have the menu painted on the wall. I suppose that would make changing the menu something of a hassle.

She Said: Yes, it’s kind of like a corporate lunchroom, but the cheeriest, friendliest one you’ve ever visited. It’s “efficient” but bright and airy. Our friend Amber happened upon us while we were there, and as we left, I noticed her sitting with her lunch and earbuds, and it seemed like a great place to get away from your desk and spend quality time with some salad greens and your favorite podcast.



He Said: Pretty much no choice here: they have three possible drinks: sweetened iced tea, unsweetened iced tea, and lemonade. These are dispensed through coolers in the dining area.

She Said: Yes, I was hoping for unsweet tea and I got it. The lemonade option was confusing to me: There’s a dispenser for “Water for lemonade” but I was not sure what that meant. If I had ordered it, I guess they would have told me.



He Said: They have 12 different kinds of salad here, from Greek to Chinese Chicken to Italian to BLT. They also have a variety of fresh dressings that they make from scratch, though when we were there they were out of three kinds of dressing. In addition, there is a soup of the day every day. I opted for the small soup and salad combination. I ordered the Turkey Taco salad, which looked pretty low fat as long as I requested that they leave out the olives that usually come with it. The salad was made up of ground turkey and kidney beans, with scallions and grape tomatoes and mixed greens. The “taco” element was bolstered by tortilla strips and a sprinkling of Jack cheese, which I could have (maybe should have) left off to make it even freer of fat. But it was a delicious combination, made even tastier by the also low-fat Southwest Chipotle Honey Lime dressing. The soup of the day was Santa Fe Tortilla Soup, which seemed a perfect complement to the salad. The soup was fine, about what you’d expect from Tortilla Soup. Nothing spectacular but certainly not bad, and worth having.

She Said: I had a tough time choosing, as there were so many delicious-looking options. Finally, I chose the small Berry Chicken salad, with dried cranberries, blueberries and other fruit, along with feta cheese, mixed greens and lots of chicken. They were out of my salad’s dressing, Ruud, so I asked the saladwright which dressings would work best with my salad of those they had. She suggested the ranch, which I thought was heavier than I wanted, but it came on the side, so I could regulate it. The salad was delicious, and I really dug into it. My only complaint was that there weren’t more greens, as it seemed the toppings overwhelmed the actual salad. But that’s a niggling detail. It was good stuff, and my weigh-in the next day was quite positive.



He Said: You order here at the counter, where the people are friendly and helpful while they make your salad. It’s a bit odd in that you don’t get a bill or check. As you leave the person at the cash register asks you what you had. I can’t see that as a very efficient system if they get many eat-in customers-it seems to be set up specifically for carry out.

She Said: Yeah, I felt a little worried for Snag-a-Salad because the service-to-pay system seemed very honor-system-y. If they had a big rush, there’d be no way for them to know if what I’m telling them I ate is what I actually bought. I think they really are focused on take-away and delivery, so I hope this doesn’t hurt them. But everyone was SUPER friendly. There were plenty of staffers to wait on customers and direct them. I had a ton of questions because I wasn’t sure how the process worked there, and they were all very welcoming and helpful.


What We Got and What We Paid: A small berry chicken salad, a small turkey taco salad, tortilla soup and two drinks. DO YOU HAVE THE RECEIPT?



He Said: I will definitely go back here, or more likely order food to pick up. It’s good food, it’s fresh, and it’s pretty healthy.

She Said: What He said.


So…He Said and She Said: Go here for healthy salads, either eat-in or take-away.



Jade China

No. 9: Jade China
559 Harkrider Street

(501) 329-5121

5.9 percent done reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: I’ve lived in Conway for 13 years and, to be honest, I’ve never noticed Jade China. It’s a small, unassuming (and green) building on Harkrider next to Bank of the Ozarks, so I assume I’m always too caught up in the traffic and busy-ness of Harkrider to have seen it. But there it is, and it’s been there for some time—since at least 2000, when, according to the signs posted on the wall, it won the “People’s Choice” award as the best Chinese restaurant in Central Arkansas. An award that it apparently also won in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. After that it either stopped winning the award, or (as seems likely) they ran out of wall space in the restaurant.

She Said: I’ve noticed it! That color building is definitely unusual, but for some reason, we’ve never stopped in before. We’ve bounced among various Chinese-food venues in Conway over the years as they open and close. One of our lovely readers, Brianna Hamby, suggested we review Jade China, and I thought it was a good opportunity to try a new (to us) place. Just like last week, we went after yoga to try this spot for our review project. We were relaxed…but hungry!


He Said: The restaurant itself is very small. There are eight tables and booths, and other than the “People’s Choice” awards along one wall, there is virtually nothing to spruce it up except a few Chinese looking trinkets on the far wall. Clearly Jade China depends on take-out for most of its business, and they see no need to make the place comfortable for those who eat in. It’s noisy and actually rather unpleasant in the place.

She Said: Yes. You forgot to mention all the signs on the wall, including the menu and the sign noting they “close the lobby at 8:30 p.m.,” even though they are open until 9 in the evening. It seems almost more like a food truck than a restaurant in there, and, because it was a hot day, it was hot in there, so it felt like the discomfort of the food-truck experience in many ways: I’ve got this food, but no where pleasant to eat it. When we arrived, I noticed that every single person coming out of Jade China was carrying to-go bags, and I had been told most people pick up their food, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but even then I was disappointed. I mean, they ask you if you are eating in or taking away when you order at the counter (no menus, just signs), but even then they don’t bring you the food on plates: It came to the table in to-go boxes. Seriously. With plastic cutlery. Once I finished, I was so eager to leave—there was a small child yelling at a man waiting to order—I thought I might head out on my own, leaving you, Ruud, to your own slow-eating devices.



He Said: The usual fountain kinds of drinks. I had a Dr. Pepper. No root beer or Mountain Dew available, either of which I would have preferred.

She Said: I had unsweet iced tea. They provide free refills, which I got to go.


He Said: I had an appetizer, which turned out to be a single fried egg roll. The fried aspect was a bit of a risk with my low-fat diet, but I thought one wouldn’t send me to the hospital. I had a little sweet-and-sour sauce with it, and I do think that the egg roll would have been worth the price of admission. Of course, I could not make a meal of that, but Jade China does have a wide-ranging menu with a number of vegetarian and low-fat choices, so it was not difficult to find something that looked good. I had the chicken vegetable dish, with brown rice. The vegetables included broccoli, water chestnuts, cabbage, and onions, which I had with soy sauce. The dish was good, though there was nothing surprising about it. Was it the worthy of best Chinese food place in central Arkansas for (at least) seven years in a row? I guess it depends on the competition. There aren’t a lot of Chinese restaurants in Conway, anyway. And it’s not bad, though I’m not going to be craving it any time soon. One thing is certain: there was a lot of it. I had enough food for dinner and for a full lunch the following day. And it was inexpensive.

She Said: I wanted to try more than one dish, too, so I started with the crab Rangoon, crab and cream-cheese deep-fried dough pockets. There were four in my order, and they were deeply fried. Deeply. But they were pretty tasty, and as I wrote this paragraph, I remembered I had one left in the fridge, and I just went and ate it.

I saw there were several tasty-looking tofu dishes in the vegetarian section, but it had been a long time since I had eaten my favorite Chinese entrée, cashew chicken. Honestly, I think the ordering situation (at the counter, no individual menus) contributed to my not really taking advantage of a lot of the different menu items they list. This cashew chicken was, like your entrée, Ruud, good, but nothing special. It certainly was nothing like the incredibly fresh and delicious plate of cashew chicken we ate at that little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Beijing just outside the Forbidden City, where it tasted like they had just picked the veggies out of a smog-protected garden in the back. This had a lot of chicken and cashews, definitely, but the other ingredients didn’t taste especially fresh, as they were somewhat overwhelmed by the sauce, which was yummy, but oppressive. There was A LOT of it, which I brought home. I could probably make four more meals of it, but I think I’ll get tired of it before then.


He Said: There isn’t a whole lot to say about service in a place where you order at the counter, except to say that they were courteous and helpful enough when we ordered. One fairly significant irritation is the sign that said you could not use credit cards or debit cards. That policy seems bizarrely behind the times. Who carries cash these days? Let alone a checkbook, which, strangely, would have been more acceptable than a card. We were told—politely, I suppose—that there was an ATM next door (at the Bank of the Ozarks building). And so that is where we got the cash. Not exactly big on customer service here. I will say, though, that when I asked for a refill on the Dr. Pepper, the server behind the counter was quite willing to give me one.

She Said: They were very friendly and helpful, definitely, but the service model is not my favorite. It’s all rather predicated on the idea that if you go there, you’ve been there before and know exactly what you want and what to do, though when they could tell we were newbies, they were helpful. One thing I didn’t love was that they brought the food when it was ready, so I got my “appetizer” well after my cashew chicken. But again, if you are taking the food away, this wouldn’t matter (s they act like it doesn’t matter if you are dining in). They really put very little, except a smile, into having customers eat in the restaurant.

What We Got and What We Paid: An eggroll, crab Rangoon, chicken and vegetables, cashew chicken, Root Beer and an unsweet iced tea for $23.24



He Said: If you want a genuine Chinese meal and like a wide choice at a reasonable price, you could do a lot worse than Jade China. But trust me, get the food as take-out. And bring cash.

She Said: You could probably do worse than Jade China, but the ambiance is so unpleasant, I recommend that if you order from there, make someone else go pick it up.

So…He Said and She Said: If you already have a favorite Chinese restaurant, there’s no reason to change, but if you want to try Jade China, bring cash and take away the food.





No. 10: ZAZA Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza Co.
1050 Ellis Ave. (Hendrix Village)

(501) 336-9292

6.5 percent done with Conway restaurants based on the current list


The Situation

She Said: We were having a lovely Saturday, yoga in Heber Springs, a movie in Conway and an early dinner before going home to lollygag and such like. During the movie, I got the brilliant idea we should review ZAZA because I love it, but my husband doesn’t, and reviewing it was the one way I could think of to get Ruud to go with me that day.

He Said: Pretty fiendish scheme there, Jones. But no, you are right, it would be hard to get me here without the duty to review the place, which I committed to when I said we could review every restaurant in Conway. It’s not like I hate the place—I just don’t see why other people include it as one of their favorites. What’s to like?



She Said: It’s lively and can be loud, but I like the décor—the orange accents, the wood and the openness to the food-making areas. But it’s a little industrial, and not the most comfortable place with the polished concrete floors and large, open space that is the opposite of snuggly. I will say I like that they are open all day, and they are a place I am comfortable dining alone, which isn’t always a given for a woman.


He Said: Yeah, I have noticed that it is in fact women who like this place. Maybe because there are so many kinds of salads. Or because the pizza is not really pizza but flatbread masquerading as pizza. And I agree about the place not being that comfortable.

The least comfortable thing about the place is that you have to go through one line to order food, and then if you want a drink you have to go through another line. There used to be a third line for gelato, as I recall, but they seem to have at least done away with that annoying inconvenience, and only kept the drink one.

Oh, and one other thing. And here I’m going to rant about Arkansas restaurants in general: Look people, if it’s 95 degrees outside, that doesn’t mean it needs to be 60 degrees inside. That isn’t a comfortable temperature. Why don’t you just keep the thermostat set on 72 whether it’s winter or summer? I had to run out to my car to get a jacket to be able to sit eating in this place. And it’s not the only restaurant like that. It seems like every time the thermometer goes up a degree on the outside, they need to turn it down another degree on the inside. How does that make any sense?



She Said: They have a variety of drinks, both fountain and bottled, but I, of course, usually frequent the bar. They have great happy-hour specials, good margaritas (not the best cosmopolitans, though, in my experience), lots of beer with a changing cast of characters there, and wine, along with cocktails. The problem with the bar is … well, I’ll catch up with that in the “Service” section below.

He Said: Since I can’t do the bar, I satisfied myself with a classy root beer. They do have a variety of soft drinks here, and not the run-of-the-mill Coke or Pepsi kind, so that is a plus.



She Said: I like the food. I like the pizzas, though I think the rosemary potato pizza I loved is off the menu these days, but what I go here for is the Asian chicken salad, which I get with extra fried chicken and light dressing, though just the “half” portion. It’s got edamame, crispy wantons, slivered almonds, mixed greens, green onions, carrots, all that glorious FRIED CHICKEN and mandarin oranges, or at least it usually does. The salader (salad chef? salad artist?) who put mine together this day didn’t include them, which I noticed only when I was talking up the salad to my cynical dining partner and saw those little beauties weren’t there. I could have gone up to get them, but I was lazy. This is a salad I get to go a lot. And when I was trying to be vegan for Lent, I just got it without the chicken, and it was pretty great. You can get it with grilled chicken, Ruud, and that might be better for you than what you actually chose.

He Said: More than likely. There are not a whole lot of things on the menu here, and what there is, is mainly salad or pizza. Now my low-fat diet makes pizza almost impossible: even if you have a vegetarian pizza, omitting the high-fat pepperoni or sausage usually found on pizza, and leave off high-fat toppings like olives, you are still left with all the cheese. I don’t know any place where they will actually make a pizza with no cheese—I did try that once here at ZAZA and was told it could not happen. What I got then was a pizza with huge clumps of mozzarella, rather than small amounts spread delicately throughout the tomato sauce. So no, pizza is not really an option for me here.

Those of you who think salad is a healthy, low-fat option do have another think coming as well. Here, at any rate, every single salad includes olives, cheese, avocado, almonds, eggs, and/or bacon, not to mention the possibility of a number of high-fat dressings. Your salad could end up with more calories, and maybe even more fat, than your pizza. You can, of course, ask for a vinaigrette type of dressing, and ask them not to include the particular offending fatty items in your particular salad, but often that means it’s just not going to taste as good.

What’s a poor boy to do? I opted for something new: I had never tried the wings at ZAZA, perhaps because they are new (they do not appear on their online menu). I got boneless barbecue chicken wings, and these were actually very tasty. If you like fried chicken and barbecue sauce at all, I’d recommend them as one of the more flavorful items on the menu, but I am pretty sure they were not exactly low-fat, since they were fried. So…I’m still looking for a low-fat item to get excited about here.



She Said: This is where I agree with you, Ruud, on the ZAZA experience. To order food, you wait in one line, and I do think it’s a little confusing where you stand to order salad, versus ordering pizza or other hot foods, like wings. You get your salad, but then if you want something from the bar, you have to stand in another line. This past time, I put my salad down at our table and went back to the bar to get a margarita. I happened to be after a couple of gregarious dudes who wanted to talk at length with the bartender about all the different beers on tap, so while my food waited for me, I stood there waiting for them to talk out all their choices, the bartender’s preferences and knowledge, and yada, yada, yada. There was nothing wrong with what any of them were doing. The dudes were having a relaxing Saturday afternoon; the bartender was focused on them, as he should be, but my husband was at the table alone and I stood there. And stood there. And stood there. Finally, I got to order and wait for it to be made. When I wanted a glass of Prosecco, and got to go up and wait for service, again, though this time it was much more timely, as there were more bartenders by then. This model is why I decided against gelato, though I would have liked to review it: I didn’t want to go back up there and stand there again.

However, the servers who make the food, bring the food and wait on you at the bar are friendly, personable and professional. Every time.

He Said: Yeah, I said this earlier. But I’m glad you’re reiterating it here. It’s dumb. The folks who make the salad or pizza are friendly and helpful enough, usually—I didn’t have your experience with the bartender. But the whole model just really doesn’t work very well.


What We Got and What We Paid: A half-portion Asian chicken salad with extra chicken, an order of boneless wings, a fountain soda, a margarita and a glass of Prosecco. Food ticket: $24.35. Bar tab: $11.



She Said: I love the food, so I’m willing to endure the service model, but I don’t like it.

He Said: I won’t be going back any time soon.

So…He Said and She Said: Get your zen on if lines are not your thing, but you may or may not think it’s worth it.

US. Pizza

U.S. Pizza Company
710 Front Street

(501) 450-9700

No. 8: 5.2 percent finished reviewing Conway resturants

The Situation

She Said: I love pizza! It’s one of the things I break a lot of my food guidelines for when the opportunity arises (low carb, no mammal meat, small helpings, low gluten). It was my mother’s last night in Conway with us, and we had begun her visit to us six weeks before with U.S. Pizza take-away, so we thought she should have the dine-in experience of this Arkansas chain before returning to South Dakota. It’s my favorite pizza in Conway (since we don’t have Pizza Café), and like daughter like mother: She loves pizza!

He Said: Pizza is a particular challenge to somebody on a low-fat diet. It is virtually impossible to get a low-fat pizza, which would mean no cheese, no meat, no grease. All the things that make pizza pizza. So I had my work cut out for me to find a low-fat alternative at U.S. Pizza.



She Said: It’s a relaxed and casual family environment, that’s for sure. The big TVs (which, if you are sitting under them and in another patron’s eyeline, can give you self-consciousness complex!), the primary colors, the concrete and diner-type seating all fit the good-time vibe. It’s not too loud, though, and I feel comfy and at ease here.

He Said: The concrete floor gives it a kind of warehouse feeling, and it’s essentially a sports bar, with several TVs going . So I guess you’d call it a relaxed atmosphere, certainly with no frills. It’s definitely a family place: When we first sat down, in the back area where there were four other tables, two of the tables were occupied, with a total of seven children between them. When those two tables left, two other family groups arrived, one with seven children, the other with three. So it’s definitely a comfortable place to bring your kids. If you don’t like kids, maybe not so comfortable.



She Said: It’s hard to resist beer when ordering pizza. I chose Amber Bock on tap. One is too few; two is too many. But it’s a delicious problem to have.

He Said: They do have beer, which definitely goes with pizza. They had soft drinks as well—Coke products specifically, and I was able to get a Barq’s root beer, which was exactly what I wanted.



She Said: I’m glad you got a kind of beer, at least, Ruud. Because we were reviewing, we thought we’d try the breadsticks. These look more like hotdog buns, open with mozzarella cheese and garlic butter in them. We each had one, and we took the last one home, but tossed it when we got the left-overs out; it didn’t seem like it would have held up very well. My mother and I split the large, or 13-inch, pizza, ordering sausage on half (for her) and pepperoni on the other half, with green olives and mushrooms on all of it. I love that you can get a custom pizza here. This ended up to be four slices each. I ate three and she ate two of hers, so she took the rest home and ate it on the trip north. I like this pizza because I prefer thin crust. It’s crispy without being too dry, and they were just generous enough with the toppings we selected. Merely writing about it makes me want to eat another slice!

He Said: So let me begin with a rant, which is not aimed specifically at U.S. Pizza, though I do include them in the rant: Here is one of those menus that you run into so often these days where nearly everything on the menu is touted as being “gluten free.” Now I’m fine if you don’t want to have gluten. But the fact is that, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only perhaps one in 141 Americans suffer from Celiac’s disease, or gluten intolerance. Others are “sensitive” to gluten, but not in any danger from it. Cardiovaculsar disease, however, is responsible for nearly one out of every four deaths in the United States. And what should a person with cardiovascular disease avoid? Gluten? Uh…no.  It’s fat, folks. Just because there is currently an anti-gluten fad, restaurants should be more concerned with providing customers with low-fat options, and stop jumping on the gluten bandwagon to give the impression they are health-conscious.

Which brings me to my order. There are not a lot of options, but I managed to find a delicious low-fat salad to begin with—the Primavera Salad, which included mixed lettuce, Anaheim peppers, yellow squash, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, purple onions (which gave it a little kick) and feta cheese. Had I been thinking more clearly, I’d have asked them to leave off the feta, which adds a fair amount of fat, but also much deliciousness. But I pushed most of the cheese off when I got the plate. I added a honey-mustard dressing, which was low fat and tasted terrific. I was really happy with my salad.

The entrée was more difficult. But they do serve spaghetti at U.S. Pizza, though most of the pastas have some kind of fatty cream that comes with them. But I asked for the spaghetti and meatballs with marinara sauce, but without the meatballs. The sauce was tasty and it proved not a bad meal.



She Said: Our server was prompt, efficient and helpful, though probably not the friendliest waitress we’ve ever had. She got the job done, though, and everything was right and relatively quick.

He Said: The young woman who waited on us was attentive and unobtrusive, and got us second rounds of beer, both the lager and the root variety, without our having to run her down. Everything was timely and we had no problems.


What We Got and What We Paid: Two Amber Bocks, root beer and Diet Coke, bread sticks and a small salad, spaghetti and one large pizza, for $48.52.



She Said: Best pizza in Conway in a casual and comfortable atmosphere. I’ll be back for both dine in and carry out… in fact, I’m craving it right now!

He Said: I wouldn’t mind coming again, if just for the salad.

So…He Said and She Said: Go here. Eat and drink.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

No. 7: Chipotle Mexican Grill
915 East Oak Street

(501) 504-2416

4.6 percent done reviewing Conway restaurants


The Situation

She Said: I decided to embrace the suburban cliché that I’ve become: I taught a yoga class and then drove to Chipotle, with my husband, to eat healthy, vegan fast-food. When I’m on a plant-based bender and find myself in Little Rock, it’s one of the easier places to get nonanimal food fast. Even with their recent food-safety issues (500+ people nationwide down with different E. coli strains and norovirus) they still possess the aura of a healthy, sustainably-sourced eatery in my mind from all I’ve heard about them over the years (and read in their own restaurants) with their pasture-raised dairy, non-GMO ingredients, antibiotic-free meat and local foods when possible. For me, it’s the rare convenience of vegan fast-food that draws me to them.

He Said: Well, I’m not so drawn to the vegan thing, but I am interested in healthy options, of which they have a plethora: as you write, their meat contains no antibiotics, their dairy is free-range, and their vegetables are local when possible. Of course, as I mention with every review, I particularly need low-fat options, which are always a challenge. As Conway’s newest restaurant, though, the time has definitely come to review Chipotle’s.



She Said: You order at the counter, a la, Subway, so there’s the line and the take-away. There is a lot of metal and different kinds of seating, tables and high seating with stools. (I love the purse hooks, though, on the high tables. Very thoughtful!) If you’ve eaten in a Chipotle before, this one will be very familiar to you. It’s not a place I want to stay too long after I’m finished with my food.


He Said: Yeah, there’s really nothing welcoming or comfortable about the seating area in a Chipotle’s, and they’re all alike. It’s kind of like eating at a school cafeteria: You can’t really get any [privacy anywhere, and it’s loud and people are sitting basically next to you and talking to each other. This is not their best feature.



She Said: SOME Chipotle restaurants sell margaritas, but not dry-county Conway’s franchise. (Sad trombone sound.) They have Coke fountain drinks, tea and bottled water and juices. I chose the grapefruit Izze bottled soda. I could tell when I took a sip that it was VERY sweet. The bottle says 160 calories per bottle, but it’s got 39 grams of sugar! I couldn’t finish it, but it was tasty!

He Said: They do have a lot of choices for drinks here, more than most fast-food chains, since they have fountain drinks as well as more exotic bottles. I ended up getting the same sparkling grapefruit drink as you, Jones, and liked it a lot better.



She Said: You’re not as sensitive to sugar as I am, Ruud. As I mentioned, I wanted to eat vegan that night and knew I could count on that at this new-to-Conway chain. At the counter, I noticed the sofritas option, spicy tofu instead of meat. Usually, I just have the veggie tacos (on corn tortillas), but this time I said I would try one of the three tacos that comprise the dish with the sofritas tofu. On all three I had brown rice, beans, mild salsa—which I like as it isn’t runny and saucy, spreading tomato taste indiscriminately throughout the taco—tofu, guacamole and lettuce. I asked if the guacamole is vegan, because I’ve been places where it isn’t (what are they putting in it?!), and the taco artist assured me it is. With the guacamole, I don’t miss cheese or sour cream in the taco, and the tofu makes it more filling than the meatless version I usually have.  My meal was very tasty, fresh and filling, but not gross and greasy.

The food sourcing is healthier, and the vegan/vegetarian options are convenient and tasty, but that doesn’t mean this is low-calorie. According to the New York Times the typical order at Chipotle is more than 1,000 calories (which is about 75 percent of my typical daily calories), and it can go up easily if chips and guacamole are added or burritos are made with All The Things. Research also indicates that when people merely consider ordering a healthy option, they feel so proud of themselves, they end up ordering a heavier, junkier meal and feel fine about it. I couldn’t help but wonder if that happens to me at Chipotle… Do I feel so good about the “purity” of the food that I eat more calories than I should? Probably.  You can calculate your calories on Chipotle’s Website, which I appreciate. My meal was less than 600, because I could only eat two of the three tacos. That’s still a big meal for me, but not huge by restaurant, or specifically, fast-food standards.
He Said: The food is fresh and pretty tasty. My own preference is for the hard-shell corn tacos. I’ve had burritos at Chipotle in the past, but for my taste there is just way too much burrito there and not enough stuff inside the burrito—the burritos they use are so large that you end up with a lot of folds, making for a whole lot of dough. So I’d recommend the tacos. I had chicken as the least fatty portion without going vegetarian. You have a choice of white or brown rice, black or pinto beans mild, medium, or hot salsa and options of cheese, sour cream, and the like. Everything was, as I said, fresh and tasty. Total fat was 22 grams (770 calories), which does fit into my goal of under 50 grams of fat per day. My one complaint is this: The mild salsa is just chopped tomatoes, basically. If I wanted a truly red sauce, I’d have to go with the hot salsa, which I’m not fond of. Since I could have no sour cream or other creamy sauce (these have high fat content), I ended up with what amounted to three very dry tacos. Of course, I’m an unusual case, and most people are fine with slathering on the sour cream. Still, it’s hard for me to get anything at Chipotle that does not leave me parched, like I have just crossed the Nefud with Lawrence of Arabia.



She Said: Of course, I prefer to be waited on at the table, but obviously, fast-food doesn’t do that. Everyone at the counter at this Chipotle was helpful and friendly. The staffers on the assembly-line offered samples to customers if they were having trouble deciding among items. I wanted the sofritas on only one of my tacos, but the server offered a cup to go if I liked it. I asked if the guacamole was vegan, and he said it is. “I eat a plant-based diet a lot, and that’s one of the reasons I love working here. It’s easy to stick to that here.” It’s nice to have your special food goals be met with friendly acceptance.

He Said: Well, I was nearly done getting my tacos finished—I had only the salsa and some lettuce to be added, when my tacos were abandoned and the three people behind the counter began to worry about the woman behind me. So I stood for about five minutes looking at my tacos, with no one around them, and waiting for somebody to come back and finish them Jones was sitting at the table eating long before I ever got out of line. I’m willing to chalk this up to some confusion at a place that had just opened. But it wasn’t pretty. And nobody apologized for the delay.

She Said: Sorry Ruud. Once I paid the bill, I was eating!


What We Got and What We Paid: Veggie tacos, chicken tacos and two bottled Izze sodas: $20.16.



She Said: This place is one of the easiest fast-food places to eat plant-based without sacrificing taste. With the tofu option, it’s even better. I wish they had margaritas, but you can’t have everything. Next time, I’ll get it to go, though.

He Said: I like the healthiness of the food and the fresh taste. Next time I might bring the tacos home and put my own salsa on them.

So…He Said and She Said: Eat here for healthier fast food. But you might want to get it to go.

Cafe Neph(r)esh

No. 6: Café Neph(r)esh
810 Fourth Avenue

(501) 358-6694

4.0 percent of Conway restaurants reviewed


The Situation

She Said: Since we started our restaurant-review project, several people have told us to review this new place in Conway, which opened April 1. I thought it was just a lunch place, but it’s open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with lunch-only hours on Monday and Tuesday, when it is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Recently, after a morning trip to Little Rock for Jazzercise and a pedicure, I called Jay and he met me here to try out lunch. Getting here is a little bit of an adventure; it’s quite visible from the on-ramp to I-40 eastbound off Oak as it is attached to Tipton Hurst, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to access. I missed the turn my first try and had to go around the block. The driveway/parking lot is one-way (Yes, it is, red truck driver, even if you want to turn around and go out the way you came in!), and parking can get a little tricky, or roll out onto the street if it’s crowded. Ruud, I’ll let you address the name…

He Said:

According to a sign in the restaurant, Nephesh in Hebrew means: “soul, life, passion and appetite”—the “appetite” in general being appropriate for a restaurant. The post-modern parenthetical insertion of the (r) creates Neph(r)esh—a coinage incorporating the idea of “fresh”ness, and ultimately connoting, according to the sign, “passionate about fresh food, refreshed souls, restored lives.” If this seems a bit of a heavy load to put on the shoulders of a new commercial eatery, at least we can say that the owners’ hearts seem to be in the right place, as they note on the menus that their “mission” is “To make delicious food, using high quality ingredients, sourced locally whenever available,” and that they “will donate a portion of every purchase to Project Zero [an Arkansas charity dedicated to finding homes for “every child waiting to be adopted in Arkansas”] and Loving Mosaics [a manufacturer concerned with creating a safe and healthy working environment for the most vulnerable women in Thailand]. Certainly the reliance on local sources and the charitable intent are laudable goals for any new business venture.



She Said: I was really looking forward to dining here, as, aside from more healthy, local options, I remembered how pretty and comfy Oak Street Bistro was when it opened in this location, but Neph(r)esh  is not luxe. The floors are polished concrete and it’s pretty bare, with a lot of hard surfaces that bounce the sound around from the kitchen machinery and anyone loud who happens to sit near you. It’s pretty open, and not too comfortable, I thought. The patio is spacious and pretty, but on the day we had lunch, there was no seating out there.

He Said: Yes—the bare interior and barely functional chairs and tables give the place a very institutional atmosphere. That coupled with the fact that this location is the black hole of Conway—the place where businesses go to die, since you can’t get there without knowing the secret passageway between the Valero and the freeway on-ramp does not provide the place with a terribly advantageous atmosphere.



She Said: They have the usual Coke suspects, soda-wise, as well as milk, orange juice, sweet and unsweet tea as well as a special house coffee and bottled water. I had a pretty tasty unsweet tea, which I refilled before I left.

He Said: Yes, they have Coke products. Once again I opted for the Root Beer. These are fountain drinks, not bottles or cans.



She Said: I went intending to order the veggie wrap (spring mix of greens, tomato, carrots, bell pepper, black beans and choice of dressing on a spinach or tomato-basil wrap), because a friend had praised it, but when I arrived and saw quiche on the menu, I couldn’t resist it. Let’s be clear: I am a lover of the egg. Eggs and I go way back. And I am devoted to quiche. I make quiche. I order quiche. I eat quiche. Even when it has meat in it, which this did, as the menu lists its ingredients as eggs, spinach, cheese, tomatoes and bacon. I chose the crustless quiche for less fat and gluten. This comes with side salad or soup, which was a choice between tomato bisque or loaded potato. I decided to try the Cayle’s Kale Caesar, which mixes kale with the traditional romaine, Caesar dressing, parmesan and croutons. They also add bacon, which I wasn’t that excited about, as Caesar salad is a good go-to for me in avoiding meat in restaurants.

When the waitress brought the plate, I could not believe it: The crustless quiche was so thin and small, I almost laughed. It was, I’m sure, not even a quarter of an inch thick. I have never in my life seen a piece of quiche so small in a restaurant, or, for that matter, anywhere else. At Trio’s and Bossa Nova in Little Rock, the quiche serving looks like one fifth or sixth of a pie. This was more like a really wilted frittata. I think there was one piece of all the ingredients mentioned in the description in the serving, one wafer-thin piece. It tasted fine, so I ate it up, and then ate the kale salad. This is not Neph(r)esh’s fault, but I’m not a big kale fan, unless it’s really softened and served wilted in things, like a smoothie or a warm quinoa salad. So, I got a little tired of it before I finished it. I was desperate, so I took a bite of Ruud’s turkey sandwich, and got such a big dollop of mustard, I couldn’t taste anything else.

I was still really hungry, so I ate half of the dessert we decided to split, Alaya’s chocolate cake. This was pretty yummy, “undry” (remember, we don’t like the “M word” around here) and chocolaty. It tasted like “church-lady cake” from my childhood, a single layer with a thick spread of frosting on top. When they say they use high-quality local ingredients here, this cake makes me believe them, since it tastes like the from-scratch desserts I was lucky enough to eat growing up in small-town South Dakota.

He Said: I will bear witness that yes, you had quiche that was the size of a Dorito.  I think the best that can be said about the food here is that it is hit-or-miss. Going for the low-fat options as usual, I ordered a roasted turkey sandwich. It came with a slice of cheese (I opted for Swiss as less fatty than cheddar), lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard, and I chose to have it on rye bread (there are several other bread options). I asked them to leave off the high-fat mayo. Perhaps this is why the mustard tasted so strong. Ultimately the sandwich was unremarkable, though the mustard did give it a little kick.

I ordered a cup of the tomato bisque on the side, not expecting much, but as it turned out the soup was the highlight of my meal. It wasn’t simply a pureed tomato soup, but included a few garnishes as well as pieces of tomato and onion in the creamy soup, and it tasted very nice. I might have been happier to have had a bowl of soup and made that the meal.

And yes, I agree that the chocolate cake was excellent. Very rich and a delicious brownie-like icing. Probably not the best fat-free option in the place.



She Said: When you walk in, menus are in a rack for you to peruse before you go up to the counter, where you order. We kept one, as they are just printed on paper and seem to be to take and share. At the counter, the friendly, helpful staffer answered our questions and gave us our cups and number, so they could bring us the food. When she didn’t know about some ingredients, she went and asked someone else, who came out with the recipe and shared every ingredient. This showed me that they “get-it” when someone asks about ingredients—there are so many reasons someone may need to know about what is in the food he is ordering. The waitress  was very patient with The World’s Slowest Orderer, wasn’t she, Ruud?

He Said: I’m not sure what you’re referring to, Jones. But she was quite friendly. And while this is not a sit-down-and-give-your-order-to-a-waiter kind of place, the chef and another worker came by our table as we ate and asked if we needed anything else. So for an order-at-the-counter place, the service was pretty good.

She Said: Yeah, I felt a little conflicted about not telling them about my disappointment with the portion size. If they had served me the wrong food, or something was wrong with the food they had given me, I would have told them, but I’ve never complained about portion size in a restaurant before (never had to).


What We Got and What We Paid: A wafer-thin slice of quiche and kale Caesar salad, a roasted turkey sandwich, a cup of soup, a fountain drink, an unsweet tea and a dessert to share for $24.63.



She Said: I’m not in a hurry to return. They were super friendly and I appreciate the social good they are trying to do by donating some of their profits to worthy causes, but the food was not filling or satisfying… except for the cake. I might come back for coffee and dessert sometime, if I could sit outside on a nice day.

He Said: I’m not going to rush back. There are certainly places for lunch that I like a lot better.

So…He Said and She Said: Move this hit-or-miss eatery down your list, unless you’re Jay Ruud and order what he got, maybe skipping the sandwich—but don’t skip the cake.