Hello. I’m Jay Ruud and I’m glad you’re here.

Eat It, Conway!

A He Said/She Said Romp Through the Restaurants of Conway

Jay and his awesome wife (poet and novelist Stacey Margaret Jones) attempt to eat their way through conway. Our goal is to eat at, and review, every restaurant in Conway, Arkansas. if we miss one, please let us know!

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Firehouse Subs

Review No. 87: Firehouse Subs

1240 U.S. 64

(501) 513-2410

44.3 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: Well, I was between performances of Miracle on 34th Street with the Red Curtain Theatre on Friday, and had time to have a quick bite to eat. She Said told me Firehouse Subs was our next reviewing target, so I met her there between shows on opening day for sustenance to get me through the evening performance.

Firehouse is a chain that’s been around for more than 20 years and that has more than 1,050 stores nationwide. Since the founders came from a background of firefighters and first responders, they established a corporate foundation that donates a portion of their profits on every item to safety equipment for first responders.

She Said: We had been by this location probably hundreds of times, but somehow I never noticed it, but I was looking for a place I could get a good salad, since I’m pre-dieting for the holidays (you know, when you try to lose the weight in advance you know you’re going to gain later). I’ve learned that sub places usually offer salads, so I notified He Said, that this was our destination. Once I Google-mapped it, I realized I knew exactly where it was, due to my Fuji obsession.

Ambience:

He Said: The place feels like a sub shop. It has a counter where you order and the dining area is somewhat roomier than any of the Subways in town.

She Said: It’s bright and colorful, and a pleasant enough place to eat, though I probably wouldn’t hang out here for a long time working (like at Starbuck’s, etc.). There were two conflicting televisions going with sound up, which we sat in between, so that was a little distracting to me, but the décor was energizing, tidy and engaging.

 

Drinks

He Said: I had an unsweetened iced tea. They also had do-it-yourself fountain drinks of the Coke persuasion. I did not see any bottled sodas. It’s possible I missed them, but I don’t think so.

She Said: I also had unsweetened iced tea. It was nicely brewed, not too strong, but could hold up against lots of ice.

 

Food

He Said: So you can get large, medium, or small subs here. The large is 12 inches, the medium is 8, and the small is 4 inches, which is probably as much as anyone really needs. You have a choice of two kinds of bread: white or wheat. (This strikes me as a bit unimaginative). They do have a great variety of subs—specialty subs or build your own. They also have five kinds of salad as well as a side of chili and different kinds of chips.

I grabbed some baked Lays chips and ordered a small turkey sub on wheat bread toasted. I skipped he cheese, but could have had one of several varieties. I added lettuce, tomatoes, banana peppers and chopped dill pickles. The sandwich also came with a pickle. Pickles for everyone! Then I had the honey-mustard sauce to top it off. The sandwich was pretty tasty. The wheat bread was much tastier than the white would have been, and the turkey was tender. The honey-mustard dressing was sweet and flavorful. I can’t say the sandwich was necessarily outstanding—it’s pretty much what I would have expected at any other sub place. But no worse. And the four-inch sub was plenty to eat combined with the chips (these baked chips are lower in fat than the originals, of course, but what you gain in fat you lose in taste. So it goes. That’s not the restaurant’s fault).

As you know, gentle reader, I am on a strict low-fat diet, and Firehouse, being a large chain, has nutritional information readily available online. So the small turkey sub, which is about the lowest fat you can get, weighed in at a respectable 17 grams of fat. Not bad for a restaurant meal, I thought, until I glanced at their condiments: the honey-mustard dressing here comes in at an astounding 28 grams of fat. Now when you consider that there is no fat at all in honey, and no fat at all in mustard, the only explanation for this is that they have bulked up the honey-mustard dressing with mayonnaise, which is one of the fattiest concoctions ever foisted on an unsuspecting consumer. If you’re going to do this to honey-mustard dressing, you need to call it honey-mustard-mayonnaise dressing instead of misleading people on diets. The end result was the instead of 17 grams of fat I had consumed 45 grams—that is, three-quarters of the fat I am limited to in a full day’s eating, blown on that one sandwich. Thus endeth the rant of the day.

She Said: That blows, Ruud. They burned you in hidden fat grams. It’s often true in restaurants that you think you’re ordering something healthy, but it isn’t really that good for you because they think added calories (sugar and fat) are necessary for enjoyment. I looked ahead online (due to my pre-diet restrictions) and found the Italian with grilled chicken salad option. This is 500 calories, which includes the dressing, and since I hardly used any of it, and didn’t finish it, I’m thinking I came in safely under that. But for a salad that has “grilled chicken” in its name, 35 grams of fat coming along for the ride seems a little high. This was from, I’m sure, the salami that was included. It was definitely tasty, and I don’t watch fat as you do (I’m more on the carb-police side of things). I liked that I could customize this chopped salad by removing the peppers. It was good, but I got bored with the salad before I finished it. I picked out most of the chicken and salami, though, before I abandoned my eating task. I probably ate around 480 calories of it.

Service

He Said: Unlike other sub places where you kind of have the servers build it as you move own the assembly line, at this one you order at the counter and they work on it and then bring it to your table. There’s something to be said for this. It gives the impression they’ve taken a little more time with it. Even if they actually haven’t.

She Said: Yes, I liked the lower-customer-maintenance aspect of the ordering model, and I kept waiting for them to call my name, but they brought it to us, instead. Everyone was very friendly, and though we were new to the franchise, the server was patient and helpful every step of the way.

What We Got and What We Paid: One small turkey sub, one bag of baked Lays, one Italian chopped salad with grilled chicken, and two iced teas, all for $18.35.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 9 minutes.

Rating

He Said: The subs are OK. Next time I’ll use a vinagrette dressing, I guess.

She Said: The salad was tastier than the other sub chain in town’s offerings, and the service was friendlier.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for salads and subs when you want something familiar,  but different.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

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WunderHaus

Review No. 86: WunderHaus

900 Locust Avenue

(501) 358-6806

43.5 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: After a morning meeting in Little Rock, I had a Friday kind of feeling and remembered that WunderHaus was having its opening day after an extended soft opening. It seemed like a great idea for a kick-off-the-weekend lunch.

He Said: So I met her there, at this former gas station at the western edge of downtown Conway. You know what? The parking is not ideal. The lot is pretty tiny, and you’re downtown.

Ambience:

She Said: WunderHaus reminds me of one of my favorite Little Rock haunts, The Fold, because both are restaurants inside rehabbed automotive shops or stations. There is a lot of natural light, and the tables are not too close together—in fact they don’t have a lot of tables so it’s not a place that will accommodate crowds. All the better once you have a seat. The natural light and glass are balanced by dark wood accents and natural materials, and the retro dinner plates remind me of meals at my great aunts’ homes in the 1970s. Even though it’s small, it feels spacious and comfortable. One thing I particularly appreciate is that even though space is limited, there is room to wait.

He Said: Yes, it’s not very large, so if you’re going for lunch, you might have trouble getting back to work on time. And the windows are huge, so it’s full of natural light. I actually had to wear sunglasses sitting in the front corner. They could use some kind of curtain in that front window.

 

Drinks

She Said: I ordered a cabernet without seeing a drink menu or a label, but it was nice and dry and went well with lunch. I also had coffee with cream with my dessert, and the coffee was rich and was up there with the coffee specialty houses for me.

He Said:  IBC Root Beer. It was the good kind.

 

Food

She Said: The lunch menu is fairly limited, but has a variety of options, so I found a couple of things I was choosing between, depending on what He Said chose. After he made his selection, I picked the Farmer’s Daughter: roasted, pasture-raised happy-chicken salad with vegetables that change daily. Mine were pickled beets, pickles and fresh carrots, and of course, salad greens (no iceberg lettuce, thank you very much!). As a surprise treat, the salad also includes bacon and cheese. The latter was, I think, queso fresco that I started munching on, but then realized I should probably crumble it into the mix. I was imagining a conventional chicken salad, with chopped chicken bathing in mayo, but what I got was a plate of beauty with shredded chicken and pickled and fresh veggies on the salad greens with a mayo-based dressing drizzled over it all (über alles?). The chicken was tender and tasty in a fresh, natural way, and went well with the pickled and fresh vegetables, dressing and embellishments. I would have preferred more fresh veggies and fewer pickled ones, but it was still delicious, and had that dual quality that is the unicorn of restaurant dishes: it was fresh and light yet still satisfying and filling.

So, I had room for dessert and I was feeling my Friday, so I went for the chocolate bread pudding. I could not even come close to eating that whole rich, delightful dessert, but I’m glad I tried. Bread itself is kind of a treat for me, so this was to-die-for. The chocolate was mild so the bread-pudding experience still shone through.

He Said: Most of the things on the menu were just not possible on my low-fat diet. They did have a vegetarian dish, though, called the Peter Rabbit. Essentially, it’s a kind of vegetable hash with fried potatoes, and topped off with a honey mustard dressing and the fried egg, which you can have your own way—I don’t like runny yolks so I had it well done and solid. The vegetables included a lot of sweet potatoes—actually, maybe those were the fried potatoes they were talking about, But the vegetables were warm and there were some greens as well. I have to say, particularly with the honey mustard to add a little tanginess there as well, it was a very tasty lunch. I might have been coveting the hamburger with which the menu leads off, but the Peter Rabbit was definitely a worthwhile lunch if ya gotta go low fat.

And having gone low fat, I figured I’d saved up enough fat grams to try a dessert—the chocolate cake with whipped cream, naturally. Even with my avoiding the whipped cream as perhaps a little too much for the old pancreas, this rich cake was delicious.

Service

She Said: It was a busy opening day, and we felt the flurry (and the fluster) of that, even though WunderHaus had been open for lunch for some time. It took a long time to put our orders in, and then longer to get our food. There was some confusion over some of our orders, including my dessert. (He Said got his dessert and then the table next to us got a dessert that was also the one I ordered. I told the waitress I had ordered that bread pudding, and she seemed a little surprised, but no worries, dear readers, the next-door table gave me theirs and waited for one to share so we could eat together.) However, the service was always friendly and energetic. This was not a deal-breaker for me, especially considering the restaurant’s transition to fully open status. The people next to us had arrived before us and didn’t seem sad to leave after us—I noticed they kept ordering dishes and laughing. So, I don’t think they minded either. I’ve been to new restaurants were that was definitely not the vibe, so WunderHaus was handling it right.

He Said: Yes, it definitely took some time to get everything and to get it right. But everyone was friendly and eager to please. The food was worth waiting for, but at least at this point, as with many new restaurants, you might have to expect a bit of a wait.

What We Got and What We Paid: A glass of cabernet sauvignon, the Farmer’s Daughter chicken salad, coffee with cream, chocolate bread pudding; a bottle of root beer, the Peter Rabbit vegetarian hash lunch, and a piece of chocolate cake, all for $49.75.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 39 minutes (of note: we arrived at 12:10 p.m. and left after the restaurant was closed for lunch at 2 p.m., this included a lunch entrée and dessert course for each of us)

Rating

She Said: The food offerings here are singular to Conway, and the local sourcing the restaurant is doing is meaningful to me, so I will assume the service issues were temporary and come back as soon as I can finagle it.

He Said: The food is good, natural, and local, and it’s unusual. And it comes slowly.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for tasty, inventive food, carefully crafted and energetically served (but allow a little extra time to wait for a table and/or your food).

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

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Cilantro’s Mexican Grill

Review No. 85: Cilantro’s Mexican Grill

201 Skyline Drive (within the shopping center campus)

(501) 358-6366

43.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: While we were seeing Wonder across the parking lot, I decided I was craving a margarita and all good things Mexican, so I gave myself Thanksgiving-week-related permission to stroll on over to Cilantro’s after the movie.

He Said: And I gave myself permission to do what She Said wanted me to do, and made the long trek across the parking lot to eat at Cilantro’s, one of the 28,456,876 Mexican restaurants in the Greater Conway metropolitan area.

Ambience:

She Said: It’s a fun characterization of a fun, inviting restaurant you might go into in Mexico itself, in the tourist areas. I like the faux facades along the walls, that remind me of dining al fresco in San Miguel de Allende. It’s pretty and pleasant, and I like the time and attention that went into creating this space.

He Said: It is a pretty good imitation of a truly Mexican space. And there is a fair amount of space here—doesn’t feel cramped at all.

 

Drinks

She Said: I asked for a large margarita, on the rocks. The server didn’t mention all the flavors they have (I do love a mango margarita!), but the traditional was delicious, and I enjoyed it very much. It wasn’t too strong, but was definitely on the adult-beverage end of the continuum. I will order that again.

He Said: I tried for a root beer but was denied. Had to go with a Dr. Pepper. But I did get a free refill.

 

Food

She Said: You know how you miss a chance to eat something, and then that’s all you can think about? Recently, I was with friends at Riviera Maya in Little Rock, and when my friend’s taco salad arrived, I was filled with regret because that’s not what I had ordered. So, it was a done deal when I arrived at Cilantro’s a few days later that this would be my choice. They offer several salad options, including beef or taco salad in that divine crispy bowl. The shredded, spiced chicken is under the iceberg lettuce, which is topped with sour cream, guacamole and a tomato slice (which promptly got transferred to He Said’s plate). It was all tasty, fresh and satisfying, along with the bowl, of course. I don’t have much use for such greens, though, which deliver almost no food value. It would be better with a darker, tastier mix of greens. I’d pay more for that. As it is, though, it’s not expensive, and I like that it’s not huge. I didn’t feel quite as decadent as I would with a big plate of enchiladas, etc., and the portion size made it a reasonable dinner.

While I waited for my food, I got the guacamole. The menu only lists the table-side option, but you can ask for a little bowl without the big production. Since He Said can’t eat it, I didn’t need all that. The small portion tastes very fresh, as well. I used a little of it for my salad, too, once I had eaten the dollop that came with that.

He Said: They brought tortilla chips and salsa immediately—we had barely sat down. The chips were fresh and I liked the salsa, which was very tomato-y.

This is a one-notch-up variety of Mexican restaurant. That is, there weren’t any combination platters on the menu. Consequently, I decided to order something I would not usually order at a more typical Mexica restaurant. So, as you might suspect, I ordered the salmon: It was Red Chili Glazed Roasted Salmon, and came with poblano rice, vegetables and mango-jicama slaw.

I asked if the red chili glaze was particularly hot, which it was not. Just enough to give your mouth a barely noticeable kick without numbing the taste buds. And I asked for it to be cooked medium. Unfortunately, medium does not seem to mean the same thing here as other places I’ve been. Anyway, the salmon was overdone, as is usually the case in Conway restaurants. But the seasoning did make it pretty tasty anyway. The vegetables, the vast majority of which were zucchini, were cooked in olive oil and were delicious, as was the rice. I’m not a big slaw fan, so my opinion about that is probably not all that fair. In any case, this slaw did not change my mind.

Service

She Said: Friendly, fast and professional. That’s all we ever want!

He Said: Yes. The server was busy but still was quick to take our order, brought it speedily, checked on us, and brought the bill without our asking, but assured us we could dawdle as long as we liked. Those weren’t his exact words, but you get the picture.

What We Got and What We Paid: Small guacamole, chicken taco salad, large margarita, Red Chili Roasted Salmon with vegetables, poblano rice and mango-jicama slaw, and a Dr. Pepper for $36.83.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 10 minutes. Kind of astonishing, really. But it made me think the salmon may have already been cooked and had been reheated, which would explain why it was overdone.

Rating

She Said: A reliably tasty, fast and pleasant place for Mexican food in Conway, a quite convenient to the movies!

He Said: It was speedy and good food. Next time I’ll probably have something a little more traditionally Mexican.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for tasty, friendly Mexican food in Conway.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

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Outback Steak House

Review No. 84: Outback Steak House

955 E. Oak Street

(501) 548-6220

42.7 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: We had been to Outback just once since moving to Conway, and that was 14 years ago. It wasn’t so much because we didn’t like it. Mainly it was that it was never really in our consciousness, mainly because of its very weird location, back there somewhere behind Walmart off of Harkrider, in that kind of no-man’s-land that recently sunk Ruby Tuesday’s. I suppose they put it there originally because you could see the sign from I-40, but I can’t imagine that that worked very well for them, since someone unfamiliar with Conway coming off the freeway would have a lot of trouble just figuring out how to get there. Anyway, Outback has recently moved to a new location on Oak Street, in a kind of “chain restaurant row” on the same stretch as Chipotle, TGI Fridays, and Chili’s, and now that it’s there, it’s much harder to forget about or ignore. So we were drawn to it for this week’s review.

She Said: We’re having a beefy few weeks here at Eat It, Conway, as we went to another new local steakhouse and a burger joint recently. But Outback is right there, large and in charge, so we thought we better try it out.

 

Ambience:

He Said: The ambience here is kind of more like a sports bar than a steak house. It does remind me of nearby TGI Friday’s in its layout, though I didn’t notice whether there was a specific bar area. We sat at a booth for three rather than a table, which was also an option. It was reasonably comfortable, though I thought the music was a bit louder than it needed to be.

She Said: There is indeed a bar with big TVs, Ruud, and the dining area is somewhat removed from that vibe, though not totally. I liked it, and thought the dark colors and open floor plan of the main dining area and bar were appealing. I too thought the music was loud, but once we got to talking, I didn’t notice it anymore.

 

Drinks

He Said: They had Coke products. I had a Dr. Pepper, which our server refilled without being asked, and even offered me a to-go glass, which I declined..

She Said: I ordered a 9-ounce pour of the Coppola Cabernet, which was very nice. They bring that in a small carafe so you can dispense it as you like.

Food

He Said: We got a fresh mini-loaf of pumpernickel rye bread, which was very tasty, and which we could have had seconds on, since our server offered it. As for the entree, it’s always a crapshoot at these kinds of restaurants whether I can find something that might fit my low-fat dietary needs. The Outback menu does indicate dishes that have fewer than 500 calories, one of which was the Grilled Chicken on the Barbie, which, according to Outback’s nutritional chart online, actually has only 310 calories. There were 13 grams of fat in the entrée, which is excellent for a restaurant meal, especially one as tasty as this turned out to be. The chicken is nicely grilled with a coating of seasoning on the top, and the barbecue sauce comes on the side so that you can have as much or as little as you want. It’s a sweet sauce that gave the chicken a tangy flavor. Something in the seasoning gave it a bit of a kick, so the chicken is just a little bit spicy, but not so hot that most people wouldn’t like it. The vegetables were mainly a couple of kinds of squash and some carrots, and seem to have been stir-fried. The whole thing was not especially imaginative, but it was good food.

Having done so well on my entrée, I thought that, for the sake of our faithful readers, I ought to have some dessert so that I could give a full report. There was a new giant chocolate cake dessert on the menu, which I jumped on. And here I made my major error. The cake was delicious, don’t get me wrong—several layers of dark chocolate with smooth cake frosting and a raspberry sauce. And it actually tasted fairly light. But that was deceptive. This cake has something like 100 grams of fat in its 1,600 calories. Fortunately, I knew better than to eat the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure I ate half of it, and that was much more than I should have.

Ruud 2, by the way, thoroughly enjoyed her hamburger, but was too busy to contribute to the review. Sheesh, these people with jobs.

She Said: I was open to a steak when I rolled up to Outback, but as I perused the menu, I could tell that I just wasn’t up to the task, and I wasn’t even hungry enough for a burger. I did want a little more than a salad, of which they had a nice variety (so I filed that knowledge away for another day). After some dithering and advice from our server, I settled on the Aussie fish tacos and fries (with mayo on the side). It was a smaller, lighter meal (“only” 660 calories, which is comparatively light for restaurant like this). The small, soft-shell tacos come with blackened tilapia, crispy slaw, pico de gallo and an herb aioli. The fish was the least interesting ingredient (a little dry and bland), but I enjoyed them and ate all three as well as my fries (I refuse to look up those calories).

I’m not sure what you think of as “light,” Ruud, but that delicious cake was not it. The creamy and buttery frosting dripped with calories, and the cake itself was dense and chocolatey. In fact, I just took a few bites of what we took home as “research.” Since 1,600 calories is more than I usually eat in a whole day, it was definitely a decadent treat, which the three of us couldn’t finish even when we shared it.

Service

He Said: Our server was very friendly, very accommodating, and never hurried us, though we took a bit of extra time waiting for Ruud2 to show up. She was helpful and prompt with the bread (asking if we wanted more when we’d finished it all). She brought the bill without having to be chased down for it, and took care of it promptly when paid.

She Said: Yes, she was a pro, and was very helpful to us without being overbearing. She made our lunch very pleasant.

What We Got and What We Paid: One “Grilled Chicken on the Barbie” with a side of fresh seasonal vegetables; one Aussie Fish Tacos with fries; one “Outbacker Burger” with fries and a wedge salad, one chocolate cake, one Dr. Pepper, and one (9 oz.) glass of Coppola cabernet, all for $67.83 for three people (including dessert and wine).

Elapsed Time from Arrival to Food Arrival: 31 minutes from the arrival of the last member of our party to the delivery of entrees.

Rating

He Said: Not bad for a chain, and you can find low-fat options if you’re careful. You can also go off the rails if you’re not.

She Said: A wide variety of tasty options for a chain restaurant in a pretty, new space with friendly service.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for a pleasant bar-and-grill atmosphere with tasty food and drinks in that category.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Pre-order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Pre-order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

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Beebe’s Hamburgers and Hot Dogs

Review No. 83: Beebe’s Hamburgers and Hotdogs

2751 Dave Ward Drive

501-358-6447

42.2 percentage done reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: Like everyone, we have a lot going on this time of year, so after a busy morning of teaching and appointments, I texted He Said to meet me at Beebe’s for lunch so we could enjoy a minute of down time together.

He Said: So in the past this location hasn’t had the best luck—basically, it has been the place that restaurants go to die. I have hopes that this one will fare better. The place is named after the owner’s dog, whose story is told on little notices placed at all the tables. This may explain why hot dogs are so big on the menu.

 

Ambience:

She Said; This place is totes adorbs! I love the bright blue-green walls; it’s very modern soda fountain. The whole seating area is very airy, with tons of natural light from the huge windows in the smallish restaurant. My personal favorite thing was all the record-album covers along the walls above the windows, including many that I owned in high school, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA and the GoGo’s. I actually wondered if He Said had given them my old record collection. Who doesn’t love Cyndi Lauper??

A side note on the ambience: There is a patio with pretty little picnic tables, and you can bring your dog to join you out there (as He Said said, the place is named for their rescue dog, Beebe). But, I have to admit, the thought of sitting there, right by Dave Ward without even a partition or hedge gave me heart palpitations. I would recommend they erect some kind of safety barrier around the patio … and it should be pretty because while the patio is adorable in keeping with the restaurant, the surroundings are not. And the road is DANGEROUS for pups.

He Said: Yes, I sold your old albums on e-bay. You weren’t using them for anything, and I needed the money for my puppy addiction. But they do make the place kind of cozy. I agree it’s bright and comfy in here, though most people weren’t staying to eat: There are quite a few people picking up orders. Also Bite Squad was picking up quite a few things as well.

 

Drinks

She Said: Soda drinks and tea. I had the unsweetened iced tea, and it was very nice, strong without being bracing.

He Said: Coke products. So, Dr. Pepper. From the fountain.

Food

She Said: I love a diner burger and fries, the thin, charred patty, the burger dressings, a fresh bun, and the accompanying fries are a staple of my dining out repertoire from an early age growing up in small town South Dakota and visiting similar establishments on the road with my parents (who did not like chain restaurants). The burger at Beebe’s reminded me a lot of those diners of my childhood: a thin, well-grilled patty of fresh beef with fresh fixin’s. In this case, Beebe’s adds their own sauce, which is mayo based, so gets my seal of approval. I, of course, had them hold the tomato, but the leafery was dark green, the pickles were crisp and the condiments were tasty without being overwhelming. I would eat this burger again. The fries were thin and of the softer variety. I asked for mayo for my fries, which came in its own little cardboard boat. I prefer crispier fries, but these were tasty enough that I ate them all anyway.
He Said: I know I should have had a hot dog, this being a heavy dog-friendly place, but my diet forbade it. A place like this presents a challenge to me, because neither beef nor pork is on my list of approved foods for my low-fat diet. Beebe’s Turkey Burger, however, is just the thing: They use all white Butterball turkey to make the burger, which comes with tomato and lettuce and sliced pickles. It’s supposed to come with Beebe’s Special Sauce as well, but when I asked the what was in it, they mentioned first that it was mayonnaise based, which was a big red flag for me, since mayo is the fattiest of all the condiments. Seriously, dip it in raw Crisco oil and you’d be getting less fat. So tasty as that special sauce might be, I asked them to leave it off and give me some ketchup and mustard (both fat free) instead. I added some onions as well, there being no extra charge, and enjoyed the turkey burger just fine. As for the fries, as She Said said, they were a bit soggy, but they were thin and very tasty, so I’m not complaining. I could easily come back here and have this meal again—it’s healthy enough and it tastes pretty good.

Service

She Said: Service was very friendly. Orders are taken at the counter, and laminated menus are available to pick up and peruse while you wait or decide. The clerk takes the order (and you can stipulate no sauce, no tomatoes, etc.) and gives you a clothespin with an identifier for your order. Ours was Johnny Cash (and coincidentally, “Jackson,” our signature karaoke duet, came on when our food was delivered). The food runner was also friendly, and we were also checked on. From the crisp, bright colors to the energetic, friendly service, the whole vibe was neighborhoody and cheerful.

He Said: I concur. I was as is often the case, the problem customer who has a bunch of questions because I’ve got to stay on that diet you’ve heard so much about, and the clerk was perfectly friendly and cooperative. And by the way, She Said, I’m goin’ to Jackson. Turn loose o’ my coat.

What We Got and What We Paid: Beebe’s single deal (hamburger, fries and a drink) and Beebe’s turkey burger deal (also burger, fries and a drink), all for $16.89.

Elapsed Time from Arrival to Food Arrival: 20 minutes

Rating

She Said: Great diner burgers in a cheery atmosphere.

He Said: Have it your way with a smile. Wait, is that somebody’s slogan? It works here too. 

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for burgers and fries (we didn’t try the hotdogs) and a little atmospheric pick-me-up.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Pre-order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Pre-order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

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Buffalo Wild Wings

Review No. 82: Buffalo Wild Wings

675 Amity Road

(501) 205-1940

41.6 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: This is, of course, a popular international restaurant and sports-bar chain, with more than 1,200 locations throughout the United States They share a common menu so if you’ve eaten at one of these places, you probably know what they’re all like. In our quest to eat at and review every restaurant in Conway, we need to review these kinds of establishments as well. The good thing about these large chains is that they always will have a nutritional chart online that you could review ahead of time if you had special dietary needs, which I did, and if you had any sense, which I didn’t. Failing to consult the chart, I made some false assumptions when I ordered. More of which anon. Meanwhile, let’s just say we took a lunch break and pulled into the huge parking lot south of the building.

She Said: We’d been to this location once before, probably not long after it first opened, and it was next on the review list, so we went.

Ambience:

He Said: The dining room is a large unbroken space with table upon table, and booths around the perimeter. There are six very large widescreen TVs in this room, plus 13 more smaller screen TVs, taking up all the wall space above head-high. There is a separate bar room, with several more TVs lining the walls, that looked like more of the same. It’s kind of noisy and not especially comfortable, not exactly where you would want to go for an intimate dinner for two. For a larger party intent on watching the Razorbacks on several wide-screen TVs at once and cheering them on, it’s much more ideal.

She Said: It’s a friendly place, with many square yards of television screens. When we arrived after 1 p.m., there were mostly open tables, but our hostess seated us next to two of the loudest men I’ve ever heard in a restaurant, so that wasn’t pleasant. They couldn’t help the customers, but did they have to put us right next to them? Maybe they don’t even notice yelling patrons anymore. I did ask the hostess what the difference was to sit in the main dining room or the bar area, and she explained, “That’s the bar.” So, dear readers, I can’t tell you the answer either.

Drinks:

He Said: They have Coke products here, plus a number of other non-alcoholic options, like lemonade. I took the opportunity to order a Mountain Dew. The server was happy to bring a refill as well. Because I just hadn’t had enough caffeine today. Yet.

She Said: I don’t drink much beer, so I ordered wine, and there was a little confusion over finding the bottle. I said I’d have a gin and tonic instead if they couldn’t locate it, but she turned up with a generous pour of the cabernet they have on offer. It was fine.

 

Food

He Said: We knew that since the name of the place was “Buffalo Wild Wings,” we should probably order wings. But there are a number of other things on the menu, including “sharables,” salads, burgers and sandwiches. So we decided to split a small order of traditional wings and each order something else besides. I opted for a “sharable” item called “Street Tacos,” which were three snack-sized tacos on three-inch softshells, with, as the menu describes it, “garlic-tossed grilled chicken, house-made pico de gallo, our southwestern ranch dressing and fresh cilantro.” Intended as an appetizer, these would have served well as a small lunch. They were quite tasty and had a bit of a kick to them, but not terribly hot. One reason I ordered them is the menu said they had only 570 calories. Turns out most of that is fat calories: I found when I got home that there are 36 grams of fat in these three little tacos. I suppose most of that is coming from the ranch dressing, which might contain mayonnaise, I suppose. Anyway, since I am only supposed to have 60 fat grams per day, that one item took up a lot of my allowance. French fries or potato wedges would have given me only half the fat.

The chicken wings themselves had 38 fat grams. Since we split them, I got maybe 19 of those—so I guess I’m done eating for the day. The wings came with our choice of sauce. We tried two: the honey barbecue, which was nice, sweet and just spicy enough, and the teriyaki, which was sweet and gave things a slightly Japanese feel. Overall, I thought the wings were just so-so. The meat was a little bit stringy, and I have to say I’ve had more tender wings elsewhere in town.

I did get a side, for which I chose a plain salad. It was a nice complement to the chickens and sauces I was having otherwise, with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and croutons. I also chose a low-fat vinaigrette dressing. On the whole, the salad was fine.

She Said: As He Said said, we shared wings. The sauces were tasty, but the wings were not as good as other places we’ve tried them. (And, as all wing-eaters know, they are messy! Whoever has the napkin contract for BWW must be making bank!) I had three and then saved room for my meal. Since it’s called Buffalo Wild Wings, and I had had the wings, I thought I’d go for the “Buffalo” with my main course and I chose the Buffalo Ranch Chicken sandwich. This was on the lighter side of the menu, at only 750 calories (I couldn’t finish it), and it arrives quite strikingly, with the Buffalo sauce striped over the open face of the sandwich quite dramatically. It’s spicy, but not deadly, even for this sensitive palate. I chose crispy chicken, and it was fine, though, again, not as good as some other fried-chicken sandwiches in town, though, of course, very messy, with that Buffalo sauce making a run for it every which way. It comes with passable fries, for which I got packets of mayonnaise. Overall, I thought the food wasn’t really worth the calories I’d have to run or Pilates off over the next few days.

 

Service

He Said: Our young waitress was perky and eager to please, and put up with my complex ordering pretty good-humoredly. She answered everything with “No problem.” Seriously. Everything.

She Said: Yes, that’s a little hang-up of ours, because of course, we’re word people, and “no problem” is weird from service people. It’s “no problem” to wait on me? I hope not! That’s your whole job. “You’re welcome” is just more in line with our curmudgeonly sensibilities. But she was very friendly, helpful and energetic and I would take “no problem” from her versus a bad attitude any day. At one point, we had to wait awhile for her to come back and take our order because they were all having a staff meeting, which was not her fault.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One small order of traditional wings with Honey Barbecue sauce and Teriyaki sauce, one order of “Street Tacos,” one side salad, one Crispy Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich, one glass of Cabernet, one Mountain Dew, all for $34.56 for two people. (Note: remember we were eating more than a typical lunch because we were trying different things).

Elapsed Time from Order to Food Arrival: 22 minutes until wings appetizer, 26 minutes until entrees.

 

Rating:

He Said: It’s about average food for this kind of restaurant. I’ve had better. Next time I go I’ll try to find lower-fat options.

She Said: I probably won’t go again, as the ambience is not relaxing, and all the things I tried are better at other Conway restaurants.

So…He Said and She Said: If you like lots of televisions, go here for some screens (oh, and they also have wings).

And by the way, if you like reading “Eat It, Conway,” you might be interested in Jay Ruud’s new “Merlin Mystery” novel, the third in the series, which will be released on November 10 and now available for pre-ordering on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble:

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Pre-order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Pre-order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

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John Daly Steak House

Review No. 81: John Daly Steakhouse

912 Front Street

(501) 504-2380

41.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: We were getting ready for a little jaunt to Montréal, so I was already in vacation eating mode, and there was a new steakhouse in Conway, and I thought I’d start the holiday downtown!

He Said: John Daly, pro golfer from nearby Dardanelle, has had plans to open a steakhouse here since 2015, but it finally came together, and the new much-anticipated business opened in downtown Conway a few weeks ago. We decided to give it a bit of time to get over any opening bumps, and hit it last week. And behold, it was good.

 

Ambience:

She Said: It’s very steakhouse-y. Kind of sleek and masculine, but friendly. We were seated in an area of about eight tables with a large flat-screen tuned, of course, to golf. I find golf broadcasts personally uninteresting, but somewhat hypnotic, so I was happy with the environs. Our waitress told us that they had built the place from the ground up, but it is very sensitive to its environment, which had made us think erroneously they had rehabbed a Front Street mainstay. Down to the faux tin-ceiling tile design, the restaurant is lovely, fitting and inviting.

He Said: The atmosphere is comfortable and a little bit formal, with waiters all in white shirts. There seem to be several separate dining areas inside, some perhaps more informal than the one we were in. The wide-screen TV with the golf channel is a bit like watching grass grow, but I guess you could call it soothing.

Drinks:

She Said: It was lunch, but it was VACATION-mode lunch, so I had a gin and tonic. I only really love these if they are made with Hendricks gin, and this restaurant has Hendricks, so it was delicious. But, as great as the G&T was, the coffee was awful. It was like a coffee-flavored drink product, the Folgers you might get at a church gathering. Given how perfect everything else was in our visit, this watery disappointment really stood out in the “needs improvement” area.

He Said: I had a soft drink. It was fine, but I honestly don’t remember what flavor I had! I do remember getting a refill though…

 

Food

She Said: So, funny story, I learned to eat steak rare from two Hindu friends, who took me to a steak house and then were shocked to learn that I did not like steak. My mother always cooked our steaks at home well-done. (!) My Hindu friends, who shall remain nameless, told me that I wouldn’t know if I didn’t really like steak until tried a filet mignon, very rare. If I didn’t like it, then, indeed, I was a true steak-hater. That was the day I became a devotee of the very-rare-just-barely-show-it-to-the-flame steak. And this is a dish I love. I adore. But I do not like any other cut of steak. At all. The lunch menu did not list a filet option, so I was thinking of getting the burger, but thought I would ask for the filet and see if they could do it. Indeed, they could. We noted later on the bill that the six-ounce filet is $33 (the 10-ounce is $48). I asked for my filet  “very rare.” And the John Daly Steakhouse kitchen delivered. It was cold in the middle, just as I prefer it. (I’m your friend who orders steak tartare if it’s on the menu and eats it with glee no matter how discomfited you are.) I had the six-ounce portion, and it was perfect, rich and delicious, a carefully cultivated cut of meat. I don’t eat mammals often, and steak maybe once every couple of years, and this was worth the occasion. It came with a side of my choice: mashed potatoes. These were delicious. They were mashed with skins and when I asked the server what was in them, she surprised with the answer, “mustard.” There is a faint note of it, which is delightful and not too strong or overwhelming.

And then, in order to train for our foodie vacay coming up, we ordered dessert. This was a chocolate cake, that the server told us was large, so we of course decided to split it. The cake came, and it was an actual small cake, not a piece of cake. We both ate what we could and then took most of it home. It was delicious, undry, flavorful, with tasty, rich frosting and a pleasant texture. I would order this again… for a party of six.

He Said: If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that my go-to entrée is salmon. It came with a delicious ginger-soy glaze on the side. Let me just say that this was unequivocally the best salmon I have had since moving to Arkansas 14 years ago.

Most places overcook salmon. I don’t really know why. Perhaps many customers, like She Said with her steak, aren’t really aware of how salmon is supposed to be cooked, and the restaurants get tired of having it sent back. But the server tells you up front here that they cook the salmon medium because dagnab-it, that’s how God intended it. (I admit I’m paraphrasing a bit here.)

This salmon was like butter melting off the tongue. Don’t overuse the glaze; the salmon is so delicious on its own that you don’t need much. I shall return here regularly for salmon.

I had a side of market fresh grilled vegetables as well, and these, mostly various kinds of squash, were very tasty, grilled in olive oil. They make a great complement to the salmon. As for the chocolate cake, I am drooling thinking about it. Yes, we had to bring some home. I am drooling thinking about eating the leftovers.

 

Service

She Said: The service here was stellar. I asked for something off the menu, and I got it, the server explained the dishes to us, was very conversational and helpful, and most importantly, understood the order of a steak, “very rare.”

He Said: Service was stellar, from start to finish. We expected a few bumps because the place was new. But there was nary a bump anywhere.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Filet mignon, gin and tonic, chocolate cake, salmon with a la carte roasted vegetables and soft drink, all for $97.52. Yes, that was lunch, but we ordered off the full dinner menu. Note that the steak alone was $33.

Elapsed Time from Order to Food Arrival: 23 minutes.

 

Rating:

She Said: This restaurant is absolutely going on our special-events restaurant list because the food and service were perfect.

He Said: You will get an excellent meal here. Best salmon in town, with A+ service. This is not a cheap place, but you will get what you pay for.

So…He Said and She Said: Go here because they are very good at what they are good for, but save your pennies to

And by the way, if you like reading “Eat It, Conway,” you might be interested in Jay Ruud’s new “Merlin Mystery” novel, the third in the series, which will be released on November 10 and now available for pre-ordering on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble:

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Pre-order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Pre-order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737