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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JinWei Chinese Express

Review No. 172: JinWei Chinese Express

2235 Dave Ward Drive, Suite No. 106

(501) 504-2014

78.4 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

Ambience:

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

Drinks

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

Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Service

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

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

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

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

Rating:

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

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

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

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

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

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

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

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

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

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Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Review No. 171: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

1105 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 499-9849

76.7 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

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

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

Ambience:

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

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

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

Drinks

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

Food

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

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

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

Service

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

 

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

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

Rating:

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

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

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

NOW AVAILABLE!

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

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

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

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

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

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Skinny J’s

Review No. 170: Skinny J’s

2235 Dave Ward Drive, suite #201

(501) 358-6586

76.2 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

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

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

Ambience:

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

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

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

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

Drinks

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

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

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

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Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Service

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

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

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

 

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

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

Rating:

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

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

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

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

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

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

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

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

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

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

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Love’s Donuts

Review No. 169: Love’s Donuts

317 West Oak Street

(501) 781-8888

75.7 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

Ambience:

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

Drinks

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

Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Service

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

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

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

Rating:

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

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

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

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Local Patio Grill

Review No. 168: Local Patio Grill

912 Front Street

(501) 932-6123

75.2 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

Ambience:

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

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

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

Drinks

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

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

Food

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

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

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

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

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

 

Service

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

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

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

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

Rating:

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

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

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

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

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

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

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

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

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

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Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

Review No. 167: Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen

1345 E. Oak Street

(501) 504-2420

74.8 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

Ambience:

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

 

Drinks

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

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

 

Food

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

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

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

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

 

Service

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

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

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

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

Rating:

She Said:Meh.

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

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

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Franke’s Cafeteria

Review No. 166: Franke’s Cafeteria

1101 Fendley Drive

(501) 932-6123

75 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

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

Ambience:

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

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

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

Drinks

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

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

Food

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

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

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

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

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

Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:

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

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

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

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

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

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

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

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

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