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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Stoby’s Express

Review No. 52: Stoby’s Restaurant (Stoby’s Express)

1310 Prince Street

(501) 327-6161

29.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: I had had an overstimulating day, and I wanted some yummy food I could eat quietly at home without having to make it. We decided that Stoby’s Express was the way to go, as we had never picked up food here since the fire that gutted the restaurant closed them down. We were curious about this “express” outpost. We’d driven by it many, many times, but I wasn’t sure how it worked, so I fired up the Internets to figure it out.

He Said: It looks like a house. I suppose because in fact it is a house. But assuming you have called in your order (looking at the online menu), you pull in the driveway and up to the window on the east side of the house, give them your money, and then drive around the back and over to the window on the west side of the house, where they give you your food. Then it’s out the driveway and home again. It’s not the same as sitting in the old Stoby’s restaurant, but it does allow you to experience the food of what was a long-time Conway institution before the fire.

 

Ambiance

She Said: Well, as I said, you can’t go here to eat, but I can comment on the friendliness of the woman who took my order over the phone: I felt very at ease, even though I wasn’t sure how this new system worked.

He Said:  We could never actually get into the old Stoby’s, because there was never a able available. So in fact the ambiance is just as good for us as it was when there was a building there.

 

Food

She Said: Now, I know you Conwegians love yourselves some Stoby’s cheese dip, so don’t freak out that we didn’t order any. First, He Said can’t have it (too fatty) and second, I don’t really like cheese dip, anyone’s cheese dip. I will stipulate to the fact that Stoby’s cheese dip is the best, if you like that kind of thing, so we can just move on.

Stoby’s was the first place outside of our hotel that we ate in Conway. Our realtor took us there on our house-hunting day in 2003, and I remember how great the fries, sandwiches and desserts were, but on this day, I had been eating too much of that and was really curious about their salads. I chose the grilled chicken salad with strawberries, that also includes healthy helpings of cashews and feta cheese on spinach with home-made poppy-seed dressing. It also has a lot of bacon in it, which I could have done without, healthwise, but this salad was really good: tasty, simultaneously light AND filling. My measure for salad satisfaction is that it doesn’t get boring before it’s gone or I’m full, and that afterwards, I feel like I’ve eaten. This met the mark, and I will definitely be getting this from Stoby’s again!

It’s also good to know that I can get something healthy there—I had Stoby’s on a kind of personal no-no list because of how heavy the food is that I have enjoyed in the past (but delicious! Oh, so delicious!), but now I know there are other very tasty options, and so, gentle reader, do you!

He Said: It’s always a challenge for me with this kind of restaurant to find something that’s going to be low-fat and pancreas-friendly. There are not a lot of choices here but there are some, and, for the sake my faithful readers, I decided to order two different entrées to give a report on them both. The things I suffer for my fans…

My first choice was the smoked turkey croissant, which is advertised as “shaved smoked turkey, cream cheese, romaine lettuce, tomato and smokey Dijon dressing.” I eschewed the cream cheese (too high in fat) but otherwise had the sandwich as described. It was fine, and the mustard was especially tasty, but it was, essentially, a smoked turkey sandwich and pretty average. Certainly nothing to write home about, as my mother used to say.

The taco salad, however, was another story. I had the spicy chicken (can’t have the red meat), but the salad contained shredded lettuce, tomatoes, red beans, shredded cheese blend, olives (which are taboo for me, so I didn’t eat them), and what is billed as “Stoby’s original taco salad dressing.” This was really a treat, and if you like tacos, or taco salad, you can’t go wrong with this dish. It was worth the price of admission.

 

Service

She Said: The service I received over the phone was stellar. I must confess, as a newbie to the express outpost, I made the mistake of using the menu tab on the Facebook page, instead of the menu listed on the online order form or on the Website (stobys.com), so He Said chose a soup they don’t have, and I tried to get fries. I wasn’t upset with the fries issue, because I was sabotaging my healthy dinner and Stoby’s Express kept me on the straight and narrow. But the woman who took my call was very friendly and patient, and helped me navigate what they did offer. I was pleased with how painless it was!

He Said: I did the drive-through for pickup, which was easy and slick, and the two people I had any contact with—the money-taker and the order-dispenser—were perfectly friendly and speedy. So no complaints from this end.

What We Got and What We Paid: Grilled chicken salad-strawberry, taco salad, turkey croissant for $27.65.

 

Rating:

She Said: I’ll be back for the salads for sure, and next time I’ll use the right menu!

He Said: I’ll be right back there with you, Jones.

So…He Said and She Said: Get your Stoby’s fix, cheesy or healthy, at this drive-up while you wait for the old, but new-and-improved Stoby’s to return.

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Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

Review No. 51: Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

505 Donaghey Avenue

(501) 764-4227

28.4 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: She Said had actually planned on reviewing a different Conway BBQ place today, but when we pulled up we found they were only open limited days per week. Having primed our taste buds for barbecue, we had no choice but to head down the road and stop in another venerable Conway BBQ tradition, the Smokehouse Bar-B-Que place on Donaghey Avenue. Having eaten lunch here several times before (it actually borders on UCA territory, after all), I knew it to be a decent joint, but it had been many years since She Said had been, so I looked forward to this serendipitous exploration of one of my personal old standbys.

She Said: I had been here, but I didn’t remember it very well, and I was really ready for barbecue. I had planned my entire food week around this indulgence, after all, so I was happy to have another reputable place to try for our review.

Ambiance

He Said: I’d describe the inside as cozy, and with the bright old-fashioned signs for Coke, Pepsi, Seven-Up, Orange Crush, and other American products decorating the walls; it had the feel of an old-time country diner. This impression was underscored by the Johnny Cash song that was playing as we walked in, and the old country and folksy soundtrack that accompanied our lunch.

She Said: That song, Ruud, was Johnny Cash AND June Carter Cash’s “Jackson,” our signature karaoke number! That gave me a good feeling about our lunch, and the good music continued, with Willie Nelson, Union Station, Kenny Rogers, etc. I think this place is darker and more “bluesy” than a diner, and I liked it. Everyone was friendly whilst simultaneously being all about the food. It also has the braggadocious and hyperbolic culture of barbecue, where you have the sense that each purveyor is actively competing with all others, with its hot-sauce names and menu claims of excellence.

 

Drinks

He Said: Despite the Pepsi, RC Cola and Seven-Up signs hanging about, they only serve Coke products here. They also have what they claim is the best iced tea in town, and they have pink lemonade. I had the lemonade, which was sweet and tasty, pretty typical lemonade. Not sure it could be called the best in town, but She Said did have the iced tea. What was her verdict?

She Said: Well, Ruud, it was mighty fine. And, if I drink a lot of tea, my stomach objects (I’m old… I have issues), but not with this. I also felt that lovely caffeine buzz from drinking so much of it. I think it must definitely be a contender for the title.

 

Food

He Said: I was impressed by the number of choices available on the menu. The Smokehouse is not just a barbecue place. They have a number of sandwiches, including grilled chicken and smoked turkey, either of which would have fit into my low-fat diet, as well as hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and BLTs. They’ve also got salads and even a vegetable plate, as well as ribs, ham and chicken. But it does call itself a “Bar-B-Que” place, so I felt compelled to have the classic chicken barbecue sandwich, with the cole slaw on the sandwich. Their mild sauce is delicious, but you can also order a spicy, hot or super-hot varieties of sauce, if that’s your idea of a good time. The chicken was tender and overall the sandwich was a big hit with me.

For a side, I was torn. In the old days, before the Great Pancreas Flare-Up of 2013, I used to come here and have baked beans and mashed potatoes and gravy. I loved the potatoes and gravy at that time, and I’m pretty sure it’s just as good a side now as it was then, but gravy has too much fat for me, and I had to forego it. I was drawn to the baked beans, which I remembered as also being very tasty, but then I saw the “vegetable of the day” option, and picked that, thinking it may be something done kind of specially, you know, because it was the “vegetable of the day.” Turns out it was green beans, which tasted like they’d just come out of a Green Giant can in the back. So…keep moving. Nothing to see here.

Smokehouse also has desserts, including fried pies (or as we say, “Frahd Pahs”), which my awesome wife Stacey Jones will tell you about. I decided to have a brownie. These, by the way, are huge. I could only eat maybe a third of mine (which is probably all the fat I should have had anyway), so I have a chunk left for later. Not that the brownie was anything special. It was a simple very cakey hunk of chocolated flour, not particularly moist or really tasty.

She Said: It’s been very nice knowing you, Ruud, and this gig has been fun, but you just dropped the M-bomb when you know how I feel about it. Why can’t you just say “undry”?!?! After I finish typing this, I’ll be filing for custody of our four dogs and control of Eat It, Conway! Back to our review, gentle readers, where I will address the dessert portion of our meal, first. I was all set for a fried pie, it’s true, but I could not choose which kind, as they offered many, including chocolate, apple, cherry, etc. So, I asked our server what her favorite was. She said it was definitely peach, so I followed her lead as I had been leaning that way. She did not steer me wrong. The pie itself, whilst fried, is not greasy, and the fruit filling tastes fruity and not overly sweet or sugary. I really enjoyed it, and I ate every crumb.

Which is just what I did with my meal. While I was sorely tempted by this week’s special of chicken-fried chicken with two sides and Texas toast, I feel compelled to sample the barbecue at such venues, especially since He Said can’t. I got the smallest pork sandwich, chopped (not sliced) to which I liberally applied mild sauce. It was tasty, and the cole slaw gave it a nice tang and texture variant with the meat and sauce. For a side, I chose the baked potato salad, which was small and tasty, but not remarkable. I’d be willing to try some of the other offerings on the menu.

I’m not going to fan the flames of barbecue competition in this town by declaring this pork sandwich “the best,” but I have no shame in saying it was quite delicious, and I would take out-of-town guests who want to try this regional specialty here for an authentic experience. I mean, I could not stop applying it to my face! It arrived, I took bite after bite, it was gone, and I was sad. I don’t know how I could give a better review than that.

Service

He Said: Our server was smiling and friendly. She took our drink order promptly, apologized that it took her so long when she did bring the drinks (we hadn’t noticed that it was especially long), and brought us what we asked for quickly (this place is set up for quick lunch service, if you need to get back to work). She didn’t ask us about dessert, so we had to ask her. But she did give us free drink refills. There was an odd moment when she brought my brownie and then asked if maybe I’d like a plate to eat it on. I said yes. I hope she wasn’t disappointed. But in general, the service was fine.

She Said: Maybe that’s part of barbecue culture, Ruud, hand-held dessert? Anyway, I agree with you that service was very good, expedited, personable and efficient. It’s great to go somewhere for lunch where they get it that you might be in a hurry. There is definitely energy and verve in the service, and I thought it was top-notch.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One classic chopped pork sandwich, one classic BBQ chicken sandwich, one unsweetened iced tea, one pink lemonade, one baked potato salad, one Veggie of the Day (green beans), all for $21.40.

 

Rating:

He Said: Great barbecue. I can recommend the mashed potatoes and baked beans, not so much the green beans. If you can eat fried pies (i.e., if you aren’t on a low-fat diet) they are probably a better bet than the brownies.

She Said: I’m putting this place on the list for quality indulgent meals of authentically delicious barbecue and attendant fixin’s.

So…He Said and She Said: Go here for tasty barbecue (pork, chicken, etc.) and don’t skip the iced tea or the peach fried pie, and put it in your lunch-time restaurant rotation, as they are speedy!

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Waffle House-Oak Street

Review No. 50: Waffle House-Oak Street

816 E. Oak Street

(501) 329-8290

27.8 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: True-confession time: We have never eaten in a Waffle House in our lives. They are not the cultural icon in the Dakotas and the Midwest where we moved from that they are in the South. I never knew what they were and imagined a kind of grungy, fast-food breakfast restaurant where you order at the counter and probably carry your food home. There is a Waffle House less than a mile from us, so recently for Sunday breakfast, I decided we should try it.

He Said: I imagined something in the IHOP vein, but with waffles. I guess I wasn’t far off. I was a little worried about going to a kind of breakfast chain, fearing I may have some difficulty finding low-fat dietary options here. But as with most major chains, Waffle House does have an online nutrition chart that can be accessed, and I availed myself of this before we made our visit. They also list on the menu the calorie content of each of their entrees, which is mighty handy for those wanting a breakfast that’s not going to burst the seams.

Ambiance

She Said: This place is friendly and adorable! A hostess opened the door for us as we made our way in, smiling and welcoming us around 7:30 a.m. I was pleasantly surprised by the cuteness; it’s a friendly, little diner with red-leather chairs and counter stools, bright menus and big windows for much of the seating. In look and feel, it was perfect for a cheerful Sunday breakfast. As we sat, I noticed that the cooks are right opposite the counter with no dividing wall; if you want you can watch them make everything, and you can hear the waitresses calling out the orders and the cooks confirming.
He Said: Jones is right, it’s surprisingly like a cute little diner in here. The seats are hard, which at my age is not conducive to long sitting, but we weren’t planning to linger over our orange juice, looking at one another longingly. We save that for Mexican restaurants.

 

Drinks

She Said: It was breakfast, so I wanted coffee. I didn’t even look at what they had. I’m not a big juice drinker—the sweetness hits me too hard on an empty stomach—so I had a nice, big glass of water and coffee with cream. It was good and did the trick, though I usually like mine a little stronger (more like Starbucks’ coffee across the street), but this went well with my breakfast, and there was always plenty of it.

He Said: I don’t drink coffee. And I usually don’t have tea for breakfast. But I always have to have juice. I had an orange juice, which came in a pretty generous serving and was Minute Maid. So, it may not have been fresh squeezed, but you know exactly what you’re getting.

 

Food

She Said: Well, I came here for a waffle, so it was just a question of which one! But, given my sugar sensitivities, mentioned above, I knew I needed something with protein on the side to help me manage that blood-sugar experience. I went for one of the highest calorie waffle options right away, the pecan waffle with peanut butter, and to save myself from an unpleasant sugar crash, I also asked for two eggs, over medium on the side. This particular waffle is listed on the menu at 680 calories (more than half my total calories for most days).

The waffle was the size of a medium plate and came with pecans in the waffle and peanut-butter chips melting on top. There’s a butter-flavored-food-product spread, which was nice because it was soft and easy to cover the waffle. And, of course, there was syrup, which I don’t usually eat (sugar). But, I used a little to get the full effect, but the peanut butter chips and butter were enough to make it tasty and delicious. I could only eat a little over half of the waffle; it was filling! I did finish off the eggs, which were perfectly cooked. Before we left, I was sensing that very familiar processed-food-and-sugar feeling coming on, and by the time we got home, I had to have a glass of milk to right my little blood-sugar ship. I liked that waffle a lot; maybe I’ll just have a bite of someone else’s next time instead of too much of my own.

He Said: On Waffle House’s online menu, they list egg-white omelets, and they also list a number of varieties of hash browns, including my favorite new discovery, steamed hash browns: they are not fried, and they have exactly zero grams of fat. Imagine my chagrin when neither of these appeared on the menu presented to us at our local Waffle House. I asked the server about the possibility of an egg-white omelet, and she was most accommodating. Bucked up by this, I also mentioned that I had seen steamed hash browns on the online menu, and she said she could get me those, too. She Said pointed out to me afterwards that the menu we were given had a note saying “full menu available upon request.” So you should know that when you come to Waffle House—take a look online and if you see something you like, you should be able to get it there!

The hash browns, as you might expect, were not really very crispy after steaming, but they were definitely hashed. They were tender and tasty, and completely nongreasy. It’s good to know that such a completely healthy option exists for those who love breakfast potatoes and have been warned to stay away from fried food. As for the egg-white omelet—also fat free—it was very nicely done and delicious. I had ordered it with onions, tomatoes, and green peppers (no cheese—again, lookng for the completely fat-free option here). Unfortunately, the omelet came with onions, tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers. That cleared my sinuses! I took out almost all of the jalapenos—I don’t know if the mistake was the server’s or the cook’s, but it was not a major deal to me so I didn’t send it back. It was a delicious and healthy breakfast all around.

 

Service

She Said: The service was wonderful from when we approached the entry until we left. Our server was morning-appropriate: friendly, but not too loud or demanding. As He Said wrote, I didn’t realize until we’d ordered that our place-mats were not the full menu when we saw the note on them that we could see a full menu if we wanted. It’s not unusual in this experiment of eating in every Conway restaurant that we often find ourselves as newbies in places that have the strong cultures of repeat customers. I looked at the big menu online afterwards, and it wouldn’t have changed my choices, except, I would have chosen the dark blend coffee instead of the regular. My two eggs weren’t listed as an item on the small one, but I just asked for that because I wanted it. Maybe I should have been more observant, but it might also be helpful if they asked you when they seat you if you want the big menu.

He Said: I was very impressed by our server throughout. She was extremely accommodating and friendly, and I am sure that even if she did serve me jalapenos instead of green peppers, she would have changed the order with a smile if I had asked. I’m pretty sure she was a local college student, so I gave her a nice tip. Well, I mean, I would have given her a nice tip anyway, but I’m sure she could use the money. For books and things. Okay, I have a soft spot for students. Never mind.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Pecan waffle with peanut butter, two fried eggs, egg-white omelet with veggies, wheat toast and steamed hash browns, coffee and orange juice for $15.34.

 

Rating:

She Said: This was better food in a more pleasant environment than I expected, and I thought the food was tasty and the service was great. I imagine we’ll be stopping in here again in the future.

He Said: This was a surprisingly pleasant experience and I expect Waffle House will be seeing more of us.

So…He Said and She Said: Go here for an adorable, friendly neighborhood diner experience from a large, national chain.

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Mosaique

Review No. 49: Mosaique Bistro

250 Donaghey Ave., Suite 110

(501) 358-6881

27.3 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: I was supposed to be “fasting” (eating 500 calories or fewer for the day), which I usually do on Mondays and Thursdays, partly to offset the effects of these restaurant reviews, but it was the eighth anniversary of my market-research consultancy, and I really, really wanted to celebrate. So I suggested Mosaique for a review meal and a celebratory cocktail, and He Said went for it! I don’t usually like to go to brand new restaurants for reviews—I’m not sure it’s fair as they need time to work out kinks—but I was dying to try this place, so we went for it.

He Said: Happy 8th anniversary, Ariel Strategic! Yes, we actually arrived the first day they were serving from their full menu. Didn’t give them a lot of time to work out the bugs.

 

Ambiance

She Said: I like the look and feel inside Mosaique. First, the wall of windows of Donaghey Center that look out on the campus make the interior light and airy, but the colors they use, the sand tones, whites and browns, are soothing and not overstimulating. They don’t compete with the view, which is beautiful. We sat in a window-side booth, that was very comfortable and felt private, even though the restaurant is very open.
He Said:  Yes, it was very open and while the full bar across the street from Thompson Hall was a wee bit startling to a longtime Conway resident and UCA employee, it was definitely not an unpleasant sight.

 

Drinks

She Said: I was celebrating! So, I went for the white-cranberry cosmopolitan first. This felt like a party in a glass. It was light and fun, not too sugary or sweet, and came delicately presented in a stemless glass. When I finished this, I tried a glass (or two—who’s counting? It’s a party!) of the red draft wine pinot noir they have on offer. It was lovely, and two glasses of it cost as much as the cocktail alone. But I do think they need to offer more wines, specifically cabernet if not malbec, my personal favorite. They only offer more variety in bottled wine. If you want it by the glass, they have one white (pinot grigio) and one red.

He Said: Still trying to avoid caffeine, I went with a Sprite. Got a free refill without asking for it, which was sweet.

 

Food

She Said: First, I need to go on the record as wanting to go back to Mosaique because there are so many things on the menu I want to try, and the sandwiches that look so delicious on the menu are not available for supper, so I’ll have to visit for lunch soon for sure. In the end, I chose the “crashed potatoes” appetizer because when I’m indulging, fried potatoes are what I go for every time. This dish is fried potato cakes topped with marinara sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and crispy bacon. This meant that He Said couldn’t share too much of these with me, though he did have a couple saucy bites. This dish was delicious and the texture was perfect, crispy on the outside and soft, flaky taters inside. The coating was a little thick for me, but it was still tasty, and the topping, even with the tomato-based sauce, which isn’t my personal favorite, was seasoned enough that the tomato flavor was just part of the chorus, not the soloist.

For a side, we wanted the spicy pan-fried Brussels sprouts (greens, healthy greens!), but the waitress explained to us that since they were just opening, they did not have those that night, so instead we went with the “equally healthy” sweet potato fries (see the theme here?). They were very tasty and came with a maple-syrup sauce that made them as addictive as crack and definitely edged out any thoughts of dessert I’d had when I sat down. If you do nothing soon but come here for drinks, get these to share and go for it.

For my entrée, I chose the lobster and dumplings, which is Maine lobster meat and handmade dumplings tossed in a truffle cream sauce, flavored with leeks and mushrooms. This was the bomb-diggity, very rich and tasty, satisfying and filling with a very pleasant medley of flavors. I did think it may have been a little light on the lobster, which meant it was heavy on the fat in the cream and the carbs in the dumplings, but I would order this again, and I look forward to doing so.

He Said: I started with the tomato-basil soup, which I honestly would not recommend. Normally a favorite of mine, this version was thicker than a normal soup, and was way too spicy for the tomato basil lover. Truthfully, it seemed more like a bowl of sauce than of soup. In fact, what I did was take pieces of the very delicious potato cakes appetizer and dip them in the soup. As a sauce, it was great!

The sweet potato fries were also a treat. As Jones said, they come with a syrupy sauce that makes them taste like little slices of French toast. You definitely won’t need dessert if you order these, and you won’t be sorry you did either!

A number of entrees were just not going to work with my low-fat diet—red meat, fatty creams, fried. The menu lists some “special” entrees, including grouper and Louisiana redfish which were a little pricey but which I’ll probably try next time I’m here. Otherwise the sea food is pretty much all shellfish, which I’m not a fan of (and besides, Jones was having the lobster), so for the sake of the review, I opted for the roasted chicken—described on he menu as “half of a roasted chicken glazed with honey soy sauce.” Now roasted means not fried (I could have had the chicken fried chicken if I wanted to throw dietary caution to the winds, but this I deemed a much wiser choice), and here is no fat in honey or soy, so this seemed the perfect entrée for me. And when it came it looked spectacular, the glaze having been blackened on the skin. I don’t actually know what Mosaique’s policy is on where they buy their supplies, but this tasted and had the consistency of a naturally raised bird—perhaps his name was Colin—and tasted great. Half a chicken is a lot for me to eat, especially after potato-based appetizer, but I didn’t leave much of that bird, and I’d definitely eat it again.

Service

She Said: Our server was stellar and we had no complaints about service, which is unusual in a new establishment. She was attentive and personable without pulling my focus from my handsome date and our delicious food. I was pleased and felt this is the right note for service in a restaurant of this type in Conway.

An added note though: About a week later, I was here to meet a friend. I arrived around 4:30 p.m. The hostess appeared from the kitchen and spoke with the woman waiting ahead of me, didn’t look at me, and returned to the kitchen. And then I stood there and stood there and stood there. I was confused: She had seen me standing there, knew I was waiting and abandoned me with no apparent second thought. Luckily, a waitress came along and was willing to rescue me. Not cool, hostess, not cool. (And thank you, waitress!)

He Said: You had a handsome date on your first visit? Did he show up after I left? We did have the same server, I guess, and she was really completely together, even when she had to give us the bad news about the Brussels sprouts.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: A white-cranberry cosmopolitan, 2 glasses of Mark West pinot noir, a Sprite, crashed potatoes, tomato basil soup, roasted chicken, lobster and dumplings and sweet potato fries for $79.64.

 

Rating:

She Said: This is on the more indulgent roster for Conway restaurants, but there are almost no venues on that list, so I’m grateful to have it. I can’t wait to sample more of the menu, and I hope the hostess is in a hospitable mood.

He Said: I’m definitely interested in paying Mosaique another visit—maybe I’ll have the grouper or the redfish next time. Probably will go with a different soup—maybe the chicken noodle. Or a salad—they’ve got plenty of choices.

So…He Said and She Said: Go here for a special evening or for posh drinks and tasty apps in an attractive, friendly setting.

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Fuji Japanese Steakhouse

Review No. 48: Fuji Japanese Steak House

1260 Old Morrilton Hwy

(501) 328-5888

26.7 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: Conway’s oldest Japanese restaurant has been one of our go-to eateries for more than a decade, but we haven’t been there for some time, since we are committed to visiting every Conway restaurant and don’t have openings for a lot of extra meals out. But realizing we have never reviewed Fuji Japanese Steak House as part of this “Eat It, Conway!” project, we saw an opportunity and grabbed it.

She Said: This is definitely a comfort-food, relaxing go-to restaurant for us. We used to get the food a lot to go, because if you call when they open at 4:30 p.m., UCA employees getting off at that time, which is what my husband used to be, can get there just when it’s ready to go and bring it home to you to put in your belly. We don’t do that anymore, either, so it was time for us to return to one of our regular haunts for a hefty Sunday mid-day meal.

Ambiance

He Said: Fuji has a new sign, which spruces up the outside a bit. The inside has been spruced a bit too, it seemed to me, with some new art on the walls. This may have come with what appears to be new management in the restaurant since we last ate here.

You have a choice to sit in a table or booth in the front room, or sit around a Hibachi grill in the back and watch a Hibachi chef put on a show. She Said and I like our privacy when dining and always opt for a booth in the front near the bar.

She Said: Yeah, Ruud and I are far too introverted to sit at a table in a restaurant with people we don’t know! We only do that in foreign countries where we don’t speak the language and won’t have to talk to strangers. But the booths are pretty comfy-cozy here, and I like how dark this place is. With the water features, dark colors and music, it is a really soothing place to go for a romantic date night or social time with friends.

 

Drinks

He Said: I always have the green tea here. I figure that’s the natural beverage to have with Japanese food, and I’m not going to mess with what God ordained. The green tea here is nice, and comes in a very Japanese teapot and cup. You need to let it steep for awhile or it’s going to be pretty weak. Unless, of course, that’s how you like it, in which case drink up right away!

She Said: I skip Ruud’s green tea and go for something from the bar. I’ve had cosmopolitans here, but in the past, they haven’t been my favorite in town. They have two brands of cabernet sauvignon, so I will choose one of those, and may have more than one glass.

 

Food

He Said: We ordered two appetizers to share: a bowl of edamame and a seaweed salad. The edamame was done just right, and was not too salty. I tried the seaweed salad because She Said believes it to be a magic food, with all kinds of health benefits. I’m sure it is, but I wasn’t keen on the texture of it. I’m sure if you like seaweed salad, it was fine. I wasn’t going to write home about it.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will not be surprised that I ordered the Hibachi Salmon. This includes two pieces of salmon grilled on the Hibachi, with a healthy helping of fried rice and stir-fried vegetables. It comes with a green salad with a very tasty ginger dressing. The salmon is smothered in a sweet sauce which complements the very tender salmon perfectly, and the rice and veggies are excellent. I usually add a bit of soy sauce, which the Japanese would probably consider gauche of me, but hey, I like it that way.

She Said: You gotta do you, Ruud! Get down with your soy-self! I don’t really look much at the menu anymore, but it’s large, with lots of choices, including bento boxes, tons of sushi and hibachi options and lunch specials. Yes, I was happy to share the “super food” seaweed salad with you because it is delicious, gorgeous and very healthy. I have gotten used to the texture, and I love the taste of it, which includes a little heat with the red pepper flakes and a delicious light oil dressing and sesame seeds. It’s one of my favorite dishes to devour in all of Conway. I also love the edamame here, and we share it every time we dine in or carry out at Fuji.

For my entrée, which I was not sharing, I chose the tamago, or egg-omelet sushi and then I went all out food-crazy with the super crunchy roll, another one of my favorite things in offer in any Conway restaurant. This is a (very Southern) deep-fried sushi roll with salmon, avocado and cream cheese. This is an extravaganza of all my favorite things fried and served in a beautiful pyramid of deliciousness. Like He Said’s dish, this comes in its own sauce, but I sometimes will add a bit of soy sauce, too. I can’t eat the whole roll anymore, but I always bring it home and enjoy the rest of it another day. It stays tasty. This is the first place I ever ate one of my other favorite foods, the slightly sweet little egg omelets bound with seaweed to small beds of rice. Always a pleaser. Fuji never lets me down.

Service

He Said: The service was courteous and unobtrusive. She Said’s sushi, as always, arrived when it was dang good and ready. My salmon came a few minutes later. We got what we ordered, we got it in a timely manner, the server checked on us but didn’t bug us.

She Said: We didn’t have our usual server who knows I like a glass (or two) of red wine with my dinner, but I’ve never had anything but friendly, proficient, professional service at any of our dine-in experiences at Fuji.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One order of edamame, one seaweed salad, one super crunchy roll, one egg sushi, one hibachi salmon entrée, one green tea, and two glasses Clos Du Bois Cabernet (these were $8.50 each), all for $67.66.

 

Rating:

He Said: I love the salmon and I love the rice and veggies that come with it. Wash it down with some green tea, and you’ve got an excellent Japanese dinner.

She Said: There’s a reason this place has been in our regular rotation since it opened, even with all the competition that’s sprouted over the years. You may want to make it part of your restaurant life in Conway, too.

So…He Said and She Said: Go here for delicious and imaginative Japanese food, with a full bar and professional service, every time.

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Marble Slab Creamery-Dave Ward

Review No. 47: Marble Slab Creamery-Dave Ward

605 Salem Road

(501) 327-7522

26.3 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: I was in a Fri-Yay! kind of mood, so I felt like decadence, and nothing feels more decadent than going out for dessert. After lunch, we were free for the afternoon, so I suggested Marble Slab, an international ice cream franchise chain that has two branches in Conway. We had never tried their wares, and I felt it was time.

He Said: Yeah, I had some questions about a placed named “Marble Slab.” Somehow “slab” isn’t a very appetizing word for me. But I was ready and willing to check it out. Of course, its being an ice cream place doesn’t bode well for my low-fat diet. But let’s see what happens…

Ambiance

She Said: Sadly, even though this is an ice cream parlor, this is not a pleasant place to hang, so after about 2 minutes, I could see why we were the only ones there. First, the freezers make so much noise, that it feels quite industrial, but on top of that, we were seated under a loud TV that happened to be broadcasting the side-effects of some big-pharma product, and let’s just say those side-effects were decidedly unappetizing. The programming moved back eventually to a food program, but I could have done without that blaring TV all together. The place itself is cute in white and bright pink, and all the dessert options make the best décor.

He Said: Yeah, if I ever go here again, I’ll get food to go. I don’t know what the atmosphere of the other “slab” branch in Conway is like, but this one isn’t real pleasant to hang in.

 

Drinks

She Said: One doesn’t really go here for drinks, although they do have them. But, even though they specialize in sweets—not just ice cream, but also cookies—they don’t sell coffee. This made me sad after the sugar rush of the ice cream, I was desperate for some tasty, rich-bitter coffee.

He Said: They do have sodas of various kinds, and other soft drinks. But no coffee, or tea, for that matter, that I could see. Anyway, we didn’t get anything to drink.

Food

She Said: This is an ice-cream parlor first and foremost, but they do sell cookies, as well. I was glad I didn’t notice all the special sundaes and desserts on the menu before I ordered, because I can never resist a fudge brownie ice cream extravaganza, which is something Marble Slab offers. After perusing the flavors of the day, I chose a small ice cream serving, which is two scoops, so I picked coffee and peanut butter. The clerk asked me if I wanted them mixed together, which did not sound good, so I declined the combined serving. I don’t think she asked me about toppings, but that’s just as well, calorically.

I love coffee ice cream, but I must admit the peanut butter ice cream was stellar, very peanuty in taste, and creamy in flavor and texture. The coffee was good, but not as rich. Both were VERY sweet. I had a little sugar buzz before we left the restaurant, and I was desperate for coffee to cut the sweetness, as Truvy would advise.

He Said: Why would you not mix coffee and peanut butter, Jones? Sounds delicious to me. But I was pretty disappointed. There are dozens of flavors of ice cream here, but they had only one low-fat frozen yogurt: vanilla. The corporate Website actually lists five different kinds of frozen yogurt, so it seems to be this particular franchise’s choice to stock only the vanilla. For that matter, they had only two flavors of sorbet, while there are seven listed on the corporate Website. So this particular franchise seems determined not to cater to anybody on a low-fat diet. I had a small (two scoop) serving of vanilla frozen yogurt. I did have the good sense to ask for chocolate chips las an add-in, and that’s where we actually saw the purpose of the famous marble slab: The ice-creamy-mixologist put the vanilla yogurt on this frozen slab of marble and mixed in a bunch of chocolate ships. I l suppose I could have stirred them into the yogurt with a spoon and had pretty much the same effect, but hey, it was her Hibachi moment, so I let her have it.

They have other stuff here, too—cupcakes, giant pizza size cookie cakes, and other stuff. I bought a cookie as we were leaving, just to get a little more information for the review (I’m always sacrificing for you, dear readers). The variety of cookies did look pretty decent, and I went with one that was labeled “chocolate chip,” though it was clear looking at it that it was a cookie with miniature M&Ms inside. I got the cookie to go, and ate it in the car on the way home, which was a more pleasant atmosphere than the store. The cookie turned out to have a ginger flavor, which was something of a surprise. The combination of the ginger and chocolate was interesting. But not in an especially happy way. I wouldn’t recommend that particular cookie.

 

Service

She Said: Ruud, that cookie sounds pretty disappointing! Overall, the service was fine. What we often find as reviewers is that we are new to places where many people know the routine. Our clerk was attentive but not particularly friendly or informative. She asked He Said what toppings he wanted, but not me, so I didn’t know about them. There was nothing unprofessional about her work, but she was not particularly friendly or energetically helpful to newbies.

He Said: She did her job. ’Nuff said.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One small ice cream, one small low-fat yogurt, one cookie for $10.44.

 

Rating:

She Said: Tasty, very sugary, peanut butter ice cream, promising toppings, but served in a generally unenjoyable environment. If this is your go-to, get it to-go.
He Said: I won’t be back, unless I hear that they’ve got some variety in the low-fat, frozen yogurt department.

So…He Said and She Said: Good enough ice cream but not a pleasant place to hang out, and very low on healthy choices.

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McDonald’s on Dave Ward

Review No. 46: Bonus! Check In at McDonald’s-Dave Ward

1400 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 327-2072

26.3 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

Note: We post bonus reviews as we check in to various chain restaurants around Conway for which we have already done an initial review. We reviewed McDonald’s on Oak Street in May, and we’ll check in to the other Conway McDonald’s restaurants as we proceed in our quest to dine at every restaurant in our fair city.

She Said: For our check-in with McDonald’s, we were excited to have breakfast, because we officially love Mickey D’s morning repasts very, very much. Sometimes I’ll let myself eat it on road trips, but we never have it in daily life. I selected the Dave Ward restaurant because it’s a likely source of fast-food sustenance for all the commuters who travel by here each morning. He Said was still not feeling great, soI got in the car with This American Life on the Podcaster Machine and cruised down to Dave Ward.

Here’s a pro-tip for access and egress from this drive-through: You can get to and from the Golden Arches from South German Lane via the Mr. Brake and Lube. The advantage here is that you have a light to help navigate the speeding traffic on Dave Ward. Yes, I am a cautious driver (never had a ticket or an accident). You’re welcome. At 7:30 a.m. there are a lot of people going through for food from these specific drive-through windows, so they operate both lanes. Remember: ZIPPER people! ZIPPER is the rule: Your cars should fit together like a zipper, going into the main line by taking turns from each lane. It’s not hard. Just watch what’s going on and you’ll pick it up. But even if you jack up the line like the very-busy-and-important pick-up driver ahead of me, these professionals will keep everything ticking along like a fine watch.

My order of one meal deal and several single items was a little random, so I expected it may have something left out or wrong, but we got everything exactly as I had stipulated. They had the A Team out on point that morning.

Some notes on the food, eaten on plates at my dining room table:

  • I chose my go-to McD’s breakfast, the Egg McMuffin, hash browns and coffee with cream. It was all I had hoped it would be, the strange, is-this-what-astronauts-eat texture of the egg, the unusual feeling I have of eating ham, the English muffin (a personal favorite in the bread-flavored-food-products category). This breakfast sandwich is actually not outlandishly caloric, clocking in at 300 calories and only 12 grams of fat. It does have 30 grams of carbs, which is my personal downfall.
  • I couldn’t wait to eat until I got home, so I ate half my hash browns (hashbrown? It does seem like one unit) in the car. It’s the smell of that fried-potato goodness that made me hungriest of all. This side has 150 calories, with 16 grams of carbs. So, the numbers are starting to add up to the outcome of not eating much the rest of the day.
  • The coffee from McDonald’s is always really tasty to me, and they add just enough cream to soften the bitter edge of black coffee but still allow the strong flavor to come through. This is one thing I’ll let myself get from this chain on a “normal” day. My dog Lavinia also likes McDonald’s coffee and made off with the last third of my cup.
  • In order to try some of the “healthier” choices, I also ordered the yogurt and fruit parfait for He Said and me to try together. My daily breakfast at home is vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt with almonds, pecans, blueberries and blackberries mixed in, so this seemed like the closest thing to my usual routine. This has 150 calories, so it’s pretty light, but it has 30 grams of carbs, which is higher than what I eat at home. With 22 grams of sugar, I had a sugar headache before I got up from the table, and I only ate half of it. The granola comes in a separate package to keep it crispy and the fruit is semi-frozen. In the sweet yogurt, it tastes a lot like a sundae. It was good, but too sweet for me, especially if it were the only thing I were eating first thing in the morning. 

He Said: Well Jones has hit on pretty much everything to say here. Let me emphasize a few things and expand on them. If you are at all concerned with eating healthy, you really ought to take a look at nutrition information about fast food places you plan to go.

Most of them are pretty good about posting such information online. It is true that the Egg McMufffin is not a bad choice as a breakfast sandwich. Its 12 grams of fat are pretty low in the scheme of things. Some of McDonald’s other breakfast sandwiches contain somewhat higher amounts: The Sausage McMuffin has 25 grams and 400 calories, and with egg it is 30 grams of fat and 470 calories, and the sausage biscuit with egg is 34 fat grams and 530 calories. If you want to go with the hotcakes and sausage, you’re getting 35 grams of fat and—wait for it—790 calories.

The good news on this front is that the hash browns contain only 9 grams of fat. Obviously the frying isn’t all that healthy, but you can go with hash browns with some confidence that you won’t be sent into a pancreatic episode, especially if you have it with the oatmeal (only 4 grams of fat) or the yogurt (2 grams). Of course, there is that sugar issue with the yogurt. The yogurt and the oatmeal are fruity and comparatively healthy choices for breakfast. But they aren’t going to make up for that Sausage McMuffin you might have been craving. You just have to decide what’s more important. If you decide it’s your health, you might cheat a little with the hash browns and not feel too guilty.

What We Got and What We Paid: Egg McMuffin meal with hash browns and coffee, yogurt and fruit parfait, oatmeal, hash browns and orange juice for $12.37.

She Said: Go to McDonald’s for their go-to breakfast strengths, hash browns and sandwiches. And don’t forget the coffee!

He Said: Stay healthy. But you don’t have to resist the hash browns.