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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JJ’s Grill

Review No. 141: JJ’s Grill

1010 Main Street

(501) 336-0100

64.5 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: We didn’t actually know whether JJ’s was local or part of a chain, having never crossed their threshold before. Turns out it is, actually, a chain—there are eight JJ’s locations in Arkansas, the local one downtown on Main Street next to Old Chicago, where we’ve eaten several times and never really noticed JJ’s on the other end of the block. But we were eager to eat here—eager to eat anywhere, actually, because it was a very late lunch we were trying to get, having gone to another venue and stood in line for ten minutes trying to get waited on before giving up and coming here instead. I won’t mention the other venue, since we’ll try them again to review and hope they do better next time.

She Said: I’ve known grad students who were keen on JJ’s, so I knew it had loyal diners/drinkers, but this was our first trip. I have been trying to eat healthy, but when that effort was scuttled by the universe, I was open to a pub “linner”—lunch and dinner combined.

 

Ambience:

He Said:JJ’s says on its Web site that owners want customers to feel “This is a cool place to just hang out and chill. It’s comfortable. It’s homey.” They do a fairly good job at giving off that impression. It’s homey enough, with the atmosphere of a western bar where at times they apparently have live music. There are TVs tuned to sports stations, so it’s really like a western sports bar. I was a little miffed that they turned off the Duke-Florida State basketball game with FSU leading by a point and only a few seconds left because it was 3 p.m. and that begins JJ’s happy hour, when if you order a beer during an NFL game you have a chance to get it free if you call a coin toss correctly. But still—I wish I’d seen the end of that NCAA game.

She Said: I described this place as closer to the “real bar” end of the continuum, where TGI Friday’s is on the Disney side of that line, and that was a positive to me. It felt a little grittier and more authentic, though the chain branding came through upon examination. (The waitresses’ short skirts were not my favorite thing and definitely made it less “family friendly.”) But even before we’d gotten our food I opined that I felt that JJs had been missing in my life, but now I knew about it, and it would be in my future for sure.

 

Drinks

He Said: This is a bar, so my non-alcohol policy is always a bit tricky, but they have Coke products and they actually realize that Barq’s Root Beer isa Coke product, so I had some, and it was good.

She Said: I was feeling my Saturday, so I ordered a gin and tonic. They don’t have Hendrick’s Gin, which is a sad thing to learn, but I had Tanqueray, and it was suitably adult without being too strong. I would order this again.

 

Food

He Said: Let’s be clear: This is a bar and grill, so their forte is going to be burgers and fries and such like, and of course drinks. Now because of my pancreatic problems, I can’t drink alcohol, so that’s going to be one area I’m going to let slide. I’m also on a low-fat diet, as readers know, so red meat in general is not high on my list. So my review of this kind of place is going to be, shall we say, idiosyncratic. As Chaucer once said, “A blind man cannot judge well in hues.”

But there are people who can’t or don’t drink, and there are other people who are on low-fat diets, or eat with other restrictions, so I’m here to represent their interests. JJ’s does have things like chicken wraps on their menu, as well as a turkey burger and vegetarian burgers, but the fact was I had just had a turkey burger the night before, and I also saw that they had my personal favorite, grilled salmon, in the “Serious Meals” section of their menu. Now I knew this was not the sort of place where salmon is going to be a specialty of the house, but it did sound tasty, since the menu talked about serving it on a bed of Spanish rice with their own “signature spice.” So I went for it. As a Serious Meal it came with two sides, so I ordered grilled veggies and, because I figured they were a staple of meals here, the fries.

I did ask for the salmon to be cooked “medium,” but I got a vibe from the server that this was an unlikely occurrence. Turns out she was all too clairvoyant on that score. The salmon was way overdone when it came, so there was a lot of extra chewing that went on. The signature spice was actually nicely tangy, and the Spanish rice was very tasty, but they couldn’t save the salmon. Unless you’re into salmon jerky, you may not want to order that here.

This is not to say I didn’t get some real enjoyment out of the meal. The rice, as I say, was quite good. The steamed vegetables included a lot of mushrooms, red peppers and squash, and were nicely done and flavorful. But the fries were extremely good: crispy, thin, tangy spiced—I could have made a whole meal just out of them. And in fact that would have been easily possible, because there were a lot of them. I certainly did not go away hungry.

She Said: Perusing the menu,I dithered, dear readers, pulled apart by my desire to stay healthy in 2019 (and fit into a gala dress for a future date on my calendar) and by the desire to allow JJ’s to lead with its strengths. And given He Said’s issues, I didn’t think it fair to you for both of us to order from the rarely visited sections of the menu. So, in the end, I went with the fried-egg burger…with baconand onion rings.

In an effort to follow the letter of my laws until that dress is successfully worn, I went with the gluten-free bun (no “bread”) to avoid white flour, and I’m still off potatoes, so the onion rings served nicely, as I love them anyway. Before I committed, I toyed with ordering one of the salads that really did look delicious, or the fish or shrimp tacos, but I’m quite sure I’ll be back to try them both.

When the food arrived, I knew I’d chosen wisely. The egg was perfectly cooked to be just soft enough on the beef and with the bacon and bread to really taste like a brunchy-burger triumph. The bacon was actually crispy and added to the accompaniments perfectly. The gluten-free bun was so good, I’ll ask for it again when I’m not being so food freaky—though that will happen when I feel I’m underweight, which will be never. I could only eat half of it, and toward the end of that abandoned the bun to get the good stuff before my stomach closed for business.

And those onion rings. I thank the universe that I swore off bread, rice, pasta and potatoes for gala goals, because that drove me to these perfectly crafted onion beauties. Unlike a lot of onion rings that comprise a very thick, stand-alone breading, the onions and breading (it’s not bread—it’s not bread) were well married to create a satisfying experience of taste and texture.

Service

He Said:Our server was professional, checked back a few times, took our order nicely and accurately, even tried to tell the chef to cook my salmon medium (to no avail). She also had on the shortest denim skirt I’ve seen in a while: Apparently this is a JJ’s signature thing—cowboy boots and short denim skirts on the waitresses. I couldn’t help thinking that such a uniform is just a little bit sexist as well as being passé: I mean, they’re not going to hire any male servers, are they? And many women who because they are of a certain age or body type or modesty might not feel comfortable working there. I was a little bit uncomfortable.

She Said: Yeah, we’re both too feminist for those outfits, for sure, Ruud, but our hostess and server and food runner were all functioning on a high-quality restaurant level. As we were leaving the place was filling up for happy hour, and I was confident these women knew how to handle lots of crowded tables. It was professional all around.

What We Got and What We Paid: One Tanqueray Gin and tonic, one root beer, one egg and bacon burger on a gluten-free bun with onion rings, one grilled salmon with grilled veggies and fries, all for $39.78.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:23 minutes

Rating:

He Said:I know that She Said was far more enthusiastic about her meal than I was, and I did like the veggies and the fries. I’d certainly be willing to give JJ’s another try, and order something more in their wheelhouse, like a turkey burger, next time.

She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): I didn’t gain an ounce, so yes (though I did run 6 miles and basically ate half my meal and no other food except a light breakfast, so don’t count on this for your diet meals). I was willing to gain more than a pound for this stellar burger and these fantastic onions rings.

 Is JJ’s Good At What It’s Good For? Absolutely, as long as you let JJ’s serve you what it’s good at: not salmon but pub food, and don’t forget the onion rings … oh, and drinks all around!

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Quagmire-Quest-Merlin-Mystery/dp/1948338122

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-in-the-quagmire-jay-ruud/1128692499?ean=9781948338127

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Zaxby’s

Review No. 140: Zaxby’s

3800 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 329-5000

64.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: Feeling like a mild repast after Epiphany church services, we decided to head out west on Dave Ward to Zaxby’s, a restaurant we’d never visited here or anywhere. I’m warning you, dear readers, that I’m in a very typical January state of mind when it comes to eating, so I wanted to go somewhere I could get some lean protein without mandatory carb-loading. I figured a chicken place would fit the bill, or could be made to by the sheer force of my will.

He Said: I had never heard of Zaxby’s before, but that doesn’t mean much. I never paid much attention to fast-food chains before starting this project, but I’m learning about them now! Zaxby’s began in Statesboro, Georgia, in 1990. They opened their first location outside of Georgia in 1994 when a site opened in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They are now in 18 states, mostly in the south as far north as Indiana and west to Texas, plus, for some reason, Utah. They have some 800 restaurants across these states, mostly franchises with about 125 owned by the corporation itself. Their menu comprises chicken wings, chicken fingers, salads and sandwiches. I can usually find something at a chicken place that doesn’t hit the “Danger!” level on the Fat-O-Meter, so I was a willing accomplice to She Said’s plans.

 

Ambience:

She Said:I liked the vibe at Zaxby’s right away; it’s basically pub style with some Cracker Barrell thrown in, so it has a cozier feel than most fast-food restaurants, with warm colors and dark-wood accents. We got a little two-person booth with individual lamp lighting, upping the cozy factor.

He Said: Yes, it was pretty cozy. Tables are fairly close together, but the booth gave us a little island of coziness. There’s a little of a sports bar feel as well, with UCA Bears uniforms framed in the entryway, and paraphernalia from Hendrix, Conway High, Fayetteville, and other school teams hanging about, and several TVs scattered about with sports-flavored programming.

 

Drinks

She Said: My order included a drink, and I chose unsweetened tea. The tea-side ice machine was not working, so I had to wait a bit to get ice from the space-age soda machine He Said has finally mastered. Without ice, the tea was a little strong, but later when I did add the ice, the tea calmed down and was quite tasty.

He Said: Yes, I was able to get myself a Mello Yello (they have Coke products here) from their high tech soda machine, which I’m seeing more and more these days, so I actually did finally have to master it. Maybe soon I’ll be able to work my DVD player.

 

Food

She Said: In my effort to minimize simple carbs, I went with the traditional “wings and things” plate, which I didn’t realize included Texas toast and fries, as well as five wings (boneless or traditional) and four chicken strips. I chose the “wimpy” sauce for my traditional wings and ranch dressing for dipping (warm and cool flavors to dress up my chicken). I saw the calorie count was around 1,500 calories for the platter, and when I saw the mound of fries and the toast, I could see part of that, for sure. For you, dear readers, I sampled one fry. I do love crinkly fries, and they were mildly seasoned, golden crispy on the outside and tender and flaky inside. When I feel I’m underweight, I’ll be eating more of these!

I didn’t think the chicken was anything special, especially in a market with a number of similar chicken joints. The wings were a little tough, and the breading was so thick, I got a couple of bites of only breading. I did like the “wimpy” sauce—no judgement, though, right?—as it had a hint of heat but didn’t overwhelm the food. You can get your chicken strips with sauce, too, for extra money, but I left mine plain and dipped them in the ranch dressing. They were good, though not particularly juicy or tender. I didn’t eat all of either the wings or the tenders.

Honestly, \ this is the kind of food my mind craves at times but my body just doesn’t enjoy. It’s filling, but I get a strange carb-drunk feel from processed food such as this. It’s the nature of the fast-food beast, but I came home and planned a tiny, whole-foods supper to counteract the fast-food hangover.

He Said: I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich meal, which came with a 22-ounce soft drink and crinkle fries. This meal has 970 calories, which is not too bad for a fast-food meal. My hope was that there wouldn’t be much fat: The sandwich came on a small white hamburger bun, and the grilled chicken, which was white meat roughly the size and shape of a thick hamburger, was perfectly lean. It came with tomatoes and lettuce, and a honey-mustard dressing. Now as I’ve said before, honey and mustard are two things that contain virtually no fat, but restaurants will often—I might say “almost always”—add mayonnaise to the mix without actually telling you, and mayonnaise is the queen mother of fatty condiments. That was probably the case here, because when I went home and looked up the nutrition figures for the Zaxby’s grilled chicken sandwich, I saw that it contained 44 grams of fat. This included the potatoes, which were fried of course in some kind of oil, but many of those 44 grams must have come from the secret mayonnaise.

So 44 grams gave me 16 grams on my low-fat diet that I could spread among my meals the rest of the day. The sandwich was tasty, though not so memorable that I’m likely to be driven to come back and have another tomorrow. The crinkle-cut fries were very good, as She Said said, though I thought they could have been a little crispier. As for the free chocolate chip cookie, that was my favorite part of the meal. The cookies here aren’t as large as the ones you get at, say, Subway and such places, but it was as good a cookie as you’re likely to get at a fast-food place.

Service

She Said:We had delightful service from Hayden, who knows my husband from community theater. He was friendly while staffing the counter all by himself (taking orders AND calling out orders when they were ready). He was patient with us and helpful and was smiling while juggling his workload.

He Said: Yes, Hayden was really earning his bread today, juggling two jobs during a busy lunchtime. But he was quite friendly and even gave me a cookie “on the house.” Don’t expect that treatment for yourself. I think he was just trying to make up for the awkwardness of trying to juggle our order with delivering other people’s orders.

What We Got and What We Paid: One traditional wings and things plate, including fries, toast and a drink, along with five wings and four tenders, plus one grilled chicken sandwich meal, with crinkle fries and a Mello Yello, all for $18.87. The cookie, as I said, was free.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:9 minutes during Sunday lunch rush.

Rating:

She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): I gained 0 pounds, friends. Remember, I didn’t finish my chicken or eat my fries or toast–or eat much the rest of the day. And that is fair for this nothin-special chicken although the fries would be worth some scale recrimination. The service and ambience were very pleasant, however.

He Said: The food was decent. This is probably good as a handy place to stop if you’re shopping at Walmart and it gets to be lunchtime. Also if you’re coming from one of those big churches west on Dave Ward and want to grab a quick bite after Sunday services. I don’t know that we’re likely to be regular customers.

Is Zaxby’s Good At What It’s Good For? If you think crinkly fries are worth excusing other faults, then, yes, it is. As for chicken places, we’ve had better in Conway.

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Quagmire-Quest-Merlin-Mystery/dp/1948338122

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-in-the-quagmire-jay-ruud/1128692499?ean=9781948338127

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Lenny’s Grill and Subs

Review No. 139: Lenny’s Grill and Subs

2501 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 205-1404

63.5 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: After a challenging ballet lesson, I was looking for healthy sustenance, and I know that sub shops often have good salad options, so I suggested we roll up on the relatively new Lenny’s location in Conway and feed our faces.

He Said: Lenny’s is a chain that focuses on salads, sandwiches, subs and Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks (the menu item that sets them apart from other sub-shops in the area). But contrary to expectations, the franchise is based in Memphis, not Philly, and since their debut in 1998 has expanded to about 150 locations all in the southeastern United States. Their motto is “Everyone deserves great food,” and our mission today was to see whether they delivered on that promise.

Ambience:

She Said:It’s a fast-food restaurant, and feels that way, though it’s comfortable to dine in and has a lot of natural light from the window-wall in the front. It took us a bit to find a clean table, though. The clerks were friendly, not only to us, but to each other, giving our experience a chill and relaxed vibe.

He Said: Yes, it was bright and pretty comfortable. It’s not a huge place so it doesn’t feel like you’ve been warehoused as you eat.

Drinks

She Said: I didn’t see the fountain drinks, so I grabbed a bottle of Dasani water from the cooler by the counter. I like Dasani water, so it was fine.

He Said: I saw the fountain drinks but was glad they also had soda in cans, and had one. It was a Coke.

 

Food

She Said: One thing I like that Lenny’s offers is its tuna or chicken salad on a green salad instead of on a bun or bread, and that sounded like a good compromise on healthy versus indulgence to me, so I chose chicken salad salad without the tomatoes or peppers, and I asked for the blue cheese dressing because it was the offering that went best, I thought, with a chicken salad on a bed of dark greens. The dressing came on the side of the disposable plastic bowl, and I was glad of it, however it’s delivered, since the scales fell from my eyes last week at Newk’s on dressing calorie counts.

I found the chicken salad tasty, the right consistency of meat, mixed with dressing and possibly even nuts (almonds?). The salad was all spinach, which is yummy, but it also gets boring. The salad included cucumbers, which were crisp and not at all bitter. This item is only 200 calories, but can be more than doubled if you use all the dressing (I used about a teaspoon). It was filling, and made a tasty, satisfying, post-work-out lunch.

He Said: To really do a sound review of Lenny’s one should probably have one of the cheesesteaks that are their unique contribution to Conway cuisine. But I was wary about having one, since most of them looked to go a bit too far on the fatty side for my low-fat pancreatic needs.

So I focused on the 5-inch mile-high turkey sandwich, which consisted of turkey and provolone on your choice of white or multi-grain bread. You can choose what you want on it, but they have a recommended combination that includes onions, pickles, vinegar, and a few other trimmings including mayonnaise. I told them to hold the mayonnaise and replace it with honey-mustard, and asked for it on the multi-grain bread. According to the nutrition chart online for Lenny’s, the sandwich without the trimmings contains only 3 grams of fat, though the mayonnaise probably increases that exponentially. There is no fat in honey or mustard, but restaurants will often mix mayonnaise in a honey-mustard dressing and thereby sneak in huge amounts of fat when there is no need for it. Lenny’s apparently does something like this, since the nutrition chart says this added 10 grams of fat to my sandwich. Next time I will get plain yellow mustard, which will add only a single gram of fat.

They did make the mistake of bringing me the sandwich on white bread which wasn’t terrific but I didn’t send it back—generally you want lunch in a hurry and don’t have time for those kinds of shenanigans. I do have to say though, that this sandwich was absolutely delicious: having the special recommended trimmings really livened it up, and I would definitely have it again: the turkey was tender and the added ingredients were tangy and gave it a real zing. It would have been even better on the whole grain bread—and with the yellow mustard, which would have made it even healthier. Next time.

And then, of course I had to have a chocolate chip cookie, strictly for the sake of you, dear readers, since I knew you’d probably want to hear about it. I can report that the chocolate chip cookies here are chewy, chock full of chocolate, and very satisfying—though pretty similar to the cookies you can get at most other subway ships around town. Also, they contain 15 grams of fat—bringing my total for the meal up to 28 grams, still relatively healthy considering it’s a meal out.

Service

She Said:The woman at the counter was very friendly and patient, and I enjoyed her service because it was sincere and personable. For an eat-in “fast food” lunch, I did think the food took longer than I expected to deliver, but it wasn’t so long that I checked on it… but long enough that I thoughtabout checking on it.

He Said: Extremely friendly service, it’s true. They did make a mistake on the bread, but I didn’t feel the wait time was too bad. What’s your hurry, Jones?

What We Got and What We Paid: One chicken salad salad, one bottle of water, one mile high turkey sandwich, one chocolate chip cookie, and one can of Coke, all for $20.02.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:10 minutes

Rating:

She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): I gained 1 pound, but I did have a healthy (not big, not small) dinner that night, and I wouldn’t say Lenny’s was worth a pound, since the point of my choices was to minimize weight gain whilst still being tasty and filling. It was tasty and filling, and I will stop at Lenny’s for this meal again.

He Said: A great sandwich. I don’t know about the rest of their food here, but I felt good about what I had.

Is Lenny’s Good At What It’s Good For? We think so! Tasty sandwiches and salads to eat in or take-away, served by friendly, happy people.

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Quagmire-Quest-Merlin-Mystery/dp/1948338122

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-in-the-quagmire-jay-ruud/1128692499?ean=9781948338127

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Newk’s Eatery

Review No. 138: Newk’s Eatery

1040 S. Amity Road, Suite J

(501) 697-9444

62.9 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: “Newk’s” sounds like a place where you go to get food heated up in a microwave. But no, turns out it’s a chain of eateries specializing in pizzas, sandwiches, soups and salads. There are around 100 Newk’s restaurants scattered about thirteen different states. The chain was founded in Oxford (Mississippi, not England) in 2004, and is now headquartered in Jackson. This is one of the newer restaurants in Conway, and we’d been trying for a week to get there when there wasn’t a huge crowd and we could actually find a place to sit. We finally squeezed in shortly after 11 a.m. on a Friday.

She Said: I’d had a rather grueling return-to-working-out work out at barre class, so I was hungry, but I was also eager not to undo any good I had done my body with junky food, so a place that offered a variety of food categories was appealing to me. We went early as we’d seen the lines for service and seats on another occasion, when we left to go get tacos.

 

Ambience:

He Said: The place is built for volume. It’s a large open eating area with lots of tables fairly close together. It seems new, but not exactly cozy.

She Said:It’s also loud. We could barely hear each other as we sat at the back of the dining area. As you enter there isn’t a lot of room for the lines to order, and then you move into the large area for tables, which also houses drinks, condiments and extra bits for your salads, soups and sandwiches on a round table. The colors are calming and cool, but there’s not much they can do when the place is full and buzzing. The open kitchen also contributes to the noise level, as it opens right onto the dining room.

 

Drinks

He Said:They have Coke products, and you are given a cup to pour your own. They did have Barq’s root beer, and it was good, so I was satisfied.

She Said: I had iced tea, unsweetened. There was some confusion about the orders of our drinks. I ordered an unsweet tea, and got a large, plastic holiday Newk’s cup. He Said ordered a small drink and got a rather small, clear plastic cup. I hadn’t stipulated large, but that’s what I got without saying a size. He Said switched to get a big glass, too.

 

Food

He Said: Looking for things on the low-fat side, I was drawn to the grilled chicken options. They have a grilled chicken sandwich that adds bacon to the grilled chicken (obviously not aimed at people who are getting the grilled chicken because of its low fat qualities), so I ordered the chicken pesto sandwich, which has no bacon. Newk’s has a “Pairing” option (where you can have, say, soup and sandwich, or soup and salad, etc.), so I paired my sandwich with a cup of chicken broccoli soup. Then on a whim that I justified by saying I had to eat a variety of stuff to be of service to our faithful readers, I grabbed a brownie that was just sitting there at the counter calling my name.

That, dear readers, was just the beginning of our adventure. This is one of those places where they give you a number and then somebody brings out the meal later. We got our number and sat down in a corner where one of the two or three remaining tables was situated, and sat down to wait. And wait. And then wait some more, watching all those around us get their meals, including those who sat down well after us. When the meal finally came, they brought me a regular chicken sandwich rather than the chicken pesto one. I didn’t want to complain, and I didn’t want to wait another twenty minutes to have them bring out the right order, so I took the bacon off the sandwich and gave it to She Said, and ate what they brought me.

The sandwich wasn’t bad (probably would have tasted better with the bacon, but that is anathema to my pancreas), but a little bit dry and not anything to write home about, as my mother used to say.

The cup of soup, which was a huge “cup” (apparently the full bowl of soup is something like 32 ounces here, which will drown a baby elephant) was the highlight of the meal. The cheddar was a bit sharp and had a bit of a tang to it (take my word on this, I’m from Wisconsin), and the broccoli added just enough flavor to complement it. As for the brownie, that was good, chocolatey, chewy and undry (She Said censors any version of the “m” word), tasty but not exceptionable.

Turns out I didn’t do my pancreas any favors with that meal, as I discovered when I looked online at Newk’s nutrition menu—something I should have done before I went. The chicken pesto sandwich would have only been 15 grams of fat, but the one they brought instead contained 27 grams. By casting out the bacon I saved a few grams, but not enough. The reason the broccoli-cheddar soup tasted so good was probably its 33 grams of fat. Good thing I didn’t have more than a cup. I could have made wiser choices there: the wild mushroom soup or the chicken tortilla soup (5 grams) would have been a much safer bet. Of course the brownie added another 13 grams of fat (though all other desserts had more), making a total of 73 grams—13 grams of fat over what should be my daily maximum. I could have eaten healthier at Newk’s, but I didn’t do the necessary preparation. I didn’t get a lot of help from the menu either.

She Said: Well, He Said, avoiding cheese soup might have helped your numbers! For my meal, I went for the shrimp and avocado salad. I did briefly consider pizza (I think about eating pizza 90 percent of the time), but as I said, I was eager not to undo a good week of working out in one meal. There are a number of good-looking salads on offer, and shrimp and avocado are two of my favorite things on greens, so I quickly put in my order (when I got to the front of the line).

The salad, when it came, was huge, a big bowl of arugula, feta, shrimp and avocado. There was plenty of shrimp and avocado, things that are often touted in menu descriptions, but don’t really show up in great numbers when the dish arrives. Just eating the shrimp filled me up, as I tried to get in bites of the greens and accompaniments. I ended up bringing so much of the left-over salad home, I couldn’t even fit it all in the to-go box. (I’ll put that arugula in an omelet, and at least eat some of it.)

The shrimp was perfectly cooked and the avocado was fresh and went well with the feta and green onions. I thought the dressing was too strong and overwhelmed the tastes of the ingredients at times. If I order this again, I’ll ask for light dressing or the dressing on the side. And, after being inspired by He Said to review at the nutrition information online, I will definitely put the brakes on the lemon-basil vinaigrette in the future: According to Newk’s nutrition calculator, the dressing doubledthe calories of the salad. Before the dressing, it’s a very healthy 340 calories; after adding the dressing, the calorie count shoots up to 680. Y’all, that dressing is not worth skipping supper!

Service

He Said: Well, I got the wrong sandwich and I had aged several decades by the time it finally arrived, but at least the guy who brought it out (he seemed to be the manager) apologized for the delay and offered us a free piece of cake, which I would have taken him up on if I hadn’t already had the brownie.

She Said:The woman who took our order wasn’t particularly friendly and seemed a little irritated by our confusion over the size of drinks we were given, but the man who brought our food late was very friendly, apologetic and really wanted us to take him up on that cake. I did think He Said should have told him the problem with the sandwich, but I understood his not wanting to wait longer.

What We Got and What We Paid: One shrimp avocado salad, one “pairing” of one-half grilled chicken sandwich and cup of broccoli cheese soup, one brownie, and two fountain drinks (unsweetened iced tea and Barq’s Root Beer), all for $30.84. Which is, shall we say, a bit hefty for lunch, especially one at which (sadly) no alcohol was consumed.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 32 minutes.

Rating:

He Said: In all fairness, there was a big crowd when we ate here and they haven’t been open long. The food was not bad, but you might want to wait until after Christmas shopping season to eat here.

She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): I gained .8 pounds, although I did have French fries later in the day, so they could be the culprit—along with the salad dressing. The point of my order was not to gain weight, so …

Is Newk’s Good At What It’s Good For? If you like large portions of food in a loud dining room, sure! The food is good enough, but we won’t be back until it settles down and settles in.

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Tio’s Mexican Restaurant

Review No. 137: Tio’s Mexican Restaurant

710 South Salem Road

(501) 327-9400

62.4 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: I got off the treadmill and was pretty hungry for a big ol’ lunch. We tried one place where lines were out the door, so searching on Yelp for an establishment we hadn’t yet reviewed, we settled on Tio’s. I’ve driven by this place probably hundreds of times, but this is the first time we’d ever dined there.

He Said: So this is just one of the 142,695,244 Mexican restaurants in Conway, but since we vowed to visit them all, it was time to check this one off the list. Apparently they have an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet here from Monday through Saturday, but we ended up doing the after- church crowd thing on Sunday, so in fact our experience might be different from yours if you’re heading there on a weekday. The menu for lunch is huge, so it took awhile to get our bearings, but we both ended up getting combinations, and so got a pretty good variety of the kind of thing they have here.

 

Ambience:

She Said: It’s very festively American-Mexican on the inside, with painted booths and tables. The dining room is cozy enough, and has table and booth options. We had a window-side booth that was colorful and comfortable.

He Said:Yes. We’d never been here before, but the colorful interior reminded me of El Parian, which we used to eat at regularly, only with more newly-painted looking furniture. There are TVs hanging all about, all tuned to football games on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Drinks

She Said: They have an extensive mixed-drink menu, but before I looked at it, I asked for a margarita, which my server confirmed I wanted on the rocks. It was a perfectly appropriate size and also nicely adult in ingredients. I did see some rather large ones being served, and on another visit, I might try one of those.

He Said: Yes, I noticed some of those “big as yo’ head” margaritas. Surprised you showed such restraint. As for me, they’ve got Pepsi products, and I asked for a Mello-Yello, seeing it listed on the menu. But then I was told they didn’t have it. So I opted for a Dr. Pepper, also listed on the menu. This they had.

 

Food

She Said: I needed sustenance for the effort of perusing the extensive menu, so I quickly ordered a small guacamole to go with our chips and salsa. The chips were warm when served and crispy, and the guac was on the creamy side, and rather tasty, though I did need to add a bit of salt. The menu was so large, it was hard to choose (choice research indicates that the more choices you give consumers, the more interest you provoke, although fewer sales actually occur). I took refuge in the vegetarian combinations section and settled on D: a refried beans enchilada, a chalupa and a quesadilla. This was the right choice. These are my three favorite a la carte items at this kind of restaurant—I stipulated that I wanted mine with cream sauce, not red. The refried beans in the enchilada were tasty and creamy, the shell under the chalupa was crispy and the beans and fresh guac and lettuce mixed nicely in taste and texture. I also really enjoyed the very simple and tasty quesadilla, which was just a perfectly browned tortilla with melted cheese. Any one of these items would have been plenty for lunch, and together they were a flavorful feast.

He Said: With that Huge menu, as already stated at least a couple of times, I figured a combination plate would get me at least a couple of different choices. Since She Said was all over the vegetarian combos, I figured I’d have the regular one. Of course, I do have the chicken rather than the beef versions of things, because of the low fat blah blah blah that you’re all used to by now. The way the combinations work here is that you have a choice of four from a list of some ten or twelve items. So I had a chicken taco, chicken enchilada, refried beans and Mexican rice.

I enjoyed the rice and the beans. They tasted, I thought, just as they should, pretty much like every other good Mexican place in town. The beans were, I thought, a little smoother or creamier than most, and were particularly good that way. The red sauce on the chicken enchilada was tangy and sweet and I enjoyed it. The taco came on a separate plate, was in a crispy shell, and was quite full of chicken and cheese. I added some salsa left over from the chips that had been brought at the beginning, and some tomato from She Said’s meal which she threw my way as soon as she saw it, and I was very happy. The shell did get a little soggy fairly quickly and lost its crispness, but that was not a significant problem. Overall the meal was as good as any Mexican meal I’ve had in Conway for some time.

Service

She Said: Service was efficient, though not particularly cheery; however, I have no complaints.

He Said: Yes, it was attentive enough. My Dr. Pepper didn’t come with the food, so She Said had to ask for it again. But it came right away after that.

What We Got and What We Paid: One small guacamole, one vegetarian combination, one regular margarita, plus one “build your own” combination, with a chicken taco, chicken enchilada, rice and refried beans. All for $27.08, before tip.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 14 minutes from our arrival to entrée arrival (with chips and drinks in between).

Rating:

She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): It’s the holidays, y’all. I’m not weighing in! But, this would be worth a pound, maybe more if you went for the ginormous marg. If you like this American version of Mexican food that is a tradition in Arkansas, you’ll like Tio’s.

He Said: What I had here was tasty and satisfying, and as good as most of the myriad Mexican joints in Conway, and certainly better than some. I’d be perfectly satisfied to eat here again in the future, once we’ve finished this project of trying to hit every restaurant in sight.

Is Tio’s Good At What It’s Good For? Absolutely! Standard Americanified Mexican fare served efficiently with adult-drink options and yummy combinations.

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Quagmire-Quest-Merlin-Mystery/dp/1948338122

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-in-the-quagmire-jay-ruud/1128692499?ean=9781948338127

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Slim Chickens

Review No. 136: Slim Chickens

550 East Salem Road

(501) 450-7546

61.9 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: The first Slim Chickens opened in Fayetteville in 2003, and the brand has been an Arkansas tradition for 15 years. Calling itself a “fast casual” restaurant, the chain specializes in wings and chicken tenders, and currently has 14 locations in Arkansas, including five in Fayetteville alone, plus restaurants in 13 other states and in the United Kingdom and Kuwait as well, for more than 60 locations overall. The one in Conway is on Salem Road, near a plethora of other chain restaurants in the neighborhood of the Kroger. She Said, as Keeper of the List, told me it was our turn to review Slim Chickens. So off we went.

She Said: It was the day before Thanksgiving, and we were much more focused on what we were going to be cooking the next day instead of cooking that day, so the only question about lunch was where to go.

 

Ambience:

He Said: There is a rather large dining area with a tall white-beamed ceiling and TVs tuned to sports stations around the room, and company slogans painted on the walls. There’s also a dining area outside, but it was a bit chilly the day we were there. It was clean, bright and comfortable enough, though the chairs were metal with no cushions, so I’m not sure I could have sat in them for hours on end.

She Said: The style was definitely Franchised Down Home complete with shiplap (for all you Joanna Gaines fans who love to love shiplap—or love to hate it), brick as well with lots of windows. Marketing messages are painted on the walls in attractive script, and there are booths, tables and various seating arrangements to choose from. It was bright and pleasant.

 

Drinks

He Said:They have Coke products from a help-yourself fountain, and these included Barq’s Root Beer. I had some, and, lo and behold, it was good.

She Said: I chose unsweetened iced tea, and it was good, not too strong, but it held up against the ice.

 

Food

He Said: I think I had the wrong idea in my head about what a Slim Chickens place would serve, and thought when I walked in I might be having an order of fried chicken or perhaps a grilled chicken sandwich. Alas, these are not on the menu (though looking at a menu after the fact, I believe I could have had a grilled chicken tender wrap). Seeing that the chief choices were in the area of tenders and/or wings, I made the snap decision to have a six-piece wing plate, which came with a drink, Texas toast, and one side, for which I chose fries as the easiest thing I could think of without pondering over the menu for another twenty minutes. From the long list of possible sauces, I chose honey barbecue, thinking it sounded quite tasty and that it was probably the lowest-fat possibility (unless they tried to sneak in some mayonnaise or something without telling you, as restaurants are wont to do).

Turns out I made the right choice, as in looking at the nutritional guide posted by Slim Chickens online, it says the wings have three grams of fat apiece (a total of 18 grams), while the honey barbecue sauce has no fat at all. Unfortunately, the fries did contain 22 fat grams, though I’m not sure any of the other sides would have been much better for a low-fat diet, except maybe the side salad, but that would depend on whether you could get a low-fat dressing.

The honey barbecue sauce was quite tasty, and the wings themselves were fine, though I’m not sure they were any better than at other wing spots in town. One thing Slim Chickens does have going for it is that each order is made fresh, so you know the wings haven’t been sitting around for awhile. But some other places can probably say the same.

The fries were pretty good, thin and fairly crispy, so perhaps they were worth those 22 grams of fat. As for the Texas Toast, it was hardly worthy the name. Texas Toast is, by definition, toast with butter and usually garlic that is thicker than normal toast. This bread was a normal thin slice, with perhaps a little butter (it was hard to tell) and no garlic.

I did try a couple of bites of She Said’s chocolate chip cookie, and it was fine, though again, nothing special, and I’ve had better at a number of restaurants in town.

She Said: I was all geared up for a fried chicken sandwich, and I was sure this was my place for this decadent treat. But the only such offering on the menu is a spicy chicken sandwich, which I did not want. (On the wall it says they make every dish to order, so could I have asked them for a plain chicken sandwich?) Panicked, I chose the wings and chicken strips meal, three pieces of each, with fries. I didn’t really understand the sauce and dipping questions I was asked, and what I got was two blue cheese dipping sauces for my barbecue-flavored wings. It was a Thanksgiving miracle, because that’s what I would have chosen if I’d known what I was doing.

The chicken strips were the best offering on my plate—or in my basket, rather. The breading was crisp and the chicken was tender, and I ate all three of these. I’m not a huge chicken tenders fan because I don’t prefer white meat, but if I were in the mood for some, I’d eat these again. I didn’t care for the wings. I found them tough and a little dry, and I didn’t eat all of them. Nor did I eat all the fries, because I found them a little wilted and not worth the calories. As He Said said, the cookie also was nothing special, and I was happy to share it—because that’s just the kind of nice wife I am.

Service

He Said: Having never been here before, we had no idea what the menu would look like, so we stood from several minutes carefully reading the menu as posted above the counter where you order, allowing other patrons to go ahead of us if they came in knowing what they were doing. The server there was infinitely patient and then answered our questions patiently when we ordered. She wasn’t gushing friendliness but she was professional and helpful, and brought our food out to us fairly quickly.

She Said: The server was patient, though I was a little confused and she wasn’t that clear. She was no-nonsense and got the job done.

What We Got and What We Paid: One “3 and 3 Plate” with a side of fries, one “6 Wing Plate” with a side of fries, one chocolate chip cookie, one regular Barq’s Root Beer and one regular unsweetened Iced Tea, all for $23.30.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:15 minutes from entering the store to delivery of our food.

Rating:

He Said: It is possible to eat a low-fat meal here that is tasty, but overall the food is pretty average.

She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): No. I gained 1.2 pounds eating part of a meal here (and ate small healthy meals the rest of the day). If I’m going to get bad news from the scale, it won’t be for chicken tenders.

Is Slim Chickens Good At What It’s Good For? It’s okay at what it’s good for. But there may be better chicken places in town, though they offer less shiplap.

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Quagmire-Quest-Merlin-Mystery/dp/1948338122

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-in-the-quagmire-jay-ruud/1128692499?ean=9781948338127

IMG_7811

Mulan’s Chinese Buffet and Sushi

Review No. 135: Mulan’s Chinese Buffet and Sushi

790 Elsinger Boulevard

(501) 205-0896

61.4 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: Thinking of somewhere to go for Sunday Dinner (proper noun), we settled on Mulan’s as it is not far away, and we’d always been happy with their to-go food. We’ve never dined in, so it was finally time. After a trip to the Bahamas, Chinese cuisine was something we hadn’t enjoyed recently, so I was craving it. Of course, we are not big fans of buffets, but we were willing to give it a try.

He Said: I personally like buffets a lot more than She Said does. I like the idea of trying a little bit of all kinds of things. Although it is probably true that there are so many things at a buffet that most people go to them looking for quantity rather than quality of food. Still, with such a variety, it’s not difficult to find things you like.

 

Ambience:

She Said: Mulan’s is a large restaurant in a shopping center, but it is divided into smaller rooms, so eating there doesn’t feel like you’re feeding in a cattle pen. The décor is muted colors with some dark wood accents. We sat right by the buffet, so we witnessed the to and fro, but though the restaurant was filling up, it never felt hectic or overly crowded.

He Said:  It’s true, we were seated in a small area near the buffet itself, and while the buffet did get a little crowded with the after-church Sunday diners, the small dining area we were in was not unpleasant.

 

Drinks

She Said:I ordered unsweetened iced tea, which came in a huge tumbler and was nicely mixed with the ice (not too strong). I was offered plenty of refills but declined. That was A LOT of tea. We were not given a menu, so I don’t know much about what else may have been on offer.

He Said: I asked for a Coke, but the guy who seated us, like John Belushi on the old SNL “cheeburger, cheeburger, cheeburger…” sketch, told me “No Coke. Pepsi.” To which I replied with rising glee, “Then do you have Mountain Dew?” YES! So that’s what I had. I drank it with impunity and enjoyed every sugar-soaked, caffeine-laden drop of it.

 

Food

She Said: Sadly, I didn’t find my favorite Chinese dish on the buffet: cashew chicken. But pretty much everything else was represented that I could think of, along with many other favorites, old and new. I gave myself a small scoop of the veggie fried rice, which is a distinctive yellow color at Mulan’s. I hope this means there is turmeric in this dish, as that is a super-healthy spicethat does a body all kinds of good. As I perused all the main dishes, I selected sesame chicken, butter shrimp and something I’d never had before: peanut-butter chicken. I also scooped up a custard dumpling, sautéed mushrooms and half a bowl of egg-drop soup with a healthy sprinkling of crunchy wantons. And, for healthy fiber, I scooped up the cucumber and tomato salad.

I ate the soup first before the wantons became soggy, and it was a winner. The broth was thick and tasty, with lots of egg, and the crunchies made it even better. I would have been very happy to slurp up a big bowl of this for my entire lunch. But there was more to do! The sesame chicken, mixed with the fried rice was a solid, standard American-Chinese food offering. The butter shrimp, basically a scampi, was good, and nicely cooked, even for a buffet. The cucumber-tomato salad was a little spicy, with crispy, non-bitter cucumbers (I left the tomatoes… I don’t like those, you know). The custard bun was a real treat, as I’m a known lover of dim sum, but they were offered in little white paper wrappers that clung to the dumplings, and ended up chewing some of the paper and having to spit it out. The filling was only slightly sweet. The big star of the first plate was the peanut-butter chicken. This was amazing! Tender chicken in a peanut-butter sauce that contributed those nutty flavors without overwhelming the dish. I had a small piece because it was so rich, but it was delicious.

I took a shorter second pass, considering dessert. I stopped at the sushi bar, but I usually think it’s strange to get sushi at a Chinese place so I merely sampled instead of grazing with two tasty pieces of a California roll. I also found fried dumplings, so grabbed one, and then got one of the sweet fried buns for my dessert, not being tempted by anything else on the dessert buffet (there’s also ice cream in coolers if you’re so inclined). The fried dumpling was good, and the sweet bun was the perfect dessert—sugary bread is a pretty big treat for me, especially when I’m on post-vacation weight-loss lock-down.

He Said: I started with the salad bar, which was nothing to write home about (especially the choices of dressings), but I did add the egg-drop soup with wontons which She Said has already talked about and with which I agree, and an egg-roll, which I had with a dash of sweet-and-sour sauce and was pretty tasty.

I made the rounds with a second plate to try as many things as I could find that I thought might be relatively low in fat. I too had the sesame chicken, which was very tender and tasted quite good with the veggie fried rice, which was excellent (they have brown rice and white rice as well if you have a hankering for one of those). I had a bit of the sweet-and-sour chicken, which was fine, though pretty typical. There was also a pepper chicken which was probably lower in fat because it didn’t have a fried coating on it, but be careful if you get this because those green things that you might think are green peppers are in fact jalapeños. They also have a few fish dishes that I was glad to see—a tasty smoked salmon that I liked fine, and my favorite item of the day, a baked flounder in a tasty sauce that I had to go back and have a second helping of. I had a taste of fried zucchini, which was pretty good, and some of the sautéed mushrooms, which were also quite tasty. But nothing beat the flounder.

I did do a third round to have some dessert, and for this I tried a chocolatey tiramisu, which was quite nice, and a small cream puff, the taste of which took me back to the Wisconsin State Fair back in the 1970s and 1980s, when I would have the gigantic cream puffs there. I’m not saying it was just as good, but the taste was certainly in the ballpark.

Service

She Said: One thing I liked here is that they didn’t confront you with the PAY NOW of many buffet restaurants when you walk in the door (you pay at the counter as you leave). Everyone was very friendly, and we had many servers stop by to clear plates, offer more drinks and make sure we found everything.

He Said: This is true, it was an easier entry than other buffets. And the folks were helpful, with several people coming by to check on us and make sure we had everything we needed.

What We Got and What We Paid: Two adult buffets and two drinks for $28.63.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:6 minutes from entry until we both sat down with food.

Rating

She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): Mulan’s offers some of the better Chinese buffet food in Conway, and while it’s certainly worth a bump up on the scale, I lost half a pound, so Mulan’s for the win!

He Said: This is as good a Chinese buffet as there is in Conway, especially, I would say, in the fish department.

Is Mulan’s Good At What It’s Good For? Definitely! A delicious variety of standards and more inventive American-Chinese and sushi offerings in a pleasant environment.

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Quagmire-Quest-Merlin-Mystery/dp/1948338122

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-in-the-quagmire-jay-ruud/1128692499?ean=9781948338127