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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Bob’s Grill

Review No. 16: Bob’s Grill

1112 Oak Street

(501) 329-9760

10.3 percent finished with reviews of Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: It was the first Monday of Ruud’s retirement, and I was skipping my morning workout and Monday fast because I felt like I was getting a cold (again!). This seemed like a great day for Eat It, Conway! to do a breakfast review, and it was time for us to visit this Conway institution. We’ve lived here 13 years, and we’ve never eaten breakfast or lunch here.

He Said: So I woke up on a Monday morning with no one to tell me what to do! And then my wife told me we were going to go review Bob’s Grill.

Ambiance

She Said: I walked in and instantly felt at home. It has the look and feel of so many of the small-town diners in Kansas and South Dakota I was taken to as a child. Except it’s HUGE. It just goes and goes and goes, back, actually to a rear parking lot in case you don’t want to futz with parallel parking downtown. We were invited to seat ourselves and found a snuggly booth along the west wall. I love the local art for sale along the walls, the white boards with the daily specials (Blue Plate specials, grill specials and the fried pies of the day). You can also find these boards in photos on Bob’s Grill’s Facebook page. They open at 5 a.m. every day of the week, and when we arrived after 9 a.m., there was energy here, but the place wasn’t full, as it is so big.

He Said: It definitely has that small-town diner feel, but there are lots of tables. The center of the large room has several very long tables, designed for large parties. These were not occupied at breakfast time when we went, but I can imagine a large early morning coffee klatch there, reviewing all the town gossip before starting the day in downtown Conway.

 

Drinks

She Said: I rather expected that watered down coffee you get at chain breakfast places (which shall remain nameless), but what I got was delicious and strong. I admit I made a cup of coffee at home before we left because I like my coffee how I like it: a double espresso with half and half. But I was very happy with the cup of coffee I got here, and next time, I won’t feel the need to prepare with my own brew before I go. I also ordered a “small” glass of grapefruit juice, and I’m glad I got a small. At many restaurants and diners, this would be a medium or a large.

He Said: I’m not so big on coffee, but I do like a variety of juices, and I got the “medium” size grapefruit juice. Not sure what the large would look like, but proportionally I’d guess it would be in one of those 82-ounce glasses.

Food

She Said: Since I was fighting a cold, I went for the calories with impunity. I have a weakness for French toast, and while I thought briefly about one of the breakfast combinations or the delicious looking breakfast sandwiches, I knew this old favorite was going to be my choice. I asked for turkey bacon, and the waitress said they don’t have that, but she could give me a side of turkey. I threw caution to the wind and went with the bacon. I only like bacon if it is extra crispy, and honestly, in most restaurants, I order extra crispy bacon and never get it. But here, it was thick-cut and very, very crispy. Delicious! The egg was a perfect medium-fried egg, as well. But the French toast. Oh, my friends! The French toast was fantastic. It’s got to be the best in Conway. I happened to mention it to the waitress who picked up our plates, and she told me that they use Texas toast, which they dip in pancake batter before it is cooked. It has a light, cinnamon taste, which comes from that batter. I will probably dream of this French toast, and I will be ordering it again soon.

He Said: Breakfast can be challenging for somebody trying to stay low-fat, since pretty much everything worth eating at breakfast is either full of eggs, butter or meat (i.e, pork or bacon), and/or is deep fried.  A lot of places have low-fat options but these consist of cereal, some fruit, and some yogurt, all of which you could just go buy at a grocery store (since there’s no preparation involved), and eat at home for less than a quarter of what it costs in a restaurant.

So it’s always a great joy to find a place that will make egg-white (or even Egg Beaters) omelets. And Bob’s is one of those wonderful places. I was able to get an egg-white omelet with tomatoes, peppers and mushroom (and no cheese), and it was delicious. I also took a shot and tried the hash browns: potatoes have no fat but these were fried. But I found them to be fluffy and not too deep fried, with no sign of excess oil, so they were a relatively healthy splurge for me. I also got four slices of delicious rye toast. All in all, the breakfast was terrific.

Service

She Said: I stole some of your hashbrowns, Ruud, and they were not greasy in taste or texture. Getting on with things, the service here was stellar. We had a “team” of waitresses for our main servers—I think one of them was in training. We were newbies to a place that probably hosts a lot of veterans, but we never felt unwelcome or out of the insiders’ loop. The menus are on the tables, and you seat yourself, but they came to us right away to ask about our drink orders, and they answered all of our questions patiently and gave us options when they didn’t have what we wanted (turkey bacon). A number of different people checked in on us along with our main servers. And I probably got offered coffee refills 10 times in the hour or so we were there.

One thing I really, really liked was that when I thanked our waitress, she said, “You’re welcome” instead of “no problem.” I know it’s a little thing, but it always rubs me the wrong way when someone is waiting on me in a restaurant or store and says, “No problem!” when I thank them. I guess I figured it was no problem, since it’s his or her job. “You’re welcome” is so much nicer, more hospitable and gracious.

He Said: What she said. Service was friendly and professional, and attentive without being intrusive. And Jones, you don’t have to thank me for going with you. “No problem,” I say.

What We Got and What We Paid: Egg-white omelet with tomato, peppers, mushrooms, hash browns and rye toast, along with French toast, bacon and a side egg, coffee, a medium grapefruit juice and a small grapefruit juice for $25.76.

 

Rating

She Said: Best French toast in Conway, so I’ll be back to this friendly place for breakfast as soon as I can!

He Said: You won’t have to drag me back. Especially if you’re buying. Thanks, by the way—now that I’m on a fixed income, it helps if I can get by without paying…

So…He Said and She Said: Go here for the diner experience and get delicious food with healthy options from friendly staffers.

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Faby’s No. 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Taylors’ Made Cafe

No. 14: Taylors’ Made Cafe
283 Highway 365

(501) 470-3322

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

 

The Situation

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

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

 

Ambiance

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

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

 

Drinks

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

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

 

Food

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

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

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

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

Service

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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El Parian Mexican Restaurant

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

8.4 percent done with Conway restaurants based on the current list

(501) 513-1313

 The Situation

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

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

 

Ambiance

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

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

 

Drinks

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

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

 

Food

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

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

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

 

Service

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Sonic (Oak Street)

No. 12: Sonic (Oak Street)
1890 E. Oak Street
501-336-0226
7.8 percent done with Conway restaurants based on the current list

The Situation

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

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

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

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

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

Ambiance

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

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

Drinks

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

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

Food

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

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

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

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

Service

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

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

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

Rating:

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

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

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Snag-a-Salad

Snag-a-Salad
805 Monroe St, Conway, AR
501-327-6060

The Situation

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

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

Ambiance

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

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

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

 

Drinks

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

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

Food

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

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

Service

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

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

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

 

Rating:

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

She Said: What He said.

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

 

 

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Jade China

No. 9: Jade China
559 Harkrider Street

(501) 329-5121

5.9 percent done reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

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

Ambiance

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

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

 

Drinks

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

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

Food

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

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

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

Service

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

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

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

 

Rating:

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

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

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