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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Mosaique

Review No. 49: Mosaique Bistro

250 Donaghey Ave., Suite 110

(501) 358-6881

27.3 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

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

 

Ambiance

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

 

Drinks

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

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

 

Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

Service

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

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

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

 

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

 

Rating:

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

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

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

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Fuji Japanese Steakhouse

Review No. 48: Fuji Japanese Steak House

1260 Old Morrilton Hwy

(501) 328-5888

26.7 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

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

Ambiance

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

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

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

 

Drinks

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

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

 

Food

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

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

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

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

Service

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

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

 

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

 

Rating:

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

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

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

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Marble Slab Creamery-Dave Ward

Review No. 47: Marble Slab Creamery-Dave Ward

605 Salem Road

(501) 327-7522

26.3 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

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

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

Ambiance

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

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

 

Drinks

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

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

Food

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

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

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

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

 

Service

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

He Said: She did her job. ’Nuff said.

 

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

 

Rating:

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

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

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McDonald’s on Dave Ward

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

1400 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 327-2072

26.3 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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El Acapulco

Review No. 45: El Acapulco

201 Skyline Drive #40

(501) 327-8445

25.7 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: Jones had been having a busy week, and wasn’t able to do lunch until Friday, so by then I was itching to get out among Conway’s finest and have myself some lunch, Mexican style. The target for the day was El Acapulco, one of the 16,325 Mexican restaurants in Conway, and one of two located near the movie theaters in Conway’s Town Center, ludicrously spelled “Towne Centre”—“centre” I suppose because that’s the way the British spell it, and it has to be a classy place if it eschews American spelling in favor of the Brits, and “towne” because…well, for no logical reason at all except perhaps if you’re going to ignore the rules of spelling and end one of the words of your name with an “e,” you might as well throw a random “e” at the end of the other one as well. But I digress.

“El Acapulco” at least is spelled the way you’d expect. There are actually some six “El Acapulco” restaurants around Arkansas, including locations in Jonesboro, Hot Springs Village, Pocahontas, and elsewhere. It’s unclear to me whether they are connected or not, but the one in Conway always seems to be busy, which is a good sign—not only that the restaurant is probably making a profit, but also that it’s a local favorite with a lot of regular customers. Of course, it also helps that El Acapulco is in a prime location—convenient for anyone shopping or heading for a movie at the Town-e Centr-e, and also for anyone heading into or out of town on highway 65.

She Said: Oh, Ruud. Your rants never get old! Yes, we were missing Mexico a bit and we had noticed how many cars are always in this lot when we drive by, so we were both looking forward to lunch here by the time we rolled up.

Ambiance

He Said: We just got back from a week in Mexico, and the interior of this place immediately reminded us of restaurants in the San Miguel area. There are a number of tables and rather cozy booths, and colorful tiles on the walls and tables, and not-even-tacky paintings of Mexican scenes on the walls.

She Said: Yes, El Acapulco reminded me of one of the first places we ate in San Miguel de Allende, Hecho en Mexico, and that made me happy. It’s cozy and the décor is pretty and appealing, and I felt relaxed and as if I were on a short, lunch-long vacation.

 

Drinks

He Said: They have Coke products here, as well as the usual iced tea. The menu also claimed that they had Fanta here, which somehow sounded good to me: I was trying to avoid caffeine.  But when I ordered it, the waiter said they didn’t have it after all. Chagrinned but undaunted, I asked for lemonade instead, and was successful. It was fine—pretty much what you’d expect lemonade to be like.

She Said: You never know when you go to a Conway Mexican restaurant if margaritas will be an option in our “damp” county, but they are on the menu here. I went with my old standby, the frozen mango margarita. It was lunch, so I chose the small, and I was glad I did. The small certainly looked like a large to me. It was 12 ounces. When it arrived, I checked the menu and saw that the medium margarita is 21 ounces and the “Monster” margarita is 52 ounces. FIFTY-TWO. Seriously, has the FDA approved this?? Anyway, the small was plenty large, very refreshing and tasty.

 

Food

He Said: The menu here is huge. It could have been a bit overwhelming for non-regulars like us, but we quickly narrowed things down and focused on the lunch menu. There are a number of combos listed as lunch specials, mostly burritos of one kind and another. I opted for the Taco plate, which came with Mexican rice and refried beans, both of which I wanted very badly. I ordered chicken on the taco (keeping to the low-fat end of the menu spectrum) on a crispy taco. It wouldn’t be long before the meal arrived, but in the meantime we had tortilla chips and salsa that the wait staff provided immediately as we sat down. The salsa was mild and very tasty. The chips were fine—a couple of them seemed a little on the stale side.

When the meal arrived, it looked quite appetizing, and I added salsa and some of the beans to the lettuce and cheese that were already accompanying the chicken. It was everything I could have wanted a taco to be—tender chicken, fresh crispy shell, and tasty extras. The rice and refried beans were also very good. Nothing fancy, just what I have in mind when I think “Mexican.”

She Said: I ordered guacamole to go with the chips they immediately put down in front of us, and ordered a small because I knew I would be trying it alone. It was very fresh and delicious; I love it when you can taste the guacamole basics in the dip in all their goodness.

I dithered a lot over my decision, because even though the lunch menu helped narrow the choices, there were still a lot of things that sounded delicious to me. I almost went with some a la carte choices, but in the end the taco salad with chicken sounded best to me. (I love those edible salad bowls that are lighter and crispier than the chips or taco shells.) When it came, at first, I thought they had forgotten the chicken as I turned the lettuce, cheese and guacamole over looking for it, but then I hit the chicken gold mine at the bottom of the crispy bowl and once I stirred it all up, it was more like chicken salad with a little lettuce mixed in. I could only eat half of it as it was so filling. I will definitely order that again, but I hope I’m hungrier and can eat more of it.

Service

He Said: Service was Johnny-on-the-spot. Or maybe more accurately Jose-on-the-spot. As I mentioned, the chips and salsa arrived immediately, and someone took our drink orders less than a minute after we sat down. And it could not have been more than another minute or two before a waiter came and took our order. The meal was on the table in almost startling speed, probably five minutes, certainly no more than ten. The waiter also brought the check without our asking. I assume all of this was because they know that people coming in for lunch probably want to get done quickly if they need to get back to work. It did mean, however, that no one actually offered to refill our drinks, and no one asked if we wanted dessert—and they do have dessert here.

She Said: Yes, they clearly know how to get lunchers in and out. Our servers were professional, speedy and friendly. I agree though that they could offer or ask about more drinks or desserts before plopping down the check.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One taco plate, one taco salad, one small guacamole, one lemonade, one small Margarita, all for $25.25.

 

Rating:

He Said: A good and fairly typical Mexican food place, as conceived of in the United States, made a cut above most others, it would seem, by the size of the menu, the drinks available and the desserts.

She Said: Yes, I was very pleased with my food, the service and the size of the “small” margarita. This is one of the more convenient traditional American-Mexican places in town for us given our movie habits. We’ll be back!

So…He Said and She Said: Go here for LARGE margaritas, tasty Mexican food and fast service.

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Shucked Surf and Turf Shack

Review No. 44: Shucked Surf and Turf Shack

2480 Sanders Road

(501) 358-6767

25.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: I had an MRI for my broken-down back at 2 p.m., so I wanted to go out for lunch and “eat my feelings.” (By the way, my feelings are often delicious.) We had never been to this place right off I-40 in a Hotelania neighborhood of Conway, though we’d driven by it many times since it opened early last year. The name seemed like it would offer tasty calories up for my emotional-eating needs.

He Said: I had a vague notion that such a place existed, and perhaps even noticed it momentarily on my way to review a movie at Cinemark, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone mention they had eaten here or planned to, so it was an unlooked for adventure to pull into the parking lot, with Jones and that hungry look in her eyes.

 

Ambiance

She Said: This place feels beachy inside, reminding me of some of the places we like to haunt on Highway 30-A when we go to Rosemary Beach, Fla., and the surrounding towns. Chairs are bright orange, and there are browns and a sea-green to even out the brightness of the seating. We went around 11:30 on a Monday morning, and it was quiet at the time. While it never got super busy that day, it picked up before we left. There are large flat-screen TVs, three in a row in the area we occupied near the bar, all tuned to different sports, and I can imagine this would be a fun place to watch a game, if I watched games. And, yes, there is a bar, which I didn’t know before we arrived. The vibe over all is relaxed and fun, and I felt chill for our visit.

He Said: There were even containers that looked like sand buckets on the tables. If you plopped me inside this place and asked me to guess its location, I’d have said Florida. Or maybe Hawaii. Next time I go I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Because I can.

 

Drinks

She Said: As mentioned, I didn’t know if this was a wet or dry eatery. One can never assume in “damp” Conway. But, yes, Shucked offers beer (those buckets on the tables are for beers, Ruud, not sand!), bottled and on tap, Barefoot wines, and specialty cocktails. I went ahead and had a glass (or two) of cabernet, and it was nice with lunch and only $4 per glass!

He Said: So I had, as per usual, an unsweetened iced tea, that was refilled any time I wanted. But I’m curious about that Barefoot wine. Does that mean they stopped on the grapes with their bare feet before bottling it? Is there an “I Love Lucy” moment here?

 

Food

She Said: Why don’t you Google that, Ruud? If you, gentle readers, are into oysters, you can get fresh or cooked ones here, and there’s even a deal on Mondays for $1 fresh oysters. We do not eat such things, so we declined this offer, but I had a hard time choosing what to try for my entrée. I was really interested in the crab cakes, and Shucked offers both an appetizer and an entrée, but in the end, I chose the cat fish po’ boy because I was in the mood for fried food stuffed into carbs, and this was perfect. Also, it comes with fries, which you may know I cannot resist.

While we waited (a little while) for our food, the very friendly, efficient, professional, helpful waitress brought us rolls with honey-cinnamon butter. These things were like crack to me, but I stopped at one because I knew I was getting more bread in my po’ boy, though it was hard not to eat them all because that butter was so delicious, almost, but not quite, dessert-y. I had asked for mayo for my fries, and when our server brought it she also treated me to a house remoulade with horseradish to try. It had a latent kick that hung around for quite awhile, so I refrained from spreading it all over my sandwich when it came with that, too. The sandwich was good. The fish was a little bland, though I guess I could have fixed that right up with the remoulade. It came with tartar sauce, as well, which I used more of. The catfish fillet comes on a long bun with shredded lettuce, and overall, I was pleased with it. I did wonder if I shouldn’t have selected the crab cakes (next time!). The fries, by the way, were absolutely excellent, very crispy on the outside and soft inside. These people are French fry pros, and I know: I am a connoisseur.

He Said: I ordered the grilled salmon, which was a dinner entrée, though we were here for lunch; hence, my salmon was the most expensive part of our bill. With the dinner entrees, I had my choice of two sides, and since I was striving to keep the fat content down, coming off of a bout of pancreatic unrest, I tried to pick low- or no-fat sides—not an easy task as most of the sides involved something fried. I opted for an order of baked beans and a green salad with a honey-mustard dressing. There is no fat in honey or in mustard, but you have to watch it at restaurants, where some will tend to add mayonnaise to a honey-mustard sauce and jack up the fat content exponentially. That did not seem to be the case here, but I ate sparingly of the dressing just in case.

The salad was actually quite delicious, with a number of different vegetables along with the greens, and the dressing was tasty. The salmon was cooked to perfection—many, I’m tempted to say most, places of Shucked’s caliber have a tendency to overcook salmon, which just ruins it. Mine was done just right, and made for a delicious lunch. The beans were so-so. Kind of bland and not up to the standard of, say, some of the better barbecue places in town.

Service

She Said: If you can’t tell already, I thought the service was stellar. You can tell a lot about a service ethic when things don’t go correctly. To wit, our waitress was staffing everyone who was there when we arrived, and she kept things moving and we never felt neglected. I was starting to feel like the food was taking awhile just when it arrived. Then, I looked at my plate a second, and  realized I had been brought a shrimp po’ boy, and I was pretty sure that was not what I ordered. I checked with He Said, and he said I’d asked for the catfish, as well (but I’ve been known to order things I’ve never even thought of ordering before, such as the seafood salad at Sushi Café instead of the seaweed salad that I prefer). The food was brought by a runner and when the waitress came to check on us, before I even got the whole question out about if this was what I had ordered, her face indicated that I did indeed have the wrong sandwich. She kindly left me lots of fries to munch while she replaced my po’ boy lickety-split. Then, not long after I started my sandwich, our waitress returned to our table with an extra catfish filet fried on a plate. She said the chef felt bad about sending out my sandwich with what he thought was a too small filet—it’s usually a one-filet dish, but that one fried up pretty small, so he wanted to make sure I had enough. Since I couldn’t finish the whole sandwich as it was, I brought that delicious extra guy on home to enjoy later.

He Said: We got a lot of attention and it was good attention. Service was friendly and helpful, and the mistake was quickly corrected and then made up for abundantly with the extra catfish filet. I should probably mention that they also undercharged us on the check, billing us for only one of Jones’s Barefoot wines and not the other foot. When I pointed this out to our server, she was quite grateful. I was hoping they did it on purpose as another way to make up for the initial wrong sandwich, but no such luck.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Catfish po’ boy with fries and two glasses of wine, unsweetened iced tea, grilled salmon, a green salad and side of baked beans, for $44.49. (Close to $20 of that was for the salmon).

 

Rating:

She Said: I’m sure I’ll be back for the laid-back vibe, the exceptional service and the tasty comfort food (and drink) Shucked serves up.

He Said: I’m sure we’ll be back. It was a nice place with decent food and a comfortable atmosphere.

So…He Said and She Said: Go here for something a little different in Conway’s restaurant scene if you like oysters, or just a relaxing restaurant with tasty food and a full bar if you don’t.

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China Town

Review No. 43: China Town

201 Skyline Drive, Suite 12A

(501) 450-9090

24.7 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: This review is based on two different visits because the first time we were joined by a friend and, apparently, were so ecstatic about having a social life, we forgot to take a food photo or write down the price of the meal. I went on my own the second time, as He Said was under the weather, but both visits were mid-day for lunch, or you might say “dinner” if you are referring to a large, noon meal.

He Said: “Under the weather” is code for an unfriendly pancreas. With any luck, it will be in line next week for whatever cuisine Jones has in mind. But it seems to me I remember having eaten here—my brain is one organ that seems to still work—so perhaps I can contribute something to the mix.

Ambiance

She Said: China Town offers a welcoming and comfortable buffet atmosphere. There are booths and tables to park yourselves and your plates, and the place is decorated in attractive red and black, with multiple buffets each with 10 to 15 different offerings as the central focus of the space. A back wall with kitchen access also boasts big banners advertising their sushi platters, as well. When we came with our friend, we found it an easy place to have a conversation and linger if we liked. When I was there on my own, I felt very comfortable opening my book and reading while enjoying my meal. The host said, “Just you?” though, when I rolled up on my own. I used my friend Michelle’s classic rejoinder, “Not JUST me, thank you very much.” He laughed and seated me at a lovely two-top.

He Said: Yeah, the “just you” thing is a little off-putting for single lunchers. Sometimes you just need to get something to eat on your own, which is perfectly fine. There’s no need to be made to feel like no one wants to be seen eating with you and you can only go through a drive through in such a case. But I digress. As for the ambience, yes, what She Said.

 

Drinks

She Said: I had unsweetened iced tea with lemon, as usual, and it was tasty.

He Said: Pretty sure I also had unsweetened iced tea as I recall. But they had other soft drinks too, so you can have American soda with your Chinese food as well.

 

Food

She Said: I couldn’t possibly sample all the dishes; there have to be at least 50 items offered on the buffets, which include many of the usual Chinese dishes like sesame and General Tso chicken, fried rice and pot-stickers. There are also lots of fresh fruit and vegetable dishes as well as desserts mixed in with the entrees. Both visits, I stuck with my favorites only because I can’t resist them when they’re in front of me, which is why buffets are “dangerous” for me. Some of the dishes I tried were the egg drop soup (with crispy fried noodles), sesame chicken, pot stickers, fried rice, rice noodles, sushi rolls, mixed seafood, sugar doughnuts, fried banana, sesame balls, green beans and melon.

As you may have noticed from my list, my selections included a lot of fried foods, because they look so good (and mostly taste that way), but I always regret eating those not long after I’ve cleaned my plate. This is not because anything is wrong with them; on the contrary, they were tasty, but I’m not used to that in my diet. Some items are more successful than others. The pot-stickers are pretty tasty, and more sautéed than breaded and deep-fried. The sesame chicken was more fried batter than chicken, so I stuck with one bite of that. The egg-drop soup is absolutely delicious, rich and tasty, with lots of yummy egg chunks in thick broth. The sushi is fine for buffet sushi, though there are many interesting choices, not just the usual California roll. The salmon sushi has very thin slices of fish on their little rice beds. (FYI, if you get buffet to go here, you can’t sample the sushi bar as part of the price, according to a posted sign.) I particularly enjoyed the fried rice, the rice noodles, which I dressed with steamed seafood. I can’t eat more than one plate here, no matter how much I want to.

He Said: What impressed me, as well, about the buffet was the huge variety they had. There’s something here for everybody, it seems—even for me. But I remember feeling a little off after the meal here, because so much of it was fried, which is not so good if you’re on a low-fat diet. I didn’t have any of the beef dishes, of which there were several. I did have one pot-sticker, which was delicious, but was fried and pork, so not the healthiest choice for me. I had, I think six different chicken dishes, all of which I liked, but again, all of which were fried. There is one chicken dish that I noticed late in the meal that wasn’t fried and probably would have been the lowest fat choice, but I never got to that one. So my general observation about the food: there is a lot of variety, it all tastes good, and it’s mostly fried, so don’t overdo it.

Service

She Said: I found the service just perfect for a buffet experience. Honestly, I tend to avoid buffet restaurants when given the choice, which is why we’ve probably been here once in the 13 years we’ve lived in Conway. But the service here, except for serving yourself, rivals traditional sit-down restaurants because my waiter checked on me just often enough, took away my empty plate while I was reading and kept my iced-tea full. When he saw me getting ready to leave, he brought the check before I could ask. The service was equally adept on our previous visit with our friend, perfectly meeting our needs before we asked for anything, but never interrupting our conversation.

He Said: Yes, no complaints about the service. We were well taken care of by courteous and mostly invisible servers.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: My solo visit included the lunch-time buffet and an unsweetened iced tea for $10. I assume our previous visit was double that for two.

 

Rating:

She Said: Very, very good at what it’s good for, and it’s not their fault I ate too many (delicious) fried foods.

He Said: Forget it, Jones. It’s Chinatown.

So…He Said and She Said: A solid offering in the Chinese buffet market in Conway, tasty food, a great deal of variety, all at a very reasonable price.  

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