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!


Mike’s Place

Mike’s Place
808 Front Street
Conway, Arkansas 72034
(501) 269-6453

The Situation

He Said: Mike’s Place has a special niche historically among the restaurants of Conway, since it is the first place in town to take on the archaic law making Faulkner an infamous “dry county.” While I do not drink alcohol myself anymore for health reasons, I am well aware that decent restaurants make much of their profit margin on alcohol sales, so that before Mike’s Place getting anything beyond a fast food taco was virtually impossible. So even if I hated the food here, I’m still inclined to be grateful for its existence.

She Said: Yeah, even though we love Little Rock’s restaurants, I am so glad we don’t have to go there every time we want a civilized meal (with a cocktail). This evening was my “party” for passing my yoga teacher training, and after dinner we were going to the 30th anniversary screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, all with #mymom who is still visiting from South Dakota. Of course, having been with us since mid-April, she’s eaten at Mike’s Place several times, but I wanted one of my favorite restaurant meals in Conway to celebrate becoming a registered yoga teacher, so here we were.



He Said: Mike’s is a fairly large space, with comfortable booths as well as tables, a side room for larger parties, and an outdoor dining area in a courtyard behind the building. It is a rich looking interior with a lot of wood, and is a comfortable place to dine. It can get crowded, though, which can make it noisy, and which also means that you probably want to have a reservation, even on a weeknight, if you want to be certain of getting a table.

She Said: Mike’s has the prettiest outdoor dining area in all of central Arkansas, honestly, in its pretty rear courtyard area. I like to sit inside (I don’t like The Nature) where I can look out at the fountain. We got to Mike’s early (5:15 p.m.) this night, so we didn’t have a reservation, but when we left, the place was hoppin’. I just love the interior design and décor here. It’s comfortable and plush without being pretentiously posh. I always feel like I’m in a lovely, comfy cocoon with good food and drinks when I’m here because there’s almost no natural light, and it’s a completely controlled and pleasing environment from the bar to the booths.



He Said: Well, there’s a cocktail list and wine, about which I’m sure my awesome wife Stacey Margaret Jones will have something to say. But let me do my grumbling here: why do most of the better restaurants never provide a list of what they have to drink that is nonalcoholic? I suppose I answered my own question above in “The Situation”—the alcohol is where the profit margin is—but I don’t like the assumption that people like me do not exist. If you don’t drink, or can’t drink, or are too young to drink, how do you find out what they have to drink? I just order something and if they say they don’t have it, then at least they’ll tell me what they do have. I ordered a Coke, to which the reply was “We have Pepsi products.” Good. Put that in your friggin’ menu. Anyway, most people’s answer to that is exactly what mine was. “Oh, then make it a Mountain Dew.”

She Said: You’re busting out the curmudgeon there, buddy! While I chose not to have a cosmopolitan tonight, Mike’s Place makes a delicious one, which I have sampled many times. They do offer Malbec by the glass on the wine list, which is another feature of the restaurant I love, as that is my favorite wine. So, that’s what I had! #mymom just had water.


He Said: As you will no doubt learn more often than you care to if you read these blog posts consistently, I have chronic pancreatitis and so have to stay on a very low fat diet.  This can make eating out a challenge, and one of the many reasons I’m contributing to this blog is to help steer the many people who are, or ought to be, on low-fat diets into some good eating. At a lot of restaurants there is little choice. There is some choice at Mike’s. Most of the appetizers are fried or have cheese or cream that pushes up the fat content. What I chose was the soup—I encourage you to ask about the soup at Mike’s. Today it was chicken and rice, a pretty simple, basic soup that was delicious Mike’s way. It was thick as a stew, with a few spices that gave it a pleasant little kick.

The best thing on the menu at Mike’s is the pecan-encrusted grouper. Unfortunately, pecans, like most nuts, are filled with fat, so it’s not a good choice for a low-fat diet. I had the Mike’s Grouper instead, and could have chosen it fried (not a good idea for the low-fat folk), pan-seared, or grilled. I tried it grilled, and was pleased with it, though I might have liked the texture better if it had been pan-seared (it was a little crispier on the outside than I would have preferred). You get your choice of two “lagniappes” with an entrée (a word borrowed from Cajun restaurants), and while some of these are fatty, many of them are not. I skipped the rice since I’d had it in the soup, and picked steamed broccoli and a baked potato, though I couldn’t have the sour cream or cheese or bacon on it. So it was blander than I would have preferred. But healthier. Overall, the meal was good.

She Said: Well, we went here so I could eat the pecan-encrusted grouper, which I call “fish candy,” it’s just so delicious. But first, I chose the crawfish-red-pepper bisque for my starter. I love this soup. Tonight it wasn’t as thick and creamy as I remembered, but it was delicious. Then, of course, I went for it with the entrée, the nutty, yummy grouper, with my two sides of the “smashed” potatoes and the parmesan spinach. I do love the side options Mike’s offers, especially when I am trying to watch calories. All the lagniappes are tasty and give you an opportunity to make your entrée more tailored to your food needs or tastes.

#mymom had an entrée salad, and it was great-looking. She brought a lot of it home.

I’ll take a little blog real estate here to praise the yummy rolls here that come with your meal. I don’t always want to eat bread (carbs, arthritis-inducing gluten, etc.), but I love it when I’m here and can enjoy one of these warm, fresh dinner rolls with lots of butter. Don’t miss them!


He Said: The service here was truly impeccable. We were seated right away, our server came to our table within minutes, brought our drinks quickly, brought our orders in a timely way, kept checking on us to make sure everything was all right, asked about desert, and brought the check without letting us languish afterwards, and did it all with a bright and friendly (but not overly friendly) manner.

She Said: Exactly what He Said. Mike’s Place servers are so professional they make a great dining experience possible.

What We Got and What We Paid: Appetizers and entrees for three, two glasses of wine, and a Mountain Dew: $82.38.



He Said: Of course we’ll be back—it’s still the premiere restaurant in Conway. The food is good, even if you decide you’d have been happier with something else. Next time I go I’m having the salmon, I believe.


She Said: Oh, I love it. I love the grouper, the pizza, the shrimp scampi, etc. I love the experience of eating in a place that clearly knows what its doing when it comes to making your night out pleasant and tasty.

So…He Said and She Said “Go Here to Eat…and Drink.”


Umami Sushi Lounge and Grill Fusion

Umami Sushi Lounge and Grill Fusion
500 Amity Road
(501) 358-3880

The Situation

She Said: I was supposed to be fasting (it was a Monday, on which I usually eat only about 500 calories), but we had also had a big weekend, with Jay being named a distinguished alumnus of his undergraduate alma mater and me earning my registered yoga teacher certificate (200 hour). So, we thought a mini celebration before the big celebration was in order, and after a gentle yoga flow class, Jay wanted to go out. So we collected my 90-year-old mother from home after Savasana and went out to a Japanese restaurant on our (east) side of Conway.

Sushi is often a go-to for me when choosing restaurants because I’m more comfortable eating fish and seafood than birds and mammals, and because the lack of added ingredients to the fish and rice makes it feel to me like a cleaner meal. That is, of course, before the tempura and cream cheese are added, but we all have delusions we cling to, right? Another thing I like about sushi is that it is possible to get slightly smaller portions of food than the heaping plates of entrees and sides we’ve become accustomed to in America when dining out—such heaping platters have actually changed portion sizes at home, as we now think we need to eat as much food at home as we would be served at places like Applebee’s.

He Said: Yoga makes me hungry. And Japanese seemed appropriate. They do yoga in Japan, right?

She Said: Umami is a large, open restaurant, well lit, with pretty red round banquets, benches and booths. Patrons can select tables or Hibachi, and we almost always get the former for a quiet dinner. While it’s not loud, it’s actually hard to hear: I had trouble hearing my mother across the table or Jay when he turned his head away from me. It’s a white noise factor, I think, with music and fountain water that can overwhelm your dining companions (but not the dude-centric table 2 yards away that was dropping the F-bomb every other word, which I would normally not be sensitive to, but am aware of when my mother is with us).

He Said: I didn’t really have a problem hearing. Though maybe I just didn’t know I did, since I didn’t hear the guys at the other table. The atmosphere is not exactly cozy—more sports-bar like, with TVs around where NBA playoff games were being broadcast. I will say that the chairs are nicely padded and really comfortable.

She Said:
As usual, the cheese stands alone. I was the sole imbiber, and I chose a cucumber cosmopolitan off the cocktail menu. Both of those words are irresistible to me on a drinks menu and combined, all I can do is say yes. It was delicious, “grown up” enough to feel like a cocktail, but not so strong that I couldn’t taste the drink’s flavors mixing together in the glass. Once I finished my food ahead of everyone else, I had a glass of Cupcake Cabernet, also tasty and a generous pour.

He Said: If you’re like me and can’t drink for health reasons (or just don’t drink for your own reasons that are none of my business), you appreciate a place that actually has something to drink that isn’t alcoholic. I got the unsweetened iced tea, though the waitress was a little taken aback when I asked for actual sugar, instead of Sweet and Low. She managed to find some. Look, sweetened iced tea is way too sugary, and I like to control what I put in, all right? So don’t shame me, server. Anyway, you can probably find something to drink other than water if you come here.

She Said:
We ordered to share but pretty much stuck to our own plates as we were all pleased with what we got. I tried the mashed potato karokke, which the menu said had ham in the center, but which, I, thankfully, didn’t notice (not being a big mammal eater, I almost didn’t order it because of this). This is a deep fried mashed potato cake with veggies—and theoretically ham—with a special house sauce, and it is like the crack of the plant world. I shared bites with #mymom and Jay, but I did so reluctantly. I might not fit into my stretchy jeans tomorrow, but it was worth it. These were like little potato amazeballs.

For my entrée, I ordered my go-to here at Umami, the Crazy Monkey roll, which has mango slices and tempura flakes on a roll with cream cheese and shrimp. I noticed with the first bite that something seemed a little tough and bland, and I realized the shrimp was overcooked. That’s not usually a problem at sushi restaurants! It was a little disappointing, as this was a caloric splurge on a day I was not supposed to be doing that. Oh well, the mango was tasty and fresh.

#mymom had egg rolls and the Asian sesame chicken salad, and she really enjoyed both.

He Said: Though I may sound like the impossible restaurant patron, in addition to the drink abolition I also have a very restrictive food diet, one that a good number of Americans share, or should. I really have to stay on a very low-fat diet, and that precludes my eating red meat, deep fried foods, heavy cream or butter sauces and whole eggs, and miscellaneous other high fat foods, like nuts, olives, and even avocadoes. All of this is to say that I’m usually going to be ordering the healthiest things I can find on the menu—fish and poultry, vegetarian, and such, while looking longingly at my wife’s entrée. I have to say that the small bite of karokke that I tried from her was to die for–which might not be a figure of speech if I had eaten the whole thing.

At a Japanese restaurant, there is usually a wide selection of things I can eat, though since I don’t actually like sushi myself, that narrows the choices down for me. I ordered the edamame appetizer, which was very tasty and tender—the beans were a bit younger and more tender than the kinds usually used for that dish, I thought. For the meal I had the Miso Glazed Salmon. The salmon was pan-seared, perfectly cooked (the biggest danger I’ve found with salmon is overcooking), and the miso glaze sweet and delicious. It came with two spears of asparagus tempura which were a perfect accent, and lay on a generous bed of steamed rice. Under the rice was hidden a little surprise: a helping of green beans. Part of the surprise was that the beans had a bit of a kick to them—they were peppered and had another spice which made them just the slightest bit zingy. They formed a nice contrast to the rice, which was, well, steamed rice. All in all, it was a delightfully tasty meal.

She Said:
I thought our waitress was great. She was prompt once we sat down, she dealt with others around us efficiently, she asked us when wasn’t sure what we meant to avoid a problem later, and she was friendly and attentive without being overbearing or “pulling focus” (when you find yourself at dinner paying more attention to the wait staff than the people you came to talk to). She did bring the check really fast at the end of the meal, when I was feeling like I might have a sweet tooth. Do they have dessert? I have no idea. That was not suggested or offered. I found myself pondering a DQ run on the way home…

He Said: All true. I kidded about the sugar in the tea, but the waitress was attentive but unobtrusive. I couldn’t’ have eaten dessert anyway. But I’m guessing if she had asked for some, she’d have been glad to take the check back and refigure it. But yes, it seemed like we might have been getting rushed a little at the end.

What We Got and What We Paid: Appetizers and entrees for three, a cocktail, a glass of wine, and an iced-tea: $76.16.


She Said: I’ll be back. It’s close to my neighborhood and there are a lot of things on the menu I’d like to try. The korokke alone was worth the price of admission.

He Said: Obviously, I’m going back if she is. But I’d certainly come back again for the salmon. They did have a couple of other things on the menu (like a salmon-burger, for instance) that I’d like to try myself.

So…He Said and She Said “Go Here to Eat.”