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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Moe’s Southwest Grill

Review No. 131: Moe’s Southwest Grill

625 Salem Road

501-336-6500

59.6 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said:I was on Day Six of Surgery Recuperation, my fourth at home, and each day I found myself wanting something from one of Conway’s many restaurants: things like ramen, or chicken salad on a croissant. Finding ourselves with a Monday review and feeling that old hankerin’ for taco-like food products, I scanned the list of upcoming restaurants to visit and landed on Moe’s, a restaurant we had never tried. I still wasn’t up to going out, though, so we were pleased that Moe’s has an online ordering portal.

He Said: Yes, that online ordering is handy. When I got to Moe’s a bit after noon on Sunday, just in time to see an after-Church crowd mobbing the ordering counter, I slipped on by to the “pick up” sign and was able to get my order just at the time they said online that it would be ready. I was looking forward to the tacos I ordered, since it’s hard to get tacos in Conway. (That’s a joke, folks, since as you know there are approximately 23,967,342 Mexican restaurants in our fair city).

Moe’s is a chain, founded 18 years ago in Atlanta. As a casual Mexican place, its chief competition is currently Chipotle. Moe’s has about 700 restaurants, as they say, in “most” of the 50 states. They also have restaurants or partners in Turkey, Russia, Costa Rica and Jamaica.

Ambience:

She Said: I’ll let He Said tell you about the restaurant, as he, in his wellness, went to pick up the food. I did think the online order process was very smooth and easy to use in making specific requests. After scanning the menu, I chose the chicken quesadilla, and when the order form came up, I was able to hyper-customize it, choosing the beans, cheese, veggies, etc., quite easily. I also liked that I could check out as a “guest” instead of logging in—or creating an account—and that made it super easy for a newcomer like me.

He Said: The physical location was crowded when I got there, as I mentioned, which was good for them, but I was kind of glad I was getting food to go. It seems a bright and cheery place. Apparently “Moe’s” is an acronym for “Musicians, Outlaws, and Entertainers,” which is why the restaurants tend to have music-related artwork on the walls. I was in and out too fast to notice, I’m afraid, but I’m assuming that’s true of the Conway location as well.

 

Drinks

She Said:You can’t take-away margaritas, so I chose unsweetened iced tea. If there was ice in it when He Said picked it up, it had melted by the time it arrived at our table at home, so I added some of ours. It was a little strong to begin with, but iced down, it was tasty and went well with the flavors of the food.

He Said:Listen, Jones, I put ice in that cup. I guess it must have melted on the ride home. You do get your own drinks here, and the Iced Tea dispensers (sweet and unsweet) were simple to use. The fountain drinks dispenser had only Coke, Sprite, and Dr. Pepper, so I had a Coke. It took me quite a while to figure out how to use this dispenser, I’m afraid. It was not exactly what She Said calls “intuitive,” but then again, for someone like me, who grew up trying to shoot at dinosaurs with a sling shot, no new technology is “intuitive.” My intuition was to give the machine a good swift kick until I finally realized which button you had to press to make the soda come out. But you, dear reader, may be a little savvier than me. Anyway, I had a Coke and it was fine. Ultimately.

 

Food

She Said: I chose a quesadilla “meal” and ordered it with pinto beans, grilled mushrooms, shredded cheese, sour cream, queso fresco, cilantro, lime, bacon and guacamole, so this was a substantial quesadilla! Given that I really enjoy plain cheese quesadillas, this was a bit of an adventure for me. The tortilla was grilled lightly, so it was still somewhat soft, and the ingredients were plentiful enough that it was a little difficult to hold to eat. The chicken was tender, and I could taste all of my selections, though they were nicely mixed together, except for a pretty healthy glob of sour cream on one side. I ate half of the quesadilla before I got full, then I opened the other half and scooped a couple of bites of the filling up with the tortilla chips like a dip. I saved the rest to eat later—it was tasty, filling and satisfying.

The guac option included with the “meal” is a tiny condiment cup, but that was fine (though in the future I might size up for a fee), as I had plenty of food. A surprise star of the order were the fresh, old-school corn chips. Nicely salted, crunchy and light, I kept snacking on these long after my stomach asked me to stop applying food to my face.

 He Said:Yes, the chips were really quite good, better than most, I’d say. I did not see an option for ordering salsa online. There may have been one and I missed it. In any case, I supplemented mine with salsa we happened to have in our refrigerator.

I ordered the two-taco meal. Since there were so many choices online, I ordered a couple of pretty different specimens: On my first I had chicken, cilantro lime rice, grilled mushrooms, grilled onions, grilled peppers, shredded cheese, shredded cabbage, and chipotle ranch dressing, all on a crispy corn shell. On my second I had tofu, black beans, seasoned rice, pickled red onions, queso fresco, shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes also on a crispy shell. I have to tell you, these were both delicious. Obviously, they were pretty full, bursting-at-the-seams tacos, the chicken-filled one somewhat tangier and the tofu-filled one somewhat sweeter, but I was pretty happy with them. There are so many choices available that you really can’t go wrong if you just order everything you like since you can count on getting plenty of it. Of course they have beef as well as pork as your protein choices, but those weren’t as good for my pancreas as the chicken and tofu. The only thing I’d change is that I might get the soft shell next time, at least if I order the tomatoes, because that one had fallen apart as the tomato juices had soaked the crispy shell and made it soggy enough to break apart during the drive home.

The chocolate-chip cookie I had as the “side” for my meal was perfectly fine as well, though it did come pre-packaged and wasn’t made in the store. Still, a chocolate chip is a chocolate chip, and I do love me a good chocolate chip.

Service

She Said:The Website order interface was intuitive (He Said: See, Dear Readers? What’d I tell ya?) and allowed for a great deal of customization.

He Said:  The woman at the “pick-up” window was very busy but managed to still be helpful and quick to get me my order. She pointed me to the drink dispenser and by the time I had figured that out (not really all that quick, admittedly) she had the order ready and brought it over to me while I was putting tops on my two paper cups.

What We Got and What We Paid: One two-taco meal with cookie and a Coke, one chicken quesadilla with additions and side guacamole and an unsweetened tea for $23.43.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:When I completed the order, the Website said it would be ready in exactly 15 minutes. When He Said arrived 17 minutes later, it was indeed ready to go.

Rating

She Said: I enjoyed the quesadilla because I put in it all the things I loved and left out the things I didn’t, and the mix was just right. The chips were fresh and tasty, and it was a smooth to-go ordering process.

He Said: These tacos can be almost anything you want them to be, and the ingredients are all pretty tasty, at least the ones I had. I’m likely to order from here again.

Is Moe’s Southwest Grill Good at What it’s Good For? We will order from Moe’s again for the ease of the online process and the highly customizable, tasty food you can select.

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available from the publisher AS OF OCTOBER 15. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

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

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

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

 

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The Purple Cow

Review No. 130: The Purple Cow

1055 Ellis Avenue

(501) 205-4211

59.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: Ruud2 was in town on a Saturday morning for her rehearsal for the upcoming Red Curtain Theater production of The Rocky Horror Show, and she’d brought her 4-year-old twins and her 40-something-year-old-husband Gerry along for the ride, so we all made plans to have brunch at The Purple Cow, because A) it’s gotta be kid-friendly with a name like that, right? And 2) we hadn’t reviewed it yet, so we had a two-birds, one-stone thing going on.

She Said: We occasionally take the boys to the Purple Cow in Little Rock when we’re watching them, and we know it is kid-friendly, and that they like it. We had only been to the Conway location once, when it first opened, just the two of us. I was looking forward to checking back in with this popular eatery in the area.

 

Ambience:

He Said: The space is a little larger than the Purple Cow on Cantrell in Little Rock, and they have some nice booths kind of down the center of the space that seat six comfortably, that you can get in and out of from each side. They were ideal for a group with kids, so we sat at one of those. The place is cute inside, with kid-friendly pictures hanging about. The restaurant’s name, of course, comes from the famous Ogden Nash quatrain “I never saw a purple cow, I never hope to see one. But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one!” But here’s a clue: If you go here, you actually will see one. Painted on the wall.

She Said: It’s definitely a fun, energetic place, that’s casual and dinery, but with its own brand and vibe represented in purples and pinks. I did like the big booths, as the four grownups could sit, two on each side, with a twin between them. Divide and conquer! (If you’ve dined out with preschoolers, you know what we mean.)

 

Drinks

He Said: Yeah, I was planning on ordering from the breakfast menu but when I heard Ruud2 order a Cherry Coke I got carried away and ordered one too. And it was pretty dang tasty.

She Said:Unlike the Cantrell location in Little Rock, this Purple Cow does not have “Mommy Juice” or “Bába’s Drinks,” like wine or beer. I had coffee with cream, and they kept my cup full and kept me in creamer. It was diner coffee; I would have liked it to be a little stronger and more flavorful.

 

Food

He Said: I believe everybody else actually had something off the lunch menu but I was promised brunch by She Said and so I ordered off the breakfast menu, and what looked good to me was the “Simple Scrambled Eggs,” which the menu describes as “three scrambled eggs, plus seasoned potato wedges and wheat toast on the side.” I was particularly interested in this because they said they could make them with egg beaters, which is how I ordered them. Eggs are not terribly fatty, but they are fatty enough that when I can get egg whites or egg beaters as a substitute I’ll go for it, as a friendlier option for my low-fat diet.

This was a very simple meal, but a meal doesn’t have to be fancy to be good, especially at a place that is essentially a diner with a violet domestic bovine as a mascot. The eggs were very basic but perfectly done with fluffy deliciousness. The potatoes were the highlight of the meal. They were nicely crisped and tastily seasoned breakfast wedges and I could have eaten a truckload of them. The toast was, well, wheat toast with a choice of butter or packaged jelly. It was fine.

She Said: I looked over the breakfast menu many times, but nothing floated my boat, so I opted for a hamburger and fries. I ordered an “extra” for my burger, a fried egg, and mayo. The burger comes with its usual accompaniments on the side, lettuce, onions, tomato, pickles. I applied mayo and the pickles, and the burger was satisfying, and nice for brunch with the perfectly fried egg. The fries were a solid offering, and I dipped them in the left-over mayo that I didn’t spread on my burger. I ate everything on my plate because I had no complaints.

Ruud-In-Law:Asked for his input, son-in-law Gerry noted that “I was really surprised with how good and crispy the potato wedge fries were.” And you didn’t even see my lips move, did you Jones?

Service

He Said:The Conway Purple Cow opens at 11 a.m. on Saturday mornings and we were on hand for their opening, along with several other families. We got the impression that they were a little surprised by the numbers. But they made sure that everyone was seated and got their drink orders right away, and they did this by having some of their cooks wait on the tables at first. This was a little bit awkward since the cook that waited on us didn’t quite know exactly what to do, but he got it all figured out and was friendly and helpful in the process. Eventually we had a regular server and all was well. The staff did understand the special difficulties of 4-year-olds in restaurants, and were prompt in bringing crayons and coloring sheets for the boys, and in splitting their orders as desired, and getting them their strawberry and purple shakes with lids on them ASAP. Altogether, The Purple Cow does seem like a family restaurant that expects kids, caters to families with kids, and has an atmosphere that is kid-friendly.

She Said:  I was pleased with the service, especially with the fact that the cooks came out of the kitchen when necessary to take care of the guests. Our server was professional and prompt, and management also came over to check on us a couple of times. By the time we left, there were many families waiting for tables, so I was glad we got there when the doors opened.

What We Got and What We Paid: One simple scrambled eggs with egg-beaters, seasoned potato wedges and wheat toast with a Cherry Coke, one hamburger with a fried egg and fries (substituting for chips) plus one coffee, all for $19.89 (before tip). The Ruud2 family had Mac and Cheese, a cheeseburger, a hamburger, the Florentine omelet with potato wedges, a strawberry shake and a purple shake, a Cherry Coke and coffee, all for about $41.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:33 minutes (that’s a little long with 4-year-olds, but they were busy with their crayons).

Rating

He Said: Good basic food with a family-friendly atmosphere that make it a favorite hangout for 4-year-olds.

She Said: This is a reliable diner with an extra fun touch for kiddos in Conway.

Ruud-In-Law: When it comes to a kid friendly place, it’s hard to beat Purple Cow. Our kids are loud and don’t like to wait long. Purple cow has it down to a science. Even though they were short-handed, we got our food quick and everything tasted great.

Is The Purple Cow Good at What it’s Good For? Absolutely! The food is tasty, service is attentive and the atmosphere is great for bigs and littles, too.

NOW AVAILABLE!!!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available from the publisher AS OF OCTOBER 15. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

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

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

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

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Whole Hog Cafe

Review No. 129: Whole Hog Cafe

150 East Oak

501-513-0600

58.6 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: After a pretty active morning (walking the dogs, a run on the treadmill and my adult ballet class), I was hungry and decided it was time for us to dine at Whole Hog Café for our Eat It, Conway! project. I did wonder how many diners at this establishment roll up in their leotards, ballet skirts and tights, but I imagine restaurants see all kinds of strange attire—and people.

He Said: Though not quite at the level of Mexican restaurants, Conway does have a plethora of barbecue joints. Whole Hog is perhaps the best known of all of these, regularly taking home awards for “Best Barbecue” from the Arkansas TimesPeople’s Choice Awards and suchlike. It’s something of an Arkansas Tradition, with nine locations in the state, including North Little Rock, Bryant, Searcy and two in Little Rock. There are also seven other locations scattered around Missouri, New Mexico, and, of all places, New Jersey (I got your BBQ right here. Whaddayagonnado? Fahgetabahtit).

 

Ambience:

She Said: The décor here is “Upscale Dive” probably to evoke the down-home, hole-in-the-wall authentic BBQ joints all over the south, but scrubbed cleaner for wider appeal and just by virtue of the process of replication over multiple sites. The deep reds, wood grains and finished concrete flooring create a warm BBQ cave feeling, but the natural light from the windows makes it cheery, too. The blues music was a bit loud where we were sitting, but overall, I found it pleasantly bland… or blandly pleasant.

He Said: There’s a fairly large dining room with plenty of tables. The space isn’t really broken up, so it was reminiscent of someplace like, say, David’s Burgers. Not uncomfortable. Just kind of big and, well, bland, as She Said said.

 

Drinks

She Said: I chose unsweetened iced tea, and it was good, a tasty, strong-enough brew that held up to a healthy amount of cooling ice.

He Said:Fountain drinks. Coke products. Barq’s Root Beer. Nuff said.

 

Food

She Said: While Whole Hog has other options besides pulled pork sandwiches (on the salad side of the menu, the restaurant notes when the salad doesn’tinclude meat), I was pretty sure what I was going to eat when I arrived: pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw. At Whole Hog, you can get a “plate,” which includes two sides (one of which could be a dessert, like a brownie). I chose the potato salad and the baked beans, because I knew I was also having pie. The sandwich was satisfying (I ate about two thirds of it), packed with a lot of pulled pork, though the meat seemed a little dry to me. The barbecue sauce choices are on the table here, and I used a lot of No. 1. There was plenty of coleslaw, which I did enjoy, though the bun was nothing special (very grocery-store generic). The baked beans were too spicy for my taste, and there is also meat in these, but it was tender; I ate just a few bites before pushing this aside. The best part of the meal was the potato salad, which has a sour-cream base, though it is not too heavy or soggy. I could probably live on this—if I got bigger clothes.

Finally, I ordered pecan pie from the choices of the day. Since we were dining in, the server offered to hold it for me until I was ready. When I did ask for it, they also offered to heat it, though I declined the whipped cream option. It was good, with rich filling and crunchy pecans, and the crust was satisfying. It wasn’t as good as my brother makes, but it was a solid offering.

 He Said: I picked the pulled chicken plate, pork being on my list of Things the Pancreas Objects To. The chicken was tender and the coleslaw was a nice accent—it didn’t overpower the meat. There are six choices of sauces on the table, and since She Said was having the No. 1, I probably should have had a different sauce for the sake of you, dear readers, but the truth is I didn’t want another sauce because I really liked that one, which is sweet and mild, and I had plenty of it. The sandwich was quite tasty, though I can’t swear it was any better than a number of other places in town where I’ve had BBQ chicken sandwiches.

For me the highlight of the meal was the baked beans. Unless like She Said your favorite flavor is “Bland,” you might not want to go by her assessment of these. I found them to be just a little spicy, but that only gave them a nice tangy taste. If you really like baked beans, as I do, you’ll like these.

And if you really like brownies, as I do, then I wouldn’t recommend getting the brownie as a side here. It comes prepackaged in cellophane—never a great sign—and it was dry, chewy, and not particularly chocolatey. Now thiswas bland. There isa “Hot Fudge Brownie” on the menu, which I suspect is far more palatable, and that, my friends, is what I would try if I were you.

Service

She Said:Here you order at the counter, and they announce your order number for pick up when it’s ready. Everyone was very friendly and helpful to us, which is nice as we aren’t frequenters of this or other barbecue establishments. As mentioned, they offered to hold the pie until I was ready for it, and then heated it for maximum dessert enjoyment.

He Said:  Yeah, no complaints about the service, it was as good as you’d hope or expect at this kind of establishment. They also have the option of ordering online, I suppose for those who want to pick up their lunch, which might be handy for some of you out there in Reader Land.

What We Got and What We Paid: One regular pork plate, with potato salad and baked beans sides; one regular chicken plate with baked beans and brownie sides; one slice of pecan pie; one unsweet tea and one root beer, all for $25.15.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:7 minutes

Rating

She Said (Or Was It Worth the Weight I Gained): I gained 1.2 pounds eating about two-thirds of the meal (dessert included), and I am not sure it was worth that, especially since I skimped on my other food all day for it. I’d say it was worth about half a pound, though I’d go up to 1 pound for the potato salad alone.

He Said: Go here if you want a good BBQ sandwich and baked beans. Don’t order the brownie as a side.

Is Whole Hog Café Good at What it’s Good For? It’s good enough and certainly friendly, though there might be brighter stars of barbecue in the Conway galaxy.

COMING SOON!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, will be available from the publisher on OCTOBER 15. You can preorder your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

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

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

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

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Poke Hula

Review No. 128: Poke Hula

1115 West Oak Street

(501) 505-8300

58.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said:This Hawaiian eatery is one of the newer restaurants in Conway, though it’s not especially new to central Arkansas: There are three locations in Little Rock, and Conwegians familiar with those Little Rock restaurants were excited about having one in our own back yard.

Poke is a traditional native Hawaiian dish generally made of diced raw fish. Poke Hula allows you to choose from raw fish like tuna or salmon, or from a few nonfish items like chicken (cooked) and tofu. You can order your food in-store or there is an option for you to order online as well.

She Said: I’ve had poke bowls a couple of times before, so I was looking forward to this light, fresh lunch during a busy week. It’s like a sushi roll in a bowl, and at Poke Hula, you can pick everything that goes inside that delicious dish.

 

Ambience:

He Said: This place is small but cozy. There are only a few tables, though there are a lot of seats along a counter that runs along the outside walls of the restaurant. Some walls are brick and the other walls are a kind of autumn russet color.

We tried to get here early for lunch, thinking there might be a crowd. We were not surprised to be right. There were several tables occupied and a bit of a line when we got there before noon, but the line moved fast and many of the customers were getting their lunches to go, so we had no problem finding a seat.

She Said: It’s bright and sunny, with a whole wall of windows that bathe the dining area in natural light. The brick and orange set a warm tone. It was definitely an appealing space.

 

Drinks

He Said:The posted menu read “bottled soda, $1.75,” so I asked for a bottled soda and was told they didn’t have any. So I asked about the sign. Apparently, they don’t have a cooler yet in which to keep the sodas, so I had to go with a Dr. Pepper fountain drink. Which was fine.

She Said:I too fell for the menu and asked for bottled water, but Poke Hula offers complementary water, so that’s what I had, and it was free.

 

Food

He Said: I didn’t really know what to expect here, since Poke was not a food I’d been introduced to even when we were in Hawaii. But the way things were set up here made ordering a smooth and easy process. I had a build-my-own Poke bowl, with brown rice, chicken and tofu and some “Aloha sauce” (a kind of extra-strength soy sauce). For my added vegetables I chose edamame, green onions, cherry tomatoes, and pineapple—which is, all right, not a vegetable but it’s in that category on their sign. I also had a sesame sauce and some sesame seeds on top. It was a fresh, flavorful and healthy dish. The pineapple and chicken made it taste really Hawaiian, and the rice and soy sauce, with the edamame as a complement, make this a terrifically tasty lunch option.

She Said: I chose the half-and-half base and picked brown rice and kale noodles. With the regular bowl, you can choose two proteins, so I had salmon, which is sushi-like and uncooked, and shrimp, which is cooked. For my “veggies,” I had carrots, edamame, cucumbers and mangos (in this category, you can have as many items from the list as you like). I also had the seaweed salad and avocado, which cost extra. For the dressing I had ponzu sauce and finally, I topped it off with sesame seeds. The kale noodles were tasty and a nice (I’m assuming) lower-carb option for a base, though I wish they offered quinoa as an option. They didn’t skimp on the salmon and shrimp, so I didn’t have the issue I often have with salads, which is that I’ve eaten the protein out of it quickly, before I’m full, and left with the boring bits. The carrots were not slices, but zoodles, which made them easy to mix with the other ingredients, and the seaweed salad was itself a little gem of deliciousness on top. The entire concoction was absolutely delicious and very filling—I could only eat half of it but took the leftovers home for later because I wanted to leave nothing.

All the ingredients were individually fresh and flavorful and the mix of tastes and textures I could create for myself was truly a joy of whole-foods, healthy eating.

Service

He Said:Ordering food here is essentially like ordering at Subway. A sign on the wall informs you the order in which to create your own poke bowl, starting with the base, which might be white rice, brown rice, kale noodles, a combination of greens, etc. Then you pick a protein, which might be one kind of raw fish or shrimp or octopus or chicken or tofu. Then you pick vegetables to go in, and a sauce and topping. There were two servers, both of whom were quite helpful and friendly. And when you pay, there is a place on the sales slip that allows you to add a tip, which of course I did. These people don’t make much money, folks.

She Said:I had questions about my process as I built my bowl, and each person was friendly and helpful. The restaurant had a relaxed and friendly vibe overall, and the servers were definitely part of that.

What We Got and What We Paid: Two regular “Build Your Own Pokes,” and one fountain Dr. Pepper and a free glass of water, all for $25.28.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 7 minutes.

Rating

He Said: A healthy and tasty, and also pretty quick, option for lunch, especially if you happen to be downtown at lunchtime.

She Said (Or Was It Worth the Weight I Gained): I did not gain any weight, but for all the tastes in my build-my-own bowl, I’d have been willing to. Poke Hula demonstrates that fresh food, simply prepared, can be delicious—and good for you.

Is Poke-Hula Good at What it’s Good For? The fast and easy healthy, customizable quick-serve food is delicious, and easy to take away but also provides a pleasant environment for eating in.

COMING SOON!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, will be available from the publisher on OCTOBER 15. You can preorder your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

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

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

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

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Cracker Barrel

Review No. 127: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

525 Skyline Drive

501-327-6107

57.6 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: Before The Pancreas, we used to frequent Conway’s Cracker Barrel, or the “Barrel of Crack” as our family refers to it, because the food is so starchy, comforting and satisfying. I’m also a big fan of breakfast any time of day, which is one of the chain restaurant’s strengths, but since we’ve both become more health conscious, we’ve stayed home or made other restaurant choices where we won’t be as tempted by the foods we love there that aren’t as good for us. But, My Mom was in town and we thought that would be a fun place to treat her to before she ended her annual visit, so off we went.

He Said: I used to come here and wolf down their Chicken Fried Chicken with extra sawmill gravy every chance I got. That’s 40 grams of fat in itself, then I’d get the cheesy hashbrowns (another 17 fat grams) and pile on two more sides on top of that. No wonder a post-Cracker Barrel bout of pancreatitis nearly landed me in the hospital four years ago. But it was time to go back and see if I could put together a tasty low-fat option at the Cracker Barrel. Was I successful? Read on and find out!

 

Ambience:

She Said: If you’ve been to a Cracker Barrel restaurant, then you know what this restaurant looks like, and this one Cracker Barrels hardin the country store area, with a lot of homey, kitchy, Americana merchandise, from holiday decorations, to sweets, to Razorback baby clothes. We’ve bought Christmas ornaments here before as they have a variety of these all year long. The restaurant itself is very Manufactured Rustic, and it has a relaxed vibe and friendly feel with the Old-Timey signage, wood chairs, tables and paneling.

He Said: Yes, I’ve always thought Cracker Barrel décor, wherever you visit one, is pretty homey, even down homey. It tells you pretty directly what it’s not: a high-priced restaurant where you should dress for your gourmet dinner; and fairly clearly what it is: a place with simple American fare and plenty of it.

 

Drinks

She Said:As there is no bar at Cracker Barrel, I went with my other usual: unsweetened ice tea. Our server asked if I wanted lemon, which I did, and my first sip was a perfect mix of citrus and cool tea. The mix here is good, and holds up well to the ice.

He Said: They had root beer in a bottle, which was music to my ears. And my palate.

 

Food

She Said: Although I am a big fan of Cracker Barrel’s breakfast-all-day menu, I decided to forego that option in favor of anything on their menu that lit my fire. I’d had a double work-out morning with a run and a ballet lesson, so I was hungry, but was trying to stop the birthday weight-gain train. I poured over the extensive menu, considering burgers, chicken-fried chicken, fried-chicken salad, weekly specials, etc. Finally, I settled on a promotional menu item, a deconstructed chicken pot pie with a pecan encrusted biscuit “crust.” But our friendly waitress made a sad face when I ordered it, informing me that at that moment, they were out of that “and broccoli.” (One of those outages made me much sadder than the other.) But, they still had the regular chicken pot pie, so I went with that. It came with no sides, but since I was “trying to reduce,” I was glad not to have to turn down the temptations—and besides, everything is in the pot pie, so you don’t need sides. Except biscuits.

The biscuits here are undry and tasty, even without butter or jelly to top them off. I indulged in half of one, and it was delicious. The pot pie came baked in an oval ramekin, and has a crust on top only, covering a thick, creamy chickeny yellow gravy, bites of chicken as well as potatoes, peas and other veggies. I confess, I do love a good frozen pot pie as a comfort-food treat, and this was clearly the superior of those, with a buttery crust, thick and tasty pie innards and—this is key—not too much pepper. I ate half and brought the other half home for later (or for My Mom, who ate all of hers at lunch).

He Said: Determined to find a low-fat Cracker-Barrel option, I noticed the lemon-pepper Rainbow Trout dinner. This, dear readers, is only 160 calories containing just 7 grams of fat. It was light and delicious, nicely seasoned with the lemon and pepper, and quite satisfying—it didn’t feel like I was “settling” for this in order to “be good.” With this you get two sides, and I had the Hashbrown Casserole, which has to my way of thinking the perfect hashbrown flavor and has another 7 fat grams, and the Country Green Beans, which had only 2.5 fat grams and are one of Cracker Barrel’s most popular sides, because they are tender and flavorful and well-cooked.

I did make one mistake, which was ordering the cornbread muffin instead of a biscuit. The muffin actually has 11 grams of fat, so more than anything else on my plate. It wasn’t bad, but there’s a reason the biscuits are the most popular thing on Cracker Barrel’s menu, and it turns out they have less fat.

Altogether, then, I had consumed a full meal with only 27.5 grams of fat. That’s about half my daily allowance, but this was my big meal of the day, so it was perfectly in keeping with a low-fat diet. Had I skipped the muffin, I’d have been home free. I then figured I could splurge on a slice of no-sugar-added All American Apple Pie. If you have his without the scoop of ice cream, it has only 2 grams of fat. (The ice cream adds another 22. I did not have the ice cream). This by itself is delicious! It has all natural ingredients and gets its sweetness from the apples themselves and added apple juice and cinnamon. Just like my Mom used to make. I let She Said and She Said’s Mom have a bite, and they pronounced it delicious as well. Though She Said’s Mom said it wasn’t as good as sheused to make.

Service

She Said: One reason we used to frequent CB years ago was because the service was consisted consistently professional and efficient. This visit was no different. I like the embroidered names on the aprons, too. It’s nice that their employees are “on brand” when it comes to the friendly country store vibe.

He Said:  Yes, our server was friendly, attentive, prompt, professional, and good-humored. And she also clued us in to the sugar-free apple pie, which there was significant interest in at our table but which none of the women was bold enough to order.

What My Mom Thought: She did like the pot pie and biscuits a lot, and though she admitted the sugar-free apple pie was good, she thinks her version is better!

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Two chicken-pot-pie lunch entrees, one rainbow trout lunch plate with two sides, one iced tea, one bottled root beer and one sugar-free apple pie for $32.27 (for three meals).

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:17 minutes from arrival to food delivery.

Rating

She Said (Or Was It Worth the Weight I Gained): I lost .2 pounds by eating only half my entrée (and half a biscuit) and skipping supper, but this pot pie was worth that and the experience was pleasant and chill.

He Said: I may have to put Cracker Barrel back into our rotation now that I realize it can be pancreas-friendly as well.

Is Cracker Barrel Good at What it’s Good For? YES! Go here for comfort food served in a friendly, kitschy, Americana-by-mail atmosphere.

COMING SOON!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, will be available from the publisher on OCTOBER 15. You can preorder your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

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

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

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

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Las Delicias on Oak

Review No. 126: Las Delicias

1120 West Oak Street

(501) 358-7577

57.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said:Las Delicias has a couple of locations in Conway: One of them, on Old Morrilton Highway, opened a couple of years ago. The second, downtown on Oak Street, has only been open since August 16. In our continuing quest to try to keep ourselves and others abreast of the latest goings on in the Conway restaurant landscape, we opted to try out the new location, and popped in for lunch.

This is mainly a sweets place, with authentic traditional Mexican popsicles, ice cream treats, fruity desserts and snacks, all homemade. Most of the treats here are unique in Conway and have a definite south-of-the-border twist. I was a bit cautious coming in here, since ice cream is not exactly a low-fat option, and most of the snacks here are made with a snack-food base of Doritos or Cheetos or Fritos, with a plethora of added cheeses—also not a good low-fat option for me. But I knew the job was dangerous when I took it, so in we came to check it out.

She Said: It was my birthday week, and while I was trying to be good in preparation for a blowout meal on the day, I couldn’t resist finally indulging in a sweet treat at a place we’d been hearing a lot about for a long time. We decided, since they also offer savory “snacks” to make a meal here for lunch.

 

Ambience:

He Said: The Oak Street location is a cute little place, brightly and newly painted in pastel pinks and blues. There’s not a huge dining area, just four small tables and a fairly extensive counter along the windows on two sides. There were also tables outside on the sidewalk, in the shade of an awning, which might have been nice to sit at if it hadn’t been so danged hot. Not many people were sitting inside either when we arrived just after noon on a Wednesday—just one other person at the counter. A few people did come in and order their ice cream to go, though, and I’m assuming that’s what most customers do. Still, it was fairly comfortable lunching inside, and we didn’t feel rushed or cramped or awkward sitting there.

She Said: The place is totes adorbs and made me think of Candyland, the board game (kids, ask your parents what that is), the colors and design hit all the notes of sweet, fun treats. I was very comfortable dining in there, and particularly enjoyed the slide show that played for a while on the television of photos from around the world.

 

Drinks

He Said:They have a pretty good selection of Mexican sodas in the bottle, as well as Coke and Fanta. I had a Coke, but it was one that was bottled in Mexico, hence the extra-large, half-liter-sized bottle.

She Said:I almost never have soda anymore and given the caloric nature of our visit, I very nearly asked for a bottle of water, but when I saw the Mango Jarritos soda in a bottle, I chose that. This alone was a lovely treat, really tasting like mango and not sickly sweet. It was particularly delightful because it was such a hot day.

 

Food

He Said: My worries about not finding something to eat that wouldn’t wreak havoc with my pancreas proved to be unfounded. They had chicken tamales and I ordered two of them. On the sweet side, they had a yogurt cup with fruit. So despite my yearning for ice cream, I kept my head and opted for the yogurt.

The tamales were fresh and flavorful and took me right back to some I had for lunch that had been made by local Mayan women after we’d explored a Yucatan cenote (or sinkhole) a few years ago. That’s how authentic those tamales tasted. They’d been steamed in their cornhusks, the masa perfectly undry (Note: She Said would not allow me to use the “m” word) with tasty chicken inside. I remember having a red salsa with those tamales in Mexico, and perhaps I could have had some here but didn’t know to ask; still, they were quite tasty as they came.

The yogurt cup was much larger than I thought it would be. I asked for granola and chocolate sprinkles on top of it, and it came with apples, bananas, grapes and strawberries. It was a cool, fruity delight on a hot day, and there was enough of it that, with the two tamales, I needed nothing more for lunch. (Note: I did try one small bite of She Said’s churro, and had confection envy. Not that I was dissatisfied with my yogurt. But still: Ice cream.)

She Said: There were more snacks on the menu than I expected, and though a friend told me she loves the “flaming Cheetos” (spicy melted cheese poured over them in the bag), I couldn’t quite go there. I settled on one tostada, with cured pork rinds (they were described to me as “pickled”), slaw, avocado, tomatoes and hot sauce. I asked for less sauce, and the mix was very, very good. The cured rinds were something I’d never had before, and their briny smoothness was a great contrast with the slaw and crispy corn tortilla base. It was a super-fresh, light yet filling lunch dish, and I would have it again, even if I weren’t going to Las Delicias for sweets (but why would I do that?). I tried He Said’s tamales, and they were also very tasty, and will definitely be contenders for my future orders here.

But Las Delicias is here for sweet treats, so we moved happily on to dessert. I had done some pre-visit fact finding, and though many options sounded good, including the mango dessert, I chose the churros with Mexican chocolate ice cream (I love fry-bread!). The clerk gave me a sample of the ice cream to make sure I liked it—she said it has cinnamon and wanted me to be prepared. The dish is two cinnamon-and-sugar churros (with caramel inside!) and a healthy scoop of ice cream to top them. It was dessert excellence. The churros were perfectly fried and sweetened, and would have been great on their own, but the ice cream topping brought them up a dessert level to decadent. The ice cream is so obviously homemade, with fresh flavors instead of things that taste likethe real things they’re supposed to represent. The cinnamon in the chocolate is subtle and adds instead of distracting from the chocolate. This is the best dessert I’ve eaten in months, not just in Conway, but anywhere.

Service

He Said:The woman who waited on us was cheerful, helpful, even kind of bouncy, and made us feel at home. I thought at first that she was watching the place on her own, even making the dishes in the back, but I do believe there was someone else there doing the cooking in the back room. It was not the fastest service I’d seen, but things were made fresh and by hand, so it wasn’t going to be McDonald’s drive-through.

She Said:Yes, when we said we were eating in, she offered to bring us our desserts later when we were finishing the snacks. She was very helpful to us as newbies when choosing our dishes, and she was friendly and approachable. The service was perfect.

What We Got and What We Paid: Two tamales, one tostada, one fruit yogurt, churros with one scoop of Mexican chocolate ice cream, and two bottles of soda, all for $19.60.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 14 minutes to lunch snacks, 27 minutes until desserts arrived.

Rating

He Said: This is a surprisingly good and original place to stop in for, or pick up, unexpected sweet desserts or traditional Mexican snacks.

She Said (Or Was It Worth the Weight I Gained): Well, I lost 1.2 pounds eating lunch here, so CHURROS FOR EVERYONE! Let’s start the churros diet, y’all! This level of homemade deliciousness was worth some weight gain, though, and I’ll definitely be coming back for caloric goodness again in the future.

Is Las Delicias Good at What it’s Good For? Yes, this sweet-treaterie sells very reasonably priced homemade, fresh and tasty sweets and savories. Stop in or get it to go and know you’re getting an authentic, delicious treat.

COMING SOON!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, will be available from the publisher on OCTOBER 15. You can preorder your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

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

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

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

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Colton’s Steakhouse and Grill

Review No. 125: Colton’s Steakhouse and Grill

120 Oak Street

(501) 329-6454

57.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: One of life’s little treats is going out for Sunday dinner when your mom is in town. My Mom likes to eat healthy (she’s into quinoa, etc.), and she’s definitely a meat-eater. We don’t cook much meat at home besides fish and occasionally poultry, so it seemed like a good time to go out somewhere with lots of meaty options on the menu, and that meant it was time for us to make our first trip to Colton’s in the 15 years we’ve been living in Conway. We arrived around noon-15 on a Sunday, and I expected a wait, though we were seated right away. When we left after 1 p.m., there was a wait.

He Said: Yes, Colton’s Steakhouse has been sitting there on Oak Street since we moved to Conway, yet we’ve never even discussed paying it a visit, I suppose in part because we just didn’t have any interest in visiting a chain steak joint, having memories of others in the past whose quality didn’t really measure up. Add to that my current problem of finding low-fat meals to eat while dining out, and Colton’s has never seemed a top possibility. This current project of visiting every restaurant in Conway does force us to enter doors that we’d never thought of coming through before.

Colton’s restaurants have been in existence since 1996, and they are currently in eight states, none of which is Texas, though they are supposedly named after some Texas Ranger, which explains the western theme in the décor. The largest number of those restaurants, 15, are in Arkansas. And to my surprise, I learned that the very first Colton’s steakhouse was opened right here in Conway. So I guess we had hit the motherlode, so to speak, in eating here.

 

Ambience

She Said: The interior designer busted out Western Steakhouse No. 1 on this décor, and it hits all the usual notes, wood-paneled walls, dark leather booths, small windows and artificially lit interior. It looks like the meat-and-potatoes joint you’ve come to for Texas cuisine. What is not as much in the restaurant’s control is how loud the large party is next to you: Occupying two tables and calling back and forth to each other, walking about, and pulling chairs out to sit between them, this group dominated the whole room we were in and was so loud we could not talk to each other—heck, I couldn’t even think, because everything they yelled crowded out every thought in my mind. The areas with smaller tables and four-top booths looked more pleasant than where we were seated, but we had to wait for these people to leave before we could hold a conversation without screaming and adding to the problem. It was very unpleasant.

He Said: We’ve commented before on how loud American restaurants tend to be. Sometimes the restaurant itself contributes to this problem, as when they play background music at a high volume. In this case the restaurant was not responsible for this pack of barbarians, though it might have been possible for the manager of the place to ask them to quiet down a bit. There were three other tables in this back room, and none of the customers seated at those tables seemed to be enjoying themselves much. I will say that the single waitress who had charge of this area worked diligently and quickly to get that party’s food and check to them ASAP. But I do wish people could be a bit more courteous when let out in public. This was a restaurant at a Sunday lunch, catering, for the most part, to the after-church crowd. It was not a sports bar on a Saturday night. Colton’s doesn’t even have a liquor license.

She Said: I was at a restaurant in Little Rock—the Fold—where the waitress asked me if a loud party was bothering me and told them to pipe down when I said they were. That would have been nice in this situation.

 

Drinks

She Said:When there’s no bar, I almost always go with unsweetened iced tea, and Colton’s was tasty, though a bit strong. There was plenty of ice, so it became more mild and delicious. Our waitress brought me a refill before I needed to ask, and it went well with the meal.

He Said: They have Coke products here, but they also have Iron Horse Root Beer in a bottle. This is mighty good stuff. I recommend it highly to other Root Beer connoisseurs out there. Fountain drinks, including She Said’s iced tea, get free refills here. Not so the Iron Horse. And that’s a sad story.

 

Food

She Said:When we were seated, a big bucket of peanuts and an empty bucket for shells was settled on the table among us, so My Mom and I snacked on these whilst choosing our meals. The menu has some variety but is controlled enough to allow newbies like us to get a good grasp of the offerings and not feel like I’m missing the perfect entrée because it’s buried among hundreds of possibilities. I was tempted by a few of the appetizers—fried green beans and fried pickles—but we decided to skip sharing fried things in favor of something sweet later on, if there was room.

I looked at some things that really called out to me, the Lonesome Burger (which is your basic burger and fixin’s), the fried catfish and the filet mignon, which comes with two sides. When He Said decided on a salmon, I nixed the fish, and when My Mom chose a pork chop, I decided to go with the restaurant’s raison d’être and selected the filet. It’s listed as eight ounces of bacon wrapped meat, with two basic sides or $1 more for each premium side. I chose a Caesar salad and fries, and avoided the additional charge, though an eight-ounce filet mignon for $20.99 is a reasonable asking price. As our dear readers know, I ordered that steak “veryrare,” and hoped it would indeed be that. While I waited to find out, we were brought the honey-butter rolls, which were a lot like bread crack to me. I had one and then tore off part of another one, and I’d probably have eaten all of what was left, if my food hadn’t started to arrive.

The salad arrived first as its own course. I do love a Caesar salad, and will often enjoy one with shrimp or chicken as a main course. The dressing on this one was too vinegary and put me off quickly. I set it aside and went back to the peanuts until the main course was put in front of me. I cut into the steak and it was so rare and tender, it fell away from my knife. It wasn’t the thickest, richest, marble-y-est steak I’ve ever had, but it was tasty and very rare (it was warm in the middle, but still dark red throughout most of the cut. I ate about five ounces of it and gave the rest to My Mom to put in her to-go box so she could take it home and over-cook it to her heart’s content. Neither of us wanted to waste it.

The steak fries that accompanied it were definitely a highlight of the meal. The outside was golden and crispy, and the potato inside was light, fluffy and delicious. I had mine with mayonnaise (in little packets—not my favorite delivery device), and sharing one with He Said so he could try them was a real sacrifice only my love for him could ever motivate.

We also shared dessert, and I’ll let He Said describe the “Ultimate Brownie Sin-Sation.”

He Said: I did mean to look at the menu online before we came, but the church service got in the way, so I was coming in blind. I hate to do that with a chain restaurant because often some of the things they offer that seem safe from the point of view of a low-fat diet actually turn out to be surprisingly fat-filled. So I was quite pleased to find grilled salmon on the menu here, as well as a side of steamed vegetables.

At a steakhouse like this, where seafood is sometimes an afterthought on the menu, salmon is often—nay, almost invariably—overdone. I asked for the salmon to be cooked “medium,” and what I got was not medium, but was not bad (though I did wonder how done it would have been if I hadn’tasked for it “medium”). It had a kind of rub on it that was a bit salty, which came as a bit of a surprise, but was actually a rather pleasant flavor once I got used to it. On the side was what I believe was a raspberry chipotle sauce that I’ve seen on Colton’s online menu, and this was also a very unusual sweet taste with a kick, and I added that to some of the bites of salmon I had. Again, it was an unusual but pleasant flavor, sweet but with a surprise. Overall, it was a pretty good salmon experience, far better than I had anticipated, and I would definitely order it again there.

The steamed veggies were mostly broccoli, and that’s fine with me. The veggies were fresh and not terribly soggy and were a nice fatless complement to the salmon. Also, I have to agree with She Said about the honey butter rolls—they came warm and you definitely don’t want to miss them if you go to Colton’s.

Now about that Ultimate Brownie Sin-Sation: According to online nutrition reports, there are 480 calories in this dessert, which is basically a giant chocolate brownie with some chocolate syrup topped with ice cream with more syrup and some whipped cream. However, it apparently has only ten grams of fat, which I felt was definitely worth the risk. Also, just to be safe, I ate very little of the ice cream. It was a truly heavenly experience eating that thing, “sin sation” or not. I recommend it highly.

Service

She Said:Sure, I love a friendly server, but the main attribute I value is efficiency and effectiveness, and our Colton’s waitress was a machine! She managed that huge (loud) party, as well as several other tables around us quickly and professionally. We got everything we needed, her check-ins were well timed: We weren’t rushed and we never felt impatient. This woman should teach classes.

He Said: Yes. She had no small talk and wasn’t interested in jocular bantering, but she was quick, professional, and got everything right. She was a gem.

What My Mom Thought: She really liked her pork chop, saying it was the best one she’d had since she stopped making them at home for herself (she’s almost 93). She thought the steamed broccoli and cauliflower (there was only one carrot, she noted) were perfectly cooked without being mushy, and she loved the fried onions that came with the chop. She made some faces about the noise, which is notable, since she is not a complainer and rarely has her feathers ruffled by things around her.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One filet mignon (including two regular sides of salad and fries), one pork-chop entrée with steamed vegetables, one salmon entrée with steamed veggie side, one unsweetened tea, one bottled root beer and one “Ultimate Brownie Sin-Sation” for $62.50 (three meals).

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 31 minutes from arrival to entrée delivery.

Rating

She Said (Or Was It Worth the Weight I Gained): I gained 0.8 pounds, which was definitely worth it, given the carby-deliciousness of the rolls and fries, and the steak was satisfying. I don’t eat this kind of food often for a lot of reasons, but I would consider a follow up visit if it could be quieter. A slower time of day or day of the week might pull me back there for another go.

He Said: The food was surprisingly good, and the service was excellent. The atmosphere of the place was unpleasant for reasons beyond the restaurant’s control, but I’m willing to give it another try.

So… He Said and She Said:Go here for Americana-food classics, but watch the timing and where your table is if you want to actually hear each other talk (or yourself think). 

COMING SOON!

Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, will be available from the publisher on OCTOBER 15. You can preorder your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922

LostInTheQuagmircover

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

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

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