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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New China Buffet

Review No. 177: New China Buffet

2104 Harkrider St., #101

(501) 764-1886

80.5 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: I had a date to have lunch with my daughter for the first time in awhile, and we needed to do a review, so we killed two birds with one stone. (I apologize to my daughter for comparing her to a bird that must be stoned.) We hadn’t eaten in a Chinese restaurant for some time, and besides, New China Buffet was next on She Said’s master list, and so we ended up here for lunch.
She Said: When dining with Ruud2 for lunch, we must find efficient venues, as she often is on a very tight timeline. I figured a Chinese buffet would fit the ticket, so I saved up some macros, and off we went.

Ambience:

He Said: It looks a lot like any other buffet, with several rows of items to choose from, and booths along the windows. Things inside were pretty basic, without anything on the walls to give it a bit of atmosphere. Get in eat, get out was the vibe I got.

She Said: I did like the color scheme, however, as the earth tones made it a little cozier than the institutional brights you see in some such restaurants. The main event here is obviously the food displays, which are accessible and well-spaced.

Drinks

He Said: They do have Pepsi products here, but I ended up with a sweet tea because my wife ordered unsweet tea while I was still going through the buffet, and the server brought her sweet tea by mistake, and I was thirsty so I just said I’d take it while she went back and got the right order for She Said. It was decent sweet tea. Not a lot of ice if you’re into that sort of thing.

She Said: My unsweet tea was just fine.

Food

He Said: They have a lot of choices here. Several chicken dishes, beef dishes, some fish dishes, and some traditional Chinese favorites like mashed potatoes and gravy, quesadillas and tiramisu. I picked several things to try, mainly for your sake, dear readers. I grabbed some honey chicken, some General Tso’s chicken, some fried fish, a bit of smoked salmon, all with fried rice. I also had a stuffed mushroom, a dinner roll and two desserts (they were very small): that tiramisu and a small cream puff.

So I had something of a mixed bag, and that’s also how I’d evaluate the food. I really liked the honey chicken and also would have had more of the General Tso chicken if I’d had room. The one was deliciously sweet and the other nicely tangy. Eaten with the fried rice (which was fine, nothing outstanding) they made my meal. The fried fish was quite fried, and I assume it was traditional Chinese catfish but mainly I was tasting the crispy outside so I’m not sure about the actual fish. But that’s how you might like it. The smoked salmon was swimming in some kind of sauce, but I was a bit disappointed with it—it was pretty bland. I did like the stuffed mushroom and the dinner roll was quite nice. The desserts were nothing to write home about. The little cream or custard puff wasn’t great, though the tiramisu was OK. All in all, though, I’d have preferred more of the honey chicken to the desserts.

She Said:I had two kinds of chicken, honey and sesame, I believe; crab Rangoon, lo mein noodles, mushrooms, dim sum, fried rice, a sweet roasted plantain, a piece of California roll, and mashed potatoes, along with egg drop soup and apple pie in my second run. I was trying not to go crazy, food-wise, so I filled a plate with samples thinking I would go back for things that were worth a second trip, but there wasn’t anything that inspired getting a second helping. The chicken was too tough and each bite was mostly the hard breading with no standout flavor. The fried rice and noodles were bland and unspecial. None of the sushi rolls had labels, but the California roll that I believe I sampled, was fine and the crab Rangoon was also bland with a tough, rather than crispy fried wanton. The mushrooms were fine, but forgettable. The best things on the first plate were the dim sum (pork, I believe—and why don’t we have a dim sum place in Conway?!); the mashed potatoes, which were creamy and delicious plain; and the plantain. Trying to find something really satisfying, I went back for the egg drop soup, which was bland; and the apple pie, which was more like a strudel, which I love, but this was also plain and the crust texture was doughy and off.

All in all, it was easy to take just one or two bites of each dish and stay low on macro-meter.

Service

He Said: Well, it’s a buffet, so… There was a server to bring drinks (not 100 percent accurately in our case). I did have to ask what we should do after we came in because there was nobody to tell us: I didn’t know whether we were supposed to pay before or after, for example. It’s after, by the way.

She Said: I like that they don’t make you pay first, as many buffet restaurants do; it kind of dampens the mood! Our waitress did make a mistake with the drinks, but she was very quick to correct it, and that happens to everyone. Empty plates were picked up soon, and refills were offered in a timely manner.

What We Got and What We Paid: Three adult buffets and three drinks, all for $32.95.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 5 minutes.

Rating:

He Said: New China is fine as Chinese buffets go. Some things are better than others, as is the case with all such places. We’ve liked a few others better, I would say.

She Said: I’ve had better buffets for sure. The only standouts were things that weren’t tough or completely bland.

Ruud2: Meh.

Is New China Buffet good at what it’s good for? If you want lots of choices of nothing special, then, heck yeah!

NOW AVAILABLE!

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Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

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Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard

Review No. 176: Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard

1040 S. Amity Road

(501) 358-6221

80.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said:We had our twin 5-year-old grandsons for the weekend, and we like to keep things moving with them, so after our church’s Oktoberfest concluded, we tooled on over to Rita’s to try out this “Italian ice” thing they advertised. We figured pre-school boys were good guinea pigs for sugar products.

He Said: Yes, and what the heck, we were handing them back over to their parents later, so theycould deal with the inevitable sugar highs.

Though new to Conway, Rita’s has been in business since 1984, when Bob Tumolo, a former Philadelphia firefighter, opened the first store. Now owned by Argosy Private Equity and MTN Capital, Rita’s has its headquarters in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and has more than 600 Rita’s locations in some 30 states.

She Said: It’s the sugar CRASH that is most fearsome, and I’m not sure we entirely escaped that.

Ambience:

She Said: It’s bright and cheery, and the boys particularly enjoyed the Halloween decorations this little frozen treat parlor had put up, spiders and webs, etc. There aren’t a lot of tables, but L chose a table by the front windows to sit and enjoy our treats. (We certainly weren’t putting boys and ice cream in the car!)

He Said: It is indeed cheery, but small—there are only about three tables inside. Most folks take the icy treats away.

Drinks

She Said: Dear Reader, I have limited capacity to attend to things, and keeping two young boys alive while choosing frozen treats, along with keeping each of them from making a poor choice that would lead to a melt-down (see what I did there?) is all I can manage, so I didn’t notice if there were drinks at all, until later I saw He Said had a Mountain Dew and someone at some point also asked me if I wanted a bottle of water. The water was great.

He Said: Yes, they did have Pepsi products and water. I needed the super-caffeinated Mountain Dew since I had been kept up pretty much all of the previous night by one of these 5-year-olds, who shall remain nameless.

Food

She Said: I love ice cream, gelato, sorbet, fro-yo, all of it! And I was sure 5-year-old boys would like it, too. As we were new here, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was looking forward to something fruity and refreshing. As mentioned, I was functioning with less decision-making time than usual with the boys, so when the staffer suggested I try the “Gelati” (which I thought was the plural of gelato…?) I said, sure! He even gave me a little bit to try. Gelati at Rita’s is a parfait of Italian ice and frozen custard, and my new BFF behind the counter suggested vanilla custard and then asked me what fruit flavor I like of “blah, blah, blah or mango?” You guessed it! I said, “Mango, please!” The friendly man was not mumbling, I just couldn’t pay attention while trying to figure out what the boys were doing or would want. I love mango (margaritas, La Croix, fresh slices on a hotel balcony in Hawaii), so in the interest of expediency, I ordered the proffered Gelati. Reader, it was lovely! While I’m not a huge vanilla lover, the custard was very thick and creamy and made a great complement to the fruity, light mango Italian ice. I did not finish it, however, because it is very sweet. I would have liked to order half of the small they sell.

The boys each chose blood orange Italian ice, which by the time they finished their small sizes was, as they laughed, “Italian soup!” that they happily sipped out of the cups. They showed off their dark orange tongues and giggled with glee as they dug into their treats. It was a wild success as far as they were concerned!

He Said: Also, of course, we had to take pictures of them sticking out their bright orange tongues and send them to their parents over the interwebs. It was a requirement in the by-laws of grandparenting.

For myself, I probably should have had the fatless Italian ice, since that would have been most pancreas-friendly, but since the twins were already having those, and since She Said was having that fancy-schmantzy Gelati, I knew that our dear readers would want a variety of selections reviewed, and so at great personal sacrifice I decided on a small cup of chocolate custard with chocolate fudge topping (what I got seemed more like chocolate syrup, but it was good anyway). I could have had one of several different kinds of cone, but I chose the cup instead. I wasn’t feeling the cone today. The custard really was delicious, smooth and creamy and cold and very chocolatey.

There are only 11 grams of fat in the chocolate custard here (less even than in vanilla!). The hot fudge adds only three more grams. A cone would have added more, so I was smart not to get one. But altogether the dessert cost me 14 grams of fat—which I could easily afford if I didn’t go overboard the rest of the day.

Service

She Said: Our counter attendant was super helpful, knowledgeable and chill (see what I did there? AGAIN!), and I appreciated his cheery service when I was a bit stressed myself.

He Said: Yes, we were something of a hot mess since we had not been here before, but the server was patient and helpful.

She Said: Yes, we were a soup sandwich!

What We Got and What We Paid: Two small blood orange Italian ices, one small Gelati, one small chocolate custard with chocolate fudge, plus a bottle of water and a bottle of Mountain Dew, all for $17.92 (for a party of four).

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 5 minutes.

Rating:

She Said:I’m putting Rita’s on my frozen treats short list, because the fruit flavors are very refreshing and the custard is rich and delicious, and the chance to mix the two is a sweet treat indeed!

He Said:You can get frozen custard other places in town, but this is as good as any of those, and it’s got the Italian ice to boot!

Is Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard good at what it’s good for? Yes! There’s nowhere like Rita’s in Conway for friendly frozen-treat offerings!

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

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Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

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Pho Huyen

Review No. 175: Pho Huyen

1600 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 504-2449

79.1 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: If you’re not familiar with pho, it’s a kind of Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, herbs, and meat, usually beef. If you haven’t been down Dave Ward Drive lately, let me just clue you in that there’s a new “Pho Huyen” restaurant in town, opened in the place where Ceci’s Chicken ’n’ Waffles used to be. If your memory is not limited to the past couple of years, you might also remember that this used to be a pace called “Bleu Flame Burger,” a place that shut its doors before “Eat It, Conway” ever got to walk through them. So this is not a location that’s had a lot of good luck with restaurants—we can only wish Pho Huyen better fortune than previous tenants.

She Said:I’m small-town enough to crave a nice Sunday dinner after church, so hearing about a new pho establishment in Conway, I plotted for us to direct ourselves to this familiar location. I love ramen, and really miss Sumo, so I was excited and very ready to apply a big bowl of Asian food to my face.

Ambience:

He Said: The place looked completely different from what it was like during Ceci’s time here. It seemed smaller, as if another room had been taken away. Also, the new tenants seem to like sunny colors, with the walls painted a pastel yellow, and pictures of yellow flowers decorating the walls. It seemed like a kind of fast food like interior, the booths and tables not particularly fancy.

She Said: It felt like a South Dakota café in the late 1980s to me, with the pastels and white trellis décor, so I liked it. It made me feel like comfort food was coming my way. It isn’t big, and they’ve put about as much seating in the restaurant as comfortably possible, so it’s not particularly cozy, but it had a relaxed and welcoming vibe. I was happy to get a booth on the wall, though. I don’t love eating at a middle table, in front of God and everyone, even if it was Sunday.

Drinks

He Said: The specialty drink here is Bubble Tea (also known as “Boba Milk Tea”) a kind of Taiwanese fruity milk smoothie with tapioca pearls. They serve it with a wide straw through which you can suck up those dark, chewy pearls. Several flavors are listed on the menu, though when we ordered they had only banana, watermelon and mango. I had a mango bubble tea, which was delicious and different, sweet and icy.

She Said: I too swooned over my mango bubble tea. They also offer Vietnamese coffee, which I’ll try next time! The mango bubble tea was sweet, but not overly sugary, with subtle fruity flavor. A real treat1

Food

He Said: I entered the restaurant with the expectation that I’d be ordering some kind of pho, as the name suggested, but was surprised at the great variety of dishes on the menu. She Said and I decided to start with a couple of vegetarian tofu spring rolls. These tasted fresh and healthy, and the peanut sauce that came with them had a sharp kick to it. I enjoyed the spring rolls as a starter, though they were very sticky and I made the mistake of setting one down on my paper napkin. Don’t do that, dear reader, because you will never separate the napkin from the dough.

Since most of the pho choices included beef or pork, and my pancreas has issues with red meat, I opted for one of the rice plates that they have as an option on the menu. I ordered a stir-fried chicken rice plate and asked for fried rice to be substituted for the white rice that was on the menu. (This, I learned, added about $5 to the cost of the entrée, so be aware of that if you choose this path).

My entrée was really quite delicious. The chicken was tender and had been stir-fried with broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, onions, cornlets and bok choy. The fried rice was a hefty side order on its own, with eggs, peas and carrots mixed in. Together they created a tasty medley of fresh food. And there was plenty of it: I was not able to finish mine.

She Said: I was so happy we had started with those tofu spring rolls, as they were fresh, tasty and the peanut sauce (I avoided dipping into the chili side of the dish) really added to my enjoyment. I will be ordering those again very soon, I’m sure.

I was so determined to have pho that I lit on that section of the menu right away and began narrowing down, but once I flipped the page and saw the Vietnamese búnselections, I felt compelled to abandon my plan (and my pho-curious readers). And anyway, bún—a bowl of rice and grilled meat and veggies—is pho-adjacent, so I persisted. Most of the protein options are red meat, as that is the traditional dish from Hanoi, but they offer chicken and one or two other non-beef or -pork búns. Pictured on the menu is the pork and fried egg-roll bún, which includes the grilled meat, a sliced egg roll, peanuts and carrots over the rice noodles and lettuce, and I could not resist that combination. My one quibble was that I would have liked a lot more peanuts when the dish came, as there was a small spoonful on one side and when I went to mix it together with everything, much of it fell through to the bottom. The pork was almost like bacon, thin tendrils of meat and fat, very nicely grilled. The sauce that came with it had red chili flakes, but was not too spicy to overwhelm the flavors of the dish. I couldn’t eat all the noodles and lettuce but filled up on the stars of the show very quickly.

Service

He Said: We were met by a friendly server who sat us where we asked and took our drink orders right away. He took our food orders when he came back with the drinks, and jokingly told us he couldn’t pronounce the names of the food, but took orders by the numbers on the menu. Mine was, I believe, C-8.  The place was pretty crowded—we were with the after-church crowd on Sunday afternoon, and lots of people were there to try out the new restaurant. It took a little longer than might have been expected, and that may have been because they hadn’t expected quite such a rush. It was very typical new-restaurant difficulty, and to be expected. You don’t pay the server here, but you go up to the counter to pay, which did actually prevent me from asking for a box to take home my leftover fried rice.

She Said: I found the service very friendly and relaxed, which is very nice when you don’t know a lot about the cuisine you’re trying.

What We Got and What We Paid: Two mango bubble teas, one order of tofu spring rolls, one stir-fried chicken rice plate with fried rice, one pork and egg roll bún, all for $45.20.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 21 minutes from arrival to appetizer, 33 minutes until the arrival of the entrees.

Rating:

He Said: The food was very good and somewhat unusual for Conway. I would probably be interested in a return trip to try some of the other things on the menu. Things are not cheap here, though, and they don’t have a liquor license. Not that it matters to me, but She Said might have something to say about it.

She Said: Ha! I wouldn’t mind taking it away and enjoying it with a glass of wine at home. But the food is delicious, and those tofu spring rolls are proof of a benevolent universe.

Is Pho Huyen good at what it’s good for? Abso-pho-lutely! We’ve never been to Vietnam, but if the food is this good there, we might have to go.

He Said: No. I vowed never to go there back in 1969, and this is as close as I’m getting.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

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Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

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KFC

Review No. 174: KFC

2670 North Donaghey Avenue

(501) 336-8440

79.0 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said:We had a big-ol’ day ahead of us on Sunday, so we decided to hit the local KFC’s lunch buffet for efficiency and choice.

He Said: Colonel Sanders opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky, in 1930, and 89 years later it’s still headquartered in Louisville. But now KFC is the second largest restaurant chain in the world (after McDonald’s), and has more than 22,000 restaurants in 136 countries. We’ve seen KFC restaurants in pretty much everyplace we’ve traveled in the world—in Prague, in Venice, in Xi’an, China, and in Kyoto, Japan, where the statue of the Colonel outside the door scared me, he looked so creepy with round staring eyes.

But we hadn’t been to the KFC in Conway for years—maybe ten years? Because we had some bad experiences here in the past. I remember going there once when the air conditioning had broken down and suffering through a really uncomfortable meal. And another time when we walked in and were told they had run out of chicken (How does a KFC run out of chicken? Isn’t that their whole raison d’être). Of course, we would still have paid the full amount for the buffet. So we left. And haven’t been back.

But that’s all water under the bridge. The Conway KFC is, I’m pretty sure, under different management than it was then. It’s also been cleaned up and has a new look inside. So I was glad we were giving it another try.

Ambience:

She Said: It’s bright and utilitarian in here, though not particularly cozy or comfortable. (Watch out for one of the biggest potholes I’ve ever seen in the driveway though! I was afraid if my car went into it, it wouldn’t come out. I left via a different way.)

He Said: Yeah, that was one giant pothole. But the restaurant is bright and cheery and clean (something you couldn’t say about it in the old days). It’s definitely a fast food place, and there aren’t a lot of pictures on the walls or anything. But it’s not any more uncomfortable than most fast food places.

Drinks

She Said:I surprised myself and went for a Diet Pepsi here, and it was fine; the soda machine seemed well calibrated.

He Said: Yes, they have Pepsi products here, which means they have Mountain Dew, which I’ll have when I can, if it’s not too close to bed time.

Food

She Said: We both chose the buffet in order to sample the most things. The buffet is not large, and the first time we went through it was out of chicken and biscuits, but the clerk said she would bring some right away. By the time I got my drink and was seated, the chicken and biscuits had appeared. I had two legs. I like KFC chicken; it’s really the code in my psyche for fast-food chicken, so I was happy to munch on these. I also tried a pasta salad, some macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes (plain, no gravy) and a biscuit. I also helped myself to a scoop of peach cobbler.

The chicken is a little greasier than some of the chain chicken joints, but it was hot and tasty, and fresh out of the oven, apparently. KFC’s mashed potatoes are quite good, as well, very creamy and tasty without gravy (restaurant gravies are often too peppery, so I just skip it usually), though they offer white and brown gravy on the buffet. I did not care for the pasta salad, which had a strong vinegar flavor I was not in love with—I only ate that first bite. The macaroni and cheese was very bland, so I stopped after one bite of that, as well. I did score a biscuit, and it was satisfying and flaky, and I also ate it plain. The peach cobbler had a nice, buttery crust and rich, peachy sauce, in a mass-produced kind of way, as well as a canned-peaches filling.

He Said: Yes, I had the buffet as well, which for me consisted of a wing and a breast, plus green beans and mashed potatoes and gravy. I wanted to get a biscuit when I saw that She Said had one, but when I went back to the buffet they were all gone again. And they never came back. So…that was a strike against them.

I agree that this is what southern fried chicken looks like for most of the world, because of KFC’s huge reach. I enjoy it, though, as well. No other chain has quite that same flavor or the crispy skin. Online nutrition charts declare that a KFC breast has 390 calories and 21 grams of fat, so not the healthiest thing in the world but not nearly as bad as it could be, since it does tend to be a bit greasy and pretty well fried.

I would concur with She Said in her assessment of the mashed potatoes. They are deliciously creamy and with the chicken gravy are very, very tasty. I get visions of Thanksgiving dinner when I eat those potatoes. The nutrition guide claims there are only four grams of fat in these, a claim I have trouble believing. But I hope it’s true.

The green beans were all right, but nothing to write home about. They tasted like they’d come out of a Green Giant can. As for the peach cobbler, this is normally not a dessert I’m particularly fond of. But it was sweet and creamy and fruity, and people who like peach cobbler will certainly like this dessert.

Service

She Said: Our counter attendant was friendly and helpful, and was also tasked with keeping the buffet stocked. As I said, the buffet was out of chicken and biscuits when we arrived, but was quickly restocked; however, the biscuits quickly ran out again and no more appeared.

He Said: I’ll just say “ditto” to what She Said said. I’ll tell you one thing: the service was miles ahead of what it was the last time we ate here, circa 2009.

What We Got and What We Paid: Two lunch buffets, which include drinks, for $18.14. Note: this includes one senior discount, which they give at KFC starting I believe, at 55. Can’t kick about that.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 9 minutes from arrival to eating buffet food in a booth. Forever if you include He Said’s getting a biscuit.

Rating:

She Said:The favorites here, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and biscuits are solid offerings, but you may have trouble scoring them at peak lunch-buffet time.

He Said:I was pleasantly surprised by how much the place had improved, and wouldn’t mind catching a senior discount buffet here again sometime.

Is KFC good at what it’s good for? The menu mainstays are still tasty, but the supply had trouble meeting demand on the buffet.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

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JinWei Chinese Express

Review No. 172: JinWei Chinese Express

2235 Dave Ward Drive, Suite No. 106

(501) 504-2014

78.4 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: He Said wasn’t feeling well and we were in a Sunday mood, so take-out seemed like a good idea, and JinWei had been on my radar for awhile. We had recently returned from a trip to Iceland, and one thing we didn’t eat there was Chinese food, so I was craving some of those old favorites. We decided to eat at home while binge-watching the 2011 Showtime series, Enlightened.
He Said: There are quite a few Chinese places in town (not so many in Iceland, as it turns out), but we hadn’t yet been to JinWei. Sounded like a good way to pass a Sunday lunch hour, and to do it in our own home.

Ambience:

She Said: It’s bright, with light green paint and lots of natural light, and also pretty utilitarian. You can eat in here, but it wasn’t particularly inviting. When you walk in, it’s one big space with a counter on the far side where you place your order.
He Said: Yeah, I think most people order takeout here, but yes you can eat here. But as She Said said, it’s not especially inviting. Plain room, just a couple of small pictures on the wall, not much atmosphere. So we took the food home.

Drinks

She Said: We were taking out, and I intended to have mine at home with a lovely can of Presto sparkling rosé. My mind wasn’t changed by the refrigerator of bottled drinks behind the counter.
He Said: They do have Coke products here, but we didn’t buy anything to drink with our takeout.

Food

She Said: I have a pretty standard order at American Chinese restaurants, and it always includes cashew chicken and some kind of dumpling-wanton appetizer food product. The comprehensive menu offered both, and I was also able to choose fried rice to go with my cashew chicken, along with the cheese wantons I had to start with. The wantons were satisfyingly fried and rich with cream-cheese centers, and I dipped them in He Said’s sweet and sour sauce to make them even better. I got the order of four, and I’m glad I didn’t get the larger order, as I probably would have eaten all of them!

I had mixed feelings about the cashew chicken, though I mostly liked it. The cashews were not as plentiful as I would have liked… I ate almost all of them in my first helping from the container. The veggies included a few peas and carrots, water chestnuts and onions, but mostly there were baby corn and celery that were a little too ubiquitous; I don’t like cornlets. But the chicken was actually plentiful and very tender and flavorful, which is not always the case in cashew chicken dishes.

I also stole He Said’s egg-drop soup, and it meets the tasty comfort food test: rich, with mild flavor, but not overwhelming. Next time I have a cold, I’m going to get about 18 gallons of this.

He Said: Jones, how can you not like cornlets? Don’t they just make you think of Tom Hanks in Big?

The menu has a lot of standard Chinese dishes. I often go for a sesame chicken or a General Tso’s, both of which they have, but for some reason the Sweet-and-Sour chicken caught my eye and I went for that. You have the option of ordering the dish itself (small or large) or the meal, which includes egg roll and egg drop soup, and your choice of fried or white rice. I had the small meal with fried rice.

The meal came with several little packets of soy sauce, which I like to put in the fried rice. The rice was good, pretty similar to the better meals of fried rice available in town. The same could pretty much be said of the egg roll as well: it was tasty, firm and not greasy, again probably as good as any egg roll in town.

I really did enjoy the sweet-and-sour chicken: it was crispy on the outside, a little spongy in consistency, which is pretty much what you get with this dish, but very tender and delicious chicken, and the sweet-and-sour sauce was just the right flavor of sweet tanginess.

As for the egg drop soup, I never did taste that—She Said was all over it. But I was full anyway. They do not skimp on the servings here.

 

Service

She Said: The service was good; a man came to the counter to wait on us before we were even 100 percent decided on our choices, and another man brought our nicely—and securely­­—wrapped package of goodness when it was ready. We also noticed a woman waiting for her food got the wrong thing in her order, and after some confusion, the restaurant replaced her order with the right dish.

He Said: Right—prompt, courteous service. No complaints here.

What We Got and What We Paid: One small order of cheese wantons, one small order of cashew chicken with fried rice, one small sweet-and-sour chicken meal (with fried rice, egg roll, and egg drop soup), all for $19.17.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 18 minutes.

Rating:

She Said: I found the chicken in the dish to be much better than most, and everything else was good, as well.

He Said: Good traditional Chinese-American fare, large helpings and reasonably priced (as Chinese food tends to be).

Is JinWei Chinese Express good at what it’s good for? Absolutely. This no-frills Chinese restaurant offers tasty standard dishes.

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

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Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Review No. 171: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

1105 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 499-9849

76.7 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: Last week “Cream-Filled Doughnut Day” appeared on the calendar, and She Said and I decided it would be a very auspicious day on which to actually go to a doughnut shop and have ourselves some cream-filled doughnuts. Conway’s local Krispy Kreme was up on our schedule, so I was dispatched to Dave Ward Drive to hunt and gather for brunch.

Krispy Kreme is, of course, a huge American-based chain with more than a thousand stores in the United States and internationally. They were founded in 1937 by Vernon Rudolph, who bought a recipe for yeast doughnuts from a New Orleans chef and began selling them in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The rest is history, as the company began to slowly expand. In 2016 the company was bought by the Luxembourg-based JAB Holding Company, but it remains headquartered in Winston-Salem.

She Said:I know people were excited when Krispy Kreme opened in Conway, but we never felt the need to stray farther afield than Ed’s at the time. But given the national holiday and the need to review, it was time.

Ambience:

He Said: The Conway location is a little hard to get into when you are zipping by on Dave Ward, and it’s not completely clear where to turn in if you don’t know it; Hardee’s driveway being right there makes it hard to see in a split second which is the right driveway.

The inside is rather inviting for a chain doughnut shop, with a lot of doughnuts on display on the shelves, and a variety of drinks available. The place is pretty comfortable and doesn’t make you want to run for the exit when you walk in.

She Said: I didn’t go with He Said, and my ambience at home was lovely. J

Drinks

He Said: As mentioned, there are a good variety of coffees, teas, other hot drinks, and soda and other cold drinks, but I didn’t have any of them, since I was bringing the doughnuts home. But there were a lot of drinks I could have had if I’d wanted.

Food

He Said: They have a huge variety of both yeast and cake style doughnuts here, including a couple of brand new Reese’s peanut butter and chocolate variety doughnuts. But this was, as noted earlier, cream-filled doughnut day, so I got two chocolate iced doughnuts with “kreme filling,” one chocolate iced glazed doughnut with sprinkles, and one glazed blueberry cake doughnut (that one specifically for She Said).

The chocolate glazed doughnut was scrumptious—it was so much better than the one I had a few weeks ago because every bite was sweet, chocolatey and undry. The cream filled chocolate doughnut was even more tasty, with the sweet crème enhancing every bite with sweet goodness. Other doughnuts I’ve had in town, with a few exceptions (looking at you, Ed’s) seem like a lot of dry, chewy dough, with a hint of sweetness. Not so here. These are the real deal.

She Said:The cream doughnuts were indeed delightful, and I gobbled mine up with glee. I don’t eat a lot of this kind of treat, and now I can see why people do! The dough was the perfect complement to the lightly whipped cream center, and the whole treat was perfectly sweet. I found the blueberry doughnut merely passable, though, as if it were a Xerox of a blueberry doughnut, just not quite there, but not bad either.

Service

He Said: The woman who waited on me was patient, good-humored and efficient. I got no complaints here.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: Four doughnuts (chocolate glaze, blueberry glazed, and two chocolate kreme filled, all for $5.50.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: Pretty much immediate from order to receipt and payment.

Rating:

He Said:I would not hesitate to stop here again if I’m in the neighborhood and craving a doughnut.

She Said:I’ll apply those cream-filled doughnuts to my face again! But I’ll go somewhere else for the blueberry cake.

Is Krispy Kreme good at what it’s good for? It certainly is! Sweet doughy deliciousness, especially if it’s got a creamy center.

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.

IMG_7926

Skinny J’s

Review No. 170: Skinny J’s

2235 Dave Ward Drive, suite #201

(501) 358-6586

76.2 Percent finished reviewing  Conway restaurants

The Situation

He Said: In the former location of the now defunct Roux’s Cajun Creole restaurant, a new Skinny J’s franchise has now opened on Dave Ward Drive. Skinny J’s, which bills itself as “not your average steak and burger joint,” may be familiar to Conway folks who are aware of its North Little Rock location. There’s also one in Jonesboro and one in Paragould. The first Skinny J’s opened in Cash, Arkansas, in 2009, when Cash native James Best returned home from culinary school and started his first restaurant, which soon moved into downtown Jonesboro and then spread to other sites in Arkansas.We had had a long day and were dang hungry, and decided it was time to give Skinny J’s a try.

She Said: I’ve socialized at the Argenta Skinny J’s quite often, so I was excited to see the sign go up on Dave Ward recently (Rest in Peace, Roux!). And we’d had two big nights of book parties at E.Leigh’s Contemporary Boutique locations in Little Rock and Conway for Mr. Catherine. I’m an introvert, so fun like that makes me really hungry for comfort foods (fat + carbs = love). We asked Erin, the original E.Leigh herself, to join us for this outing, so it made for a lovely afterparty.

E.Leigh’s Said: While I am quite familiar with the Skinny J restaurant in Argenta, I have only visited a couple of times. One of those visits happened to be for a glass of wine (or two) with She Said. When it was mentioned as an option for our Mr. Catherine After-Party, I was excited to get the chance to support a new, small business in Conway.

Ambience:

He Said: Skinny J’s is basically a sports bar and was very sports-bar-like in its interior. The restaurant is a good sized space but is divided into smaller areas, which make it a little cozier. There are TVs with different sporting events all around. We happened to be right under a TV that was showing the UCA Bears season-opening football game. This did draw my attention occasionally from the table conversation. But only occasionally.

We were seated next to a large party with four rather rambunctious children who had trouble sitting still and were not exactly quiet little mice. Fortunately, we have four dogs at home and so were not unaccustomed to such distractions. But this is the sort of thing you might run into in any sports bar.

She Said: Yes, American restaurants love to be loud, and this one is no different, but the large dining area is well arranged so you don’t feel like a cow in the feeding yard of the cattle ranch. We were in a cozier front space, and though the kids were active, they weren’t disruptive because the whole place was noisy. After the parties, the general sound level was a bit overstimulating to me, but it was still pleasant, as it was very casual and welcoming.

E.Leigh’s Said: I did notice that the restaurant was a little loud, but nothing I wouldn’t expect from a family-friendly, sports-bar type atmosphere. I agree that the way they broke up the space made it feel cozier. Overall, the space felt clean and appropriate for this type of restaurant.

Drinks

He Said: For the nonalcoholic diner, they have Coke products here, which in this case did mean that they had Barq’s Root Beer, which I ordered and was perfectly happy with.

She Said: I was ready to cocktail! So, I went with my old favorite, which is a big treat for me these days, the cosmopolitan. I didn’t see it on the drinks menu, but it’s rather standard, so I requested one. The restaurant is new, so our waitress said she’d double check that they could make it for me (I said a G&T would be a fine substitute if they couldn’t), and she returned quickly to confirm it was possible and to make sure that lemon vodka was all right. OMG, all cosmos should be made with it! It was even crisper and tastier than the usual cosmo. Thanks, Skinny J’s! With my meal, I had a lovely glass of the house cabernet. No complaints on the barend of this sports bar.

E.Leigh’s Said: Since I still had a 30-minute drive home to Little Rock, I decided to stick to having one beer only with our meal. I chose Flyaway’s Bluewing Berry Wheat Beer. It was delightful, however, anyone ordering this after me that night would be disappointed as I happened to finish off the keg with my order.

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Food

He Said: When they say this is “not your average steak and burger joint,” I guess they are mainly referring to the menu, which includes steaks and burgers but a wide variety of other stuff as well. Personally, I was paralyzed by choice when I first got the menu and was drawn in a few different directions. If you read these reviews regularly, you might have noticed that I order salmon a lot. They did have salmon on the menu, but I’ve learned that if the place doesn’t specialize in seafood there may be issues, usually overcooking issues, with salmon. So, I opted for one of the four different chicken wraps they have on the menu here.

Now I do have to keep the fat content down, as I may have mentioned before once or twice, so chicken is usually not bad. The Northeast Chicken Wrap that I ordered has fajita chicken, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, cheddar cheese and Chipotle ranch dressing, all wrapped in a garlic herb tortilla. None of this sounds too fatty—there’s a little bit of fat in the cheese and it’s possible there was some mayonnaise in the dressing, which always adds a lot of fat (there’s no online nutrition chart for Skinny J’s entrees). But this was a really delicious sandwich—the tortilla was tasty, and all the ingredients worked together to create a symphony in my mouth.

The wraps come with your choice of either chips or fries. Since chips are chips and this was a review, I went for the fries, and let me tell you, these were the highlight of the meal. If you haven’t eaten at a Skinny J’s before—and I hadn’t—you’ll be surprised that the fries are not the usual long thin pieces of potato, nor the plumper “steak fry” variety, but are cut in flat thin and crispy curls that make a pretty good case for being the best fries in town. Try them and see!

She Said: I, too, was frozen by choice perusing the menu. I was a little disappointed to find that the ahi tuna salad I love to get in Argenta is not on the Conway menu, so I was forced to look more closely at all the offerings. Looking for comfort food, I thought maybe they’d have a breaded chicken sandwich, but all their chicken was grilled, that I could find (good news for He Said!). After a couple of read-throughs, while nibbling on chips and guacamole (that I found a bit too seasoned) I settled on two things, which were also the top two items on E.Leigh’s list. I got out my game theory skillz and asked her to order before me, and I went with the item she didn’t choose. That was the hamburger and (of course), those amazing fries.

Skinny J’s offers a number of burger choices, and at the bottom of the list the menu reads, “hamburger $9.” This is my ultimate comfort food, and with the usual fixin’s and some mayo, I can be as happy as can be with a nice, chargrilled patty with mayo, lettuce, onions and pickles, a tasty bun and a side of fries. And I was. I wouldn’t say the burger is the best in Conway (I’m looking at you TC’s Midtown, and you, Burgers, Pies and Fries), but it hit the spot when I wanted to eat my emotions, and, I agree with He Said that these fries, a cross between a curly fry and a steak fry, are professional level.

E.Leigh’s Said: I also felt a little over-stimulated at first by all the choices, but quickly settled on two options: the crab cakes or a hamburger. I consider myself somewhat of a crab cake aficionado and anytime a menu has crab cakes, my ears perk up! The menu stated that the crab cakes were made in-house, which is a requirement of mine if I’m going to order crab cakes. I made a quick game-time decision to try the crab cakes, knowing that ordering crab cakes at a sports bar type atmosphere may not turn out well. I also ordered a side of the fries, since the crab cakes fall under the appetizer portion of the menu.

When the food arrived, the crab cakes looked to be the perfect level of crispy and not overly greasy, which I appreciated. While I love a crab cake filled to the brim with lump crab, I also have realistic expectations for a sports bar in Central Arkansas. While they weren’t “filled to the brim” with lump crab, they were very good. They had a good amount of crab and weren’t overly filled with breading. The remoulade was just right as well. The fries were absolute perfection and I think they were the stars of the show for our entire table. I had had the fries on one of my few other trips to the Argenta Skinny J’s, so I knew I was in for a treat. Bottom Line: GET THE FRIES.

Service

He Said: We had a very friendly server who had a sense of humor. She was attentive and, while she sometimes didn’t know the answer to a few of our questions because the place had been open such a short time, was quite willing to find the answers for us. We were also asked by three different people if everything was all right, so we did get a lot of good attention from servers.

She Said: Yes, attentive, professional, efficient and friendly service, everything I want in restaurant attention and nothing I don’t.

E.Leigh’s Said: As someone who is in the service industry, I appreciate great customer service. Skinny J’s didn’t disappoint, as I felt they gave us great service that night. It felt like Skinny J’s employees were all working together as a team to make sure every guest had a wonderful experience, as we had multiple employees stop by to check on us during our meal.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One guacamole and chips appetizer, one hamburger, one crab cakes order, one northeast chicken wrap, one extra side of French fries, one root beer, one beer, one cosmopolitan, one glass of house cabernet, all for $70.34 (for a party of three).

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 37 minutes from entry to entrees, with apps and drinks in between.

Rating:

He Said:I am pretty sure we’ll be back to try some of their other culinary delights here. It’s a cut above your typical sports bar and reasonably priced.

She Said:They had me at the cosmo and won me over forever with the fries.

E.Leigh’s Said: I will definitely return as it’s the perfect place to take my E.Leigh’s Conway employees for a work lunch or dinner.

Is Skinny J’s good at what it’s good for? Absolutely! A fun, casual environment with good food and friendly service. And those fries!

 

NOW AVAILABLE!

IMG_5986

Stacey Margaret Jones’s novel, Mr. Catherine, is available online from the following sellers (ebook only through June 24, ebook and paperback as of June 25, 2019): AmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle Play and Apple Books.

Where is Catherine? Catherine has gone missing, a year after confessing to having an affair. Her husband, a marriage and family therapist, hides her infidelity from the police to protect her reputation—and to shelter his pride.

As the secrets begin to pile up, Mr. Catherine, the unnamed husband of the missing woman, is plunged into a world of underground dealings, kidnappers, ex-lovers and drug running in Little Rock, Arkansas, all while grappling with his part in the highs and lows of the life they led together.

With each passing day, a sleepless Mr. Catherine grows more frantic, drinking and popping pills, which stir up painful visions and remembrances that hold a mirror up to the narrator as he comes to terms with his own emotional betrayals.

Mr. Catherine is a fast-paced domestic noir that explores the dangerous secrets between a husband and a wife, as well as a deeper meditation on marriage, connection and honesty.