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!

IMG_1970

Cicis

Review No. 116: Cicis

1250 Old Morrilton Hwy

(501) 764-0600

57.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: Cici’s Pizza, now formally known as just “Cicis,” is a chain of pizza-based buffet restaurants headquartered in Irving, Texas, with about 500 restaurants in 35 different states. There are eight Cicis locations in Arkansas, including restaurants in Fayetteville, Hot Springs, Russellville, Rogers, North Little Rock, Jonesboro, Fort Smith and, of course, the one in Conway on the Old Morriton Highway in that little restaurant-heavy mini-mall next to Fuji, Firehouse Subs and Burrita’s.

She Said: Any day I get to eat pizza is a good day, and after a morning of heavy report writing and working out on my office treadmill, I decided it was time to try this pizza buffet we’d never been to before.

Ambience

He Said: It’s not the coziest looking place. The buffet is right there as you enter, the lights are pretty bright, and inside it looks and feels pretty much like any fast-food place (the seats are pretty hard), but with three TV sets hanging from the ceiling, none of them showing a sporting event, which is about the only thing one could follow without sound. The buffet begins with a salad bar, then has some pasta dishes and soups, then several kinds of pizza, and finally a few desserts, in our case a lemon bar and cinnamon bread.

She Said: Yeah, it’s brightly colored, but it’s utilitarian, with the cash register as you enter—pay up and then you’re free to go food-wild. There are some brightly lit games in the back, a little arcade. There is the industrial hum white-noise of refrigerators that I don’t enjoy, but it’s white noise for the TVs, some of which were tuned to Fox News. I am not a fan of any news channels in restaurants. I’m here for pizza and chillaxin’, not issues. If I wanted that, I’d eat at my desk in front of Facebook. Tune your TVs, business owners, to happy channels, like my nail salon does to the Food Network, and get me addicted to Ina Garten, not enraged over today’s headlines. It’s not good for digestion.

Drinks

He Said: They have iced tea and also Coke products from a fountain here. And yes, to my great delight, they actually did have Barq’s Root Beer (I keep telling you it’s a Coke product), and I was glad to have a glass of that.

She Said: I chose unsweetened iced tea, and it was well brewed, not too strong or weak.

 

Food

He Said: I had a salad first. You have a choice of a plain lettuce salad, spinach greens, or a Caesar type salad with cheese. I took some of each, and then dropped in some broccoli and cucumbers. You could also put in carrots and tomatoes if you wanted, or croutons. That was about it, so it wasn’t a terribly imaginative salad bar. There was a choice of dressing, including, ranch, thousand island, blue cheese, Caesar and Italian. Cicis does you a favor and tells you the calories in each of these dressings. I did think there could have been more choices (French perhaps?), and especially a low-fat choice (Italian was low calorie, but is oil-based, and so is not really low fat; a vinaigrette would be nice). I picked the Italian.

Next came a choice of a chicken and pasta soup, or the actual pasta with a tomato or a cream sauce. The pasta was a Calamaretti—a short, ring-shaped pasta. I was tempted by the soup, but went with the pasta and red sauce, which was not bad at all, the sauce tasting pretty genuinely Italian. As for the pizza choices, there were several, from a plain cheese to pepperoni to a meat-lover’s pizza, to a barbecued pork or a chicken pizza. I decided to try the unusual spinach alfredo pizza, along with a slice of pepperoni. The pepperoni was pretty good, tasting like pepperoni pizza pretty much anywhere. The spinach alfredo was not bad either, a kind of surprising taste for a pizza. But for my taste, the crust was just too chewy, too dough-y. This was far from being my favorite pizza in Conway.

She Said: Yes, I agree with you on the crust, Ruud. We share our love of thin, crispy pizza crusts, and while this was relatively thin, it wasn’t crispy at all and drooped when you held up the slice. But the pepperoni was crispy, which I thought was perfect. I too tried the spinach alfredo slice, and it was tasty, with a real spinach taste in the wilted greens. I also had two small pieces of the garlic cheese bread, which was tasty and a little addictive. Finally, I tried the lemon cream bars they were touting, but I found these disappointing. I expect lemon desserts to be sweet to offset the tartness of the lemon, but if you can actually taste the sugar itself, they are too sweet. I left some of my bar and had more pizza for dessert, even with the less-than-ideal crust.

Service

He Said:Well, there’s not much to say about service at a buffet. We paid the guy when we came in, and then served ourselves. Apparently, it is possible to order a pizza for your table of your own choosing, if you’re not content to go with what’s on display on the buffet, in which case you might have a server. But ordering the buffet, we did not expect any service, and we were not disappointed.

She Said: The man who greeted us was friendly. And then we never talked to anyone again.

.

What We Got and What We Paid: Two pizza buffets and two drinks, for $17.74. The pizza buffet is advertised at $5.99 per person.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 4 minutes.

Rating

He Said: The food is fairly average, but if you happen to like bready crusts, or you’re looking for something fast and cheap, this may be the place for you.

She Said (Or Was It Worth the Weight I Gained): I don’t think I’d be willing to gain too much for this pizza, but since I lost half a pound, that seemed fair.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for fast pizza and an efficient buffet if you like a softer crust and all-you-can-eat slices.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

IMG_1490

Katmandu Momo

Review No. 115: Katmandu Momo

1018 W Oak Street

501-205-8679

56.9 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said: We’d been seeing our friends check in to the restaurant for a few weeks, so we decided it was a good lunch spot on a hot day. I took a break from my desk, and He Said finished cleaning the house, and off we sped to get some dumplings!

He Said:  This restaurant originated as a food truck in Little Rock. The proprietors decided to open a brick-and-mortar concern, but to do so in the burgeoning food Mecca of Conway, following in the footsteps of another recent addition to the Conway scene, Wunderhaus.

So yeah, I was kind of wondering just what Nepalese food would be like. So I know what to expect if I should ever find myself in the real Katmandu—you know, to climb Mount Everest or something. Turns out it’s pretty similar to some of the food of its better-known neighbor, China.

Ambience

She Said: I thought the restaurant was invitingly and appealingly decorated with the dark wood and exposed brick, nice contrasts for the natural light through the front wall of glass. It’s not a big place, but it feels both spacious and cozy.

He Said: It is kind of small. But cozy. And you don’t feel like you’re on top of other tables. There’s a dark-wood partition that divides the space in half lengthwise, so that we didn’t even know who else was eating there until we saw them leave.

Drinks

She Said: I decided to have a local drink, the chai tea with milk. It was very nice, but took quite a while to be served, arriving after the food, so hot that I had to let it cool for a while before I drank it. The waiter brought me a gratis bottle of water for what he termed the “tea debacle” given the timing and the heat of it when served, so I was well taken care of in the end.

He Said: They have (some) Coke products here (no root beer). They do not yet have their fountain set up (or didn’t yet on the day we came in for lunch), and when I ordered a Coke the server apologized that he had to bring it in a bottle. One of those glitches you have to expect with a new place. Personally, I prefer it in a bottle, since you don’t run the risk of having a fountain that mixes the ingredients wrong, and you don’t get a glass full of ice with half an ounce of Coke. So no apologies necessary. The fact that there was no glass to put it in, that was more of a problem for me.

Food

She Said: After I Googled “momo” and found out what it was, I came here for dumplings and I was going to get dumplings. I looked over the other offerings, and then our waiter told us that since we were there at lunch time, all that was available was, indeed, the lunch menu. This included momo combinations: dumplings in various numbers with one side or two. The smallest number is six and one side, so I chose that. Various kinds of momo are offered, such as pork, beef, chicken and vegetable, and you can have them pan fried or steamed. The waiter informed me that you can choose your number of dumplings and you can also mix and match the kind of dumpling and how they’re cooked within that number. So I ordered three pan-fried pork dumplings and three steamed veggie dumplings. A bit later I was told they were out of pork, so I substituted chicken. For my side, I chose the egg rolls.

(There may still be a bit of a food-truck mentality here; they run out of things, still in these early days, and sometimes, we were told have to close for dinner or raid local groceries for dinner service supplies. Running a restaurant is different from a food truck in which you sell out and go home. I’m sure it will even out in time.)

The momo and egg rolls came with two sauces, sweet and sour and what the waiter called “momo sauce,” which was tomato, garlic and cilantro, among other things. The steamed veggie momo were tasty enough on their own without sauce, but tasted great with both the offered accompaniments. The chicken momo, pan-fried, wasn’t as tasty, and benefitted from both sauces to “spice” them up a bit. Next time, I’ll get six steamed vegetable momo and happily apply them all to my face. The egg rolls were mostly fried rolls with a bit of stuffing, and they were delicious, if decadent. They were small, and I gave one to Ruud, so I didn’t feel too guilty.

He Said: She Said was having a couple of different kinds of dumplings, but the menu has a lot of variety, so I thought for the sake of the review I’d try one of their other lunches, and ordered the Chicken Chow Mein.

Chow Mein—which literally translates as “stir-fried noodles”—is of course a popular dish in Chinese restaurants, but is apparently a very popular fast-food item in Nepal, where it was brought by Tibetans who settled in Nepal in the Kathmandu Valley.

What they (the restaurant servers, not the Tibetan refugees) brought was a dish piled high with brown noodles, deliciously fixed with the soy-sauce-based seasoning and stir-fried with thin pieces of chicken and onions and other vegetables, and a spice with just the right amount of a tang to it. This was an excellent lunch—but way more than I could eat. Apparently for two dollars more there is also a dinner portion which must be even larger than this one. But I had to stop eating after making what seemed only a small dent in the pile, and brought it home in a box—probably enough for two more meals. So that’s a lot for your money, folks. I would not mind at all having this again, except that I intend to explore more things on this menu, especially if they turn out to be as tasty as this was.

Katmandu Momo does not have its menu online at this point, and since they aren’t a large chain there is no way to look up nutritional information for any specific dishes. Chicken Chow Mein in general is analyzed online as having from 17 to 25 grams of fat (depending, obviously, on how it is prepared, and with what additives) in a portion of 600 grams, which may be about what I had. I’m hoping for the 17, which would be an average lunch for me, rather than the 25, which would be a bit high.

Service

She Said: There was a little confusion at the beginning when no one brought us menus after inviting us to sit wherever we liked. We were partly to blame, as we saw someone we knew and were talking to her for a few moments. Our server was helpful and attentive, answering questions and checking on us.

He Said: Yes, I can’t really complain—I never mentioned the glass so maybe he would have brought me one. He did offer to bring a box for my uneaten food, which he did quickly. He also brought She Said that water. And he brought the check promptly without our asking, and mentioned that we had to pay at the counter rather than at our table. He covered all the bases.

What We Got and What We Paid: One chicken chow mein, one six-piece momo lunch including one side, one Coke and one chai tea. All for $23.61.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 22 minutes for food, 24 minutes for chai tea.

Rating

She Said: I will definitely be applying these dumplings to my face again!

He Said: I plan on going back, to try the dumplings and some of the other dishes—or if I feel like it, to have Chow Mein again! Because I can!

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for inventive, distinctive Asian cuisine from a different corner of the world for Conway. Don’t go in a hurry, and be flexible, at this stage, with what they may be out of.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

IMG_1297

Hardee’s

Review No. 114: Hardee’s

1055 Dave Ward Drive

(501) 499-6462

56.4 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: Hardee’s seems never to be on my radar. I don’t go looking for it when I’m, say, driving cross country and need to make a quick stop for sustenance. I couldn’t even tell you where it was on Dave Ward Drive, even though I have probably driven past it almost daily for the past 10 years. Yet despite my personal indifference, Hardee’s remains, according to Business Insider online, one of the 20 “most successful fast food chains in America,” coming in at no. 15 for the year 2015. The company runs some 3,152 stores in 40 states and in at least 10 foreign countries, plus another 676 Carl’s Jr. restaurants, mainly in Canada. At least that’s what it says on Wikipedia.

According to She Said, it was high time we reviewed our local incarnation of the Hardee’s brand, so I was prepared to see whether or not my Hardee’s-related apathy was justified.

She Said: I’ve neglected Hardee’s for an unknown reason ever since I used to eat at one regularly in Aberdeen, S.D., and worked at a daily newspaper until after midnight four nights per week. Hardee’s was one of the few eateries open after midnight in my town, and it was on my way home. I’ve eaten their breakfast, their lunch and their dinner, but that was 25 years ago and I weighed more then and cooked less. It was time to try them out again, though, to see how we both had changed. We should warn our readers that this is a Healthy Hardee’s review, as we both abstained from some of the caloric splurges for our own reasons.

Ambience

He Said:Not much to speak of. It’s a pretty typical space for a fast-food restaurant. It’s bright and it seems clean enough. There are booths, tables, and high tables in the space. I had to search a bit for napkins, which are in containers on the tables—only our table did not have a container, so I had to steal napkins from another table.

She Said: I agree it was nothing to write home about, though it was bright and the seats were comfortable. I did think it could have used a little tidying up. There were a couple of tables I thought of sitting at, but they still had the past diners’ detritus on the tables or chairs.

Drinks

He Said: They have Coke products at a fountain here, but those do not include Barq’s Root Beer. Hey, restaurant owners far and wide, I have news for you: Barq’s Root Beer isa Coke product. So stock it or stop telling me that you have “Coke products.”

Sorry for that mini-rant there. They didhave another Coke product that almost nobody ever has—Mello Yello. This, originally Coke’s answer to Mountain Dew, surprised me, and I grabbed a small paper cup-full with all deliberate speed. It wasn’t the Dew, but I would do. They call it Mello Yello quite rightly.

She Said: In the absence of Malbec or a G&T, I chose unsweetened iced tea. It was a little strong, but I could have watered it down a bit more with more ice.

 

Food

He Said: Fast food is always a challenge to me and my pancreas, so of course I was on the lookout for something low-fat. The charbroiled barbecue chicken sandwich caught my eye—so it was broiled, not fried; it was chicken, not red meat; and it had barbecue sauce, not mayonnaise or any other potentially fatty condiments. I jumped at that offering which, as their posted menu advertised, had only a trim 350 calories, and, even better, when I checked Hardee’s online nutrition information, I found it had only 6 (count ’em, 6!) grams of fat. Very likely the healthiest sandwich I’ve run into yet in this quest to visit all Conway restaurants, even chain after chain.

Having done so well on the sandwich, I allowed myself to splurge a bit and order the small crispy curls fried potatoes—and their 18 grams of fat. Yes, I know it was an extravagance, but the one thing that I remembered from former visits to Hardee’s—perhaps some 20 years in the past—were those crispy curl French fries, which I could eat for twisted hour after hour.

They were just as scrumptious in their curly crispness as I remembered. And despite its near fatlessness, the chicken sandwich was far from tastelessness. Admittedly, the barbecue sauce was a little on the bland side (you’d love it, Jones!) compared with some of the actual barbecue places in town, and while the chicken might have been more obviously processed than in those same pens, cafes, houses, or grills, it was still a good head above your typical fast-food place’s chicken sandwich.

She Said: Yes, I was both post-travel dieting and pre-travel dieting so I, too, was interested in a healthier trip to Hardee’s than I enjoyed as a 24-year-old copy editor seeking 1 a.m. sustenance. I, too, looked up the nutritional information before we sped that way and knew what I wanted.

It’s a good thing I did, as I didn’t see the Low-Carb-It options from online on the menu in the restaurant. These are sandwiches that are served as wraps instead of in buns. My server was game and found my choice on his key-board, but I thought it might be something they could make more of—or at least something of—on the store menu. I selected the Low Carb It chicken club sandwich, which is a “marinated skinless chicken breast fillet topped with melted Swiss cheese, two strips of crispy bacon, sliced tomatoes and mayonnaise, packed in a fresh whole-leaf iceberg lettuce wrap.” While it was a bit messy (and it comes wrapped in paper as well as lettuce to help with the eating) and I wouldn’t eat it in a car whilst speeding down the highway if I wanted to arrive somewhere unscathed, I did find it very tasty. The chicken is, indeed, rather prefab, but the dressings are tasty, and I didn’t miss the bun at all. I did remove the tomatoes, as I hadn’t asked for them to be held given the slight delay in ordering when it seemed I was asking for something off the menu.

I sampled one of He Said’s fries, and it was delicious, just as I remembered.

Service

He Said: This isn’t a fast-food place in the sense that you order at the counter and walk away with your food. It’s the kind where you order, get your number, and go sit down until they bring the food to you. Which has the advantage of telling you that here, unlike at, say, a certain yellow-arch-trademarked franchise with a Scottish name, what you order is probably made fresh and hasn’t been sitting around for an indefinite period of time.

I can’t say our guy was fixing to win any awards for “Most Enthusiastic Server,” but he was patient enough as I hemmed and hawed through my order, and helped She Said when her order threw him a curve. And he was prompt in bringing out our lunches. So, no complaints.

She Said: Yes, he was helpful and persistent in finding my order for me when it wasn’t immediately apparent, so I was grateful, even if he wasn’t very high energy.

What We Got and What We Paid: One barbecue chicken sandwich, a small order of crispy curls, a small fountain Mello Yello, plus one Low Carb It charbroiled chicken club sandwich and a small unsweetened iced tea, all for $16.08.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 8 minutes.

Rating

He Said: A cut above the fare at most fast-food joints. Hardee’s is now back on my radar.

She Said: With its low-carb lettuce wrap “sandwich” options, this is fast food for the older, more careful diner than I was when I was a Hardee’s regular in my 20s.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for some healthier, fresher fast-food options, but leave room for curly fries!

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

IMG_1227

Martita’s Restaurant

Martita’s Restaurant

2915 Dave Ward Drive, No. 1

(501) 932-6202

56.4 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said: We were looking for something different to lunch on after church one Sunday, and I’d heard there was a Salvadoran restaurant open in Conway, so after a little Googling and Facebooking, we headed to Martita’s, which also offers Mexican dishes, to try a new-to-us cuisine.

He Said: Yeah, I had driven by this strip mall countless times since the beginning of the year, when Martita’s opened and never noticed it was here. It’s where the other Faby’s used to be—parking signs still have the “Faby’s customers only” text on them, but you’d have a long walk if you were going to park here now for Faby’s. But I digress.

 

Ambience

She Said: It certainly has a family-restaurant atmosphere, as one of the children was watching an Ella Enchanted movie on the dining room television, and I liked that, as it made the food feel homemade for me, too. It’s a small dining room, with an ocean-villa scene on one wall, and felt cozy to me.

He Said: It was cozy. Felt kind of like we were in somebody’s living room. And we were the only customers here after church on Sunday. This place definitely deserves more business than it had the day we were there.

Drinks

She Said: I had unsweetened iced tea, and it was very pleasantly brewed and nicely iced.

He Said: One of the few restaurants that actually lists its soft drinks on the menu, a real plus since I hate having to play the guessing game of what the restaurant might have that I can drink. Anyway, they have Coke products here, and I had a Dr. Pepper. It had clearly come from a fountain.

 

Food

She Said: The menu is extensive, so I started out by ordering a small guacamole to keep me company whilst I perused and pondered. He Said was perfectly happy with the salsa that comes with the chips, but you know, dear reader, how I dislike tomato-flavored food products. I was torn among many offerings: the tilapia special on the board, shrimp tacos, enchiladas with house mole, and something called a pupusa, which I suspected might be Salvadoran. They offer several choices of pupusa at Martita’s, and after I asked our waitress for her opinion on what I should choose, she encouraged me to try the pupusa, as it is indeed a Salvadoran dish and is all handmade at Martita’s from their own recipe. A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla stuffed with a savory filling. I chose the refried-beans-and-cheese pupusa and the pork. A bigger eater might be able to sample more flavors. As it was, I could eat about half of each, as I also ordered a side of refried beans, and I was still noshing on the guacamole and chips.

And what did I think of my food at the Salvadoran/Mexican restaurant? I thought the guacamole was obviously fresh and tasty, but I added a bit of salt. The chips were fine. I lovedthe refried beans and cheese pupusa and liked the pork version. The refried beans side dish was also quite satisfying and tasty. In fact, I took home all I couldn’t eat, had the guacamole on some scrambled eggs that night and finished it up by reheating the pupusa the next morning for breakfast and topping them off.

He Said: So, Jones, what you’re saying is you got three meals out of your Martita’s lunch? I guess you’d call that economic. And by the way, I wouldn’t say I was perfectlysatisfied with the salsa that came with the chips. For me it was really thin and watery.

But that’s really my only complaint. I had one of the specials they had listed on a board on the wall: the Mexican Snapper special, which was cooked in a kind of tomato-ey jalapeño sauce and came with refried beans and Mexican rice, and a choice of corn or wheat tortillas. My palate being extremely sensitive, despite what you may have heard from She Said, I asked them to “go easy on the jalapeños,” which they did. I found the dish to be a real joy to eat, and had myself a happy time rolling snapper, refried beans and rice up in my corn tortillas and adding some of that thin salsa, which was ideal for this particular purpose.

The food tasted fresh and seemed authentic to me, not some Americanized version of what we think Mexican—or Salvadoran—food should be.

Service

She Said: At Martita’s, you are seated by the staff, and waited upon, and then you pay at the counter. Our service was very good. Our waitress was happy to explain the dishes to us and share her recommendations, she checked on us often and shot me no judgment when I ordered a side of refried beans to go with my refried-beans pupusa.

He Said: Yes, she didn’t look down her nose at my wussing out about the jalapeños either. I will venture to say that we got a lot of attention partly because we were the only customers at the time, but I’m sure they are friendly to everyone.

 

What We Got and What We Paid: One small guacamole, two pupusas, one snapper special, one side of refried beans, one Dr. Pepper and one unsweetened iced tea for $29.52.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 20 minutes.

Rating

She Said: I’ll be eating those pupusas again as soon as I can, and if you haven’t tried them, you should!

He Said: This is definitely a place worth visiting, not just another of the 87,524,659 Mexican restaurants in Conway. Spread the word: This place is for real.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for friendly, authentic, homemade Salvadoran food and Mexican offerings as well.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

IMG_0456

Little Caesars Pizza–Oak Street

Review No. 111: Little Caesars Pizza-Oak Street

2235 East Oak Street

(501) 327-0630

55.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

She Said: I had about 18 hours at home between flights for a work trip and a fun trip, and the last thing I wanted to do was go out for a review meal, but we needed sustenance for our bodies and our writing, so we decided to order pizza, and Little Caesars is somewhere you cannot dine in. So, order we did, for carry out.

He Said: There’s more than oneLittle Caesars in Conway, one on the east end and one on the west end of town. We picked the eastern, the newer store, for this review. From what I have read, Little Caesars is the third largest pizza chain in the United States (behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s). It was founded in Detroit in 1959, and now has restaurants all over the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia and the Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America. But not so much in Europe. Don’t ask me why.

Ambience

She Said: Well, the ambience of my kitchen was amazing, so friendly, lots of books, and I allow dogs! I’ll let He Said share what he thought about the ambience of the pick-up environment. But one thing that does drive me crazy about Little Caesars is the absence of the apostrophe on the proper noun… or is the place named after multiple Caesars, without being possessed by them? Grr.

He Said: Yes, we have apostrophes in English usage for a reason. If only people would learn to use them. But I digress. It’s a small and clean lobby, with a couple of places to sit. Not exactly off-putting, but I’ve been in more welcoming places. A dentist’s chair, for instance. Note the use of the apostrophe.

Drinks

She Said: We did not order drinks, because I had a nice Malbec to go with the pizza right here in my kitchen.

He Said:I just want to verify what She Said said. I think I had a root beer from my own refrigerator.

 

Food

She Said: One thing I like about Little Caesars is that they are really set up to customize the pizza, though they don’t offer a large variety of options. We wanted to share a pizza, so we chose a thin crust with mushrooms on all of it, and pepperoni and extra cheese on half of it. (I was supposed to order green peppers on the nonmeat side of things for He Said, but in the ordering hassle—see below—I forgot). They also offer jalapeño peppers and pineapple, among just a few other toppings.

Maybe it was because I was between airport visits, the slices tasted to me like airport pizza, only maybe a little fresher. The thin crust wasn’t quite crispy enough for my taste, but it folded nicely for easy one-handed eating whilst I surfed New York City weather forecasts on my phone in preparation for our trip. Otherwise, it was rather standard-offering pizza, not amazing, not awful. As you know, I think about pizza 95 percent of the time, but I’m willing to blow calories on it about 5 percent of the time. Next time I’m making that investment, I probably won’t choose this pizza, but if it were offered to me, I’d probably eat one piece (which means probably two—or three—pieces).

He Said: In the interest of full transparency, I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of Little Caesars, but then I remember their old gimmick of giving you two pizzas for the price of one (“Pizza! Pizza!”), which came in a weird package and were square. And that didn’t really taste very good, but were cheap. That I believe, is how they were able to play in the same league as Pizza Hut and Domino’s—the pizza was not so good, but it was cheaper.

I have to admit, though, that this time when I had the thin crust pizza with the mushrooms, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve eaten Little Caesars pizza, and I think it’s really gotten much better in that time. Or else I’ve gotten less critical. But I think She Said might disagree with that last statement. I can’t say it’s my favorite pizza in town, but it’s not bad.

Pizza is always a challenge for my low-fat diet. From Little Caesars online nutrition chart, I am estimating that each slice of pizza from our order had about 10 grams of fat, which is not too bad. I ate half the pizza, which means I had about 40 grams of fat. This is not going to send me into hospital-bound pancreatitis, and if I don’t eat anything fatty the rest of the day I should be perfectly fine. So good on ya, Pizza Pizza!

Service

She Said: I can address the ordering service, and He Said can tell you about the pick-up, dear readers. I tried twice to order online, and both times the site hung up. The first time, I got the spinning wheel of eternity after I put in my credit card and thought I had ordered the pizza. I called the store to see if it had gone through, and it hadn’t. I checked my bank account, and it hadn’t gone through, so I tried again. This time I couldn’t even get that far and everything broke down. I like the ideaof ordering online because I’m an introvert, and it’s nice to “design” your pizza to your specifications and then choose what time you want to pick it up all without talking to someone, but I had to give up. When I called the store back, the staffer was very helpful, took the order and told us that yes, indeed, we could pick it up in 90 minutes.

He Said: Of course, 90 minutes is a long time to wait for pizza, but that was the time we wanted it, not how long it was going to take to make. Picking the pizza up was easy and the server was friendly and helpful. No problem there.

It may be pertinent to mention under “service” the public service that Little Caesars has become known for: In addition to a veterans’ program that gives incentives for veterans to open franchises, Little Caesars has also won President’s Volunteer Action Awards from both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for its “Love Kitchen,” which serves pizza to those in need. It does feel good to patronize businesses with some sense of being part of the community.

What We Got and What We Paid: One thin-crust pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and extra cheese for $8.94.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: It was ready when He Said got there to pick it up.

Rating

She Said: This is pretty standard pizza, and not expensive; I’ll go here again if I’m looking for any pizza port in a storm, but otherwise, there’s better pizza in Conway. For the money, though, it’s not bad.

He Said: It’s not the best pizza in Conway but it’s not bad, and it probably isthe cheapest.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for standard, slightly-fresher-than-airport pizza made to order and reasonably priced.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

IMG_0401

Señor Tequila: Mexican Food and Tequila Bar

Review No. 110: Señor Tequila: Mexican Food and Tequila Bar

1117 Oak Street

501-358-6382

54.8 percentage done reviewing Conway restaurants

The Situation

She Said: We wanted to meet our friends from Shanghai for a quintessential Conwegian dinner, so we, of course, chose a Mexican restaurant (I’ll let He Said report how many there are in Conway). Though we’ve been to Señor Tequila many times, we had not yet reviewed it, so they agreed to join us for the ride.

He Said: I think the official number is now 26,472,675. But although Señor Tequila is in a pretty convenient location, being right downtown on Oak Street, this is a location that hasn’t had a lot of luck, since neither Michelangelo’s nor its short-lived replacement Table Mesa (literally “Table Table”) could not make a go of it here. But Señor Tequila is a successful area chain, and perhaps came in with more cachet in its name. At any rate it seems to be hanging in there in a busy downtown restaurant scene.

 

Ambience:

She Said: I’ve always liked this space, no matter the former iteration, Michelangelo’s, “Table Table” and now Señor Tequila. It’s got both cozy seating areas and sunny, naturally-lit areas. It’s a large restaurant but is divided well to host guests in various smaller areas. We were seated in the bar area, which is friendly and chill.

He Said: Yes, the restaurant’s layout is comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, a holdover from the remodeling done for Michelangelo’s. Not a lot has changed in the physical space. Probably because nothing had to.

 

Drinks

She Said: I’ve been cutting back on the cocktails lately to fit into a future vacation wardrobe, but for you, dear readers, I made the ultimate sacrifice. I tried the “Top Shelf” margarita on the rocks, and it was good. The tequila was definitely noted, but the delights of the drink were all present and accounted for. After a small margarita, I switched and enjoyed a glass of cabernet, which was fine—it was a small glass, so wasn’t a super generous pour.

He Said: I was denied root beer here, and so had to go with a Coke. Got a free refill, though. And then had trouble sleeping afterwards because of the caffeine.

 

Food

She Said: I had trouble choosing what to eat, because the menu is huge and varied. I waffled among the appetizers (quesadilla!), specials of the house, enchiladas, combinations and salads for a long time. Finally, I decided, after requesting some guacamole, since I don’t like the gratis salsa that comes with the chips, to try the taco salad with chicken, as I had never sampled that here. One reason I like the guacamole here is that it is nice and chunky, so it feels very fresh and avocado-y. I enjoyed the chicken salad, as well, mainly because it’s a salad (sounds healthy!) that comes topped with sour cream and has lots of seasoned, shredded chicken at the bottom of the delicious, crispy bowl. I added some of the table guac to the top and mixed that in as well—which is perhaps why I couldn’t finish it. It was very filling and delightful, and I would get this here again as well as Bite-Squading it. Our friends, a visiting scholar and her 10-year-old daughter, reported that they, too, enjoyed their food and there was plenty of it.

He Said: Forget what She Said says about the salsa, I think their salsa is very good here, and I ate quite a bit of it with the tortilla chips that they bring ahead of the meal. I had a combination plate with two tacos, refried beans and Mexican rice. The menu specified that these were beef tacos, so I asked the waiter if I could have chicken instead. The server said there was no problem, which made me happy, thinking I was getting a lower-fat option. When the meal came I ate it without paying a lot of attention, but afterwards I realized that I hadn’t gotten chicken at all, but ground beef.

Since I didn’t really notice at the time, I can’t complain too much, since I’m sure if I had pointed it out, they’d have changed the dish. Of course, it probably would have taken some time. But even forgetting that little bump, I have to say that the tacos weren’t anything special. There wasn’t much other than the little bit of ground beef and cheese. I doctored them up by putting some refried beans and salsa on them, but considering the heavy competition with other more independent Mexican places in town, the tacos here don’t put up much of a fight. Oh, they’re all right, but all right doesn’t place them in a category above any of the other Mexican restaurants in Conway.

Service

She Said: Service was friendly and patient—we took a longtime to order. We did need to remind the server to bring the guacamole, and the food seemed like it took awhile, after it also took a little time to place our order. My sense was that the server was stretched thin with lots of tables. We were there to converse and relax, so we weren’t in a hurry or inconvenienced by the wait, but if we’d been in more of a hurry, I’d have felt it.

He Said: Yes, the server did disappear for a fairly long period of time, so it’s good we were not in a hurry to get the check and leave. And let’s not forget the non-chicken tacos. But it’s true he was a bit harried since he didn’t have much help.

What We Got and What We Paid: One taco salad, one taco combination plate, one taquitos appetizer, one kids pollitos, one soft drink, one top shelf margarita and one glass of cabernet for $51.84 (four meals).

Elapsed Time from Arrival to Food Arrival: 38 minutes.

Rating

She Said: Consistent delivery of the “traditional” Arkansas Mexican repertoire, but not too speedy.

He Said: I’d call it pretty generic Mexican food. You probably won’ be terribly disappointed, but you won’t be wowed.

So… He Said and She Said: Go here for reliable and filling traditional (local) Mexican food, but make sure you have time to relax and enjoy.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737

IMG_0983

Logan’s Roadhouse

Review No. 112: Logan’s Roadhouse

410 Elsinger Blvd

(501) 327-8670

55.9 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants

 

The Situation

He Said: She Said was home for the weekend in between two weeks of pretty steady traveling for her day job, and was sick of eating at restaurants, but knew that we needed to review someplace quick while she was home. We were both a little bit dismayed when Logan’s Road House came up, because we remembered when it first opened in Conway and had some very negative Yelp reviews. As a result, we had not ventured to eat there before, but now, enough time having passed that we figured they probably would have closed if they hadn’t fixed those problems, we thought it was time to go and check them out, Eat It, Conway! fashion.

Logan’s Roadhouse is a chain based in Nashville (Tennessee, not Arkansas) with more than 200 restaurants in some 25 states, though the company did go through a bankruptcy in 2016 and closed a number of underperforming restaurants.

She Said: Yes, after the Yelpers put the hurt on this place but good when it opened, it was not on our list of places to try, but our project is to eat in every single restaurant in Conway, so off we went. I’d been having lots of road (or airport) food, but the down-home idea was a little appealing to me after guacamole and cosmopolitan suppers in airport eateries (and drinkeries).

Ambience

He Said:This is a place that gives off a vibe of “traditional American,” with its country music soundtrack and bottomless buckets of free peanuts at each table, its steak-and-sandwich menus, bare wood walls, with old-timey signs.

She Said: Yes, it’s a prefab old-timey vibe here, but it’s not unappealing. I rather like the raw wood walls and country signage. The booths are comfortable and the various dining areas are well divided so you don’t feel like you’re eating in a barn, or rather, an airport hangar.

Drinks

He Said: They have Coke products here, and I ordered a Barq’s Root Beer, which was just what I wanted.

She Said: I had a glass of cabernet, and it was nice enough.

 

Food

He Said: I wasn’t sure what to expect, and went in thinking there might be little on the menu that wasn’tsteak (since “steak” is in fact in the name). Because of my low-fat diet, steak is anathema to my pancreas, and I was just hoping I could find something that was going to feed me—perhaps something green. But I was happy to see first of all, that there is a significant variety of food on the menu, and second, that the menu specifies calorie content for all of the dishes here. I first noticed this while glancing at the dessert section of the menu, where I saw the delicious-sounding Mississippi Brownie contained 1,636 calories—a full day’s worth of calories for most people. Since I wanted to perhaps eat something else today at some point, I opted not to have the brownie.

There is, however, a “Healthy and Hearty” section of the menu, where you can order meals that are actually fewer than 500 calories. And imagine my joy when I saw that plank-grilled salmon was one of the dishes on the “Healthy and Hearty” menu! Okay, Logan’s Road House, I’m sorry I doubted you. I ordered this, which came with a salad and steamed broccoli, and ordered a fat-free vinaigrette salad dressing.

The salmon was pretty small—around 5.5 ounces—but this was lunch after all, and it was grilled nicely. Of course, it was a bit overdone, which is usually the case if you’re not in a true seafood place, but it was not badly overdone. The broccoli was steamed long enough to be pretty soggy rather than crisp, but it didn’t taste bad.

Before the meal we were brought Logan’s signature yeast rolls with butter. These came in a little plastic basket, but we were given no small plates to put them on, which would have been a good idea. They were extremely hot when they arrived, so one could not hold them, and had nowhere to put them down when they were buttered except back in the basket. They were quite tasty, but it was a little awkward eating them.

We also ordered a fried zucchini appetizer, which was breaded and very tasty, though probably not nearly as healthy as the rest of what I was eating. It was kind of addictive, though, I must say.

She Said: Yes, the zucchini appetizer comprised much more breading than veggie in each fry, and some of those I picked up were just breading, the zucchini having fallen out or vaporized in the deep fryer, but they were nicely seasoned, and who doesn’t love fried bread crumbs? I will say, Ruud, your salmon and broccoli weren’t plated very attractively—in fact it looked as if they wanted you to feel the lack of food in your order, with lots of “white space” on the plate and the broccoli rolling about all over.

I allowed myself one of the yeast rolls, as I try to limit bread, rice, pasta and potatoes for scale-related reasons. They tasted very good at first, with a nice buttery, honey glaze. I think I may be a bit spoiled by the alternative flours I use at home, because things made with white flour now taste bland to me, or rather come across in the end with what I call the “dead zone,” or absence of flavor. So it wasn’t hard for me to stick to just one, as by the time I finished it, I’d hit that flavorless point and was bored.

For my entrée, I chose the “Anything & Everything Salad,” which has wood-grilled chicken with romaine lettuce, bacon, walnuts, cranberries, blue-cheese crumbles, tomatoes and hard-boiled egg. I chose blue-cheese dressing to go along with it, as that seemed a good match for the components, but I also asked if it could be made with tomatoes, which won’t surprise my loyal readers who know how I feel about that vile plant product. But, when it came, it did indeed include tomatoes, which were chopped and distributed throughout. I was able to eat around them with some attentiveness. If I’d been allergic to and not just offended by tomatoes, I would have had to return it. The chicken was tender and flavorful, and the croutons were crispy and plentiful. The walnuts and cranberries provided nice flavor and texture variations for the salad, and overall, I enjoyed it.

Service

He Said: Our server was polite, professional and just attentive enough. She refilled my root beer without being prompted, brought the check at the right time and took care of it quickly, and was on guard to stop someone from the kitchen bringing out something intended for a different table before it got put on ours. No complaints about the service.

She Said: I agree with He Said, but I would have liked my salad to have come without tomatoes, as ordered. I didn’t tell her about the error because I didn’t want to wait for a new dish.

What We Got and What We Paid: One zucchini fries appetizer, one Anything & Everything salad, one “Healthy and Hearty” salmon, with salad and steamed broccoli, one root beer, one glass of cabernet, all for $44.59.

Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 22 minutes.

Rating

He Said: You might want to go here for steaks, but we didn’t, so we can’t recommend them from first-hand experience. But you can get a variety of other foods, and the calorie counters on the menu allow you to choose carefully what is right for your health.

She Said: Friendly service in a pleasant downhome-esque environment, and good food with a menu with a wide variety—which makes it a good place for larger parties trying to settle on one venue for lots of different tastes.

So… He Said and She Said: Not a bad chain offering in Conway with a variety of offerings, including salads and heart-healthy plates… and a bar.

NOW AVAILABLE:

If you like these reviews, you might enjoy Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, now available from the publisher at https://encirclepub.com/product/the-bleak-and-empty-sea/. Also available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Jay Rudd

When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told. It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.

Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Bleak-Empty-Sea-Tristram-Mystery/dp/1893035735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503328086&sr=1-1&keywords=Bleak+and+Empty+Sea

Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bleak-and-empty-sea-jay-ruud/1126958139?ean=9781893035737