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Little Rock – Where to Feast

September 5, 2011

A DC feasting survey the post before last and now, this week…Little Rock?  Yes, and don’t you dare sneer. Arkansas is lovely.  Although, this list is far shorter than the earlier DC post because I tend to be fed very well by family members while in Little Rock (a clue to my bias).   If you find yourself in the capital of the natural state, these are a few tried and true favorites

Mexico Chiquito – Crack.  The put crack in their salsa.  Or something.  I must have Mexico Chiquito within 24 hours of visiting Little Rock (and there are locations across both Little Rock and North Little Rock).  To the untrained eye, it seems like an unexceptional little place.  Nay.  The salsa, the cheese dip, and the punch are a trio of deliciousness.  Their entrees aren’t half bad either (TACOS), but I can founder on the other fixings alone.  If you go and it’s not your cup of tea, I don’t care to hear about it.

Catfish (as a dish) – Going out for catfish is almost as essential as (multiple) mexican food runs.  Plenty of places to choose from.  Catfish Hole is a strong contender – family style sides, perfect corn meal crust on the fish, plates of pickles and onions.  It is a North Little Rock establishment with…character, and for some of my family members, it is the only acceptable source for fried fish.  For nostalgic reasons, Cock of the Walk has a special place in my heart.  Whereas Catfish Hole is a no frills kind of place, Cock of the Walk does indulge in some schtick: the servers used to wear hats with a red pin-feather, corn bread is flipped table-side in cast iron skillets, and it is as if an itinerant diamond prospector selected the plates and decor.  Love it.  The hush puppies are also properly made with jalapenos in the batter.  Anndddd, fried dill pickles and greens.  Yum.   Grampa’s Catfish House, also decent.  Before your fried fish arrives, crack some peanuts open and throw them shells ON THE GROUND.

Faded Rose –  Unlike the above restaurants (which I have been going to for over two decades) the Faded Rose is a new addition to my Little Rock repertoire.  Fantastic atmosphere.  Loved the cheese grits and shrimp.  Fried green tomatoes weren’t half bad.

Purple Cow – Basic American diner-ish fare.  Main claim to fame – purple milkshakes.  My nine-year old self couldn’t get enough of them.

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PS For Mexico Chiquito devotees, here are the closest recipes I’ve found to replicate the salsa and punch.  Alas, for both, there’s just something missing, but they work to ease cravings.  As to the cheese dip, no recipe really comes close.  You’re on your own.

Salsa

– Large Can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes (must be Hunts)

– 1-2 Jalapeno peppers

–  a healthy 2 teaspoons of garlic salt

– dash of vinegar

– 1-2 cloves of garlic

I use a food processor on the garlic and jalapenos (I also throw in a couple of sprigs of cilantro from time to time).  I set that puree aside and pulse – just slightly – the whole tomatoes.  Still want them kind of chunky.  Then the other ingredients (plus a dash of lime juice) get mixed into the tomatoes and the pepper/garlic puree.  Again, it comes close and is a fairly tasty salsa in its own right.  Don’t be shy with the garlic salt.

Punch

– 6 cups of tea (your choice re caffeinated vs. decaffeinated, Luzianne vs Lipton)

– 1  46 oz. can of pineapple juice

– 3 Tbsp. lemon juice

– 1 3/4 cups of sugar

– 1 cup of hawaiian punch

– red food coloring (optional)

In order to achieve the iridescent red of the real Mexico Chiquito punch, it would take a whole bunch o’ red food coloring.  I find that since the taste is so similar, I don’t really need the red.

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