Rock City Review: Maddie's Place Shines, Mixed Bag at Lost Forty, Big Orange West Falters

My recent ventures into Rock City’s food scene…
A lunchtime dish at Maddie’s Place of chicken thighs with risotto, along with an appetizer of alligator bites, hit the spot…as did the insanely delicious bread pudding for dessert. Do not pass on the aforementioned alligator bites. Meaty and seasoned to perfection, the subtle spiciness of these fried bites compliments the accompanying garlic-chili dipping sauce. The chicken thigh/risotto combo, although quite tasty, is definitely a heavy lunch dish, as was my buddy’s plate of seared red fish with garlic grits, green beans and crawfish etoufee sauce. Richness and heaviness aside, Maddie’s Place is consistently cranking out some of the best food in Little Rock and this meal just proved it once again.
“Inconsistent” is now the word I associate with Big Orange West. One dining experience can be great, and the next…not so much. A patio dinner from two weeks ago left me befuddled, due in large part to a salty Classic turkey burger, average, somewhat limp sweet potato fries, a severely wobbly table, and a dirty patio area. Granted, an outdoor table in need of repairs is not a huge issue, but when you combine it with all the other factors, it just made for a below average dining experience. At one time, this turkey burger was a personal favorite, so I’m hoping like many issues at Big Orange West, they can get it back on track.
We celebrated Greg Henderson’s (Rock City Eats publisher) birthday at Lost Forty Brewing on Friday night. Dining with a large group allowed me to sample several menu items. Hits included the sorgum and black pepper pecans, house-made smoked kielbasas, fried Italian bologna and egg, and the cheese dip with Petit Jean bacon. But without question, my favorite dish was the grilled bread and butter spreads–a perfect bar snack consisting of a variety of butters (dill, honey, and smoked jalapeno), grilled spent grain molasses bread, and those addictively awesome pieces of pickled cauliflower. This plate paired wonderfully with my Love Honey Bock beer. The two misses on the evening were the smoked black pepper brisket, as well as the chips served alongside the cheese dip. The sliced brisket was covered in a barbeque sauce that did its very best to hide the meat’s inadequacies. Both dry and tough, the abysmal brisket seemed to be a product of poor reheating. Regarding the chips, I’m really not sure why Lost Forty would decide to put store-bought variety (that were also somewhat stale) on a plate. They have the means and know-how to do fantastic chips (see Local Lime), so why on earth would they choose not to? In the end, there were far more hits than misses on this night at Lost Forty, not the least of which was the friendly, attentive service we received from the wait staff, no small feat given the hectic Friday night environment.
We also hit up the Arkansas Ale House (inside Diamond Bear Brewing) for a few beers and bites. While my seasonal strawberry blonde beer was fairly pedestrian, the soft pretzel and barbeque chicken wings were not. That warm, buttery pretzel was by far the biggest hit at the table. It’s just a perfect menu item given the setting and one that I wouldn’t hesitate to order on any future visit. On a side note, Daniel Walker had been hyping up Diamond Bear’s root beer, and my one sip definitely did not disappoint.
Holy hell, have you ever ordered the Yazoo pizza at Layla’s? This double crusted pizza is filled with a crazy amount of cheese and two toppings of your choice. We opted for the gyro meat and artichokes. To me, any topping would suffice. This pizza is all about the cheese that’s hidden inside two layers of crispy, cracker crust. Layla’s is such an underrated pizza destination, and now that I’ve tried the Yazoo, I can safely say it’s one of the best pies in town.
I’m a born and raised Houstonian. Houston is the birthplace of Shipley’s Do-Nuts, and while there’s just no comparison between the Houston Shipley’s and Little Rock Shipley’s do-nuts, I am happy to report the kolaches (pigs-in-a-blanket) coming out of the Colonel Glenn location (by Landers Toyota) are fan-freaking-tastic. Get the sausage and cheese kolache and tell me that’s not a great way to start your morning. Apple fritters lovers, you may want to pass on this location’s version. It’s dense and oily and will only take away stomach space from the kolache.
Baja Grill continues to be a model of consistency. The menu is small, but if you’re in need of dynamite taco or burrito, it’s tough to beat what they’re cranking out. My two favorite tacos are the Cuban (slow-smoked shredded pork topped with chipotle aioli, a sour orange red cabbage-jicama slaw, fresco cheese and avocado) and the Pig Sooie (shredded pork topped with barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, southern slaw, and pickled red onions). You can also get those in burrito form. Unfortunately, my mojito this time around was a dud, but that’s not to say Baja is incapable of making a good one, just not this visit. The drink to get is the sangria margarita, especially now that it’s warming up outside.

Rock City
Author: Rock City

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