Rock City Review: The Magic of Maddie's Place, Pie Hole Pleases, Yellow Rocket Rises To The Occasion

Time once again for me to spout off about all the food consumption that’s taken place in my life as of late. Stay with me, folks, there’s some good eating to be had here…
Need I even remind you what a gem Maddie’s Place is? Probably not…but I will do so anyways. I’ve always been a proponent for more mac and cheese in the lives of American citizens. Little Rock, surprisingly, is rather short on high-grade versions of the classic dish…but Maddie’s fans know they can find one of the best plates of mac at this restaurant. I recently treated myself to a plate of their famous fried chicken served on a plate of macaroni and cheese. I wouldn’t recommend the dish to anyone concerned with counting calories…it’s a fairly heavy plate of food…but I would highly recommend it to anyone else with a tongue. The chicken boneless and incredibly juicy (I suspect there is some brining involved here). The breading is fried crisp the entire bird is drizzled with a fabulous sweet and spicy hot sauce…the one element that really makes the dish sing. The chicken swims in a sea of golden-yellow noodles and cheese. The cheese sauce is thick and coats each elbow noodle gracefully. You need this in your life.

Unfortunately, I was less impressed with the food on a recent trip to west Little Rock’s Another Round in the Rock Creek Square Plaza shopping plaza off Markham and Bowman. The restaurant is a lesser known hot-spot for a rotating list of excellent live music acts…and on our visit there, we were treated to the sweet sounds of a talented jazzy troupe. While the music was pleasant, the food was less successful. My plate of fish and chips left a lot to be desired. The batter-dipped fish felt a bit soggy with almost no crunch whatsoever. The fish was lifeless and tasted as though it had spent far too long in someone’s freezer…its time spent in the ocean merely a distant memory. The fries, while generously coated in a slightly spicy proprietary seasoning blend, were also clearly the brand you pull from a plastic bag, from freezer to fryer. Their popular “Reuben egg rolls” were a nice idea, but they were so thin, the filling of diced pastrami, cabbage, and cheese was barely noticeable. The egg roll wrappers were chewy and not much help, either.
Next time you decide you need more pie in your life (which is actually right this very moment) … I’d recommend you get over to see Lauren Harrison at The Pie Hole. Her pie truck is dishing up some mighty fine forkfuls…and she always provides an excellent way to end a night full of food truck fare. I recently woofed down her “black bottom oatmeal pie” which featured a decadent dark chocolate fudge underneath a sweetened layer of chewy oats. Needless to say…it did not last long in my hands.
A quick plug for Diamond Bear’s ridiculously good root beer. I’ve made my way over to their headquarter in North Little Rock a couple times recently and filled my growler with their sensational brew…yes, you can fill a growler with root beer. Their root beer is perfectly carbonated…fizzy but not too sharp. It’s also not overly sweet and sugary and it’s got some interesting anise notes at the end of each gulp that really make it an exceptional beverage.

We essentially gave as much money to Yellow Rocket as possible last week when we visited the trifecta of Big Orange (West), ZAZA, and Heights Taco & Tamale Co. And after visiting each, it remains clear to me why this group is such a popular choice with nearly everyone in Little Rock…
At Big Orange West, one of the more veteran Yellow Rocket establishments, great food was coupled with excellent service…and everyone went home happy. We sat on the patio, and while we were the only diners eating on the patio (the indoor seating was packed), our waiter was attentive, friendly, patient and accommodating. Food was as good as ever, too. I had the Pimento Cheese Burger, added bacon. I requested it be cooked medium-rare…and it came out perfectly pink and juicy. The combination of salty bacon, creamy melted pimento cheese, and slightly sweet green tomatoes was a wonderful combination of flavors. The wife ordered her standard Thai Chopped Salad…which is easily one of my favorite salads in town.
ZAZA Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza Co. did not disappoint either. I gobbled down the night’s special…a splendid white pie with roasted leeks, asparagus, soft egg, and crispy pancetta from Travis McConnell’s Butcher & Public. The runny golden egg yolk trickling through bits of salty pancetta…there’s no way that could go wrong.
Lastly, we did a quick set of apps and drinks at Heights Taco and Tamale Co…sat out on the patio and chatted a bit with the help of the salsa trio and their freshly fried chips. I’m starting to think HTT’s salsas are even more enjoyable than those at Local Lime…but that’s a tough call.  My go-to trio involves the warm green chile salsa, the jalapeno-onion cream dip, and the tomato-jalapeno marmalade. The marmalade, in particular, is unlike anything I’ve found served in these parts. A little sweet, a little spice, even cinnamon-y…it reminds me of a Mexican Christmas party.
And a final note…I’ve loved Loblolly Creamery since the very first day I wrapped my lips around its cool, creamy, frozen delights. It’s always been a staple in my diet. But since the arrival of Matthew Lowman, the ice cream has gotten even better…and I didn’t even know that was possible. It’s more flavorful, richer, creamier. I had two scoops of buttermilk ice cream the other day that very well may have been the best bite I’ve ever been served at Loblolly. I will be back…often.

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