Around the Rock: Tamales at a Little Rock Landmark

Welcome to “Around the Rock,” a weekly peek into my culinary adventures and a means to keep you in the loop with all the happenings in our Little Rock food scene.

Well, it was about damn time I ventured out to Doe’s Eat Place on the edge of downtown Little Rock. Some fellow foodies and I were dead set on finally trying out their famous tamales and chili. My final opinion … they lived up to the hype. The nearly 1:1, masa-to-meat ratio is something you always look for in great tamales, and Doe’s version certainly has it. Besides that, I found the tamales to be moist, flavorful and mildly spicy … and a perfect complement to the meaty, slightly runny chili. Also, don’t sleep on Doe’s lightly battered fried shrimp with tartar sauce and those delicious fresh-cut fries. If the food doesn’t grab a hold of you, the cozy, down home atmosphere certainly will.

Our family dinner at Kiyen’s in West Little Rock was filled with issues. Although my Black Jack Roll (spicy crab, cucumber, avocado, and salmon) was beautiful and tasty, the rest of the meal left a lot to be desired. We found a small bone in a piece of yellowtail sushi, the pan-fried pork gyoza (dumplings) lacked a tasty filling, and the chicken yaki soba (noodles) had skimpy bits of dried chicken scattered throughout. All and all, a disappointing visit, to say the least.

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The always warm and friendly Hannah from Little Rock Pie Cycle is closing down for the season, but I wanted to take a moment to recognize her delicious sweet potato hand pie I devoured from last weekend’s Hillcrest Farmers Market. Hopefully, she’ll be back in action soon!

Back-to-back fantastic lunches at Rock’n Tacos and then at Baja Grill in Benton, made for an enjoyable week. If you’re looking for a good, quick, reasonably-priced lunch, I can’t recommend Rock’n Tacos enough. I usually order the shredded chicken salad bowl with a Coke Zero ($10), which never disappoints. A monster fried tortilla shell is filled with flavorful chicken and the standard toppings: black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, and salsa. And while Rock’n Tacos is good, Baja Grill is something special. To date, Craig, Melissa, and crew have produced the best tacos I’ve consumed in Arkansas. You really can’t go wrong with anything at Baja Grill, but I particularly recommend the Pig Sooie, Blackened Shrimp, and Cuban tacos, all double corn tortilla tacos filled to the brim with the freshest ingredients. Baja’s ability to marry various sweet, sour, and spicy flavors is truly what separates them from the competitors.

Special thanks again to Rex Nelson and Blake Eddins for having me and Daniel Walker on the Weekly Fried Show (93.3 FM…Mondays 7-9p). Here’s the link to the interview. As foodies, we are so thankful for the opportunity to discuss our passion over the radio.

Speaking of Rex … he’s a board member for the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. The museum, located in New Orleans, will include over 15 separate exhibits in a 15,000 square foot space, dedicated to a Gallery of the South: States of Taste. To help raise funds for the construction and provision of a permanent Arkansas exhibit, an event will be held on Thursday, November 21, at the Capital Hotel (from 6:30-9 p.m.). Tickets are $125 per person (food and wine stations will be provided). “The permanent Arkansas exhibit will encourage visitors to the New Orleans museum to travel to Arkansas and experience our state’s burgeoning food and beverage destination through the sights, sounds smells and tastes of our culinary culture,” said Rex Nelson. For more information on the event, email morris.leslie@sbcglobal.net.

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Around the Rock: Tamales at a Little Rock Landmark