Eat Progressive: Argenta

It might seem old-fashioned, but the progressive dinner can be a great way to enjoy multiple restaurants in one night. So we’re taking that concept and giving you and your friends some ideas for a fun night out in a great Central Arkansas neighborhood. The plan: hit five local restaurants for five different courses in one evening. Here are the rules:

  • All restaurants have to be in reasonable walking distance. No driving, and no walking a mile to get to your next spot.
  • All restaurants have to be open on Friday and/or Saturday night. These are the best nights to try something fun like this.
  • Only local restaurants are considered; no chains. Should be self-explanatory.
  • Only one course at each restaurant, though you can make up the courses and what order they go in. You can only visit each restaurant once during the progressive dinner.

This week’s neighborhood is Argenta, a densely packed community full of food and entertainment. Again, these are just my suggestions for courses and order; feel free to make up your own.

1. Pre-dinner Drinks: Core Public House

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One thing that Argenta does not lack is beer. There are three quality breweries inside half a mile of each other, but Core gets the starting nod because of its location at the center of Argenta and its wide selection of easily accessible brews. Even if someone in your group says they don’t like beer, there is still something for them at Core, including the brewery’s raspberry lager or even the Ol’ Grumpy Barley Wine. Plus, Core’s spacious interior and open seating mean plenty of room for conversation and fun to start the night off right.

Other options: Drinks at Reno’s Argenta Café, large craft beer selection at Skinny J’s, beers at Flyway Brewing, beers at Diamond Bear

2. Appetizers: Skinny J’s

Skinny J’s is what would happen if Arkansas were the home headquarters of a national chain restaurant. Food there is accessible and friendly, and pretty well made at that. For me, the best items on the menu are the appetizers, which are reasonably priced and big enough to pass around. Skinny J’s does fried avocado as well as anybody, as shown in the restaurant’s Avocado Fries and the Crab and Crawfish Topped Avocado. But if avocado isn’t your thing, try the Reuben Eggrolls (which are exactly what they sound like) or Skinny Pickles, or go the ultra-traditional route with the Cheese Fries or the Queso dip. Skinny J’s is also home to a surprisingly deep craft beer lineup, so you won’t have trouble finding something tasty on tap to pair with your apps.

Other options: pretzels at Flyway Brewing, sushi at KamiKaito, duck wings at Cregeen’s, soup and/or salad at Ristorante Capeo

3. Entrees: Flyway Brewing

Honestly, you could have inserted Flyway into almost any of your five stops and been perfectly content, but I wanted to put them here to drive home one point: Flyway makes wonderful food. Yes, Bluewing and their other brews will forever be the company’s calling card, but I don’t know how you can visit without ordering something off the food menu. The Double Beef Cheddar Bomb is legitimately one of the best burgers in Little Rock, while the Marinated Tofu Banh Mi is arguably the one of Central Arkansas’ best-kept food secrets. And if sliders aren’t your thing, opt for one of the wild game sausages, like wild boar topped with black-eyed peas and pickled okra, or rabbit with bell pepper relish. It’s casual and it’s not expensive, but it is outstanding fare. Even those who don’t drink whatsoever should head into Flyway for a bite.

Other options: dinner at Ristorante Capeo, udon noodles at KamiKaito, steak at Skinny J’s

4. Dessert: Local Honey Panna Cotta at Ristorante Capeo

This is one of those dishes that gets easily overlooked on the menu … unless you’ve had it previously, in which case you might just order it ahead of your meal. The custard-like cream has a wonderful texture that encourages you to take small bites and savor the flavors, but it’s the way the rich, deep honey washes over your palette that will have you in amazement. The first time I tried this dessert was more than two years ago, and I’ve returned many times for dinner simply because I knew it would be waiting for me at the end of the meal. In my opinion, it’s one of the city’s best dessert options.

Other option: Big Rock Root Beer Float at Diamond Bear

5. After-dinner Drinks: Four Quarter Bar

Open for less than two years, Conan Robinson’s late-night establishment is just about the perfect venue to end a fun evening out. The atmosphere is boisterous and laid-back, and the drink menu is robust and satisfying (the Bloody Mary in particular is one of the best around). Best of all, Four Quarter has a good habit of attracting talented live music acts that will keep the party going for you and your friends. And as an added bonus, if you followed these five stops exactly, you’re now only a block away from where you started.

Other options: The Main Thing show at The Joint Theater, Irish whisky at Cregeen’s, wine at Ristorante Capeo, Shadowhands Stout at Flyway Brewing

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Eat Progressive: Argenta