My recent ventures into Rock City’s food scene…
It’s pretty tough for me to resist ZAZA’s salad of the month. I guess June’s edition, the Arkansas Blueberry Waldorf Salad, proved to be too difficult for me to pass up as well. An enormous bowl of mixed greens, Cedar Rock Acres Farm blueberries, apples and walnut salad, chicken, and a fair amount of honey-balsamic dressing, made for a perfect summertime lunch. Like most folks, I’ve had many a great salad at ZAZA, but this one, with those plump, tart blueberries and crunchy walnuts, is now one of my favorites.
If you’ve been paying attention to South on Main’s pictures on social media, you may have noticed chef Matt Bell has upped his game with what seems to be more nightly specials–ones that are not only more technically advanced than what we’re used to seeing on the menu, but also more aesthetically appealing. Case in point…the “Bacon & Eggs,” a quail egg and trout roe resting atop a toasted round of bread, along with a smear of mayo and spoonful of bacon jam. Bell excels at creatively combining varying flavors, and his latest version of bacon and eggs certainly encompasses what we’ve grown to love about the restaurant. The only problem with the dish was its small portion size. I wanted more of it. Kudos to David Burnette on the Fireball … a refreshing cocktail of whiskey, lemon juice, and cinnamon syrup.
I celebrated the Triple Crown by ordering The Thoroughbred at Capital Bar & Grill. The drink, consisting of bourbon, ginger beer, lime juice, and crushed ice served in a copper mug, is a perfect cocktail for this time of year.
Afterwards, we dined across the lobby at One Eleven, which surprisingly enough was my first dinnertime experience at the restaurant. Dining with a group of four, I was able to sample several dishes, including the leek salad with pecans and blue cheese, duck ham with fig chutney, oysters Rockefeller, halibut with shrimp tortellini, and venison ravioli. The duck ham was visually stunning and quite tasty, as was the venison ravioli, but the big hit for me was that delicate leek salad with meticulously cubed pieces of blue cheese. It’s a must order. I also received excellent reports from my wife on the onion soup and the lamb. My halibut dish was a mixed bag, as I loved the tortellini, but thought the halibut (though a firm fish) was a tad overcooked. I’d also pass on ordering the much too creamy oysters Rockefeller. There were far more hits than misses with our experience, but when you dine at a place like One Eleven, near perfection should be expected, and this meal was far from it. Unfortunately, clunky, inattentive service was also an issue. Our party did, however, enjoy the more laid back atmosphere of One Eleven compared to the old Ashley’s.
Checked out Benton’s Mo’ Betta Gumbo with the kids for an early lunch. The restaurant is cozy with a warm, inviting décor. We shared an app of hush pups that proved to be a well-seasoned, fried to perfection meal starter. My daughter’s enormous bowl of red beans and rice with Andouille (and a side of sweet cornbread) was a big hit. Soft beans gave way to juicy pieces of spicy sausage that had a wonderful grilled exterior. Pass on the Yard Bird po’boy, a sandwich piled with what was supposed to be “Cajun grilled chicken” but instead was bland (possibly reheated) poultry. My youngest daughter ordered the kid’s meal mac and cheese. For $4.99, she received a small bowl of boxed mac and cheese and a tiny bag of plain Lay’s potato chips. Another miss. Mo Betta’s menu is intriguing and based on the success of the red beans and rice, I’m guessing the menu’s other traditional Cajun dishes are also a hit. Go check them out, especially if you live in the Benton/Bryant area.
Bunkers Sports Bar & Grill in Sherwood was an absolute hit with my crew. We spilt an order of fried green beans, a cheeseburger, and a basket of hand-breaded chicken tenders. Not the healthiest of meals, but we loved every bite of it, especially those chicken tenders. The thick-pattied, juicy, no frills cheeseburger reminded me of something I’d grill at home, which is a compliment. They’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, but if you’re in search of a casual, family friendly restaurant with good food, solid prices, and plenty of televisions to watch your games, Bunkers is an excellent option.