Signatures: Strawberry Shortcake at Trio’s

Most Arkansas restaurants have that one dish that they’re known by. It’s the dish that you crave, the one that puts the restaurant on the map. It’s the signature dish. This series tells the stories behind some of Little Rock’s most iconic plates and explores what makes them so memorable.

The signature dish

Strawberry Shortcake at Trio’s

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Availability

Trio’s puts its Strawberry Shortcake on the menu as soon as the first Arkansas strawberries are ready and keeps it on through the summer, using California strawberries when Arkansas’ season ends.

The story

This strawberry shortcake recipe has been around far longer than Trio’s has, going back at least to the Sam Peck Hotel, which was owned by Trio’s owner Capi Peck’s grandfather. A woman named Maddie Jackson, who had worked at the hotel for 28 years, came to Trio’s in the first week it was open and worked there for nearly ten years. It was Jackson who taught Peck how to make the Southern-style shortcake (Jackson also gave Peck the recipe for Peck’s Salad dressing, remoulade, and other Sam Peck hotel recipes from memory). From there, Arkansas strawberries did the rest, and soon Peck had a hit on her hands that has stayed popular to the present.

What makes it unique

The shortcake recipe itself is authentic old Southern. Peck calls it a modified pie crust with double the butter added. There are only five ingredients in the flaky crust, and Peck has freely shared the recipe over the years. Unlike ladyfingers, biscuits, angel food cake and other shortcake recipes, this simple, Deep South version adds no sugar. The buttery flavor of the crust and the mildly sweet whipped cream are just a background for Arkansas’ outstanding strawberries to shine. Peck says people come from all over the state to get it when it’s on the menu.

Then there’s Peck’s favorite way to present the strawberries: as a topper on her Banana Delight dessert. Called “Capi’s Way” (she describes it as “strawberry shortcake on steroids”), the dessert is a layering of pecan shortbread, banana pudding, coconuts and sliced bananas that gets a generous portion of thinly sliced, macerated strawberries heaped on the top.

The price

Like all of Trio’s desserts, the Strawberry Shortcake and Banana Delight are $6.50 at lunch and dinner.

The verdict

When Arkansas produce is on, it’s some of the best in the country, and strawberries are no exception. Peck has wisely let the strawberries be the star of the dish for three decades now. You might not find a better strawberry presentation anywhere. Make sure you get yours before Arkansas strawberry season comes to a close.

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Signatures: Strawberry Shortcake at Trio’s