It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with Samantha’s Tap Room and Wood Grill. The eatery sits patiently on the corner of Fourth and Main, where it’s always been, a laidback space with a settled rhythm.
The three man kitchen team – John Munday, James Thompson, and Marshall Smith – bring nearly 60 years of combined experience to the table, and upon pulling up a chair, it’s hard to miss. Plus with Kevin Case in charge of drinks, you’re not likely to leave dissatisfied.
First up, appetizers. We tried the beloved House Made Pork Skins as well as a board labeled Spicy, Smokey and Sweet. Our waitress informed us that people often inquire about the pork skins, and after one bite it’s easy to see why. Perfectly seasoned, the skins are on a whole new level compared to the all too-frequently served bland ones. The board comes with grilled Andouille, smoked cheddar, pepperocinis, stone ground mustard (which trust, us, is hard to share) and sweet and tangy bread and butter pickles. We also got to try a few lamb pork chops, which were smoky and slightly sweet, and didn’t last long on our plates.
For the mains, we enjoyed the Ribeye which was the perfect temperature with great flavor from the wood grill. For something from the sea, we had the Chilean Sea Bass, which was juicily grilled to perfection. We also tried the special that day – a catfish dish that transported us to New Orleans.
Chef James Thompson presented the dish, saying, “I’m originally from Louisiana, so this dish has that influence in terms of spices.”
We had a smattering of sides with our dishes, including the Creamy Asiago Cheese Grits which could likely convert a grits-hater due to the altogether rich combination of flavors. The Vinegar Braised Collard Greens were light and tasty, and the Sour Cream and Scallions Mashed Potatoes were a crowd pleaser.
As far as drinks go, Samantha’s has really made their tap work for them. The first restaurant in Little Rock to offer such a wide selection of wine on tap, they also continually support local craft brews.
You can’t skip dessert at Samantha’s. Everything you’ve heard about their waffles is true. The golden goodness of a warm waffle topped with banana’s foster and vanilla gelato is a great way to end your meal. We also attempted to dig all the way into Marshall Smith’s Chocolate Sack, an original dessert that debuted at SO Restaurant and Bar before Smith worked for Samantha’s. It’s shaped like – you guessed it – a brown paper lunch sack.
Filled with strawberries, ice cream, cookies, and more chocolate, Smith says, “This one is different from the one at SO, it’s a different shape and has different fillings.” It’s a delectable treat, is what it is.
Navigating the menu is a pleasant experience, perfect for that indecisive foodie that wants to try one of everything. Plus, the menu spans a wide-range – and truly celebrates the versatility and great flavor of cooking on a wood grill. You can order drinks before a show at the nearby Arkansas Repertory Theatre, choosing from the 32 beers and 20 wines on tap, or you can share a few entrees or appetizers with friends after a day at work. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but you’ll be getting exactly what you want to eat.
If you haven’t been in a while, stop by and check it out – Samantha’s has truly found its groove.