I’ve had Maddie’s Place wrong all these years. You see, all along I’ve always thought of the standout Riverdale establishment as a New Orleans restaurant. And with items like jambalaya, gumbo and po’boys on the menu, there’s no denying where Brian Deloney gets his inspiration and where Maddie’s Place has its roots. But grilled salmon? Macaroni and cheese? Shrimp tacos? These staples on the Maddie’s Place menu clearly didn’t originate in Louisiana. It wasn’t until I stopped in last week to check out some of the new menu items that I figured it out: Maddie’s Place just serves great food that can come from anywhere, but it’s always viewed through a New Orleans perspective.
“It’s just a matter of cooking food and putting the Creole twist on it,” said sous chef Austin Hill. “It’s not so much exploring New Orleans, I mean, you could go into the history of it. But it’s adding that spice and that flair. And a lot of butter,” he said with a laugh.
That distinction between a New Orleans restaurant and a restaurant that creates food in the New Orleans style might seem trivial, but in fact it allows Maddie’s Place to explore dishes a typical Cajun or Creole restaurant wouldn’t dare. Take the Smoked Tomato Bisque, which is back on the menu after a year or two off (fans, rejoice). It’s just a simple tomato bisque recipe with the addition of a 40-minute smoke bath for the tomatoes. Goat cheese on toast points and a parsley puree round out the dish, which seems almost European in its inspiration. But with a few Creole spices and consumed alongside a po’boy, it just works (it doesn’t hurt that the soup is fantastic).
Other new items on the Maddie’s Place menu are planted more firmly in Louisiana heritage. The new Crawfish Bread appetizer is pure Gulf Coast comfort food, with crawfish in a cream cheese dressing served on garlic toast. The restaurant’s signature Creole tomato glaze (or CTG, as the kitchen calls it) helps tie the dish to the rest of the menu. That CTG can also be found in the new Crispy Mississippi Catfish plate, which features flaky fish in a crunchy crust with robust seasoning. Black-eyed peas and those wonderful Maddie’s Place greens round out a plate that is going to be popular here in Little Rock.
Fresh seafood stars prominently at Maddie’s Place, and it doesn’t get much fresher than the Seafood Pasta. Your choice of crawfish or shrimp gets simmered in Creole butter and tossed over rotini pasta for a rich plate that smacks of the Gulf. And while you won’t find salmon in the Gulf of Mexico, the new Grilled Salmon dish with grits and Brussels sprouts will still remind you of Louisiana cuisine. The CTG again helps here, but the star is the perfectly grilled salmon with its crispy exterior and buttery center. It is almost certainly one of the best items on a stellar menu.
Dessert at Maddie’s Place is also worth your time, whether it’s the dreamy Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie or the Bread Pudding with Spiced Rum Sauce. However, there’s always a fried pie option that fits right in here in Arkansas. When I visited, it was a cheesecake-filled fried pie, and if you think that was amazing, you’re exactly right. And again, that’s not necessarily a New Orleans or Louisiana thing. But Maddie’s Place doesn’t limit itself to just one state. This is a restaurant that recreates food from around the world. But what it does best is express its heritage through exploring dishes that aren’t always from around here.