Thursday, December 6, 2012

Come for dessert, stick around for dinner at Alley Oops

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 10:10 AM

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Here's a statement you don't hear too often: "They've got the best chicken strips in town!" This is likely because chicken strips are often best left to the kids’ menu in most cases, alongside the “lil’ weenie” hot dogs, fish sticks, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Yet this was the rumor circulating around the West Little Rock restaurant known as Alley Oops. But having "the best chicken strips in Little Rock" is not all that's been whispered regarding Alley Oops...owner Gary Duke has built a reputation on outstanding desserts, all made in-house from scratch. Hey, I like desserts. So I decided it was time to make a trip to Alley Oops to see if it was actually a slam-dunk, as other have made it out to be.

Alley Oops boasts a decent sized menu, but there's really nothing too extraordinary looking at first glance. They're serving up many of the American standards, things that will hopefully appeal to the widest range of palates and preferences...nachos, burgers, fried shrimp, catfish, burritos, and salads. Not likely anything you'll be encountering for the first time. I was set upon the chicken tender dinner (for maybe the first time in my life) after hearing the favorable reviews. Of course, I could not pass up dessert, so I decided to order two.

The chicken tenders are definitely better than average. When you consider the vast number of dry, jerky-like chicken strips in this world, wasting away under heat lamps in grocery stores and gas station display cases, the chicken tenders served at Alley Oops are noticeably better. The plump, boneless, white-meat chicken strips are all hand breaded. They get a thick, crumbly coating of crunchy batter before hitting the fryer. They come out moist and tender and not overly salty. I'd still prefer a plate of pan-fried, bone-in chicken with thick, crispy skin, but these were actually fairly decent and not an utter disappointment. Not surprisingly, they are paired with a container of honey-mustard dipping sauce, which was a help more than a hindrance. Are they the best in the city? Maybe. I never order these things, so I can hardly say. The chicken is served with your choice of salad or soup, and a choice of fries, onion rings, baked potato, or veggies. I went with the fries, but I'm severely wishing I had chosen otherwise. The fries were clearly not from freshly-cut potatoes. Despite a generous addition of seasoning salt, the fried potatoes lacked flavor. They were likely from frozen potatoes, rather stale, and lacking any crispiness at all. At just under $13, the meal feels a tad pricey, but they are generous with their portions, so it's not entirely unreasonable.

Double-chocolate pecan bread pudding
  • Double-chocolate pecan bread pudding
Luckily, dessert was not a disappointment. The dessert menu changes daily, but there are some items that stick around as they are customer favorites and no one will allow them to leave (namely, the chess and chocolate chess pie). I decided to try the Italian cream cake (highly recommended by our friend, Kevin at The Mighty Rib) and the double-chocolate pecan bread pudding. Two desserts and one entree...being an adult is awesome. The Italian cream cake began the dessert course on a high note. This is a three-layered moist, yellow cake with hints of vanilla with buttermilk. The cake gets a layer of sweetened cream cheese icing between each layer and along its outer edges. The beauty is really in the frosting...it’s tangy, smooth, and rich. The bread pudding was maybe even better. It was so thick with chocolate and caramel, it was hardly recognizable as bread and certainly leaned more towards a pudding consistency than anything else. It was creamy, warm, nutty, and fudgy. The epitome of decadence. A spoon would gently glide through this pudding with the slightest pressure. It's rich enough that one slice was enough for me, although my heart yearned for more as soon as it was gone.

Decent food and extraordinarily good desserts...this sums up my experience at Alley Oops fairly well. I'd not be opposed to returning for dinner, I like burgers, chicken, and sandwiches just fine, but I'm definitely not leaving this place again without a couple of their desserts in my gut.

Alley Oops
11900 Kanis Road
Little Rock
501-221-9400
Open for lunch and dinner Monday — Saturday

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