One of the oldest and best-loved of these establishments is Leo's Greek Castle, a small restaurant in Hillcrest that is the definition of quaint and cozy. Unlike Little Rock's other Greek restaurants, Leo's sports a menu that not only includes the expected gyros, hummus, and shawarma, but also has a full breakfast menu and a wide selection of American-style burgers and sandwiches to fit any taste. It's impressive that the place can manage such a wide menu out of such a small location, but whether sitting in the small interior dining room, taking advantage of the patio, or picking up an order to go, Leo's brings the deliciousness quickly to the hungry masses.
On a recent trip to Leo's we started off with a plate of hummus, and were treated to a large bowl of the smooth chickpea dip coupled with an ample amount of warm, soft pita. The hummus was one of the more uniquely flavored versions I've had in town, with a sour tang to it that reminded us more of pickle juice or mustard rather than the expected lemon juice. While surprising, it didn't hurt the flavor of the dip whatsoever, and we found ourselves enjoying the creamy-textured spread more and more as our tastebuds became used to the flavor. I'm normally a fan of tahini-heavy hummus, and while the sesame paste flavor was barely present here, I would still consider this one of the better versions in town. The hummus is one of several appetizers available, with classics like baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, dolmades, and even an oddly incongruous gazpacho.
Of course, any place that calls itself a "Greek Castle" better be able to make great gyros, and Leo's does. I was a little skeptical at my sandwich at first, as the shaved beef and lamb mixture was fried to a darker, more well-done texture than I'm used to, but my doubts all evaporated at the first bite. Crisp edges gave way to a tender, moist interior on each piece of meat, and the tangy tzatziki sauce and plentiful onions and tomatoes made for a nice complement to the hearty portion of gyros meat. Just as with the hummus dip, the pita was soft, fresh, and warm, and the even distribution of ingredients across the sandwich made each bite the perfect balance of flavor. There are several good gyros places in town such as Layla's and Ali Baba, and Leo's certainly joins those as an elite place to get your gyros fix.
Not being in the mood for Greek food, my dining companion decided to order from the American side of the menu, and after finding out that Leo's was out of avocados for the California Burger, she went for the most American of all burgers: the Bacon Cheese Burger. The burger came out with a large, flavorful grilled beef patty, a slice of melted American cheese, and enough crispy bacon to prove that Leo's might know a thing or two about breakfast, too. The toppings were pretty standard: iceberg lettuce, tomato, and a few too many onions, but the large burger was still quite tasty. It's become common for restaurants to offer multiple menus to span different ethnic cuisines, but Leo's is the sort of place that was doing it before it got trendy; whether you want to call it a diner that serves Greek food or a Greek place that serves diner food, the result is always tasty.
I've been on a search for the best gyros in town, and I've got to say that Leo's definitely takes its place among the elite purveyors of shaved meat. The service leaves a little to be desired, but the food comes out hot and quick, making it a great spot for lunch. The cafe is located at 2925 Kavanaugh, and they're open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
We catch grief from time to time on Eat Arkansas for our love of diner food, and I'm willing to admit that I eat and write about diners often enough to wonder if I might need to find some sort of 12-step program related to this addiction. Diners tend to have most of the things I look for in a meal experience, though: they're cheap, usually locally-owned, and normally possessed of a friendly and familiar nature that comes from years and years serving the the same clientele. One of Central Arkansas' best examples of this kind of diner is Ed & Kay's, a family-owned diner that's been serving up hot food and made-from-scratch pies for decades. I've always been amazed that folks will drive right past the home-cooked deliciousness of a place like Ed & Kay's to places like Cracker Barrel and Dixie Cafe that slop a veneer of faux-nostalgia over inferior food and shoddy service. At Ed & Kay's, there's nothing fake about the food or the atmosphere, with pancakes as big as a dinner plate and lighter than air, fresh grown vegetables from the garden plot next door, and pies that they don't call "mile high" for nothing.
Our favorite of those skyscraper pies is the Coconut Cream, although they're all pretty good. The coconut filling of this pie is rich and creamy, with a consistency that walks the line perfectly between being firm enough to stay on a fork without being dry and rubbery. The meringue is a real joy with this pie, because despite the large quantity piled on top, it's whipped so light and airy that there's never any danger of it overpowering the flavor of the pie itself, and the toasted coconut on top adds a nutty, chewy element to the pie that makes for a nice contrast of textures. Holding everything together is the sort of tender, flaky crust that gives just the right hit of buttery savoriness to the entire pie to pull everything together nicely.
Of course, not everybody is a fan of meringue, and while I think that makes you a little crazy, Ed & Kay's has plenty of pies to satisfy your taste. Chocolate fans shouldn't miss the German Chocolate Pie, a chocolate custard pie with a rich, deep flavor and a crunchy top that reminded me of a cross between homemade fudge and a fresh-baked brownie. And of course, the classic Apple Pie is a wonderful choice, because not only is the filling of tender apples heavy with the flavor of cinnamon and all-spice, but the whole thing is enclosed in more of that flaky, buttery crust. The pies at Ed & Kay's rotate periodically, so if there's something you want to try that isn't available on a certain day — well, that's just all the more reason to come back.
We're usually pretty slow and lazy on Sunday mornings, which isn't good when trying to make it to a restaurant that has a firm cut-off time between breakfast and lunch. We had been planning for awhile to have breakfast at Bryant's Home Plate Diner, but arrived at the 50's-themed restaurant about 10 minutes after they stopped serving their wide selection of pancakes, waffles, breakfast burritos, and sandwiches. Our waitress was apologetic about it, and while we've always thought that diners should serve a full menu all day, it's certainly understandable that smaller places have to limit the amount of prep they do and food they have out at one time. The diner has a pretty respectable lunch menu, though, and armed with a bottomless cup of coffee we quelled our disappointment, grooved out to some Beach Boys on the jukebox, and switched our late breakfast to an early lunch.
We decided to go for two diner classics, the Patty Melt and the Home Plate Club, because if a place like this can't do a club sandwich or patty melt well, they probably can't do anything at all. The Patty Melt was a thick, juicy hamburger patty on well-toasted bread with a gooey slice of American cheese and grilled onions. Patty melts can suffer from any number of problems, with dry meat, underdone onions, and soggy bread topping the list. This sandwich had none of those, and while a patty melt could never be considered fine dining, this was certainly a well-made version, with toast that was substantial but not too thick, onions that were soft and slightly caramelized, and beef that stayed on the grill just long enough to get seared well and cooked through without losing any moisture. The fries to the side were of the pre-seasoned and frozen variety, but they were crisp and fresh, still steaming from the fryer.
The club sandwich was advertised on the menu as being served on a croissant, but our waitress came back from the kitchen to let us know that they were out of croissants, so we opted to go with simple white bread toast. We're not sure how good the sandwich is on the croissant, but it worked just fine for us on toast — and in fact, we rather liked using the traditional bread for this mainstay sandwich. The club was loaded with ham, turkey, and thick-cut bacon, topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Like the patty melt, the club wasn't anything ground-breaking, but it was as good a simple sandwich as we've found. We were less pleased with the onion rings we ordered to the side, which to our taste had too much coating for the thin rings of white onion. We like our rings to have less coating, preferring a tempura-style batter to the thick breading that these rings came with. The flavor of the onion rings was tasty, but the fluffy, slightly crisp batter was just too heavy and retained far too much fryer oil for us — but fans of thick onion rings should feel very happy with these.
The bottom line on Home Plate Diner is that it's an inexpensive and very solid option for a simple lunch. The service was very friendly, with multiple people asking us if we needed anything and always keeping our coffee cups piping hot and full to the rim. The 50's decor and music can be a little much at times, but the Trivial Pursuit cards on every table made for a fun diversion while we waited for our food. If you're in the mood for a cheap, fresh meal that will cost you less than a fast food combo meal, this is the place for you — and I hope next time I can wake up early enough in the morning to grab some breakfast.
Home Plate Diner is located at 2615 North Prickett Road in Bryant, and they're open 7 a.m. - 2 p.m. Sunday-Monday, and 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.
It all started in an unassuming little red trailer parked on Military Road with "EatMyCatfish.com" emblazoned on a hanging banner to the side. Benton's a small town, though, and word soon got out about the food coming out of that trailer: fresh fried fish, mud bugs, chicken strips, and shrimp that folks around these parts considered as good or better than anything they'd ever eaten in a sit-down restaurant. As the buzz around Eat My Catfish grew, so did their sales, and within the last year they traded in the trailer for a more permanent location in a shopping center across the street near Sutherland's Hardware. It's not nearly as visible a location as the bright red trailer right off the road was, but it does make a nice bit of difference when the temperature's over 100 and a hankering for the fried stuff sets in.
Eat My Catfish makes no secret of what it's about: things dipped in batter and fried crisp in the numerous deep-fryers that line the wall, and they know their business well. Ordering is simple, just walk right up to the counter and take your pick from a menu that doesn't offer anything grilled as a sop to the health nuts. On our recent trip, we started off with one of our favorite delicacies, a basket of Fried Pickles ($5.00). Now fried pickles come in two varieties — limp, soggy horrors that somebody pulled out of a bag in the freezer and the freshly battered, screaming-hot from the grease kind. The pickles here were the latter, and the salty, slightly spicy fish batter that Eat My Catfish uses transformed a healthy-sized portion of regular hamburger dill chips into an appetizer that was crunchy on the outside with a soft, tart middle. Served to the side was a cup of the South's most popular condiment, ranch dressing. We greedily made our way through the entire basket and found nary a pickle that wasn't fried up to crisp perfection.
Since every sign around us was demanding that we eat some catfish, we ordered a Three Piece Dinner ($8.00) and were rewarded with a basket of crisp breaded filets, hushpuppies, slaw, and fries. The fish was excellent, with a firm coating that was fried well but still remained moist and tender. The flavor of the catfish was nice and fresh, too, and there wasn't any of that muddy taste that can sometimes mar an otherwise decent filet. Catfish has never been our favorite fish to eat, but these filets were as good as any we've ever tasted. The fish came with a side of homemade tartar sauce that had a nice hot sauce zing to it and made a wonderful dip for the fish. The hushpuppies and slaw were nothing special, but the fries were excellent. It seems like there are a lot of places that can fry up a decent piece of fish or chicken but have no clue whatsoever how to get a potato to turn into anything other than a soggy mess. It's one of my biggest pet peeves, and flaccid fries have turned me off of more than one restaurant. These fries were pretty close to the Platonic ideal of a French fry: a slightly spiced exterior that was firm and crisp and gave way to a mealy and flavorful interior. It may sound slightly obsessive and insane on my part to go on at such length about a pile of fried potatoes, but in a state where McDonald's still routinely win's the Readers' Choice for "best fries" due to so many places serving weak, limp, apathetic spuds, it's refreshing to see a place that can make them right.
There's also a nice selection of po' boy sandwiches on the menu, and since a good po' boy is one of our favorite things in life, we opted for the Crawfish Po' Boy($7.00). Ordering crawfish in Arkansas is an act of bravery. Most of the fried variety tastes like nothing more than fake crab dipped in fish fry and fried to a hard, burned crisp. The crawfish tails on this po' boy were like manna from a Cajun heaven, though — fat, plump tails that had a good, sweet flavor that wasn't overpowered by the light, crisp batter. There were a lot of them, too. The sandwich was made just how I like my po' boys, on a crusty piece of French bread with slaw. As an added bonus, a generous helping of that delicious spicy tartar sauce was mixed in with the slaw, bringing the whole sandwich into a nice mix of salty, sweet, and savory flavors. I've eaten po' boys at nearly every restaurant in Central Arkansas that serves them, and I've got to say that the Eat My Catfish version is probably my favorite of all that I've tried. That's sure to get some of you riled up, and I'll admit that there are some good po' boys out there: but this one was better.
After all that food, we were pretty full, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Eat My Catfish also has a selection of fried chicken strips, chicken wings, shrimp, and the thing we were most upset about missing — fried pies, in apple, apricot, chocolate, coconut, or peach. It's seriously good food, and a place that nobody who loves the fried stuff should miss. Eat My Catfish is available for dine-in, carry-out, and catering, and they've expanded from their small food trailer to two locations: 1205 Military Road, Suite 7 in Benton and 1347 Albert Pike Road in Hot Springs. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see more locations popping up around the state, as the food is fresh, cheap, and apt to cause cravings after your very first time eating it.
The Hot Springs location is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tue.-Sat. and the Benton store is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m., 3-9 p.m. Tue. and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wed.-Sat.
This time of year always fills me with patriotism. You know the type of feeling that makes you proud to be an American, the kind of feeling that makes you want to tattoo a bald eagle on your arm, buy a Ford truck, and run for Senate. But what do you eat when you feel like celebrating the birth of the grand ole’ U.S. of A? What is American food anyways? Well, the menu at Buffalo Grill may be as American as it comes, one step inside and you almost can’t help but burst into a chorus of “God Bless America!”
There’s nothing that shows your love for your country more than wrapping your lips around a greasy slab of ground beef and melted cheese inside a toasty bun. The burgers at Buffalo Grill may not be the latest and greatest, trendy, innovative burgers on the block, but they are solid representations of an American classic. Simply adorned with melted cheese, mustard, tomato, pickle on a soft roll, winner of multiple awards, and it’s easy to see why. Pair them with a generous heap of hand-cut fries and there are few things in this world more comforting.
If there’s one thing we, Americans, demand in our pressed, tube meats, it’s excess. A simple hot dog? No way, Benedict Arnold, make mine a full foot long…doused in chili, cheddar cheese, mustard, onion and slaw! Because that’s the way Abe Lincoln would have wanted it.
All true Little Rockians know the joys of the big ol' plate lunches, catfish, desserts and softball-sized yeast rolls dished up at Homer's at 2001 E. Roosevelt Road (read our glowing review here). Now Homer's is planning to bring the love to even more folks with the opening of Homer's West, in the former McAlister's Deli location at 9700 N Rodney Parham Rd
Homer's co-owner David Connell said the plan is to open the new location on July 1. The restaurant will seat about 130 guests, with a full bar and patio dining. Hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Yes, you heard that right: unlike the original near the airport, Homer's #2 will be offering dinner service. Connell said "the staple is still going to be the plate lunches" — which will be available at both lunch and dinner — but they'll also offer a number of new dinner-only items, including special steak, poultry and fish entrees.
Signage is up now. As soon as we can get in for a taste in July, we'll report back.
Well, I gotta be quiet now. We have one… back, open 24 hours a day 365 days a year serving up breakfast and burgers and lunch specials and ice cream. So how can I complain?
In short, I’m not. I’m really glad Starlite Diner is open again.
UPDATE: 24/7? Then why was the restaurant closed the other night?
Susie, I'm going to Edwards tomorrow. Love me some leeks. Thx for the tip.
Hate being first to the party, but-ate at the Greek Food Festival for lunch. We…
Just went and had fabulous pastitio, spanikopta, Greek salad and gyros. Great food and fun…
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