Seared duck breast
A dish so good it makes lentils exciting: duck breast served a succulent medium-rare, wrapped in skin and crisped to perfection. And those lentils? A healthy dose of slow-cooked duck confit turns these lowly legumes into a masterpiece of taste and texture. (It's not currently on the menu; let's hope new chef Joel Antunes brings it back.)
111 W. Markham St. (inside the Capital Hotel).
The best part of a good Cuban sandwich is smoky pulled pork, and Craig and Melissa Roe's Cuban taco takes that concept and runs with it. Craig's homemade pork is paired with a tangy jicama slaw and topped with fresh avocado to create a balance that's not quite barbecue, not quite taco, but entirely delicious.
1130 Military Road, Benton.
Curried carrot soup
The Arkansas Arts Center's restaurant doesn't always have this delectable soup on the menu, but when it does, order a vat of it. It's so good, even a non-cook will want to mug the chef and steal the recipe. Cooked carrots are sweet, right? Add a little curry and cream to the sweetness and your mouth will become delirious. Will the carrots make you see better in the dark? If you're making your way in the middle of the night to that leftover pint in the fridge, yes.
501 E. Ninth St. (inside the Arkansas Arts Center).
So good they almost deserve a name less pedestrian than "French fries." Until we come up with one, just think of them as the pinnacle of spuds in Arkansas. Big Orange's secret isn't much of one: Kennebec potatoes sliced in-house, blanched and then fried again when ordered, salt. The double-fry method ensures they're crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside. The Truffle-Garlic-Herb variety, which comes with truffle-oil-infused aioli for dipping, is habit-forming.
17809 Chenal Parkway (at the Promenade at Chenal).
Boulevard Bread Co.
Sure, the slow roasted Italian-style boneless pork is good in a savory, fatty way that approaches decadence, but it's Boulevard's tender, chewy ciabatta roll and pungent aioli that make this sandwich special. When the bread wrapped around your sandwich filling is as good as the filling itself, you know you've got a winner.
Multiple locations, including 1920 N. Grant St.
52 dishes we crave in Central Arkansas
One to try for every week of the year.
Brave New Restaurant
Back in the mists of ancient times, our ancestors descended from the trees and traded their diets of fruit and leaves for meat. When those first meat-eaters slept, their fondest dreams probably looked a lot like this massive plate of sausage-stuffed quail, grilled pork loin, a medallion of tender beef and a large portion of sliced wild-game sausage. Even in these modern times, it's good to indulge your inner hunter, especially from the comfort of Peter Brave's excellent patio.
2300 Cottondale Lane, No. 105.
Smoked turkey salad
This is the crack of snack food. Drop by the Heights outlet on a Saturday and the help is constantly restocking the refrigerator case with containers of the stuff. It's mostly pulverized smoked turkey with mayo and maybe a bit of relish. Most people order some saltines and dip it right out of the container until it's gone. A finger works, too.
5620 R St.
Cafe Bossa Nova
Tres leches cake
It's moist, it's coconutty, its rich, and it is the first thing you should order at Bossa Nova in case the kitchen runs out of it before you've finished your Brazilian entree. Like the entrees, all the desserts at Bossa Nova are good. But tres leches, a cool square of cold sweet milk-drenched cake, is positively hypnotic. You won't think about anything else while you eat it, except how to slap the approaching fork out of your dining companion's hand.
What's the saying? If it sounds to good to be true - it usually is.
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