Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
We have been watching the developments at Hunka Pie for some time now. The transition from pie-and-sandwich shop in a North Little Rock furniture store to pie-and-burger place in a Little Rock drive-in has been intriguing.
Any major move can be a challenge, but owner Chris Monroe has also dealt with a menu change, crazy weather and family concerns. Because of all that, we chose to space out our visits over a few weeks.
On our first visit, we tried the Bombay Burger ($5.50). The third-of-a-pound patty is seasoned with garam masala and cooked through to medium well. It came out the window in a Styrofoam box, bun open, sitting atop a pile of French fried onions and shreds of lettuce with a container of cilantro-yogurt dressing. The Boulevard Bread Co. bun was fabulously soft and buttery. The burger itself with the fried onions was satisfying; dipped in the dressing it became an exotic delicacy, reminiscent of a Kofte kebab.
We splurged and upgraded to onion rings ($2.25 on their own, $1.50 to upgrade with a meal) and were instantly head-over-heels. The beer-and-pepper-battered thick-cut rings were substantially crunchy outside and deliciously caramelized on the inside. Monroe (who seems to always be working the grill) mentioned they're a family recipe. The French fries ($1.75 or $1 upgrade), meanwhile, are rough-cut on site with a liberal salting.
We can also recommend the Hunka Burger ($4.50), which comes with a choice of cheddar, provolone, pepper jack or Swiss cheese on the same bun. We tried it fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion and just with cheese. It would be easy for the burger to be overwhelmed with such a magnificent bun, but the Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion laden patties matched well.
On subsequent visits we tried the roasted veggie-feta sandwich ($6.50) and the toasted artichoke sandwich ($7). Chips come with these sandwiches, or you can do a Super Hunka and get sandwich, chips, a drink and a slice of pie (which we did). The veggie-feta was so full of zucchini, squash and roasted red bell peppers that we filled up more than we expected. The toasted artichoke sandwich deserves special attention: It's a tangy cheese creation with a pepper jack bite that surprised us. The eight-grain bread made what appeared to be a small sandwich unexpectedly filling.
Our foray into the salad section, the Thai Crunch Grilled Chicken Salad ($8), was a big box full of chicken chunks, cashews, cabbage and other veggies with a nice peanut dressing.
Of course, you cannot mention Hunka Pie without touching on the pies ($3.50 a slice or $18.50 for a whole pie). Our favorite that we've sampled so far has been the French Blackberry — cobbler-like on the bottom with a crunchy almost cookie-like top. The Velvet Lips Chocolate Cream pie came a close second; it's a far richer and smoother version of a traditional chocolate cream than anything else we've ever tried. The chocolate peanut butter's thick layer of imported chocolate and not-too-sweet peanut cream and the chocolate pecan pie's not-too-sweet and almost meaty pecan filling should also be noted. We're still hoping to catch the egg custard, but since there are more than 30 varieties in the rotation we keep missing it.
Maybe next time.
7706 Cantrell Road
Hunka Pie also offers kids' meals ($4). We sampled the Hamburger Slider with French fries. The slider was spiced just like the Hunka Burger and served on a soft pocket/slider roll with cheese and a choice of toppings. The burger was about the size of what you'd get with a chain restaurant kids' meal but was far tastier. And best of all, it came with a twisty straw!
11 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Credit cards accepted.