A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
Jerry Barakat is known for opening restaurants that are a little bit different from the rest in Little Rock. With Rockstons, his newest, his idea is to do what others are doing, but do it better. The full name says it all: Rockstons American Bar and Grill.
Rockstons is a comfortable, attractive and roomy place, as a good American bar and grill should be. The big square bar in the middle of the room looks like it'd be a perfect spot to gather with friends, talk and maybe watch sports on TV. But Rockstons is not a sports bar as such, and the couple of TVs aren't allowed to drown out the relaxed, old-fashioned music that's playing — “Charade,” “Caravan,” that sort of thing, though in versions you may not have heard before.
Rockstons has plenty of meat on the menu: steaks, barbecued ribs, prime rib, pork chops, and various burgers and other sandwiches. (The Smokey Burger, with toppings of Canadian bacon and smoked gouda, sounds interesting.)
We tried the prime rib, supposedly one of the house specialties. Our compliments to the waiter: When we ordered it medium rare, he advised that medium rare at Rockstons was rarer than some liked. We took the medium instead and were glad of it. We were not glad that this large, handsome piece of meat was gristly. We found ourselves still eating the McDonald's-type fries after we'd put the prime rib aside.
Our companion was pleased with her grilled salmon served with sauteed vegetables — carrots, squash, etc. The salmon was $16, the prime rib $19. The most expensive item on the menu, a “hand-cut filet,” is $24.
Portions are more than ample here, but we didn't know that when we went in, so we wound up with far more food than two people could eat. Some of it we took home. A pizza Florentine appetizer — a tasty combo of spinach, two cheeses, jalapenos, tomatoes and green onions on a flour tortilla — was more than enough for two people. We also tried a crispy fried chicken salad (though we'd ordered the grilled chicken salad, but when the waiter offered to take the fried back, we said what the heck). It was a good salad, a lot of stuff in it — mixed greens, tomatoes, egg, bacon and avocado — and plenty for two.
The waiter rolled the dessert tray up while we in mid-dinner — just to pique our interest, he said — but when the time came for dessert, we were too full to order. No surprises on the dessert menu: key lime pie, cheesecake, what looked like an apple dumpling, and a brownie with whipped cream on it.
A further word about our waiter: Not only did he give good advice on how to have our prime rib cooked, but when he was asked to recommend a wine, he recommended one that was both good and inexpensive. But he nearly drove us crazy with his constant attention; sometimes it was like there were three of us at dinner. That may be because he hadn't anything else to do. Rockstons hasn't been open long, and the crowd was light.
Rockstons American Bar and Grill
11 Shackleford Drive
A relaxed eatery with the kind of meaty entrees you expect at a bar and grill.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 to 10:30 Friday and Saturday, 11 to 9 Sunday.
Full bar. Credit cards accepted.