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Big taste at Little Greek 

Fast-casual chain impresses.

There is a tendency among foodies, this reviewer included, to dismiss chain restaurants with disdain. This feeling is not without some merit, stemming from countless greasy and cheese-soaked meals at lowest-common denominator restaurants like Chili's or Macaroni Grill. There is a downside to this attitude, though, because there are chain restaurants in the world that defy the conventional wisdom and manage to serve up good food — and we found just such an exception at Little Greek in the Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center.

On our first visit to the restaurant, the staff scored immediate bonus points by first asking if we had ever eaten at a Little Greek before, then offering us a sample of their gyro meat when we told them we had not. This introduction already had us feeling good about the place before we even sat down — helped even further by the fact that the large sample portion of shaved meat was pretty tasty. Little Greek is an "order at the counter" place, so we took a minute to look over the large selection of salads, platters and appetizers as we munched our sample.

We started with two dishes that any place with the word "Greek" in the name had better get right: hummus ($3.99) and falafel ($2.99). The falafel patties were decent, with a good amount of spice to them, and crisp on the outside without being dry in the middle. The huge portion of hummus was a real winner, though, with a rich flavor that had just the right amount of cumin and citrus. The hummus is served with a choice of grilled or fried pita, and we ordered a combination of both. The grilled pita is the typical soft, warm bread that is the expected addition to hummus, while the fried bread was a crispy, chewy delight that we'd definitely recommend for a nice change of pace.

Having put the place through its paces on classic starters, we decided to see if the trend would hold through dinner by ordering a gyro pita ($6.99) and a chicken skewer platter ($8.99). The gyro was an ample portion of that tasty shaved meat we had sampled, topped with tangy tzatziki sauce, iceberg lettuce and a couple of tomatoes. We added fries to the plate for $1.99, and while the mountain of shoestring potatoes we got was well worth the price tag, the pita itself is so large that we couldn't nearly finish them. The chicken skewer platter was our biggest surprise of the night, with two tasty grilled chicken skewers over a bed of rice served alongside a gigantic salad of mixed greens, feta cheese, and a scoop of potato salad. We were well pleased by the entire plate, although once again the big portions made it tough to finish.

On a second visit to the restaurant, we started with an order of spanakopita ($4.49), a pleasantly crispy spinach pie that impressed us with its nice balance of spinach flavor, feta cheese, and delicate puff pastry. It's as good a plate of spanakopita as we've had in Little Rock, and made for a good, light starter to the meal. We paired the spinach dish with a steak skewer from the a la carte menu, and were pleased by the seasoned beef done just right on the grill.

Given the size of the side salad from our previous visit, we went for one of the Greek salads ($6.49), adding a salmon skewer to the works for an additional $2.99. The salad was indeed a large one, well-tossed with tangy dressing, and with two scoops of potato salad on top. We could have used a few more olives in the mix, as our big bowl only had two of the briny treats, and while the salmon was tasty enough, there just wasn't enough fish on the skewer to balance out the mammoth portion of greens. Still, as dinner salads go, this one was a tasty one.

Little Greek sets out to be an inexpensive, fast-casual Greek restaurant, and we have to say that it succeeds admirably in this regard. We found the staff to be consistently friendly while the food was served up fresh and quickly. Little Greek might not have cured us of our aversion to chain restaurants, but we're certainly happy to eat our words in this case — especially wrapped in a pita and topped with tzatziki.

Little Greek

11525 Cantrell Road, No. 905

501-223-5300

mylittlegreek.com

HOURS

11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

OTHER INFO

All credit cards, beer available.

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