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We normally wouldn’t ask too much of the food at a place like Jerry B’s Bar and Grill, the newest project of Little Rock restaurateur Jerry Barakat.
This is a place for drinking. Specifically, for drinking martinis — there are 53 varieties on the menu — but the wine list is also impressive and fairly extensive, and our beer-drinking companions seemed perfectly satisfied with their slate of options.
But Barakat clearly put a little more effort into his lineup of bar food, and we were pleasantly surprised both at the menu choices and with what actually arrived at our table.
First, though, the drinks.
The martini list offers something for everyone and their mother. We can’t even begin to name all the concoctions, but suffice it to say, whatever your favorite fruit is, there’s at least one martini to please you: Apple, blackberry, blueberry, peach, mango and several others. There are plenty of non-fruit flavors as well, with names like the Leg Spreader, the Wedding Cake and Gotham. Prices range from $6.50 to $9.75, but all are made with what one in our group called “the good stuff,” so you’re getting what you pay for.
We eyed the Choco-Raspberry Tini — dark Godiva chocolate and Chambord in a chocolate-lined glass — but finally settled on the Jerry B’s ($9.50), a mix of Ciroc vodka and white grape juice. It’s a great choice for someone like us, who’s not used to drinking mixed drinks but doesn’t particularly want anyone at the next table to know that. It’s sweet and fruity, but without the telltale fruity-drink color. It’s also highly dangerous, in that it goes down far too easy.
Others at our table ordered the Washington Apple ($7.25, made with Crown Royal, Apple Pucker and cranberry juice, one of several apple-flavored martinis and the Classic ($6.50), made with Grey Goose vodka and dry vermouth. Both got good marks, although our Classic drinker said people who prefer a bit of olive flavor should go with the Dirty Classic, which is made with olive-infused Skyy vodka.
Had we not had to drive home, we would have loved to sample from the wine list as well. It’s got 30 by-the-glass selections, including plenty that are off the cabernet/chardonnay trail, much to our delight. Several pinot noirs, some pinot grigios.
On to the food.
You can eat cheaper than you drink at Jerry B’s. From the eight appetizer choices, our group picked the potato rolls ($6.95), chicken quesadillas ($7.25) and fried mushrooms ($6.25).
The potato rolls were fantastic, like nothing we’ve found anywhere else before. They looked like egg rolls, only stuffed with mashed potatoes, diced chicken, sour cream, cheese, scallions and bacon. No thinking about calories allowed. We loved them, and so did everyone else at the table.
We didn’t try the mushrooms ourselves — the whole fungus thing just isn’t for us — but our dining companions praised them. Jerry B’s serves them with honey mustard sauce for dipping.
As for the quesadillas, they were fine. Nothing to get excited about, but serviceable.
From there, we moved on to the rest of the menu, which includes a few salads, half a dozen or so sandwiches, and a handful of pizzas.
Our baby spinach salad ($5.50) was simple and delicious: the green stuff, plus tomatoes, apple-wood-smoked bacon, cucumber and apple slices. The dressing was a warm bacon balsamic vinaigrette, with a healthy dose of fennel to liven it up. We left nary a leaf on our plate.
One of our companions ordered the grilled salmon burger ($8.95), served with cheese and wasabi mayonnaise. Around a mouthful of it, he pronounced it delicious. (Other sandwich choices include ham with gruyere cheese, a turkey burger, a chicken club and chicken or steak fajita pita wraps, which we think will be our pick next time. Minus the mushrooms.)
Another companion went the pizza route. Jerry B’s has four, all priced at $7.95: Margherita, the “Pick Five” name-your-own combo, Hawaiian, and our diner’s choice, the honey mustard chicken. He wasn’t thrilled — the thin crust wasn’t crispy enough to stand up to the weight of the toppings, and the chicken itself wasn’t particularly flavorful, he said.
But now a bit more about the bar side of things. There are TVs on every wall, tuned to soccer and baseball the evening we stopped in. There’s live jazz every Friday and Saturday night, and Wednesday is Ladies Night — all martinis are $5 for, well, the ladies. Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily; drink specials include $5 “Dirty Classic” martinis.
Complaints? We didn’t really care for the music, which was all over the map, we’re guessing in an attempt to please everyone in the place at least once a half-hour — but was loud enough that conversation wasn’t easy, and the songs you didn’t particularly care for were impossible to tune out. But that may have been a function of Ladies Night, which, the take-out menu promises, includes “hot dance music all night for the ladies to get down to.” We didn’t stay late enough for that.
Bar and Grill
27 Rahling Circle
There’s a martini for every taste on the menu here. Ladies drink cheaper on Wednesdays, and there’s a free martini glass waiting for anyone who tries all 53 varieties.
4 p.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 4 p.m.-midnightish Fri.-Sat.
Inexpensive to moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. Full bar.