Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
As Little Rock's food truck scene continues to expand, we are fortunate to see people doing more adventurous things with food. Many operators work with a regularly changing menu, stretching their imaginations to provide new, exciting dishes. The food truck has become a playground for palates, a way to find out what works with diners and what doesn't.
One of the newest trucks on the scene does just that, offering a variety of items you won't find anywhere else in Little Rock. Lauren McCants' Southern Salt Food Co. has quietly been creeping up on Little Rock diners over the last few months, and those who've found them are making plenty of noise about how much they've enjoyed the truck's offerings.
It's slightly difficult to fit Southern Salt into a certain cuisine. As the name implies, McCants, whose years in the food business include working with Scott McGehee at Boulevard Bread Co., has taken steps to channel some classic Southern dishes (barbecue often comes into play), but she also incorporates globe-spanning flavors of Korea, Italy and Mexico. The fusion is seamless.
On our first visit to Southern Salt, we sampled the "Vietnamese coconut curry ramen" with short ribs ($9). Ramen shops have been popping up across the nation, with patrons sometimes waiting for hours to slurp down fancier versions of what many of us were forced (financially) to choke down during those humbling days of college. Of course, Southern Salt's version is a far cry from the four-for-a-dollar microwave-and-eat versions to which many are accustomed. McCants adds nicely cooked, long, flat noodles to a rich, slightly spicy coconut milk broth with crunchy carrots and bean sprouts, whole leaves of basil and lime. The pork short ribs were served in the broth, and while flavorful and tender, they were a little difficult to eat with nothing but a plastic spoon and chop sticks (although we were happy to see the cooks recently changed the recipe a bit, and are now serving this dish with shredded pork — a much easier-to-eat and better option overall). The dish could have also benefitted from a bit more noodles, but overall we were pleased.
We also sampled a few of McCants' sandwich options. Her version of "cheesesteak" ($8) did not actually feature any beef, but instead was made up of shredded pork, provolone cheese, onions and peppers, all on a long, soft hoagie roll. The sandwich was well balanced, with warm melted cheese, tender vegetables and slightly sweetened pork. It was hefty, and we'd definitely order it again when needing a quick lunch on the go. We also got a sample of her "vegetarian BBQ sandwich" ($6), and while those terms might seem completely at odds, Southern Salt managed to produce another surprisingly tasty option. This was a crispy-fried tofu patty topped with onions, marinated cabbage, bell peppers, and lettuce, all tossed in a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. It wasn't enough to make us swear off meat forever, but it was a nice balance of texture and flavor, another winning item from the truck.
Perhaps our favorite dish from McCants so far has been her "loaded bratwurst" ($7). It's certainly not the prettiest thing to look at, but it gets the job done. She takes a toasted white roll and lays within it a perfectly cooked brat with a soft, tender inside and snappy outer casing. This comes "loaded" with sauteed onions and mushrooms, tangy and crunchy sauerkraut, red bell peppers and is sauced with mustard and barbecue sauce. It's a wonderful and (again) generously portioned dish, and one we'll be happy to order again on our next visit.
Southern Salt is doing a fine job for being such a young truck. McCants is producing an imaginative and well-executed menu.
Southern Salt Food Co.
There aren't many trucks in this town willing to serve rabbit or lamb, but Lauren McCants is taking risks and it's paying off. The gaily painted truck, with a birdcage hanging off one side and a flower arrangement off another, can be found at various farmers markets and her menu includes breakfast dishes such as breakfast pies with bacon and herbed mascarpone.
Check the truck's Facebook page for information.
All credit cards accepted.
Sorry, but I don't see how a return visit is going to make those soft…