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.
When our group stopped in for lunch at the Flight Deck we ran into a friend from LM Wind Power, the wind blade manufacturer with a large facility at the Port of Little Rock. There were two tables of LM folks, in fact, and our friend told us that the Flight Deck was one of only three nearby decent lunch choices for them other than Subway and McDonald's.
For thousands of other port and airport-area workers, the proximal choices indeed are limited, so we understand why they would gravitate to the Flight Deck, which is in the Central Flying Service terminal just off Bond Street on the airport grounds. The location also ensures the Flight Deck another even more logical loyal clientele: those flying out of that terminal on private flights who are hungry for a meal pre- or in-flight.
But the four of us work in the River Market District, and it's doubtful we'll get back to the Flight Deck anytime soon given the plethora of excellent lunch options we have in walking or short driving distance.
We chose items that were marked with pilots' wings, which denote a "hangar favorite." Some were better than standard issue and a few weren't. We'll start with the bad news.
The hot tamales ($6.95 for three; $11.95 for six) are smallish and listed among the appetizers, but they are substantial enough to make a meal. The problem was ours had been left in the steamer too long, and the ends that pushed beyond the husk were too tough to cut with a fork — or to eat, really. And the accompanying bowl of chili (add $2.75) was the most basic, thin, punchless version imaginable.
Two other disappointments were the onion rings (straight from the food-service bag in the freezer to the fryer) and the fries, which were so-so at best. Each is $1.99 when subbed for chips.
None of the desserts is homemade, though the French silk pie still was decidedly edible. The menu listed ice cream, but that no longer is an option, we learned.
Now on to the items that rose above mediocre, starting with the best thing we had — the chicken salad plate ($8.25), which featured two large scoops of chunky chicken salad, featuring large hunks of breast meat, grapes and almond slivers. It had a nice herb zing and was accompanied by a selection of fresh fruit.
Our friend also proclaimed the Garden sandwich ($7.95) fabulous — mushrooms, sunflower seeds, sprouts and a spinach-based spread, gooed up nicely with a blend of melted Swiss, cheddar and provolone, grilled on pumpernickel to a crunchy finish. She even dared say it might be as good as or better than the award-winning Garden at Jimmy's Serious Sandwiches. That's high praise.
The cheeseburger is touted as "The Greatest Cheeseburger in Aviation History" ($7.99 with pepper jack), which reminded us of the time we saw a huge "Best Taco Salad in Bismarck" sign, titles seemingly any aviation burger or Bismarck taco salad would win by default.
It is a solidly good burger, particularly in size: The large patty hangs off the not-unsubstantial bun all the way around. It just wasn't very flavorful or juicy.
We started with a large bowl of white cheese dip ($5.50), and it was smooth and tasty with a liberal dose of tomato and pepper chunks. The only issue here was that it wasn't served very hot.
The Flight Deck also serves a full breakfast menu until 10:30 a.m., and lunch specials range from gyros to fried catfish to home cooking. It's been in business since 1983, so clearly it's doing many things right.