Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
Fat Boys, a hot-dog joint on Main Street North Little Rock, lasted less than a year after opening last summer, but it lives on — sort of — through the Circle, the restaurant that opened in the space in mid-April. The Circle's owners, one of whom was employed at Fat Boys, have kept the most popular Fat Boys items while attempting to make the rest of the menu healthier.
Nutritious options include a very tasty homemade hummus served with piping hot pita bread. There are also four different salads — green, chicken, smoked salmon and Asian.
Sandwiches are the real feature of the menu, however. In addition to typical choices such as ham, Reuben, chicken salad and tuna salad, there are three elaborate specialty sandwiches, all of which employ olive spread. The Circle Up has two types of ham and turkey; the French Quarter has pastrami, ham and turkey; and the “Shiggy” is a vegetarian sandwich. Sandwiches can be ordered on white, wheat or rye bread. They'll also serve it on a tortilla, a croissant or a (store-bought) bagel.
We tried the Shiggy and the club. The club, which comes with a choice of turkey or chicken in addition to ham, was good, if standard. The Shiggy comes with guacamole, cucumbers, Swiss, lettuce, tomato and onions. It was a solid combination — not jaw-dropping, but a pleasant departure from fatty sandwiches.
For sides we got potato salad and the soup of the day, broccoli cheddar. The soup was disappointing — it had an unseemly orange color and seemed to have a base of processed cheese. The potato salad, on the other hand, was excellent. It had nice, thick potato slices and was full of herby flavor.
The Circle offers its share of greasy favorites as well. We tried the Chicago Style Kosher Dog, a Fat Boys favorite and, along with the German Brat and Spicy Italian Brat, a holdover from their menu. Dressed in typical extravagant fashion, with mustard, relish, onions, tomato, jalapeno peppers and — a new one on us — cucumbers, the dog largely satisfied, though we hope it'll be a little warmer next time. (There will, without a doubt, be a next time. With Pokey D's closed in the River Market, we know of nowhere else to get a fully loaded Chicago dog.) Other wiener choices include a tofu dog, a turkey dog and a chili dog.
Another item from the Fat Boys menu is the Brownie Thingy, a sort of brownie sundae. We passed in favor of the carrot cake, which came highly recommended by our waiter. The cake tasted good enough, but it didn't live up to the hype.
Other notable dishes — though we were too full to try them — include scones, lox, shakes and smoothies. Cold breakfast items are served all day.
The new owners have done a good job transforming the space, which is not the most natural for a restaurant. They gave it a nice coat of brightly colored paint and, in keeping with the restaurant's name, a minimalist circle theme. The decoration adds a bit of quirk to the meal.
The Circle's owners are particularly active in the Hash House Harriers, a running group that caps off its weekend outings with beer swilling. Accordingly, there's a good selection of more upscale bottled brew that you don't often see around town (Young's Double Chocolate Stout, Young's London Ale, Monty Python's Holy Grail). We kept our hands off the sauce during lunch, but after-work drinkers might want to stop by for a round — the restaurant is open until 9 p.m. every day but Sunday.
Overall, there was little to complain about. That our service was prompt and friendly was a bonus. With its expanded menu, the Circle is an improvement over Fat Boys, one that can meet a number of appetites.
318 Main St., North Little Rock
The hummus is solid. Sandwiches, while not stellar, are good; try the Shiggy for a change of pace.
9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Good selection of beer. Wine is also served.Credit Cards accepted. Carry out.