Border Cantos is a timely, new and free exhibit now on view at Crystal Bridges.
While the north side of the Arkansas River has a lot of things to see — an Old Mill, a submarine, a soon-to-be-finished ballpark — one of the stops we’ve really relished in the last couple of years has been Gadwall’s Grill, waaaay out on North Hills Boulevard. A nice mix of shirtsleeve ambiance and greasy-spoon-style grub, it’s gotten so popular with locals that it’s been hard to find a table on most weeknights.
You can imagine the reviewer’s joy, then, when we heard that we were getting our own Gadwall’s Grill in West Little Rock. A trip out there proves the new Gadwall’s West to be just as down home and tasty as the original. The space is larger too, so it should make for less time standing in line on a Friday night.
Obviously the owners were not looking to reinvent the wheel. The menu at Gadwall’s West is — to our eye — exactly the same as Gadwall’s Sherwood: a big slate of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers and specialty items like the Bonzai Chili Cheese salad ($5.95), and the interestingly named Woman-Made Chili with beans ($2.95 cup, $3.95 bowl). The decor is pretty much the same as well, a quirky mix of signage and diner chic.
Looking to keep it simple, I tried the old-fashioned double cheeseburger with jalapeno cheese ($3.99). Companion, meanwhile went Tex-Mex and tried the chicken nachos ($5.95).
The cheeseburger was everything you’d expect from a roadhouse grill-style place: stretch-your-mouth big, juicy, well-spiced and nicely flavored. Loaded with fresh lettuce and served with a side of perfect fries, the jalapeno cheese gave it just the right amount of zing. Companion’s nachos, meanwhile, were also just what she was looking for: diced chicken and tortilla chips, smothered in onions, tomatoes, black olives, cheese dip and sour cream.
While both our dishes weren’t the fanciest or most expensive thing on the menu, experience has told us that burgers and appetizers like the chicken nachos are the canary in the coal mine of a joint like Gadwall’s. Both are surprisingly easy to screw up, and if they can’t get those two right, chances are everything else on the menu ain’t going to be worth much either. Gadwall’s West passed with flying colors, with our plates soon demolished.
With the check paid and lunch resting comfortably on top of our belts, Companion and I headed for what we’d been anticipating throughout the entire meal: dessert at Blue Cake Co. While Gadwall’s has a few dessert options, nothing on the menu compares to what they’ve got just a short, hopefully calorie-burning stroll down the strip mall at Blue Cake. Purveyors of high-end, artisan-quality cakes, we’ve encountered Blue’s scrumptious goodies at a few birthday parties before, and we can honestly say they have cornered the market on our sweet tooth.
From a case filled with petit fours, cookies and other yummies, we decided to split a piece of their chocolate mousse/raspberry layer cake. At $3.25 for a generous slice, it’s pricey, but heaven don’t come cheap. Rich and light, with a creamy mousse filling and a tart zing of raspberry puree in the middle, it absolutely sang on the palate. Suffice it to say that between the two of us, we ate everything but the plate, the napkins and the plastic forks.
In short, if you’re in the mood for some casual, roadhouse style grub, you can’t do much better than Gadwall’s West. It’s big and unpretentious menu of artery-clogging fare offers a little bit of something for everyone. But please, save room for a little slice of heaven at Blue Cake Co. Your tummy will thank you.
Gadwall’s Grill West
14710 Cantrell Road
Salad lovers will enjoy Gadwall’s big selection of rabbit food, including the Guacamole Salad ($5.45), the grilled chicken salad ($5.45) and the tuna steak chef salad ($6.45).
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Inexpensive to moderate prices. All credit cards accepted. Beer and wine available.