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We joined the throng of tourists in Eureka Springs recently, and relied heavily on the opinion of the locals for dining recommendations. Where could we find some good food in a reasonably-priced place with a laid-back, nice-but-not-haughty atmosphere? Four out of five times the flavor the locals pointed us to was Local Flavor.
Located just off Main Street in downtown Eureka Springs, and painted in an earthy green, Local Flavor could be mistaken for a small house with a really big porch. On a warmish spring night the candlelit tables on the patio, as well as inside, were completely filled; we could see the wait would be a little long. No problem, though, because the wait staff took our cell number and pointed us to the nearest bar. We walked down the street, had a couple of drinks and came back just as our places were being set. Excellent system.
We ordered a glass of sangria while we perused the appetizer menu for a vegetarian option. The drink was good, and stout, though a little on the sweet side. Finally we decided on the crab cakes ($10), which turned out to be a great decision. The two cakes came situated atop a small bed of arugula, with a creamy dill lime sauce on the side. The cakes themselves were a little small, a slight easily overlooked once we had a bite. The breading was fried to that perfect, just-a-bit-darker-than-golden brown hue, and held together a fairly substantial portion of flaky crab meat. The creamy sauce was just tart enough, not overpowering.
Choosing a salad and entree proved to be a little more difficult. The salads all sounded great. Among the choices: Pear Pistou, with pears, parmesan cheese, basil, pine nuts and a balsamic reduction. There was also a sesame-encrusted goat cheese and arugula salad, a Greek, a chef and a lemon chicken Caesar. Each comes in between $8 or $9. Although we skipped over this part of the menu for something a bit heartier, the small house salads ($5) served with our main course, topped with carrots, red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and black olives, were fresh and tasty. The slightly creamy house dressing topped them off perfectly.
For the main course, the menu offers pasta selections for $9 or $10, and chicken, beef, pork and seafood dishes ranging between $15 (the chicken parmesan) and $28 (for an 8-ounce filet).
We chose two entrees and promised to share. The sauteed chicken breast was juicy, browned to lock in the flavor of the seasonings. It came with a healthy dollop of olive tapenade on top. A thin layer of goat cheese and a sprinkling of pine nuts topped it off. The salty tapenade was tempered by the creamy goat cheese. We were pleased to find that the cheese had a stronger flavor than most restaurants offer, though it was a far cry from the more pungent varieties served in Europe (and that's OK with us). Buttery mashed potatoes provided a nice, simple companion to the complex flavors of the main dish.
As happy as we were with our choice, the jumbo shrimp dish ($17) made us wish we had gone with prawns. When they say "jumbo," they're serious. The five shrimp were giant plump creatures flecked with spices and grilled. They were served with what the menu described as "a spicy honey glaze," a rich, syrupy, caramel-colored sauce.
We honestly could not remember the last time we tasted something so flavorful. It was as if the shrimp were injected with the spicy glaze and ready to burst at the seams. The taste was a perfect combination of savory and sweet, the whole wonderfully warm and comforting. We recommend this dish wholeheartedly. As with the chicken, the simple flavor of the mashed potatoes complemented the shrimp nicely.
If you find yourself in Eureka Springs, go Local. The atmosphere is calming — lit with muted lights and candles — which is great for a romantic dinner or a nice night out with friends. And given the quality of the food, it's really not that expensive. Whatever you do, get the shrimp.
71 S. Main St.
We didn't have time to mention the desserts. The baked fudge ($6), a brownie smothered in chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream, was absolutely to die for. There's an assortment of other sweets including homemade bread pudding, creme brulee and cheesecake.
8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards accepted. Full bar.