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Apple Spice Junction sounds like a tea room that’s decked out in checkered table cloths and proud of its pies. It is neither; you need not walk a mile for that chicken country-style at the Junction (but you will find there’s no way around thinking about the theme to “Petticoat Junction”).
Instead, Apple Spice Junction is a box lunch catering place specializing in sandwiches, soups and salads and that has a sit-down luncheon trade in its storefront on 2000 University Ave., in the shopping center cater-cornered from Pop-a-Top Liquor Store. The franchise celebrated its second year in business Feb. 1.
The Apple Spice menu and setup will be familiar to those who frequent Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches, though there is no tie between the two. It offers 14 Simply Superb Sandwiches (which come with a side order, a “sweet,” which turned out to be a chocolate chip cookie the day we were there, and a mint) and 14 salads. A variety of chichi bottled drinks on ice are temptingly at the counter, but one can get tea and soda too.
The sandwiches included, for example, pastrami and Swiss on 13-grain bread, curried chicken on sourdough, turkey avocado on honey-baked wheat, tuna (“Charlie’s Dream,” also on sourdough), cashew chicken (which was our choice) and nine more. To serve the reader, we opted for a side order we’d never heard of, “frogeye salad,” described for us by the helpful counter person, Dorian, as something like ambrosia. The husband ordered chili along with his turkey and avocado sandwich; the teen-ager chose pastrami and a side of chips. All (at $6.95 each) were quickly served up in baskets and we took them to our table in the minimalist ambiance of the eatery. (The only homey touch is a bulletin board full of thank-you notes from persons who’ve ordered from Apple Spice and liked it.)
The cashew chicken sandwich was composed of tender chunks of chicken, celery and the nuts on top. The sourdough bread was shy of an inch thick; like all the bread, it’s fresh-baked in the kitchen, and indeed there were loaves to buy at the counter. It’s not drop-dead great bread, but it’s several notches above what you’ll get at many places. At any rate, the sandwich was a good combo of sweet and salty, and though the cashews fell off when we lifted lunch to our lips, we were pleased with the choice. If we’d been home, we would have salted it a bit and added grapes (but who can afford grapes these days?).
The kid’s pastrami and the husband’s turkey certainly went down quickly and looked as good as they attested they were. The chili came in a little paper cup and looked just like Wendy’s chili, but we like Wendy’s chili, so that’s not a criticism. The cookies had a store-bought character.
The menu didn’t make it clear you could order a sandwich without the sides, but helpful Dorian said we could have done so; it would be adjusted at the register.
Apple Spice’s salad menu spans the continents in the company of chicken, a la Mandarin, curry, cashew apple walnut, Caesar and sliced. There’s also a taco salad, a Cobb, chef’s, tuna and a seafood and avocado mix. One can also order fresh cut vegetables with ranch dressing. All looked delicious.
Apple Spice’s food is fresh, generous in serving and quick to the table, and it should attract lots of business from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock just down the road a bit. It’s not quite in Jimmy’s Serious Sandwiches’ league, but we’d go back if we were in the neighborhood.
The real shtick at Apple Spice is catering and taking online orders, which you do by going to www.applespice.com and then clicking to the Little Rock franchise. Andrew Crumpler, who owns the franchise of the Salt Lake City-based company, would actually prefer a call-in, since sometimes the e-mails from the website are late and require that Apple Spice call the customer to confirm receipt. The catering and delivery business includes breakfasts and hot lunches (from sour cream chicken enchiladas to prime rib, Crumpler said), along with the sandwiches and salads.
Oh — about those frogeyes. The fruit salad was sort of blended into a body of tapioca (hence the name). It wasn’t quite as rich as ambrosia and its texture was firm, but we liked it OK. It was different. We like different.
Apple Spice Junction
2000 S. University Ave.
Fresh ingredients, quick service, a wide range of sandwich choices.
Deli: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Catering: Calls taken starting at 8 a.m. or online at www.applespice.com.
Moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. No alcohol.