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.
Not so long ago, no restaurateur in North Little Rock would have dared use the name "Dogtown." Times have changed, obviously.
Being from south of the Arkansas River, we had no objection to the name, nor, after eating here, to anything else, except that the daily lunch special was gone by the time we arrived. We were delayed by some difficulty finding the place — our fault, not theirs.
Once inside, we started with the cheese dip, which the menu called a "Dogtown Specialty," and we found it indeed special — spicy, not too thick or thin, served with warm tortilla chips. Everybody has cheese dip. Not everybody has good cheese dip.
The sandwich selection is interesting and varied. Not everybody has "Fried Petit Jean Bologna with our house-made chow chow." We'll try that next time, if we don't get the peanut butter and strawberry jam on white bread.
This time, one of us chose the Turkey, Bacon and Ranch (also provolone) on toasted flat bread. Pleasing, as was a small green salad accompaniment — romaine, not iceberg lettuce; a fresher-than-usual tomato slice, and ranch dressing with tarragon. (There's a big, $7 "Southern Revival Salad" that has toasted pecans, bacon, goat cheese and "our signature molasses vinaigrette.")
The other diner, after much deliberation, chose the " 'Leftover' Meatloaf Sandwich" with lettuce, tomato and mayo on toasted sourdough. Now, any meatloaf is better than no meatloaf, but the real test of a meatloaf is whether it's good cold. That's the way leftover meatloaf is supposed to be eaten. But this sandwich was grilled, the 'loaf warm. We'd suggest moving this sandwich from the "grilled" list to the "deli-style" list, along with the cold-cut sandwich and the chicken salad. A little cheese wouldn't hurt.
Dogtown sandwiches come with a choice of two sides. The mixed-fruit salad, fresh strawberries and blueberries, may have been the best thing we had; the creamy potato salad was the kind that's become popular, and rightfully so, at some of the better barbecue restaurants in town.
The coffee selections include espresso, cappuccino, and latte. One of us thought the au lait could have been a little stronger, but she drank it all right.
Stuffed with cheese dip, we had to pass on dessert, but there was some interesting gelato on display — cucumber, blood orange, etc. The breakfast menu includes "The Full Dogtown Fry-Up: 2 pieces sausage, 2 pieces bacon, 2 eggs, roasted potatoes, baked beans, roasted tomato, Dogtown biscuit." That'll leave you ready for anything Dogtown can throw at you.
The lunch special we were too late for was chicken pot pie and a salad, an employee told us. The day before, it was chicken marsala with roasted potatoes and broccoli, the day before that, corned beef and cabbage. The specials always go quickly, we were told.
The restaurant is clean, cool, roomy and not overly loud — the kind of place that gives Dogtown a good name.