Not hooked by Joey’s 

Conway seafood spot reflects its chain background.

CONWAY — Back in my live-fast-die-young days, I was a dedicated chain restaurant hater. Life, I thought, is too short to eat anything that’s been focus-grouped. Great food is about experimentation! About picking up the echoes of place! How could you possibly get anything remotely edible from a restaurant that serves exactly the same dish — right down to spice, temperature and placement on the plate — in Mobile that it does in Oklahoma City?

The older I get, however, the more I’ve come — God help me — to tolerate and even enjoy chain restaurant food. There’s something comforting about knowing that if I’m in the mood for turnip greens, I’m going to be able to get a bowl of them from (again, God help me) Cracker Barrel. They’re not going to be the curl-your-toenails-good greens you might get at some joint deep down in the boondocks of Mississippi, but they are hot, fairly tasty and readily available.

In short: When you’ve got a life to live that doesn’t include spur-of-the-moment jaunts to Mississippi for the Holy Grail of Turnip Greens, you soon find that good enough is good enough.

Which brings us to this week’s outing: Joey’s Seafood and Grill. Folks have been calling us for months to recommend the place, which developed into a high placement in our annual Best Restaurants voting. If nothing else, we listen to the readers. So, on a recent trip through Faulkner County, we dropped in.

Being that this is Arkansas — and given all that praise — we expected Joey’s to be some tin-roofed dive with hot trays full of steaming catfish and hush puppies. Surprisingly, it turns out to be the chainiest of chain restaurants, right down to the extensive, spiral-bound menus and hokey fisherman decor. We even had to pay $5 for a club fee, on the off-chance we might want a drink. Still, given that the Lord has moved my heart about chains of late, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Like most chain places, Joey’s has a menu that would nearly work as a doorstop, full of soups, appetizers, entrees, desserts, fruity drinks, sauces for your shrimp (10 kinds!), and the deep-fried remains of just about everything that skitters on the ocean floor or swims in the deep blue sea.

For an appetizer, my companion — once a denizen of Crab Cake Country on the East Coast — suggested that we try the crab cakes ($7.99). Though they arrived quickly, they seemed a bit skimpy for the money: two jar-lid-sized cakes, maybe three-quarters of an inch thick. While I thought they were serviceable when dipped in the side of remoulade sauce, my more knowledgeable companion pronounced them a disaster.

“Even keeping in mind that this ain’t Baltimore,” he said, “I can’t help but to be put off by what Joey’s called a crab cake … No amount of Old Bay (seasoning) could save it.” The real thing, Companion said, has big chunks of crab meat, held together by breadcrumbs and spiced batter — just enough to barely allow it to maintain a patty shape. Joey’s crab cakes, he said, were overly greasy, with too much batter and not enough crab.

So much for what I know.

For the entree, we both decided to stick with the basics. I tried what the menu promised would be the best fish and chips I’ve ever had: the “Taste of Three” meal ($11.99), with one piece of their original fish, one piece of haddock and one piece of halibut, served with a side of fries. Companion, meanwhile, went for the fish tacos ($7.49) — two big tortillas, filled with fried whitefish, salsa blanca and shredded cabbage.

While my fish and chips were good — especially the haddock, which was firm and well seasoned — I was struck again by the portion size, which seemed a bit svelte for $12. I know, I know: Portion sizes are out of control. But if they want to cut back for my own good, howsabout knocking back that price a little, pal? It’s fish, not filet mignon.

Companion thought the fish tacos were a little skimpy, too, and that what little fish there was turned out to be over-fried and greasy — easily overpowered by the fixin’s.

For dessert, I tried the key lime pie, which turned out to be unremarkable and very obviously box-born.

In short, while Joey’s Seafood is a fair-to-middlin’ place for a no-surprises meal, it’s not going to knock your socks off in any regard (except when it comes time to pay the check, that is). Still, with a little something for everyone, it’s worth a look if you don’t mind chain dining.

Joey’s Seafood and Grill


755 Club Lane



Quick Bite

Those who don’t mind mixing their meats might want to try Joey’s blue crab burger — a half-pound burger on a Kaiser roll, topped with a generous mound of crabmeat. While surf-n-turf ain’t our thing, this is bound to appeal to somebody.


11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Other info

Moderate prices. All credit cards accepted. Wine, beer and cocktails available; $5 club fee for one diner in each party.


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  • Re: Perfect pizza

    • The best pizza!!!!

    • on October 21, 2016

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