Walking through the doors of Delicious Temptations, a familiar small-town dining scene is set. Artwork and the accompanying price tags hang from the walls. A middle-aged diner tells what appears to be her mother, "I like my coffee sweet, just like Daddy did." A group of older men, some ready for business, some ready for golf, heckle each other as they wait on their food. A chalkboard sign boasts of Bourbon Pecan Pie. The air smells like coffee and biscuits.
In all our years in Little Rock we'd somehow managed to never eat at Delicious Temptations, off Rodney Parham, even though we had heard good things, and the restaurant has a long history. It's the type of place that surely has a loyal following. And the food is fine. It's sufficient, palatable and recognizable to anyone who's had breakfast in an Arkansas diner, but it'll have a hard time winning over folks who have become used to the solid and inventive offerings on other brunch menus in Little Rock.
We started off with the special bread of the day, looking for something to nibble on while we waited. The lemon coconut fruit bread ($1.99) served this purpose and then some. The lemon butter pound cake was a great combination of sweet and tangy. The flavor condensed along the bottom edge of the crust in nice, dense, lemony bites. The coconut icing was a bit too sweet for our taste. But overall, the flavor combination was nice.
Unsure of what to order, we tried one of the highlighted items on the menu, the California Benedict ($4.99 for a half-order with one egg or $7.99 for a full order). It sounded promising — an English muffin stacked with a tomato slice, avocado, Canadian bacon, and a poached egg (though we opted for over-medium) covered with hollandaise sauce. The tomato was surprisingly juicy and tasty considering it's not quite that time of year yet. Everything else was just passable, including what should have been the star of the dish, the hollandaise sauce. It fell flat. It may be unfair that our last taste of hollandaise came from the stunning Atchafalaya restaurant in New Orleans. The Delicious Temptations version is definitely buttery, but otherwise lacked the integral hints of pepper, lemon juice or anything else you might find in a memorable version of the sauce. It also didn't help that the dish was served room temperature. We were happy to have a side order of shredded potato hash browns ($2.99), which were hot, crispy and delicious.
The Old Fashioned Breakfast ($7.99) seemed a safe bet. Toast, sausage, two fried eggs and a side of potato casserole came out only mildly warm. After a long wait, it was a bit disappointing. Many others had the same idea to come in for breakfast — unusual for a Monday, we were told. The rush put quite a strain on the kitchen, leaving one pair of diners with no other option than to leave hungry in order to catch a flight. Nothing stands out on this dish except for the potato casserole — and for all the wrong reasons. It is lumpy and dull, flecked with orange bits of what we assume to be powdered cheese. This overly creamy casserole needs reworking.
A side of biscuits and gravy ($4.99) went down easy enough. The two biscuits were fluffy and good. The sausage gravy seemed more like a mix than homemade. Which is fine by us, having grown up on the stuff, but our partner was not impressed. It's a solid offering that satisfies, and even looks nice, sprinkled with flecks of chopped parsley.
Breakfast was redeemed by a blueberry yogurt pancake ($2.79 for one, plus an additional $0.49 for the topping), which was light and fluffy, not overly sweet or buttery. It was served with "regular syrup" (code for corn syrup with flavoring). The real stuff will cost you. A side order of maple syrup can be had for 99 cents.
Make no mistake, the offerings at Delicious Temptations are passable. They get the job done. They're familiar and recognizable. And the prices are reasonable. There's just nothing stellar. The list of restaurants in and around Little Rock that serve killer brunches is growing. And this stand-by will have to serve a better one to keep new diners coming in the doors.
11220 N Rodney Parham Road
Delicious Temptations does more than just breakfast. Try it at lunch. The fruit bread is a winner and makes for a good breakfast appetizer. The pancakes, served in a variety of ways, are hard to beat.
Open daily 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Credit cards accepted. No alcohol.