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The little grocery that could 

Argenta Market puts Arkansas food on table.

North Little Rock's artsy Argenta neighborhood has added a foodie feather to its cap with the addition of the Argenta Market, a Whole Foods-style grocery in miniature at the corner of 6th and Main. The message: Eat local, eat healthy and yes, you can buy your Tide here too. Its deli features sandwiches and salads and fresh meats, and there are tables to sit at in the small, sunny dining area at the front.

The first thing you may be wondering about: What's it going to cost to shop there? The answer: Not more than at any small grocery, and maybe even less, for now at least.

A big stack of ripe cantaloupes, as big as basketballs, greeted us at the door when we visited last week. Grown just down the road at Hardin Farms, they were irresistible and at $2.50 maybe a little less expensive than comparable 'loupes at the Farmers Market south of the river — and a lot less, given the volume, than the $3 brandywine tomato ($3.99 a pound) there we also had to have.

We lunched, ordering a roast beef sandwich on ciabatta, which came with homemade potato chips ($6.99). (The special was corndogs, made in-house, two per order.) Argenta doesn't skimp on the sandwich meat — the sandwich was more than an inch thick; we could only eat half at one sitting. Our choice was a big improvement over the muffaletta we had a couple weeks back, which, mysteriously, was made with whole, unpitted olives rather than olive salad. We didn't lose any teeth, but we were a little unnerved wondering what the next bite might bring.

Our cohort had a BLT on sourdough (also $6.99), and Argenta was as generous with the rashers as it was with the roast beef. The bacon was great — the deli told us it was Wright brand, which it orders in bulk. Oddly, Argenta doesn't sell the Wright bacon at the deli, perhaps because it's not locavorous, like the Petit Jean and Newman Farm (from Missouri) products it does sell.

The sandwich menu is large, and includes a Cuban (pork and ham), club, Reuben, fish tacos, the aforementioned chomper-challenging muffaletta and other meaty treats. You can get water and tea at the deli (served in Styrofoam cups, sadly) or other drinks from the cooler cases up front. There's also potato, egg, tuna, eggplant and quinoa salads; fresh meats, including flank steak strips wrapped around asparagus, spinach-stuffed pork, ribeye steaks, hamburger, sausages; seafood, including mussels and shrimps and fish, and so forth.

We strolled the store looking for unusual items, and were transported to the late, great Cordell's when we spied snail shells and canned escargot in the tall plastic cylinder ($16.89 — our deli-experienced cohort said, "You never sell them, but you have to carry them"). Someone affiliated with Argenta Market (perhaps co-founder Jody Hardin of Hardin Farms or manager Neal Augustine) really likes ice cream, we're guessing, because the selection is huge for a little store. Besides the Yarnell's (including "Woo Pig Chewy") and Ben and Jerry's are, for example, sangria and champagne flavored Wine Cellar Sorbets ($7.39). Amy's, maker of excellent organic Mexican and Indian frozen dinners ($5.59), is well represented; her salsa and frozen cakes are here too. Looking for spicy peanut butter? You got it, from Peanut Butter & Co. Dill pickles? North Pulaski brand is here. Organic baby food? Find Oh Baby in the meat case, along with Newman Farms beef, osso bucco, duck breast, and buffalo. Want homemade ketchup? A half pint sells for $2.99.

You can also buy wine from small California and Arkansas wineries, which is lovely, and Diamond Bear beer. Boulevard Bakery supplies Argenta Market with its unsurpassable baguettes, monkey bread and other treats.

Fresh fruits — including Arkansas peaches, blueberries and raspberries — and local lettuces and vegetables, are available, as well as Arkansas dairy products, though you'll pay an astonishing $7 a gallon for Seven Doves whole milk — or won't, as the case may be.

We picked up the "fully loaded" Creekstone Black Angus Garden Burgers, loaded with chopped peppers, to grill at home; there are various prepared dishes, like grilled chickens, various lasagnas, stuffed potatos and burritos, to take home as well.

Argenta Market is conveniently located across from a huge parking area on the east side of Main, though that fills up with farmers when the Certified Farmer's Market operates on Saturdays.

Argenta Market

521 Main St., North Little Rock

379-9980

Quick bite

Duck in to this small corner grocery for duck breast, stuffed pork chops, organic frozen dinners as well as more pedestrian products.

Hours

7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun.

Other info

For catering, contact shane.henderson@argentamarket.com.

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