Gino's Full Belly Deli: Good eats in a gas station | Rock Candy

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gino's Full Belly Deli: Good eats in a gas station

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 2:03 PM


No matter where you’re eating, you always go into a place with expectations. You stroll inside Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, Thomas Keller’s French Laundry—you know darn well there are certain expectations that had better to be met. You pull around the corner at the Sonic drive-thru, you expect…well, you pretty much know what to expect, no need to spell it out here. But occasionally, when we’re fortunate, we’re taken by surprise. We leave a restaurant utterly amazed, expectations exceeded, with a glowing sense of satisfaction beaming inside of us.

When you’ve determined to eat in a gas station, your expectations are often quite low. Maybe a few bags of M&M’s, the occasional stale snack cake, the microwave burrito with the eternally frozen center. These are the kinds of sumptuous nuggets you imagine choking down when picturing gas station gastronomy.

But over at the Shell Station on the corner of I-30 and Geyer Springs road, you’ll find something to shout about. Herein you'll find Gino’s Full Belly Deli—an easy-to-miss, classic American grill serving familiar fare in big portions at entirely reasonable prices. I was turned onto this place by local blogger, Jason Stormoe over at Arkansas Mirepoix—a man teeming with knowledge about unexpectedly good eats in the SWLR area.

At Gino’s, you won’t want to miss their fine rendition of the Philly Cheese Steak. The formula is familiar, the ingredients expected, but it’s a sandwich prepared correctly. A soft white roll is toasted and dressed with mounds of thinly sliced ribeye. Before going on the sandwich, the beef is given a quick sear on the flat-top, imparting a few crispy bits around the edges to the otherwise soft tender steak. Intermixed you’ll find sautéed, sweet bell peppers, tomatoes, and golden onions adding to the beef’s depth of flavor. Finally, a generous slathering of melted Swiss cheese rests atop the entire concoction. It’s a sandwich that bleeds and sweats with rich, fatty flavor. Its beefy juices drip down your hands and arms as you partake; napkins are an afterthought as your brain urges you to press on. Forget about your dignity for a few minutes and enjoy.


Then there’s the Chicken Philly Cheese Fries. One look at this behemoth of starch and fat is enough to make weaker hearts cower in fear. Throw away all thoughts of reasonable caloric intake and suggested daily dietary needs. This thing will squash the entire food pyramid in one swift, mighty blow. But they are good—very good— and should be experienced by everyone. Here’s the winning formula: crispy, thick-cut fries, piled high with chunks of chicken breast, grilled peppers and onions. On top of all this lay a double blanket of cheddar cheese sauce and melted Swiss. The union of cheese, chicken, and fry is a thing of great magnificence. Hot and crispy meets juicy and tender. Starve yourself for a week, pop a few extra Lipitor, run a marathon before visiting, slip your cardiologist a cool $100 bill under the table…do whatever you have to do to enjoy these glorious fries without guilt or shame. You’ll cherish every second of it.

The rest of Gino’s menu remains unexplored to me, but I’ll probably find it incredibly difficult to pry myself away from these items I mention here. Burgers? Ham and cheese? Chicken wings? Meh, you can keep them all…I’ll be plowing my way through another mountain of cheese and chicken covered fries.

Gino’s Full Belly Deli is located at 8000 Geyer Springs Rd., Little Rock. 501-562-0152.

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