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EJ’s Eats: What a capital idea! 

Good location, food, atmosphere — and homemade chips.

IT'S GOOD: E.J.'s finds home.
  • IT'S GOOD: E.J.'s finds home.

EJ’s Eats, once in a small, dark storefront in Hillcrest, has found its real home: a large, bright corner space at Center and Sixth streets. It’s hard to put a finger on what makes the space so inviting. It feels important. It feels like downtown Little Rock circa 1955, when most people didn’t go into the restaurant business lightly, and a certain quality was expected.

That quality can be found at EJ’s, which has a special hook: It makes its own potato chips.

So say you order a Reuben, as we did. You’ll get a great sandwich, not too overloaded (which makes for genteel ingestion) but generous enough with the corned beef, sauerkraut and Swiss; a big dill pickle spear, and a tall pile of medallions, as a fancier place might say, of deep-fried spud. That and a big glass of sweet tea was as good as it gets in the lunchtime sandwich arena; it’ll cost you about $9.

You want a hamburger? EJ’s now serves them, one-third of a pound of ground beef cooked to order ($5.75). EJ’s doesn’t use a conventional hamburger bun, rather serving its burgers — and some of its sandwiches — on plump sourdough. Be forewarned: The sandwiches served on long sourdough loaves are not for ye of small appetite. It will take a good eater to get through the California turkey or the El Cubano pork loin; fortunately, we knew where to find one. She could have used less sourdough, but that didn’t keep her from snarfing down her sandwich in toto.

EJ’s lets you build your own sandwich from a wide variety of cheeses, meats, sauces, vegetables, served on white or wheat hoagies or sliced marbled rye, so it’s possible to have a salami, ham and turkey on rye with banana peppers, jalapenos and onions heated through with provolone and doused with a vinaigrette for under $8. Don’t mind if we do.

Generous, too, are the salads. The Super Chef — ham, turkey, cheddar, bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, tomato, egg and garlic croutons — was crunchy fresh ($4.95 for regular, $6.50 for large). The marinated artichoke heart salad is a nice departure from the usual.

Even at a place called Eats, someone will want a healthy wrap, and EJ’s obliges with several, including chickens pesto, Caesar, Monterey and California, and a good old BLT, which we’d never eat wrapped, but there you go.

The menu is the creation of Jim Miners, co-owner of EJ’s with Eddie Phillips. They cut their teeth in the restaurant business at joints on Fayetteville’s Dickson Street, like the D-Lux, Miners said. The exception to that is another specialty, the Happy Cup, a layered dessert of pudding, cake and whipped cream that Phillips took from his grandmother’s repertoire. The dessert is “labor intensive,” and doesn’t appear on the regular menu. Check the chalkboard at the bar for its availability.

Those homemade chips also come ranch-flavored and barbecued. EJ’s also serves cold beer and wine and has television sets, so people getting off work can hug a barstool, chomp on chips, down a frosty one and watch (probably) ESPN before setting off into traffic.

It’s just so downtown. With a) special goodies on its menu, b) good food, c) cold libations and d) great atmosphere, EJ’s Eats could enter the encyclopedia of great downtown chow halls.


EJ’s Eats
523 Center St.
663-3700

Quick bite
EJ’s packs them in at lunch; you can get take-out or have meals delivered. The chips really are great.
Hours
10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, lunch only Saturday.
Other info
Moderate to moderate-plus prices. Credit cards accepted. Wine and beer available.

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