Not trendy but true 

Venerable Trio's serves some of best food in town.

Trio's is not the swanky new kid in town. It's not the latest hipster hangout. The clientele (generally speaking) aren't donning skinny jeans, long scarves, thick-rimmed glasses or ironic mustaches. It's more likely to be featured on the "Golden Girls" than parodied on "Portlandia." Trio's is, at least on the surface, not hip. But it has been around for 26 years, so it's doing something right.

Today, the executive cheffing is left to Shanna Merriweather, who is putting out a regularly rotating menu to complement the hodge-podge of mainstays that have been engraved on Trio's menu after years of favorable diner reviews. We stopped in to Trio's recently to sample what's new as well as explore some of those long-time favorites. We were pleased with what Trio's served.

We started with a duo of appetizers. The first was a warm brie with mango chutney ($7.50) and almonds paired with green apple slices and water crackers. We've had this dish a number of times, and I typically find that it sounds better on paper than it actually tastes. However, Trio's version was quite the opposite. The cheese was perfectly soft and creamy on the interior with a slightly hardened rind. The sweet, gelatinous mango chutney and crunchy almonds added another layer of texture and flavor that made this dish one of the greatest highlights of the night. It's a substantial slice of brie, but, we assure you, we had no reservations about wiping that plate clean.

Secondly, we ordered a creamy white queso ($7.50). The luscious melted cheese was simply adorned with a garnish of diced tomato and salsa verde and paired with hot, thin tortilla chips. Again, what could have easily been a boring, uneventful dish turned out to be superb. The cheese was creamy and silky, not the gooey, sticky glob-like stuff some places serve as cheese dip. Substandard cheese dip does not fly in this town.

Entrees continued to impress. As a rule, we avoid meatloaf, but Trio's meatloaf ($14) was constructed using a blend of beef and chorizo, and chorizo is one pork product we cannot pass up. The result is a meatloaf that's a far stretch from Grandma's white bread and ketchup variety. This loaf was spicy, tender, moist and full of flavor. With the side of skin-on mashed potatoes, it was a wonderful spin on a classic recipe.

Lastly, we sampled one of Trio's mainstays, the shrimp enchiladas ($14.95). With a menu that some would call unfocused, which spans cuisine rooted anywhere from Thailand to Texas, we were skeptical that this place could produce a decent Mexican dish. However, we were pleased to find these enchiladas to be on par with many of the more popular Mexican joints in Central Arkansas. The shrimp were plentiful, plump, and tender, wrapped in two tortillas stuffed with jack cheese and topped with a jalapeño cream and chipotle pepper sauce. It was rich but not overwhelming, with the right amount of smoky heat contributed by the chipotle peppers. I'd have no problem ordering this dish again.

Chef Merriweather's menu is eclectic and playful, but also skillfully done. If you're looking for more reasons to visit Trio's soon, how about the promise of a grilled beef tenderloin with sugar-plum and Cabernet demi-glace, or roasted West Texas quail with Cointreau liqueur and navel orange glaze served with a savory mushroom bread pudding? Trio's might not be the trendiest number in town, but it certainly scores high in our book.


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