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Now, Lounge in Lakewood 

Seafood spot adds to dining scene.

click to enlarge CRABBY START: Lakewood Fish and Seafood Lounge offers creative go-befores, including stuffed crab cakes and such.
  • CRABBY START: Lakewood Fish and Seafood Lounge offers creative go-befores, including stuffed crab cakes and such.

OK, seriously: What's happening to Dogtown?

North Little Rock has historically played the role of Little Rock's crustier cousin, albeit unwillingly. In Central Arkansas, Little Rock has always been the seat of state government, the home of the arts community and home to the best restaurants.

Until lately, that is. North Little Rock is bringing it strong with a commitment to the arts, craft brewing and dining, and now has a restaurant scene that offers more than standard fare.

An important catalyst for the improved eating in North Little Rock has been the team of Eric Greer and Kyle Ray Dismang. You may know them as the guys behind Park Hill's newish and tasty North Bar, which goes beyond bar food to serves upscale and higher quality selections, such as its multiple vegan options, PB&J/bacon burgers and much more.

Greer and Dismang have also opened Lakewood Fish and Seafood Lounge, in the spot previously occupied by the Garden Bistro (and previous to that, the lovely Victorian Tea Room). While those older incarnations had that air of propriety that often accompanies the quiche-and-hot-tea consumers, Lakewood Fish is considerably more relaxed. The multiple muted large televisions and dim lighting create a sports bar feel, and one could easily be forgiven for expecting to be handed an ordinary and limited menu.

Happily, that's not the case, starting with the drinks department. Lakewood Fish has a full bar and features five different "Lake House Martinis" ($10) and 11 classic drink options, most of which feature local spirits from Rocktown Distillery. Our partner chose the "Rocktown Tijuana Mule" ($8.50), made with Rocktown Grapefruit Vodka, ginger beer, lemon and lime. It was light and tasty, refreshing on a hot day. We also sampled the "Tommy John Collins" ($8.50), a delicious twist on the classic Tom Collins with gin, bourbon, mint, sweet and sour mix and club soda, served on the rocks in a tall glass. The bar also features 12 wine selections by the bottle or glass, plus a solid selection of local, domestic and foreign beers.

Lakewood Fish's food menu got interesting right from the starters. Where else can one choose from an appetizer menu that mixes crab claws, fried okra, coconut shrimp and nachos? Our table took a chance on the steamed shrimp (half pound for $10, one pound for $14) and the stuffed crabs (three for $8.50). The shrimp were much larger than expected, meaty and served hot, and were a substantial choice. We were particularly happy with the stuffed crab option.

The Lakewood Fish entrees also go beyond fried food, mixing in several healthier choices among the brown and crispy. The "Daily Fish" menu offers walleye ($22), grouper ($18), red snapper ($17.50) and arctic salmon ($16). You can get them grilled, blackened, "Southern corn-dusted" or buttermilk-battered. These entrees also include a choice of sides: smoked cheese grits, bacon-baked cabbage and mashed potatoes and gravy. A couple of friends who opted for the grilled walleye that evening said it was good, if salty (one approved, one did not), and was made better with the addition of lemon instead of the orange that was provided. They said the cheese grits were delicious.

click to enlarge GREAT GATOR: Fried alligator bites make good chomping.
  • GREAT GATOR: Fried alligator bites make good chomping.

My dining companion opted for lighter fare, choosing a side salad that arrived fresh and crisp and a cup of "Coco's Seafood Chowder" ($6.50, or a bowl for $9.50) that was the unquestioned highlight of her meal. The cup was large and the soup was buttery with a nice amount of seafood chunks. This chowder was so rich that a cup was just right.

For the other entree, come on: How often does an Arkansan get to eat alligator? Turns out that the answer is "not nearly often enough." The fried alligator basket ($19) came with crispy fries, two homemade hush puppies, cole slaw and piled bites of the basket's namesake. Although we're far from alligator connoisseurs, the choice was outstanding. The breading wasn't too heavy; the texture of the meat was similar to the dark portions of chicken.

Additional fried entree offerings at Lakewood Fish include catfish ($14), oysters ($16), shrimp ($17, grilled or fried) and crab claws ($19). Those with a big appetite might consider the "Fried Seafood Platter with Chowder": catfish, shrimp, oysters, stuffed crab, fries, hush puppies and slaw plus the aforementioned seafood chowder ($24.95).

The menu also includes shrimp fajitas ($18), fish tacos ($13), the "Fish Burger" ($12), "Barrack's Cheeseburger" ($10) and a variety of salads, including a "Chinese Salad" of tomato, onions and wontons.

In sum: Lakewood Fish and Seafood Lounge is a welcome addition to the changing North Little Rock restaurant scene, offering a fine variety of dishes that will satisfy both the traditional fish house denizen and those who want to mix it up a bit.

Lakewood Fish and Seafood Lounge

4801 North Hills Blvd.

North Little Rock

758-4299

facebook.com/501lakewoodlounge

Quick bite

The seafood chowder is rich and excellent. Adventuresome eaters should try the fried alligator, and there are four "Daily Fish" options for those who are seeking nonfried options.

Hours

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
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