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Trio's: tried, true, tasty 

Salads, fresh fish, reliable dishes keep people coming back.

click to enlarge FRESH FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER: Wild-caught salmon, pan seared and served over lentils.
  • FRESH FROM THE COLUMBIA RIVER: Wild-caught salmon, pan seared and served over lentils.

Trio's Restaurant is a Little Rock mainstay, and for good reason. For over three decades, Capi Peck, Brent Peterson and their team have focused on creating dishes that highlight seasonal, local ingredients. They've got creative cocktails, high-quality food and well-executed dishes: everything that draws hipsters out in droves. But there are no hipster trappings here — just a team of professionals going about the business of serving great food.

On a recent Saturday night, the dining room was mostly full of what we assume to be regulars by a quarter past 6. Trio's avoids the air of stuffiness that sometimes comes at some restaurants at a similar price point. From the staff to the menu, everything is approachable. The menu provides thorough descriptions of each plate, and there are a couple of suggested wine pairings for each dish. The cocktail list is extensive, with some drinks that change seasonally.

Bourbon lovers will want to give the Paper Plane ($7) a try. Bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino and lemon juice are shaken and served up. This is not a kick-you-in-the-throat cocktail. The bourbon is masked by the other liqueurs, but the overall effect is pleasing, if a little tart.

On the other hand, you won't have any trouble tasting the liquor in The Artist ($7). The harsh edges from Hayman's London Dry Gin is smoothed over by floral notes from Rothman & Winter creme de violette, along with Dolin Blanc vermouth and orange bitters. This is a gin lover's drink.

Trio's offers a good selection of salads. The San Miguel Salad ($7.50) is a light option, aside from the bacon and cheese, which could have been halved. Spinach, mango, avocado, radishes and toasted pumpkin seeds are tied together with an agave dressing with just a hint of jalapeno.

Trio's adds new things to the menu monthly, but we wanted to make sure we tried one of the mainstays: the Shrimp Enchiladas ($16). The cream sauce and cheeses made for a rich, flavorful and satisfying plate of food. It's clear the chef puts thought into the little things, like rice and beans. What could have been completely forgettable sides were tasty and well seasoned.

We don't come across many restaurants in Little Rock that are committed to serving wild-caught fish, but our server mentioned that Chef Shanna Merriweather and Capi Peck are picky about the seafood they serve. The Left Bank Salmon ($24) special, wild-caught Columbia River salmon from the Pacific Northwest, was a no-brainer.

The salmon is pan-seared, finished with a Dijon mustard and herb butter, and served over French Le Puy lentils and leeks, along with sauteed spinach. Everything was simply prepared so the quality ingredients could shine. The spinach, normally not something to get excited about, had a peppery taste reminiscent of arugula.

click to enlarge GET IT WHILE IT LASTS: Strawberry shortcake made with Arkansas berries.
  • GET IT WHILE IT LASTS: Strawberry shortcake made with Arkansas berries.

We finished with the Strawberry Shortcake ($6.50) special, a true celebration of a seasonal favorite. This isn't your aunt's angel-food-cake-and-Cool-Whip concoction. A buttery shortbread cookie provides a base for a mound of freshly whipped cream and a generous serving of sliced and sweetened Arkansas strawberries. It's simple and sublime.

It's easy to approach long-established Little Rock restaurants with a bit of skepticism. Is the place good or has it just been around so long that people return out of a sense of comfort? But there's not a bone to pick with anything at Trio's. With its thoughtful, seasonal menus, well-executed food and drinks, and friendly, accommodating service, we'd happily put Trio's up there with newer "hipper" places in trendier neighborhoods.

Trio's Restaurant
8201 Cantrell Road, No. 100
221-3330
triosrestaurant.com

Quick bite

If you like gin, but you're not a big fan of its punch, you can try a more toned-down gin cocktail in the Fool Me Once ($7). This smooth, orange-pink drink is made of Hayman's London Dry Gin, lemon juice, Aperol, orgeat and prosecco: great for patio sipping on a hot day.

Hours

11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Other info

Full bar, credit cards accepted.
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