This week, we bring you the takeaway tale of two taverns and a food truck.
(We actually wanted to make it the story of three taverns, but one of them was inexplicably closed as we passed, so we took advantage of the Main Street Food Truck Festival last weekend to fill the column. )
As usual, we stick to local establishments, within a 15 minute radius, always warm when we get it at the desk or table, and pay for our food in advance.
◼️ WHITE WATER TAVERN, 2500 W. Seventh St., Little Rock, (501) 375-8400, whitewatertavern.com
The White Water Tavern menu board is located above the kitchen entrance. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Eric E. Harrison)
WHAT WE GOT: Plate of catfish ($ 11.50) with fries ($ 2)
There’s been so much emphasis on bringing live entertainment back to this venerable Seventh Street shack that people can forget the kitchen has reopened, with Shane Clinton, formerly of the Four Quarter Bar, in charge. Clinton’s limited menu, scrawled on a chalkboard above the entrance to the kitchen, includes a burger, veggie burger, chicken strips, and Salisbury steak, but we settled on the fish basket- cat, deciding to spend an extra $ 2 on fries. We were not disappointed. That’s provided a huge part of it – and we mean huge; we couldn’t finish it all in one go – fresh tasting catfish in a very soft cornmeal dough, crispier in some places than others. The skin-on fries were dark and crispy fried with a very moderate amount of salt.
HOW IT WAS: Ours was the only order in the kitchen a few minutes after the tavern opened. And it was evident that our food was cooked to order – it took about 10 minutes.
HOW’S IT GOING: A few customers, apparently regulars, were already at the bar when we arrived. And you have to show proof of vaccination before they let you in.
We ordered six wings from Town Pump’s Dry Rub Pub. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Eric E. Harrison)
◼️ THE TOWN PUMP, 1321 Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock, (501) 663-9802, facebook.com/town.pump.75
WHAT WE GOT: Six wings ($ 10) at Pub Rub
A quick poll of our colleagues indicates that $ 10 isn’t that expensive for an order of six wings – just the wings, mind you, and a plastic cup of ranch dressing, without the side. We certainly enjoyed our wings, which we had with the Tavern’s Pub Rub – a dry, peppery rub that we thought, perhaps mistakenly, would be less messy than one of the many sauces (including the pepper au lemon and garlic parmesan, as well as several with varying levels of heat). It was delicious but tended to flake off our desk (and keyboard) and clothes. The wings were plump, filling and fresh.
HOW DID THAT HAPPEN : The only waiter upstairs was busy – and chatting – with familiar customers on the patio and at the bar, so it took a few minutes for us to be able to place our order. It only took a few minutes for the kitchen to return it to us. And we were actually provided with enough wet towels and wipes to deal with the potential (and real) chicken wing mess, which is indeed rare.
HOW’S IT GOING: We mentioned that there were a few other customers, but most of the time the tavern was dark, dark, and empty at lunchtime.
Our Detroit Coney from the Tony’s Coneys food truck was topped with chili and mustard, but we asked them to keep the onions. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Eric E. Harrison)
◼️ TONY’S CONEYS, food truck, parked at Main Street Food Truck Festival, (870) 329-5050, facebook.com/tonysconeys
WHAT WE GOT: Detroit Coney ($ 8)
We thought about ordering the Bretzel Dog, a sample for $ 6 (the Little Rock Downtown Partnership requested that food trucks attending the festival provide sample items for $ 6 and under), but we were hungry and thought that that wouldn’t be enough food for lunch, so we picked it from the limited menu (Tony’s usually has more variety) as relatively safe. This is an all-beef pound hot dog, topped with chili, mustard, and chopped onions (but we told them to keep the onions). It was sloppy but delicious, the bean chili giving the substantial sandwich a good bite and lingering spice without providing so much heat up front; the yellow mustard came as a drizzle, more for the visual effect, perhaps, than for the flavor.
HOW IT HAPPENED / HOW IT HAPPENED: The food truck was parked on East Capitol Avenue one block from our offices, so it was the best natural fit for getting food back to our office with minimal interference and maximum heat – especially since it was served in an open cardboard raft. It wasn’t crowded yet so early on a rainy Saturday – and the rain fell quite heavily intermittently throughout the morning – and so, even though queues formed at some more popular foodtrucks and / or better placed, there wasn’t one here. So we placed our order immediately and it took less than two minutes for our coney to come out the window.