Editor’s note: If Arkansas Times food editor Rhett Brinkley isn’t eating out, he’s not doing his job. Sometimes deadlines, production weeks, COVID paranoia and diets resulting from food guilt keep him from properly diving into the local food scene, making him feel like he’s one home-made smoothie away from getting fired. This weekend he decided to go all out and found a new favorite breakfast spot, perfected the Friday afternoon office margarita using a locally sourced mix and learned that if you want the birria ramen, show up early.

Friday, Oct. 22
9:30 a.m. 

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When it comes to restaurants and life in general, I’ve always felt like there’s a secret menu that I’m not privy to. Even when I worked at Boulevard Bread Co., I would often wonder what in the hell some of the regulars were ordering and how they knew about it.

Over the past few months I’ve seen friends post Instagram stories of a smoothie bowl from Fidel & Co, the coffee shop located next to The Rail Yard on 6th Street and Shall Avenue east of the interstate near downtown. I didn’t see a smoothie bowl on the online menu though, so I thought maybe these friends were preferred customers or were hip to the secret menu. I had to know more. I try to have a smoothie every day, and I don’t always feel like making one. Plus, the one at Fidel & Co looks better than mine.

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I glanced at the menu on the counter upon arrival and there it is. The acai bowl (vegan) is listed under “All Day Offerings 8 a.m-2 p.m.” It wasn’t even exclusive. You just have to put down your phone, get up off your ass and go. In addition to the smoothie bowl, I ordered a cold brew with oat milk and the barista asked me if I wanted a nitro cold brew. Sounds like another secret menu item. I’m in.

There’s a small seating area outside under slatted roofing in front of the coffee shop and a couple other pockets of indoor tables inside. It feels modern and clean, like a coffee shop my girlfriend has probably made playing “Sims,” the popular life simulation game. There’s some bar seats facing 6th Street and the bay window was open, which is always appealing when it’s nice outside, but even more so now that open windows make me think of words like safety, ventilation, particles, etc … We should’ve been thinking about it all along. Most of the seating was taken, but there’s also a patio out behind the restaurant that’s partially covered and was empty except for one two-top.

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The acai bowl and nitro cold brew arrived just as I was sitting down. Acai is a berry from the açaí palm tree, native to Central and South America. It’s touted by at least one influencer I’ve seen on YouTube as a superfood that’s rich in antioxidants. The acai bowl at Fidel & Co is a vibrant purple mixture of frozen strawberries, blueberries and banana along with acai powder. It’s topped with sliced bananas, local honey, hemp seed, peanut butter and delicious house-made granola. It actually paired nicely with the smooth, creamy nitro-charged cold brew, which left me feeling like I’d consumed two or three cups of coffee. When I got to work I wouldn’t shut up.

 

2 p.m. 

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I’m working on a story about cocktail kits and ready-to-drink cocktails, so I went to The Fold and ordered both a jalapeno and strawberry kit. I used to work at The Fold and the jalapeno margarita was my favorite. It’s a mixture of jalapeno-infused tequila and a mix that just consists of lime juice, simple syrup and water. If you ever want to quickly add a spicy kick to any of your drinks, you can take a couple slices of pickled jalapeno (with seeds) and shake them with your cocktail.

I made two trips to the liquor store because I forgot to get ice the first time, even though I assumed I would do that and reminded myself not to. “Chatterbox probably had one of those hipster nitro coffees,” I imagined the liquor store guy saying after I left the second time.

Brian Chilson

3:30 p.m. 

After being back at work for an hour or so, my coworker asked me to quit playing around and make some margaritas already. It’s Friday, after all, and we’d never celebrated the end of a production week with libations in our cubicles.

For the jalapeno, I used The Fold’s method and rimmed the glass with Tajin, which is delicious. Both varieties went over well with my colleagues. Austin preferred the strawberry, which she found confusing because she expected to be too sweet. Stephanie liked the jalapeno. They tasted fresh, just like I remember them from The Fold. There’s simply no reason to buy that store-bought bullshit with 0% juice when you can now buy freshly squeezed juice and support a local business. You could even show up to your party and lie and say it’s your own recipe, but don’t leave the labeled pouch sitting right on top of the trash, really shove it down in there.

Brian Chilson

5:30 p.m. 

I left work and realized that I substituted margaritas for lunch and figured that can’t be good. I was driving down 7th Street and remembered my friend telling me that he loves the Vino’s special slice, not the actual full built-from-scratch pie. I happen to think the full Vino’s special is the best supreme pizza in town, but he said that building The Special onto an individual cheese slice is a game changer. So I stopped off at Vino’s and got a slice of the special and a Diet Coke or Pepsi, I’m not really sure. Verdict: A great slice, but I still prefer the made-from-scratch special. In fact, I’m going to order one this week. Supreme pizza is excellent in October.

7:15 p.m. 

After running a couple miles I drove to Rocktown Distillery to try the birria ramen from Lili’s Mexican Street Food truck. They were out of the ramen. I felt so foolish, and should’ve known better. Food trends, especially Instagram-worthy trends like spicy ramen with slow-cooked short rib and fresh avocado are going to go quickly, so if a truck is running a special on birra ramen from 5 p.m.- 8 p.m., get there between 5-6:30 p.m. I ordered three cochinita pibil tacos served on blue corn tortillas. They were great, but I was still upset with myself for not being better prepared.

10 p.m.

I made a jalapeno margarita and watched “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure” (1985), a total thrill ride.

Jalapeno margarita, Freddy glove optional.

Saturday, Oct 23
9:45 a.m. 

I’m back at Fidel and Co. sitting on the patio out back all by myself. I don’t know why more people don’t enjoy it back here; it’s nice and quiet. I guess the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop is part of the appeal.

I ordered the avocado toast because a quick montage scan of the restaurant yesterday morning revealed multiple people seemingly enjoying it. It also looks ridiculously good. It looked like it might be served with lox. But, how good can avocado toast really be? Is it something worth getting truly excited about?

It turns out, what I thought were lox were actually really thinly sliced pickled carrots. It’s also covered in a spice mixture that is the only spice mixture I’m ever going to want on avocado toast again. I texted a picture to a group chat I’m on and a friend said, “That’s Fidel & Co., yeah? Had it for the first time a couple days ago. Couldn’t believe how good it was.”

Same. The spice mixture (all I could identify was oregano) is a house Za’atar seasoning, which is a Middle Eastern spice mix. It’s also sprinkled with tahina (toasted ground hulled sesame) and served on delicious house-made sourdough. The carrots are an excellent touch. Do yourself a favor, and grab this toast for breakfast one morning. Surprise a loved one, blow their minds.

4 p.m. 

I stopped by Flyway Brewing to try the Flyway drums (five chicken drumsticks), served wet with buffalo sauce or sesame teriyaki or dry with a lemon pepper rub or spicy Tye’s dub rub. I got an order of Tye’s dub rub and an order of buffalo for my girlfriend and slammed a Magdalene Belgian Tripel while I waited. I didn’t consider the alcohol content when I did this. I looked it up when I got to my car (9.6%!).

The wings were served with three delicious pickled baby carrots, meaning that I needed to figure out a way to incorporate pickled carrots with dinner too. The wings were good, I preferred the buffalo to the dry rub, but don’t listen to me. I might’ve been drunk from that one beer.

 

9 p.m. 

For dinner I ate my two leftover drumsticks and for dessert, I had two two-packs of Starbursts from my Halloween candy medley. Both two-packs had one lemon and one orange. Orange is my least favorite Starburst flavor, so I went to bed surly until I realized that the color matched the carrots I’d been eating all day, so it all made sense somehow.

Sunday, Oct. 24
10 a.m. 

Guess where I went to get an order of chia seed pudding? That’s right, alone on the back patio at Fidel & Co. for the third morning in a row! I’m not sure how to describe the chia pudding except to say that it’s the best and only chia seed pudding I’ve ever had in my life. Here’s how the menu describes it: Chia seeds soaked in coconut milk, served with house-made jam and granola, topped with flakes of toasted coconut. I’m going to learn how to make this so I can have it all the time. I’ll report back with my failures.