Illustration: Phillip Rex Huddleston

Cornucopia (noun): an abundant supply of good things of a specified kind. 

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Each month, I will be writing about a cornucopia of food topics, which include a recap of my eating adventures, food and drink news, my general thoughts on the Central Arkansas culinary scene, and a quick Top 10 list. So, with that in mind, let’s get to it. 

Supreme Pizza at Different Dough Pizza Co.

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Kevin Shalin

Is one visit too early to anoint a place as pizza royalty? Maybe. But darn it, Different Dough Pizza Co. has me in a tizzy. I had been keeping my eye on this spot for months. Watching. Hoping. Reading. Praying. Finally, I took the plunge, making the 20-minute drive to Bryant for what proved to be some of the absolute best pizza in Central Arkansas. Brian Krikorian is the mastermind behind this operation. Spend five minutes talking to him and you’ll catch the drift that this man is passionate, maybe even obsessed, with making great pizza. And while his Detroit-style — a thick pan pizza with crispy edges — is what got me through the door, it’s actually the New York-style that’s already been perfected. Don’t get me wrong, his Motor City pizza is really, really good, but the New York is on another level. The crust is thin and crispy, but also light, airy and easily foldable. Our Supreme came loaded with all the usual toppings, which by some miracle of God didn’t compromise the crust’s integrity. I could go on and on, but here’s the point to my paragraph: Go to Different Dough! Now. Delivery isn’t available, but they offer takeout and there’s even a small dining room if you’re making the drive and desire to eat this pizza at an optimal level. My rec? Call, place an order, then time it so the pizza is ready right when you walk through the door.

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The Reubecca at Becca’s SoCal Kitchen

Kevin Shalin

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Remember last month’s sandwich list? Well, The Reubecca would have made it had I eaten the sandwich from Becca’s SoCal Kitchen before writing the article. I’d been dying to try this food truck for a while now, and family made it happen at the Arkansas Pecan Festival in Keo. This handheld comes with grilled sourdough bread, a pile of thinly sliced pastrami, pickles, crispy onions, gouda and a house sauce. It’s a creative spin on a classic, but what makes this sandwich truly stand out is the kitchen’s attention to detail. Specifically, the house-smoked pastrami, which very few restaurants in the area have the time or inclination to attempt, is what vaults this sandwich into another stratosphere. Do not, and I repeat, do not, get turned off by the $17.70 price tag. Given the amount of meat on the sandwich and its overall artisan lean, this menu item is an excellent value. Simply put, you’re looking at two meals in one. The truck is England, Arkansas-based, but it does set up at The Filling Station in North Little Rock from time to time. Make sure to check the schedule.

Bloody Marty at Marty’s Place

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Kevin Shalin

The smashburger and patty melt at Marty’s Place have gotten some positive paragraph space in the past, and now I’m here to tout the Maumelle restaurant’s brunch time Bloody Mary. Excuse me, Bloody Marty. The drink has a thick, rich, tomato base with a nice pour of Rock Town Vodka. It’s spicy, but nothing overwhelming, and the garnish is fun, but not as ostentatious as others. I gobbled up the chicken wing, tomato, shrimp, cube of cheddar and small hunk of beef and left the green olive for my wife. Who needs green olives? Certainly not me. The bacon swizzle stick was promptly devoured as well.

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Burger and Rings at Copper Grill

Kevin Shalin

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Copper Grill’s cheeseburger is better than the restaurant’s Signature Sweet Hot Burger. It’s just not. The bacon jam and the sweet and spicy slices of bacon found on the Signature make it a better option. But if you’re in the mood for a straightforward, double-patty burger dripping with American cheese and all the fixings, the regular cheeseburger is pretty hard to beat. Make sure to pair it with Copper’s panko-battered tower of onion rings, which many folks consider to be some of the best in town. I happen to fall into that group. And yes, I know you’re looking at this burger, wondering how in the hell is it possible to fit into your pie hole. It’s fairly collapsible, but sufferers of TMJ might want to ditch a patty.

Tidbits, openings, and closings

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As our very own Rhett Brinkley reported, Two Hands, a Korean-style corn dog chain, recently opened in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center at 11525 Cantrell Road. I’ve yet to go. Maybe it’s the long lines commonly associated with chain openings, but it’s probably the fact that I’m 46 years old and probably don’t need to be eating corn dogs on the reg. At any rate, here’s hoping the new Little Rock restaurant is a smash hit.

Rhett’s all over the Say McIntosh opening as well.

In fact, here’s a great recap from him (and Stephanie Smittle) on all the openings and closings from 2023. Per usual, a very fluid industry means plenty of activity throughout the year.

The Xperience Kitchen + Lounge just had its soft opening on Wednesday. I don’t know a lot about the new spot in the heart of downtown Little Rock (in the old 109 & Co. space at 109 Main Street), but I’ll be looking forward to checking out the food.

Mar y Tierra has closed.

Kevin Shalin
Mar y Tierra

Congrats to Rosie’s Pot & Kettle who just announced a move from their 423 Bond Ave. location to about a mile down the road into the old Flight Deck restaurant space inside Central Flying Services. The restaurant has turned into one of the area’s top breakfast and lunch hot spots for folks looking for down-home grub and I can’t imagine anything changing in that respect.

After a 3-year run, Millie’s, in the heart of Cave City, is closing its doors on December 31. Will’s Cinnamon Shop in Hot Springs has also closed, ending a 6-year run of serving up one of the best cinnamon rolls in the state.

Brood & Barley and Lost Forty Brewing are teaming up for a Peaky Blinders Beer Dinner on January 21.

The next Sterling Market/Paper Hearts monthly cookbook club is on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Sterling Market. Paper Hearts owner Beth Quarles will guide you through the evening, while Sterling Market executive pastry chef Paige Russell-Burt will be cooking a few of her favorite recipes from this month’s featured book, “The Cookie That Changed My Life and More Than 100 Other Classic Cakes, Cookies, Muffins, and Pies That Will Change Yours” by Nancy Silverton with Carolynn Carreño. Tickets are $15 or $50 for ticket and book.

And Finally … My Top 20 Dishes from 2023

  1. Scallops with Braised Bacon & Cauliflower Puree (Seasonal) at Ciao Baci
  2. Hamachi Crudo at Mt. Fuji
  3. Fried Chicken (Thursday Special) at Stroud’s Diner (Mayflower)
  4. Duck Ramen at Gold Bowl
  5. Skillet Cornbread at Sterling Market
  6. Wings with Truth Sauce at Certified Pies
  7. Fried Okra at The Oyster Bar
  8. Supreme Pizza at Different Dough Pizza Co (Bryant)
  9. Singapore Mei Fun at Mr. Hui’s
  10. Chicken Suya at Afrobites
  11. Ribeye at Sonny Williams’ Steak Room
  12. Honey-Glazed Biscuits with Caramel Butter Candle at DONS Southern Social (Hot Springs)
  13. Sliced Brisket at Wright’s Barbecue
  14. Hummus & Falafel at Maryam’s Grill
  15. Shrimp Fried Rice (Special) at Skylark Café (Leslie)
  16. Miso Glazed Sablefish (Seasonal) at Trio’s
  17. Lemon Herb Potatoes at BCW
  18. Seafood Stew at The Pantry
  19. Filet at Allsopp & Chapple
  20. Warr Shui Guy at Chinese Kitchen

 

That’s it from me. See you in January!