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Eat Arkansas presents the first in our “How to eat well” series. Here, we highlight opportunities to procure a decent meal in some of the most unlikely places. Got any suggestions or requests for future articles? We’d love to hear from you, simply drop us a line in the comments section.

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The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is one of the major drawing forces to the Little Rock area for medical personnel and students from all over the nation. In addition to the main hospital and numerous outpatient clinics, UAMS also includes five colleges and graduate school programs and is a major center for education in the training of young professionals. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administrators, and numerous other ancillary staff make up quite a sizable workforce, all part of the UAMS family. The medical center, which also includes such institutes as the Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute and the Jones Eye Institute, is also a tertiary care and specialty referral center for patients from the entire state of Arkansas and many surrounding areas. Essentially, if you live anywhere near Little Rock, there is a good chance that at some time in your life, you will find yourself at UAMS.

If you find yourself hanging out around UAMS, whether by choice or otherwise, you are bound to get hungry at some point and quite often, straying too far from the hospital is not an option. You may feel totally comfortable zipping over to nearby Hillcrest’s Café Bossa Nova with your IV still hanging, but your doctor may feel differently. So, the question remains: where does one find a decent meal in the hospital? Allow me to be of some assistance.

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There are a number of dining options for those confined to the university hospital. The basement level cafeteria is a popular option for both employees and non-employees. There is a decent salad bar, where diners are able to construct their own salads from around two dozen or so ingredients…nothing particularly exciting, but everything tastes fairly fresh and ingredients are changed out regularly. Otherwise, the cafeteria runs a rotating list of generally uneventful and not-always-appetizing specials including overcooked, hockey-puck-like hamburgers, nacho bar, and numerous other greasy, fried items in various forms. Honestly, I mostly avoid these options…as do most cardiologists on staff here. The cafeteria is open throughout the day, but shuts down after dinner hours around 7:30 pm.

From Monday to Friday, hungry visitors can grab a bite from Doc Java…the small cafe adjacent to the north entrance of UAMS hospital. The fare is generally decent, a bit pricier than the cafeteria but a little better quality as well. One of the more interesting sandwich combinations you’ll find here is “The Hawg.” This is a toasted ciabatta roll stuffed with ham and bacon, and Swiss cheese…the kicker is the addition of apple sauce, which adds a nice sweet touch to the mixture. But if you are eating at Doc Java, I’d recommend the chicken and black bean quesadilla. It’s nothing fancy but it’s substantial and flavorful. The diced chicken is accompanied by mounds of Jack cheese and yellow corn. I’d prefer a fresher, non-canned corn, but it’s not a total deal-breaker. Doc Java runs Mon-Fri from 7 am to 4 pm.

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