Driving down Kavanaugh, it’s easy to pass by Vieux Carre without giving it much thought. Its small wooden sign hangs unassumingly in the shade of the covered sidewalk—no thirty-foot inflatable balloon animals or flashing neon signage to announce its presence. To the average American, the name itself, Vieux Carre (French for “Old Square”) gives little insight as to what lurks inside its walls. But what this small Southern bistro lacks in outward flare, it makes up for in well-executed, affordable fare. After one visit, you’re likely not to forget its offerings, and “passing-by” obliviously, becomes nigh unto impossible. A recent visit for lunch left us more than impressed with the small space, and after only a duo of sandwiches, I’m anxious to feel out the rest of the menu.
We started with a lovely rosemary pork sandwich. Roasted pork is very hit-or-miss for me. A perfectly done roast is one of the finest earthly delights on God’s green earth, but without proper care, a roast becomes dry and bland, its flavor leeched out by excessive heating. Vieux Carre is doing an exceptional job with their version. Rich, dripping in succulent porky juices—each bite is punctuated by the sweet, herbaceous bite of rosemary, a classic flavor enhancement in pork dishes that continues to impress me each time I partake of it. Other additions to the sandwich only work to enhance the flavor—fresh butter leaf lettuce, red and ripe slices of tomato, a thin spread of mayo, and a touch of melted provolone. Many would think you mad for eating another pork sandwich only yards from H.A.M., and I’ll admit it pained me to pass them by for lunch without stopping in, but Vieux Carre’s pork sandwich can hold its own. They pair their sandwiches with freshly fried, thin, housemade potato chips…perfectly seasoned and crisp. You have to request it, but they’ll bring you some of their excellent blue cheese dip to accompany—highly advised.
Feeling a bit brunchy at the time, we also selected the bacon and egg croissant sandwich—results were equally impressive. The croissant is expertly done, flaky and warm on the inside with a slightly crispy exterior, with rich, buttery tones throughout. The eggs were of the scrambled variety, light and fluffy, and the bacon salty and crisp. They top it off with grilled tomato and cheddar cheese. The sandwich was not large, borderline dainty, but it was substantial and we left feeling wholly satisfied with our selections.
Little Rock is establishing quite a reputation for fantastic sandwiches—indeed, diners on a ‘wich hunt may find a noteworthy bite in nearly every corner of town. Places such as HAM, Southern Gourmasian, The Food Truck, White Water Tavern, The Pantry, and Guillermo’s readily come to mind when considering the superlatives. Vieux Carre, no matter how foreign their name paints them out to be, is incredibly approachable, familiar, and comforting—a Little Rock staple that deserves far more attention than it receives.
(Vieux Carre is located at 2721 Kavanaugh Blvd, Little Rock)