The Root Café, located at 1500 Main Street in Little Rock, opened several years ago and quickly became a staple for lunch on South Main. Now they’ve added dinner to their Wednesday through Saturday lineup. It’s a departure from the casual breakfast and lunch served the rest of the day, as dinner offers full table service and an elevated formality of presentation.
Because their dinner isn’t yet well-known, there was no line when I arrived at opening time on a recent Thursday. I’m a sucker for anything fried, so we started with a Fried Empanada with Homemade Chorizo. The empanada had the fluffiest, most perfectly fried pastry I believe I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. And the chorizo? As with other meat The Root uses, this was tops—flavorful and tender. Well also ordered Radishes a Few Ways, which I’m told is the most popular appetizer—and it’s clear why. The dish included pickled radish, radish puree, roasted radish, radish jelly made from the pickling liquid, a little chip, and pepper ice cream over olive oil bread. That may initially sound like an unexpected combination, but it was a truly compelling mix of flavors, all delicious. I don’t eat raw radishes, but this plate, I’d happily order again.
For mains, my companion ordered Roasted Chicken with broccoli fritters, while I went with Roasted Pork Belly on cornbread pudding with greens and purple hull peas. The roasted chicken was extraordinarily tender, and the broccoli was, as is the hallmark of The Root, fresh, the likes of which we rarely find in a typical restaurant. The savory pork belly was perfectly matched with the peas, but it was made even better with a bite of the cornbread pudding. Hidden underneath the pork were lovely shredded greens I’d have ordered on their own.
For dessert, we went all out, splitting a piece of summery Lavender Buttermilk Pie and an order of Strawberry Black Pepper Shortcake. While they were beautiful and perfectly tasty, based on the rest of the meal I would have expected the dessert to be somewhat more elevated. But, the shortcake was lightly sweet and crispy on the outside, though it was more bread-like than cake-like, and had a scoop of house-made ice cream to top it off. When I recall the dessert, it’s the fresh strawberries that really stand out in my mind.
Though the form is somewhat different than breakfast or lunch, The Root Café for dinner is exactly what we’ve come to expect from: Delicious, fresh, well-cooked food from local sources served with care.