With a reputation that includes titles such as the "Pie Guy" and "The Man Who Made 100 Different Pies in One Night," it's no great surprise that Chris Monroe—a dedicated pie lover and enthusiast—runs Hunka Pie. Open since 2007, the restaurant is dedicated to small-batch and handcrafted pies that boast flaky, hand-rolled crusts and are made without the preservatives found in big-batch bakeries. Equipped with the childhood pie memories and experience of growing up with three generations of pie makers, Chris claims the "largest selection of handcrafted pie in Arkansas." And judging from his list, he may be right. Interesting flavors such as chocolate hazelnut baklava and peach with rum glaze pop out alongside classic combinations such as southern pecan and key lime.
But though Chris and Hunka Pie specialize in pie, they also bring their A-game to breakfast, lunch, and dinner food, as well. They tout classic and creative burgers made with a third-pound of ground beef, some seasoned with secret spices, and others with more exotic flavors. The bombay burger adds garam masala to the mix, and the turkey burger's patty is seasoned with herbs. And though the restaurant was once relegated to a small drive-in counter, the restaurant's new digs invite patrons to sit and relax in the classic chrome and red of a former diner.
When he cofounded his first sandwich shop in 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca planned to use his profits to pay his way through medical school. But the combination of quality ingredients and friendly service at the shop—then called Pete's Subway—proved so popular that nine years later, he and his partner found themselves in charge of 16 locations across Connecticut, and Fred left behind his doctoring plans for a career in business.
Today, Subway boasts more than 34,000 locations around the world—almost as many shops as there are sightings of Elvis buying cold cuts. At each location, staffers pile sliced ham, marinara-slathered meatballs, and other fillings into halved loaves of bread before customizing handhelds with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and other healthy toppings plucked from chilled containers behind the counter. Salads free crisp veggies from bread's overprotective embrace, and crunchy baked chips or apple slices accompany entrees to tables. Subway’s website also facilitates health-conscious eating by listing each item's nutritional information and fastest mile time online.
El Porton Mexican Restaurant has sated cravings for fresh, healthy ingredients for more than two decades, serving up authentic Mexican lunches and dinners that complement the bar’s array of 85 tequilas. Amid golden walls that evoke a warm afternoon in a tropical cantina, guests kick-start stomachs by watching chefs craft lime-infused guacamole tableside. From the kitchen, beef and shrimp fajitas sizzle, wafting aromas of onion and bell pepper that transform into cartoon hands to lure in noses. Warm days open El Porton's patio, where sunshine heightens the flavors of make-your-own combo platters spread with chile rellenos, tostadas, and burritos, as well as USDA steaks aged a minimum of 21 days. Tequila shots arrive in flights or individually, and customizable margaritas in flavors such as mango and classic lime pour forth from salt-rimmed glasses to accentuate entrees and fuel conversations about Mexico's hidden agave rivers.
Taste buds do the talking when it comes to making a burger, chicken sandwich, or grilled cheese at Cheeburger Cheeburger. That’s because customers, rather than cooks, design what's for dinner. After selecting a base—whether an all-natural Angus burger, a chicken patty, a veggie patty, or a type of cheese—customers deck it with their choice of 29 complimentary toppings such as roasted red peppers, steak sauce, and chopped garlic.
Customers can also build their own salad or garden diorama with a choice of 24 salad fixings. Freshly gilded fries and onion rings round out entrees. For dessert, cooks blend Edy’s Grand ice cream with syrup and candies to create 1 of 1,258,000 possible shake flavor combinations. Thanks to its neon color scheme and oldies music, the restaurant brims with a vintage ambiance.
After gigs in several well-respected Little Rock restaurants, David Bennett further honed his culinary skills at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute before opening Vieux Carre in January of 2006. David's parents and his wife Sarah greet patrons at the front of the house as he captains his culinary team as executive chef in the back, whipping up electric eats inspired by the cooking of New Orleans’ French Quarter, which fuses French, Italian, creole, and Cajun-style cuisine. Bennett serves his bistro fare in a historic Hillcrest space that was designed by lauded Little Rock architect Charles L. Thompson and once housed the Pulaski Heights town hall. Vieux Carre also hosts jazz brunches every Sunday, where feasts are paired with the jazz styles of Ted Ludwig on guitar and Joe Cripps on standing bass.
At Samurai Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, the chefs set out to create a fully engaging dining experience for guests, relying on showmanship and knife skills in addition to interesting flavor combinations. Surrounded by rich earth tones and in front of patrons' very eyes, they man gas-heated hibachi grills and juggle platefuls of steak, seafood, and vegetables into flashes of fire. Across the room, the sushi chefs avoid open flames and high-wattage light bulbs entirely as they roll a number of traditional and contemporary maki, filling each one with delicate cuts of fish and piquant dabs of sauce. Amid the bustle of flashing knives, sputtering grill tops, and standing ovations, flat-screen TVs also keep guests entertained at the restaurant's fully stocked bar.