LITTLE ROCK Until last weekend, I’d forgotten just how congested the River Market District is on Saturday mornings, especially when the Farmers Market is in full swing. With bumper to bumper traffic and parking hard to find, it does make for a bit of an adventure.
I’d headed out around 11 a.m. with my mother and son, and it wasn’t long before we were inching along President Clinton Avenue doing the old stop, start, stop, start routine. I eventually found parking about three blocks south of the River Market, and we walked to W.T. Bubba’s, the new restaurant/ tavern where the Underground Pub used to be. It’s in the back, under Boscos, and on this day the entrance was almost obscured by items offered by River Market vendors.
It was a relief to get inside the cool, somewhat dark interior after contemplating, then deciding against, outdoor seating. Just inside the front door is a bank of several pickup truck beds attached to the wall, and we all remarked on how interesting they made the area. We wound our way through the tables in the main dining area, plopped down on a banquette style bench near the bar and grabbed the paper menus.
I’d perused the online menu beforehand, and those on our table were a bit different. Some online items weren’t there, and vice versa. Our friendly waitress took drink orders and bustled off, soon returning with our refreshing and delicious sweet teas ($1.99 each) and taking our Sausage Dip ($6.99) order.
When the dip arrived, we placed our entree orders, figuring we’d mix it up to better sample the food. Mother picked the Smoked Pork Tenderloin ($10.99), fried okra and a salad as her two sides, and a yeast roll. Other sides are macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and french fries.
My son and I decided to share an order of 10 wings ($8.99), which the menu says are smoked, fried and “coated” in buffalo, barbecue or garlic parmesan sauce. We also chose the fried catfish meal that comes with two filets, hush puppies and, the waitress said, fried okra, which was not reflected on the menu. Since we really wanted to try the macaroni and cheese, we ordered it as a separate.
We enjoyed the sausage dip, which came with a basket of nondescript, round tortilla chips that were almost stale. But the dip made up for that. It was a hot, creamy concoction made with several cheeses, one of which had to be cream cheese. The sausage was, thankfully, not spicy, and could have almost passed for hamburger.
The noshing gave us time to check out the interior, which has, the website states, “Only the finest redneck decor.” And we’d really have to agree. There’s an old travel trailer decorated with pink flamingos and a flower bed in front, with bench seating inside it, where small groups could have a drink. The one small table inside would work for two diners.
The walls are decorated with neon beer signs, photos, gewgaws and knickknacks. The bar is on the left of the room and it’s almost dwarfed by a large set of moose antlers hanging above the mirror behind it. Anchoring the back wall is astage and dance floor for night use.
And, although the restaurant is working really hard to also be a tavern, it’s very family friendly. There were several children there during our visit, and they were entertained by the truck beds as well as a small game room in the back.
Our food arrived just as we finished the dip. The wings, fried brown and crisp, looked delicious, and for the most part were, but I could barely taste the garlic. The parmesan and garlic flavoring was sprinkled on and the seasonings fell off. The meat itself was tender and flavorful, and we enjoyed the wings nonetheless.
The catfish came with asmall square roll, fried okra and macaroni and cheese; no hush puppies. We asked our server about them, and she set off to get some. The fish was a bit greasy, and the breading fell off, but overall it was flavorful.
The hush puppies were good, but a little undercooked in the middle. The macaroni and cheese was heavenly, topped with thick melted cheese, aperfect Southern version. The okra was OK.
Mother’s pork tenderloin was the star of the meal. The small sliced rounds were smoky and tender, topped with an apricot sauce that was a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet, amazingly delicious and deserving of an award. The side salad came with tomatoes, cheese and small tasty croutons.
The menu lists three desserts - Slap Your Mama Banana Puddin’, Aunt Alena’s Twang Pie and Moon Pie, each $2.99. Our server said the Twang Pie is creamy and tastes sort of like the orange Tang drink mix. She said the Moon Pie is made with chocolate-covered graham crackers filled with peanut butter and marshmallow cream.
We ordered one Moon Pie to share, and since we were already pretty full, one was fine. It came with two graham cracker sandwiches with a thin layer of filling, topped with a sprinkling of peanuts. The dessert tasted as good as it looked, and we left a happy trio.
The kids menu choices are grilled cheese, a hot dog, mini burgers and peanut butter and jelly. Cost is $2.99 and each child’s entree comes with a side and a pickle spear.
Soon to be World Famous Country Tavern
Address: 500 President
Clinton Ave., Suite RL-40,
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight
Sunday through Tuesday,
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednes
day through Friday and 11
a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday
Cuisine: Sandwiches, bar
becue, chicken and cat
Credit cards: AE, D, V,
Alcoholic beverages: Yes
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
(501) 244-2277, wtbubbas.
Weekend, Pages 38 on 07/26/2012
Print Headline: Bubba’s: Southern food and ‘redneck decor’