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Deja vu delight at Homer’s West

By Jennifer Christman

This article was published October 11, 2012 at 3:20 a.m.

rib-eye-with-macaroni-and-cheese-and-purple-hull-peas-at-homers-west

Rib-eye with macaroni and cheese and purple hull peas at Homer’s West.

Homer's West

Highlights of Homer's West on Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock.

— Nearly 16 years ago, an immature and uptight East Coaster who flew in for a job interview in Little Rock was driven by a dive on East Roosevelt Road called Homer’s.

“If I move here, I’ll never eat there,” she pledged to herself.

She moved here. She matured and mellowed. She not only dined at the humble home-style eatery, she liked it — for its red-sauced meatloaf as much as its male-watching. (Inside the dive would be a virtual Village People of men — from police officers to construction workers. OK, there was never an Indian chief, but she has spotted the state’s chief executive, Gov. Mike Beebe, there.)

A few months back Homer’s expanded its empire with a second outlet — Homer’s West, in the Rodney Parham Road strip center space that most recently housed McAlister’s Deli. While the names and nibbles are similar, the digs are distinctly different.

With modern lighting, stylish bold paint and flat-screen televisions, Homer’s West is hipper than his older brother. And he stays up later — Homer’s West goes beyond plate lunches, offering dinner (even a few fancy items like grilled mahi mahi) as well as a full bar.

Our first visit happened to be for lunch on the opening day of the Razorbacks’ football season. Discussing where we’d watch the evening’s pay-per-view-only game, we asked our nice server if they’d be showing it there — and they were. Hmm, no cover, and no crazy drunk crowd, likely.

So our second visit happened to be — yep — for dinner the opening day of the Razorbacks’ football season, mere hours later.

No matter. The Homer’s West menu boasts a variety of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers and daily specials. One could eat there multiple times in a row and not be bored.

For lunch, we chose a pork chop with gravy ($7.99) — one of the Saturday specials listed on board outside — and the chicken fried chicken, which shares the oxymoronic title of “everyday special” along with the country fried steak with gravy and grilled chicken platter (all $7.99). Meals include two vegetables (macaroni and cheese qualifies as a vegetable here) and rolls or cornbread.

Both entrees endeared with the same down-home formula: breaded, fried slabs of meat smothered in gravy (the pork chop with a rich brown and the fried chicken breast with a peppery white).

The same brown gravy cloaked the grains of the Rice & Gravy side (also considered a vegetable). The special vegetable of the day, the plush, comforting dish of mostly rice, cheese and broccoli casserole (name changed to reflect the order of ingredients), also could only loosely be classified as produce. The greens were a good balance of earthy, salty, smoky. The okra was fried to the right soft firmness. Again with the oxymorons.

The only wrong way to go with the yeasty rolls or the spicy cornbread is to go carbohydrate-free and skip them altogether.

And while on the subject of carbohydrates, the dessert menu of fried pies, cobbler, cheesecake, coconut cream pie and brownie bottom pie (all $2.99) is also worth checking out. We were sated but couldn’t pass up the super-sweet and syrupy pecan cobbler of the day. Or a scoop of ice cream on top.

Not particularly peckish when we arrived for the Hogs and round two, we waited awhile before sharing Nachos Supreme ($7.89), a pile of chips heaped with chili, cheese sauce, lettuce, tomato, salsa and sour cream. We can’t recall now if we requested extra jalapenos or if the kitchen just instinctively knew. Only complaint: the thin chips couldn’t stand up to the heft of the toppings and swiftly became soggy.

By halftime, we were ready for entrees — well, one entree with two sets of silverware (which come clothed in plastic sleeves) — and split Homer’s West’s most costly offering, the 12-ounce ribeye ($20.99). Nicely grilled, the juicy center-cut slab was a seemly steak. A side of purple hull peas was standard.

The creamy macaroni and cheese, however, was standout.

Even an immature and uptight East Coaster who flew in for a job interview in Little Rock would have to agree.

Homer’s West

Address: 9700 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock

Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Cuisine: Southern plate lunches and dinners, burgers, sandwiches, salads

Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D

Alcoholic beverages: Full bar

Reservations: Large parties (there is a party room)

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Carryout: Yes

(501) 224-6637

homersrestaurant.com

Weekend, Pages 31 on 10/11/2012

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