For openers, we’d like an order of gaping stare, please, with an intense ogle for the entree, plus a side order of leer and a couple of wolf whistles for dessert. Oh, and a beer.
Arkansas’ first outlet of the Dallas-based Twin Peaks chain serves food, but it’s not the place’s principal attraction.
It’s a distant third behind the corps of Twin Peaks Girls - young, attractive women dressed to kill, or thrill, as “lumber Jills,” showing a lot (though somewhat less than the legal maximum) of skin. And the on tap beer, which the restaurant strives to keep at a “teeth-chattering” 29 degrees Fahrenheit.
The “lumber Jill” uniform starts with a red-and-black flannel shirt,tied under what appears to be a push-up, cleavage-enhancing undergarment. Between that and the tight, short khaki shorts there is only skin, which resumes below the shorts to where calf-high socks rise above boots.
Festooning the rough-wood walls of the quasi-rustic lodge are stuffed animal heads. The ceiling fans all sport antlers. And more than three dozen big, flat-screen TVs are almost entirely tuned to sports programming (except for the couple that are tuned to the Twin Peaks promotional “channel”). Don’t want to share a big-screen TV with your neighbors? There are even individual screens in the wall-lining booths on both sides. (If you’re looking for a connection with David Lynch’s short-lived cult TV series of the same name, by the way, it’s extremely tenuous if it’s present at all. The dessert menu doesn’t even offer cherry pie.)
Sniggering semi-sexual references abound, from the outside artwork (“Come and get it,” lures the young cowgirl depicted on the building’s west wall) to the very ketchup bottles, which urge, via a comely young woman’s stylized, elevated posterior, that you keep them “Bottoms Up.”
In short, Twin Peaks is like a fantasy theme park for 13-year-old boys, or the 13-year-old boy who survives, however deeply buried, in every adult male.
We don’t want you to get the wrong idea, though. It’s naughty, not lurid. The “breastaurant” concept - a common restaurant industry term until the owner of the Dallas-based Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill chain trademarked it and put it off limits - is very similar to the concept Hooters pioneered. The “pro-cheerleader-inspired” uniforms are not especially salacious - you can see folks wearing less at any mall and certainly on any beach.
The women will do what it takes (within reason) to earn a little larger tip. They’ll kid a little, flirt a little; they’ll sit down at your table to take your order; touch your arm (but, of course, it’s not kosher to touch them back unless you’ve established a much better relationship than one should probably have in a workplace). They’ll pose for photos; sometimes they’ll grab a few colleagues to join in. Vivacity varies. We watched one arrive at a table skating at high speed on a bar stool. Two, a little confused over just whose section we were in, took our suggestion and actually arm-wrestled for the chance to serve us. When a particular cranked-up rock hip-hop song comes over the sound system, they gather en masse and scoot those boots.
The restaurant occupies the former Cozymel’s pad in a restaurant row at West Markham Street and Shackleford Road (its neighbors are Chi’s Bistro and Macaroni Grill). You have to access it from the back, off Shackleford Drive. At peak periods (no pun intended), you may have trouble finding a parking place.
The building is enormous, with seating at seemingly rough hewn, but amply padded, chairs and in booths with lacquered but rough-edged wood-slab tabletops (putting your elbows on the table could actually be painful). A large covered patio with a fire pit and plenty of ceiling fans wraps around the building, though, we discovered, all those ceiling fans don’t blow away all the cigarette smoke.
A sign near the door helps patrons and staff monitor the beer-tap temperature (we watched it climb to 30 a couple of times, and also watched it drop as low as 26). And by golly, although chain places are designed to be noisy, this place is noisy, even when it isn’t packed with customers, because the sound system is pumping out a mix of thumpety-thump recent Top 40 and classic rock, at a very high volume.
Nothing we ate would inspire us to return to Twin Peaks, but contrary to one recent description, it’s not an outright outrage to the public palate. Even at its worst, it’s mediocre, uninspiring bar fodder.
The Trophy Trout ($12.95), a filet grilled/roasted in a garlic lime butter, isn’t offensive, just bland. It comes on a huge bed of even blander mashed potatoes and a side of off-flavored “sauteed” vegetables that would have tasted better it they were raw instead of nearly so.
The only remarkable aspects of the Smokehouse Burger ($9.95) are its size and perhaps its greasiness. Between the burger and the slightly chewy bun: cheddar cheese, mushrooms, barely grilled onions, bacon, a smoky barbecue sauce and, though the menu doesn’t say so, lettuce and tomato.
We were better pleased, though not particularly impressed, by the slightly misnamed Steak Sliders ($9.95), four mini-sandwiches with large chunks of, not steak, but “braised beef” (read: pot roast) and some caramelized onions, with small portions of au jus and a creamy horseradish sauce for dipping.
Sandwiches come with “fire fries,” large and pleasantly crisp, but not especially fiery (or in any other way lively).
One of our two Blackened Fish Tacos ($9.25) contained a much larger piece of slightly blackened fish than the other, among the lettuce, pico de gallo and “ranch mayo.” It comes with a side of very crisp, but over-salted tortilla chips and a dark-brown, slighty acrid chipotle-smoky salsa that we mostly left on our plate.
The same salsa comes with the one item we almost enjoyed, the Blackened Chicken Quesadillas ($8.75), listed among the “Teasers” but large enough for an entree. The chicken, wrapped with cheese, black beans with pico de gallo and sour cream for garnish, was not as black as we’d expected, but still had a nice kick; until we bit into a couple of gristly bits, we might have considered it a success.
There was nothing “mini” about our “Teaser” Crispy Mini Tacos ($5.75) - they’re full size.They were certainly crispy - too crispy, actually; the moment we bit into the first shell, it broke apart, strewing ground beef, shredded cheddar, lettuce, pico de gallo and chipotle crema everywhere.
We do count as nearly worthwhile the $2.25 we spent on a Mac N’ Cheese side dish, firm ridged macaroni in a cheese sauce with a pleasant bite and dusted with bits of real bacon.
Beer brands like Bud and Coors Light are well served at Twin Peaks temperatures, but for some of the darker beers, such as Newcastle Brown Ale, that 29-degree goal is an abuse of good brew. (Order ale in Newcastle and you’ll likely get it at British “room” temperature, which is nearly twice that high.) Twin Peaks serves beer in two sizes: “Man,” a 22-ounce super-stein, and “Girl,” a wimpier 10-ounce glass. And caveat to the drinker - the list of tap options doesn’t include prices.
Our attempt to order a beer ran into two “we’re out of that” roadblocks (including that Newcastle Brown Ale) before we finally settled, pleasantly, on the amber brew our server recommended: Knotty Brunette Ale ($5.95 man, $4.25 girl).
Service was otherwise generally pretty fast; food runners (or as close to running as the women can do in those boots) bring stuff piping hot from the kitchen. On one occasion, we were still only about two thirds of the way through our teaser before our entree arrived.
Address: 10 Shackleford Drive, Little Rock Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday Cuisine: “Hearty, made from-scratch man food” Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D Alcoholic beverages: Full bar Reservations: No Wheelchair accessible: Yes Carryout: Yes (501) 224-1729 twinpeaksrestaurant.com facebook.com/TwinPeaksWestLittleRock
Weekend, Pages 31 on 08/15/2013
Print Headline: Food not Twin Peaks’ prime lure