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Little Greek big on portions

By Jennifer Christman

This article was published October 10, 2013 at 3:17 a.m.


The Spinach Pie (Spanakopita) Platter includes a Greek salad at Little Greek Restaurant in Little Rock.

Little Greek

The food and atmosphere of one of Little Rock's newest restaurants, Little Greek, located in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center. (By David Harten)
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Little Greek Restaurant is a little Greek.

And a lot of American. Or so we thought when our first meal arrived, featuring a “Greek” side salad of lettuce, onion, tomato, fancy-peeled cucumber, feta cheese, peperoncini, zesty dressing … and potato salad? Yes, a scoop of good ol’ American picnic-style potato salad nested on top in a green pepper ring.

Above that was perched another unexpected topper - a pickled beet.

“It’s a kalamata olive,” our server corrected us.

No, it was a pickled beet. (And this salad helping had maybe one hidden olive at most; we would have liked more in all our salads.) He, like the potato salad and the Red Hot Chili Peppers music playing, was a lot of American too.

Having since done some research, we discovered potato salad is a popular ingredient of Greek salad - not actually in Greece, but in Florida where Little Greek is based. And having had it now, I’m not sure I want a Greek salad any other way. The vinegary,mayonnaise-y, starchy salad definitely adds a little something-something … well, besides calories and fat.

The fast-casual Greek chain with locations in Florida, Texas and now Arkansas is the newest eatery in west Little Rock’s Pleasant Ridge Town Center, filling the spacious former Cheeburger Cheeburger spot, which has been redesigned to look more mature and modern. As you walk in, notice the shopping center’s other Mediterranean restaurant - smaller Istanbul (which also serves hummus, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, pita sandwiches, etc.), a literal stone’s throw and couple of storefronts away.

Whereas Istanbul is more intimate and authentic, Little Greek is livelier and more accessible. Whether the shopping center - and west Little Rock’s Mediterranean appetite - is big enough for both (and nearby Taziki’s and The Terrace and Layla’s Gyros and Pizzeria and newcomer Anatolia Mediterranean Restaurant, etc.) remains to be seen.

Order and pay at the counter, take a number, fetch drinks (Pepsi products) and silverware and have a seat in one of the booths or tables under big drum-shade pendant lights with a view of the flat-screen TVs or outside on the patio with a view of the parking lot.

What’s not little at Little Greek Restaurant is the food. Portions from the all-day, reasonable menu (entrees from $5.99-$11.99) are quite plentiful.

Nothing was bigger than the $6.99 Village Salad (Horiatiki). Advertised as the “salad with NO lettuce,” the giant bowl of all the other aforementioned ingredients - including potato salad and beet, too - could have fed an entire village. Other salads ($4.99-$6.49) include regular and mini Greek versions and a Caesar, to which you can add proteins like grilled chicken, salmon, steak or gyro meat for an additional charge ($2.49-$2.99).

As for starters, Little Greek offers a safe hummus ($3.99) with pita bread (we prefer our hummus more puckery). The falafel ($2.99), five spirited deep-fried patties of chickpeas and fava beans served with tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt) sauce, had pizazz but should have been served warmer. Also, it posed the same predicament as the order of three dolmades ($4.99), tart, tasty grape leaves stuffed with beef and rice: How to split the odd-numbered amount without resorting to fork fights? Expect the food to come quickly and quell such feuds.

Entrees include sandwiches and platters. The pitas and wraps can come with a side Greek salad, fries, potato salad, rice, Greek potatoes or a cup of avgolemono (chicken-lemon rice soup) for $1.99 or can be ordered as a combo with fries and a drink for $2.99. Platters come with Greek salads and pita bread.

The Gyro Pita ($6.99), Chicken Pita ($6.49) and Steak Pita ($7.99) were packed full of meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and tzatziki and swaddled securely in paper. The fairly tender gyro meat had amild flavor. The char-grilled chicken and steak satisfied, though the steak was a bit on the chewy side (as it was in the two-skewer takeout platter we ordered, served with rice, $10.99). We liked the pile of skinny fries sprinkled liberally with seasoning akin to Cavender’s Greek.

A Spinach Pie (Spanakopita) Platter ($7.99) didn’t thrill my friend, nor me when I gave it another try in a carryout order. She describes, “I think because it had perhaps been microwaved. If not, it still had that tough, not-crisp texture that comes from a microwave.Not a nice way to treat phyllo dough. I know they can get a crisp, flaky phyllo from the delicious baklava they serve.”

Indeed, their baklava ($2.49) - big, buttery and honeyed - is delicious. (There’s no photo to go with the PLUS slideshow because we devoured it instantly.) There’s also rice pudding ($2.49).

Dining in, we had friendly restaurant personnel check on us and refill drinks. Carrying out, we also felt well taken care of - our order was ready and packaged perfectly, complete with appropriate sauces.

They even included an extra Greek salad. With potato salad and a pickled beet, of course.

Little Greek Restaurant Address: Pleasant Ridge Town Center, 11525 Cantrell Road, Little Rock Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily Cuisine: Fast-casual Greek Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V Alcoholic beverages: Beer and wine Reservations: No Wheelchair accessible: Yes Carryout: Yes (501) 223-5300

Weekend, Pages 33 on 10/10/2013

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