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Starlite Diner rises yet again

By Jennifer Christman

This article was published September 19, 2013 at 3:23 a.m.

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The Big Boy breakfast at North Little Rock’s Starlite Diner features three eggs, three bacon strips (or sausage patties), hash browns and a biscuit and gravy (or two pancakes).

Starlite Diner

(By Jennifer Christman)
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Starlite shines in North Little Rock.

The silver streamliner-style diner that endured a fire and management changes and even a name change (it was briefly Hunka Pie, though the signs and the tables that still say Starlite never changed) and went dim for a time now gleams again. At least it does almost daily for breakfast and lunch (the restaurant is closed Mondays) and twice a week for dinner.

Now, we still miss the days when Starlite was an all-hours joint (a rather smoky one - we don’t miss that part), open after concerts and clubbing. And when the menu offered rare delights like corn fritters.

But we’ll take what we can get. And what we got during two recent meals - a Saturday breakfast and a Sunday lunch - at the diner was good food and friendly service. The restaurant, which reopened in April, is owned by Sandy Littlefield (her first restaurant gig; she previously ran a day-care center) and her two sons Shelton and Alan, and we remembered our server from the ol’ Starlite days.

Customers can have a seat in a quieter back room, but we favor the comfy booths in the sunny front room where we can see people come and go and eavesdrop on the counter conversation. There’s a retro feel, but everything replaced after the 2008 fire is modern. Blue paint and kind lighting offer calmness, while wall art of a sundae and coffee cup provide cuteness.

A basic breakfast menu offers omelets, pancakes, biscuits, French toast, specials and various sides, with prices starting at $2.49 for a sausage or bacon biscuit and stopping at $7.99 for the Big Boy - three eggs, three strips of bacon (or sausage patties), hash browns and a biscuit and gravy (or two pancakes), which my dining companion chose, and which was indeed big.

The boy was happy with the Big Boy of buttery over-easy eggs, crisp bacon and plentiful slivered hash browns made perfect with a shake of salt. The star of this not-so-light Starlite special, however, was a biscuit cloaked in black peppery cream gravy, lumpy not with flour but sausage.

I ordered the Western Omelet ($6.45), a meaty, three-egg bundle of ham, bacon, sausage and green pepper (and perhaps a sliver or two of unadvertised onion) topped with not quite fully melted cheese triangles. It came with a tedious side of toast that made me wish I, too, had gone with the biscuit and gravy. A side of hash browns helped satisfy my need for grease.

For lunch - and dinner two nights a week - Starlite serves burgers, sandwiches and dinner plates (from a hamburger steak to chicken strips) and specials, with prices ranging from $4.49 for the Ultimate Grilled Cheese up to $8.49 for a chicken-fried steak with a salad and choice of potato. A banner advertises catfish on Fridays.

With only two other lunch customers there, we had the place almost to ourselves. And we could, without embarrassment, gnaw the last bits of meat from bones, which we did with the “fried pork chops” ($8.49) - actually one chop, served with a salad and choice of potato - and the fried chicken special (served with choice of three sides for $8.49).

My companion’s only complaint about the nicely seasoned pan-fried pork chop was that there wasn’t another one. His sides were a super smooth scoop of gravy-covered mashed potatoes, and for extra carbohydrates, the special corn casserole of the day instead of a salad. I was glad he swapped, as the bites of comforting corn mush, which was topped with cheese, reminded me of those gone but never forgotten corn fritters.

Next time I will go with the dark meat, as the fried chicken breast and the wing given to my still-hungry companion were a bit on the dry side. Still, the golden coating was perfect, and isn’t that the important part anyway? The plate was rounded with a pleasing side of green beans that contained bits of meat and onion and yet tasted slightly sweet, and mashed potatoes. For the third side, I selected the avocado salad - a dish of fresh avocado with grape tomatoes that tasted not unlike a chunky guacamole. It didn’t quite go with the homey dinner, but it was tasty nonetheless.

For dessert, Starlite offers two categories of pies: fried ($2.49) and homemade ($3.50). We selected two slices of the latter - a sweet, runny coconut and a rich chocolate - that had buttery crusts and were topped with whipped cream.

As the chocolate was nearly a double slice, my companion wasn’t hungry anymore.

Starlite Diner

Address: 250 E. Military Drive, North Little Rock

Hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday

Cuisine: Diner fare

Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V

Alcoholic beverages: No

Reservations: Large parties

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Carryout: Yes

(501) 771-2036

Weekend, Pages 31 on 09/19/2013

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