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story.lead_photo.caption Flint's Just Like Mom's serves up hearty home-cooking in downtown Little Rock, including a fried pork steak, mashed potatoes and gravy with the popular fried cabbage, jalapeno cornbread and a drink. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Jerry McLeod

Flint's Just Like Mom's cafe is a family affair. Flint Flenoy, his wife, Kawanna Johnson-Flenoy, one of their twin daughters, Rhoda, an occasional niece or grandchild and Flenoy's brothers whip up breakfast and lunch every weekday on the first floor of the Union Plaza Building at Capitol Avenue and Louisiana Street in downtown Little Rock.

Eating at Flint's is like eating Sunday dinner at my Aunt Joyce's house in the south Arkansas hole-in-the-road known as Urbana, a sawmill town which is just past Lawson but before Strong, and you can go through Old Union to get there, which is east of El Dorado but now considered for postal reasons part of that Original Boomtown.

Flint’s Just Like Mom’s

Address: 124 W. Capitol Ave., Suite 100, Little Rock

Breakfast: 6:45-10:45 am. Monday-Friday

Lunch: 10:45 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday

Cuisine: Home-cooking lunch plates with entree, two sides and a drink. Breakfast platters, omelets, sandwiches and skillets.

Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D

Wheelchair access: Yes

Take-out: Yes

(501) 502-0100

At Aunt Joyce's house, there were usually pots on the stovetop covered with lids. Inside those pots was some of the tastiest home cooking you could imagine. Just like at your aunt's house, or mom's or granny's. Aunt Joyce and Uncle Junior always had a garden, so fresh vegetables were always served. (I asked her the other day for her purple hull peas recipe. She said, well, just bacon, some salt and pepper and a little bit of sugar, "because I put a little bit of sugar in just about everything I cook." The secret's out!)

Until Flint's opened downtown, I was rarely excited about lunch. I'm not a breakfast eater, so I have not indulged in Flint's breakfast selections, but if lunch is any indication, the morning meals must be good too.

Flint's enlists a steam table to dish up an entree, two vegetables, a dinner roll or cornbread, and offers some lip-smacking sweet tea or just-as-tasty unsweetened tea or fountain drinks. That will set you back less than $10 before taxes. If you get a drink, your bill will be a whopping $11.04.

There's a menu, too, featuring burgers, salads, catfish and barbecue dinners along with regular fries, sweet potato fries, chips and onion rings. Among the burgers, my go-to is the Classic Cheeseburger, with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and mustard. If Aunt Joyce were to hand-pat a burger — and she may have but never on Sunday — this is what it would look and taste like. Like a real homemade burger, and you'll only know how that tastes if you've also had a homemade, hand-patted burger with a grilled bun.

Gallery: Flint's Just Like Mom's

A bolder diner might try the Bluegrass Monkey Burger, topped with a fried egg, seasoned tomato, smoked cheese and mayo. Don't eat beef? Get the turkey burger, or just go for the Garden Burger, with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and cheese. There's also a veggie burger. Burgers range in price from $6.25 to $12.95 for the Great Double Cheeseburger. A pulled pork sandwich will set you back $8.95; a grilled turkey melt $8.25.

Also among the sandwiches is one I'm going to have to try: Spinach Club, which has a spinach-cream cheese mixture topped with sunflower seeds, portabella mushroom, Swiss and American cheeses. That's $10.99. A tempting salad is the Spinach & Shrimp, which has those two ingredients plus mushrooms and croutons for $9.25.

We have to talk about the fries, though. I could write an essay on them alone. Forget the frozen, flavorless crinkle-cut concoctions from the freezer section. Move over wimpy burger chain fries. Flint's cuts big 'taters fresh, skin on, and fries them up golden brown but not too crispy, just like I like them. Real potatoes. That taste like real potatoes. These delicacies are my big splurge when carbohydrates are allowed on my diet (and sometimes when they're not).

But back to the heavenly steam table that reminds me of treasure hunting on Aunt Joyce's stove.

On Mondays, a common entree is old-fashioned meatloaf, complete with ketchup on top. It's always moist and tasty, and if you get mashed potatoes on the side, you can mix them together and chow down. There's gravy to go on the potatoes, too. Herb-baked chicken is another option. And the occasional liver and onions, and hamburger steaks, and smothered chops. I cannot speak for the liver and onions, because liver, but all else is good and filling comfort food.

Tuesday's entrees can range from pork chops to an occasional chicken spaghetti, also a guilty pleasure filled with carbs. Most days there is tasty fried chicken that'll make you forget about the bird sold at fast-food places. Frying chicken is a tough skill to master, and Flint's has done just that.

Wednesday tends to be chicken and dumplings day, with a darker version of the classic Southern comfort food that's laced with black pepper. On Thursdays, chicken and dressing is a popular choice. Why wait until the holidays to load up on carbs?

Come Friday, Flenoy breaks out some of the best fried catfish in the city, and for sure the best downtown, complete with those fine fries. Did I mention they're real potatoes? As if that's not enough, smoky, tender and tasty barbecue pulled pork, ribs or brisket are available too, with all the fixings or just with steam table sides. Aunt Joyce never had barbecue, unless you count the blackened bologna that you could add some sauce to before wrapping it in white bread and munching out. Aunt Joyce believes in some bologna.

Side dishes at Flint's range from corn, green beans, mixed greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, pinto or great northern beans, black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes. But the most addictive side dish Flint's makes is fried cabbage. This isn't mushy, boiled to within an inch of its life cabbage. It's al dente, seasoned to perfection and just plain good. Flenoy tells me they go through a couple of cases of cabbage a week. Talk about going green.

Beautiful desserts are also available if you have room after eating everything on your plate. Coconut cake, red velvet cake, sweet potato pie, peach cobbler and bread pudding round out the dessert menu.

Flint's Just Like Mom's is classic comfort food with soul. It's what many of us grew up eating in Arkansas. Soul food that's good for the soul. Flenoy knows his way around a kitchen, having been executive chef at the Holiday Inn Express-Airport and cooking in other local eateries for several years. Flenoy went to cooking school at his now-deceased mom's urging. She told him he was the only one of her 16 kids who had the gift.

Mom is always right.

Weekend on 08/29/2019

Print Headline: Flint's Just Like Mom's food is good for the soul

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