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story.lead_photo.caption The red snapper filet comes fried, with two sides (we chose fries and red beans and rice) at Red Snapper. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Eric E. Harrison)

At first and even at second glance, we couldn't find red snapper on the menu at Red Snapper.

On the third try, we spotted it at the fish-tail end of the menu board's list of fish dinners: Whole Red Snapper (fried), $14.99, and Fillet Red Snapper, $12.99.

Red Snapper

Address: 102 Markham Park Drive, Little Rock

Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Cuisine: “Fish. Chicken. Grill.”

Credit cards: V, MC, AE

Take-out: Yes

Alcoholic beverages: No

Reservations: No

Information: (501) 615-8486

facebook.com/redsnapperar

That's down the list after Catfish Fillet, Catfish Nuggets, Catfish Steak, Tilapia (fried or grilled), Ocean Perch, Fried Oyster and Buffalo Fish.

Red Snapper occupies half of a building, next door to a doughnut shop, at 102 Markham Park Drive, a loop road between West Markham Street and North Bowman Road. The motto/subtitle is "Fish. Chicken. Grill." So the menu also has shrimp dinners, chicken dinners, wings and wing dinners, sandwiches and a range of side items (some fried, some not). Oh, and Fresh Frozen Lemonade.

Order at the counter from a pair of menu boards (on which the available options are a bit puzzling, perhaps because most of them involve party-size orders of wings, catfish family packs and fish specials). Get your drink and the minimal staff will bring your order to you. Or you can pick it up at a drive-thru window (which, on a cold or windy day, can make things pretty chilly if you've chosen to eat in).

Especially considering this market is packed with places purveying fried seafood, Red Snapper turned out to be a really pleasant surprise.

We certainly weren't expecting much. The dining room is down-at-heel, with composite-topped tables and industrial-dining-room chairs, and already has a lived-in feel, which seemed a bit unusual considering the place just opened last month.

Everything at Red Snapper, except the hard plastic trays, comes on disposable plates with disposable plastic or foam drink cups and disposable plasticware. Busing the table is a breeze — carry everything on the tray to the trash can and just dump it all in (except the tray, of course).

Our Jumbo Shrimp dinner (fried or grilled, $10.99 small, $20.99 large) came out of the partially open kitchen. The half-dozen large fried shrimp were firm, in a perfectly seasoned batter, and, though obviously fresh out of the fryer — piping, mouth-burningly hot — were well drained and not the least bit oily.

Gallery: Red Snapper

Dinners come on a bed of two pieces of white bread with two sides (the list includes okra, corn, green beans, red beans and rice, fries, coleslaw and mac & cheese); neither our corn nor our mac & cheese, which came in small foam cups tightly fitted with plastic lids, was remarkable.

Our Catfish Tenders & 5 pc Shrimps ($5.99 lunch special) came with medium shrimp but they were just as perfectly prepared, along with a couple of nicely fried and also nicely seasoned catfish strips. We went back to the mac & cheese for our side, which was still unremarkable, but also chose the red beans and rice, the beans in a gelatinous but zippy sauce over firm rice.

We were impressed by the size of our red snapper filet, but the batter in which it was fried, apparently the same as the catfish batter, was this time a little on the salty side. Red Snapper provides plastic forks and spoons but not knives, and we needed one — the fork was not really sufficient and we kind of had to hack at it a bit. Seasoned fries on the side were tasty and held firm throughout the meal, a plus.

Other menu options we have not yet had a chance to try: any of the other fish dinners; chicken wings, nuggets, tenders or gizzards; burgers, gyros and Philly steak sandwiches; and some intriguing side items, including onion rings, fried mushrooms, corn nuggets, fried pickles and Philly Cheesesteak Fries.

The Fresh Frozen Lemonade ($2.49) spins in a couple of churners near the pick-up window. Adding strawberry flavoring to ours was a good choice, sweet but not cloying. Other options are blue raspberry, cherry, grape, pineapple, green apple, pina colada, fruit punch, watermelon and plain.

The gentlemen who run Red Snapper are friendly and eager to please. Nobody leaves without them soliciting a thumbs up; most customers happily comply.

Weekend on 01/30/2020

Print Headline: Red Snapper surprises amid LR seafood spots

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