We don’t remember this verse from our hearings of the classic folk tune “Molly Malone,” but it does fit the current situation:
She died of a fever,
And sure, no one could save her —
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone.
Now her ghost wheels her barrow
Through the streets broad and narrow,
Crying “cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh.”
A bit grim, we agree.
Anyway, we didn’t try any cockles this week — if there is a restaurant in the area that serves cockles, we’ll seek it out subsequently — but in honor of fishmonger Molly, we did do mussels and sashimi. And a big burger.
As always, we’ve been supporting locally owned businesses and avoiding chains, staying within a “put-food-hot-on-the-table” radius, paying for our meals — and tipping the servers.
◼️ PETIT & KEET, 1620 Market St., Little Rock, (501) 319-7675, petitandkeet.com
WHAT WE GOT: Coconut Ginger Mussels ($14); large Pumpernickel Caesar Salad ($11) with added white anchovies ($3.50).
We went “light” at Petit & Keet, the west Little Rock haute-cuisine collaboration between legendary restaurateur Louis Petit and potentially legendary restaurateur Jim Keet. We picked the mussels off the “share” menu, meaning it could serve as a small entree or a large-enough-for-two appetizer, and we couldn’t have been more pleased: a dozen-plus Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in green curry, fresh ginger and “aromatics,” whatever that means, garnished with cilantro and microgreens. We didn’t really taste coconut much, but the curry and ginger gave the mussels a good kick without being overly spicy, and the two stiff strips of “lime baguette” served us well in dipping up most of the remainder broth.
The salad didn’t need too much perking up, but adding white anchovies to the white anchovies already in the tangy Caesar dressing (provided in a side plastic cup) turned out to be worth the extra cost — unless, of course, you don’t like anchovies. Topping the romaine lettuce: a very generous portion of shaved Peccorino Romano and a miserly number of pumpernickel croutons that were actually softer and chewier than the baguette strips. A smaller version is $7.
HOW IT WENT: We placed and paid for our order through a relatively easy online process and had it delivered to our car, which we parked in one of a couple of marked-for-pickup spaces, within the 20 minutes we were promised.
HOW IT’S GOING: The dining room is open and we saw a steady stream of diners entering through the front door early in the dinner period. Two other vehicles were awaiting curbside delivery.
◼️ LA TERRAZA RUM & LOUNGE, 3000 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, (501) 251-8261, tinyurl.com/yysz8656
WHAT WE GOT: Linguine Fruto di Mari ($26); Spanish Style Mushrooms ($9).
The family who run La Terraza (and also, by the way, Graffiti’s in west Little Rock) hails from Venezuela, as does much of the cuisine, but the menu stresses the connections between Venezuela and the Mediterranean, particularly Spain and Italy. Which is why there are several pasta dishes on it, including this one — not-quite-al dente noodles tossed with mussels, clams, shrimp and calamari in a pleasant marinara. For an appetizer, we chose the Spanish-origin mushrooms sauteed in garlic and olive oil, which turned out to be delicious and filling.
HOW IT WENT: The dining room and particularly La Terraza’s patio are open; we placed and paid for a walk-in order. It took about 10 minutes to come out of the kitchen.
HOW IT’S GOING: There were a couple of occupied tables on the patio very early in the dinner period. Otherwise the servers were cooling their heels.
◼️ SUSHI CAFE, 5823 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, (501) 663-9888; tinyurl.com/y2hezunx
WHAT WE GOT: Chirashi/Sashimi Deluxe ($30); shrimp dumplings ($7, $5 at happy hour).
Sushi Cafe provides one of the most generous sashimi plates among the current lineup of area Japanese restaurants/sushi bars; this one included fluffed-out surimi (aka crab stick) and several medium-thick slices each of escolar, tuna, salmon, smoked salmon, yellowtail, mackerel, red snapper and even octopus. The fish was fresh-tasting; we didn’t have a small bowl or cup to mix soy sauce with wasabi, so we ended up dipping some of it in the leftover soy-garlic sauce that came with our five plump, tasty shrimp dumplings — and, perhaps suprisingly, perhaps not, it worked.
HOW IT WENT: We were a little leery about placing an online order because the online menu doesn’t have roll descriptions or photos, so we walked in — the dining room is open — and placed and paid for our order in person. It took about 12 minutes for our order to be ready.
HOW IT’S GOING: The sushi chefs weren’t overtaxed because there weren’t any other in-house customers; there were three orders awaiting pick-up by either customers or third-party delivery services. The phone rang a couple of times with more to-go orders while we waited.
◼️ BIG ORANGE MIDTOWN, 207 N. University Ave., Little Rock, (501) 379-8715; bigorangeburger.com
WHAT WE GOT: Hatch Chile Burger ($12); sweet potato fries ($3.75).
The Hatch Chile Burger is seasonal — in fact, it’s the September Burger of the Month, featuring roasted hatch green chile peppers, Petit Jean Meats bacon, pepper jack cheese, butter leaf lettuce and chipotle mayonnaise. There were also, we were surprised to discover, heirloom tomato slices, though the menu didn’t say so. And yes, it’s huge and nearly as messy as you’d think it would be, but also just as tasty. We were, however, for the first time in our experiences with Big Orange, disappointed by the sweet potato waffle fries, which were flabby — maybe a little undercooked, maybe just sitting too long in the to-go container, maybe both. The accompanying mango-curry ketchup helped cover some of the deficiencies.
HOW IT WENT: We ordered and paid online through a relatively easy process and a young man with a mask, but not gloves, brought our order to our car.
HOW IT’S GOING: The dining room is open, and we saw folks entering, while at least four cars waited for curbside hand-offs.
◼️ LUPITA’S FOOD TRUCK, aka LUNCHERIA MEXICANA ALICIA, parked at the food truck court, 801 S. Chester St., Little Rock, (501) 612-1883; a “department” of LUPITA’S ORIGINAL MEXICAN FOOD, 7710 Cantrell Road Little Rock, (501) 420-0052; tinyurl.com/y3a85572
WHAT WE GOT: Flautas ($11).
The folks who run Lupita’s on Cantrell Road, just at or possibly just past the western edge of Pulaski Heights, acquired an existing food truck business a couple of years ago, and frequently park it at the 801 Chester St. truck court, which is where it was last week when we dropped by. The menu is pretty simple: burritos, tacos, quesadillas, tortas, chimichangas and our choice, the flautas, three tortillas rolled into a “flute” around grilled meat — we picked chicken over beef — and cheese and crisp-fried. By the time we got ours home, the “side” salad, sour cream and fresh jalapenos piled on top may have un-crisped the flautas at bit, but they were still delicious. We weren’t particularly excited by either of the sides — the soupy refried beans or the flavor-less rice.
HOW IT WENT: We placed our order at the window; it took about 12 minutes for it to come out.
HOW IT’S GOING: There were three customers in front of us and one behind us while we were there, late in the lunch period.