Though we've been able to once again focus on dine-in experiences in recent weeks, we have not abandoned our time-to-time to-go travels around the area. And amid a surging number of covid-19 cases that might be making some folks a little nervous about returning to sit-down dining, we're once again taking to the road this week.
As has been our practice, we've stuck mainly to locally owned, nonchain operations (of the chains we mention this week, one is based in Maumelle and the other is controlled by an Arkansas-based franchise), within a more or less fixed range meant to make sure the food is still reasonably hot when it gets to its destination, and we pay for all our meals up front.
◼️ CHANG THAI & ASIAN CUISINE, 9830 Arkansas 107, Sherwood, (501) 835-4488, facebook.com/Chang-Thai-Asian-Cuisine-120160968000733
WHAT WE GOT: Pad Woon Sen with seafood ($13), Por Pia Sod ($3.75), Thai iced tea ($2.50)
Chang Thai is a small mom-and-pop operation that over nearly a dozen years has expanded into three storefronts in a strip center anchored by a Subway outlet north of Kiehl Avenue. It has, since we first encountered it in 2010, offered decently priced Thai food (the menu, now stripped down a bit, has also had a few Pan-Asian options) made with fresh ingredients. Right now, they're open only for takeout and only on weekdays, which caused us a bit of a shock and considerable disappointment when some time back we dropped by on a Saturday jonesing for Thai food.
We took a successful flier on the Pad Woon Sen, one of "Chang's Favorite" dishes, stir-fried "glass" noodles with veggies (carrot, cabbage and broccoli), egg and choice of protein — chicken, pork or tofu, $9; beef, $10; shrimp, $11; combination beef, chicken and shrimp, $12; and seafood — shrimp, mussels, fish and squid, $13. We went to town and got the seafood package, with quite decent amounts of its various from-undersea components: The shrimp was firm and tasty but, alas, with the tails on; the mussels presented a bit of a texture challenge.
And we were pleased to revisit the Por Pia Sod (fresh spring rolls), butterflied shrimp, organic baby spinach and shredded carrots in a paper-thin rice wrapper, with a "tangy sweet peanut sauce" and a zippy vinegar-and-crushed-peanut concoction similar to the fish sauce served in Vietnamese restaurants. A bit of vinegar inside gave the rolls a tartness (on top of the one from the spinach) that we weren't quite expecting.
Oh, and Chang Thai continues to make one of the better Thai iced teas around, nicely balanced between sweetness and creaminess with that little twist of tea-created bitterness.
HOW IT WENT: It took about seven minutes for our order to come out of the kitchen. Though we were out of our normal travel "comfort" zone, our noodle dish was still sufficiently hot enough when we got it home after a nearly 20-minute trip (not, however, the spring rolls, of course, which were cold to begin with).
HOW IT'S GOING: We encountered no other customers midway through the dinner period.
◼️ DAVID'S BURGERS, River Market Ottenheimer Market Hall, 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, (501) 400-8371; davidsburgers.com
WHAT WE GOT: No. 1 combo ($7.99) — burger, fries, drink
David's has outlets all over the area and we've been meaning to drop into one of them for some time. As it happened, we were downtown the other day, in the neighborhood of the River Market, and wanted a burger. Voila.
We weren't hungry enough to order a multiple-patty burger (that combo is $9.99), so we got the old "No. 1" — a huge, pattied piece of fresh, never frozen, ground beef, vividly seasoned with salt and pepper, with a couple of "way free" toppings (yellow mustard and pickles; other free options include mayonnaise, lettuce, onions and tomatoes) on a hefty bun. We blew an additional 69 cents on some cheddar cheese (other options: American, 49 cents, and pepper jack, also 69 cents). The price would have been good if it were just the burger, but the combo also includes a small-ish soft drink and about a half-pound of David's always excellent, lightly salted, skin-on fries. (One cavil: The fries are good enough not to need ketchup, which is good because the David's folks only provided one cup-ette of to-go ketchup, which would have been entirely inadequate to the number of fries.) Other major menu options include combos centering on grilled chicken, grilled cheese, hamburger steak and grilled chicken steak (with grilled onions and mushrooms, new since we last paid a David's Burgers a visit).
HOW IT WENT: Our to-go burger, prepared when we ordered it, not before, took about seven minutes.
HOW IT'S GOING: The restaurant was busy, even late in the lunchtime, with sit-down customers. There was one carry-out customer ahead of us, and two dine-in customers behind us.
◼️ TAZIKI'S MEDITERRANEAN CAFE, 8200 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, (501) 227-8291, tazikiscafe.com/location/cantrell-road
WHAT WE GOT: Lamb burger ($10.99) with side salad
Taziki's restaurants in Central and Northwest Arkansas are test-marketing this sandwich: two patties of seasoned ground lamb, grilled peppers and onions, topped with feta cheese and tzatziki on a grilled Kaiser bun. For a wonder, when we unwrapped it at our office, this huge concoction actually almost resembled the promotional photos the Birmingham, Ala.-based chain sent us and that are on display at the restaurant. It tasted good, too, though during the 15-minute drive back to the office, the bun got soggy; about 70% through the burger, it became more or less un-handle-able and we resorted to finishing the lamb patties with a knife and fork.
HOW IT WENT: Our to-go burger, prepared to order, took about seven minutes to come out of the kitchen. (Taziki's owes us the piece of baklava that we ordered and paid for but never got.)
HOW IT'S GOING: Late in the lunch period, there was a small handful of occupied tables. There was one carry-out customer ahead of us and two dine-in customers behind us.
◼️ HEIGHTS CORNER MARKET DELI, 5018 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, (501) 663-4152; heightscornermarket.com
WHAT WE GOT: Reuben ($8.99) with a side bag of chips
Yes, you remember correctly, you did read a review last week of our dinners at the market's restaurant — Walter's Green Room. But while we mentioned that the market's deli serves breakfast and lunch, we didn't describe it. We stopped in at lunchtime and got a reuben, the corned beef sliced a little thicker than we prefer but it was lean and flavorful, and stood up nicely to the fresh sauerkraut, with not quite enough Swiss cheese and a nicely limited amount of dressing on a grilled marble rye. We weren't familiar with the brand of bagged chips and we wouldn't have been too disappointed if the kitchen had forgotten to include them, but they didn't.
HOW IT WENT: Considering that the sandwich was made fresh to order, our 10-minute wait wasn't too outlandish. We paid for it at the front as we would have with any other market purchase.
HOW IT'S GOING: There were no other lunchtime customers at the deli, though there were a few transiting the market.