If you’re new to Arkansas, you may have wondered at some point what the deal is with pimento cheese. Being a non-Southerner originally, I was fascinated upon arrival to the Natural State by the native infatuation with this orange spread. I was unfamiliar with the stuff, for the most part, prior to arrival in Arkansas, but I was not averse to sampling it whenever it seemed necessary. My first few experiences with pimento were rather uninspiring. Sure, it was creamy and a little tangy, but I couldn’t see the reason for its inclusion on nearly every menu in Arkansas (or so it seemed). But I’m happy to report that after a decent amount of time in our fine state, I am merrily singing a different tune. I am very much on board with the pimento party, and now I’m eager to try the luscious dish each time an opportunity arrives. What or who caused me to exchange my skepticism for praise? Perhaps not a single establishment, but one place more than any other comes to mind—Capital Bar and Grill.
Capital Bar and Grill has long been known to produce a fine rendition of pimento cheese. It’s probably most commonly ordered as an appetizer (served with crackers) and a number of folks enjoy it on their popular burger. That’s all fine, I suppose, but my application of choice is in grilled cheese form. In fact, my order of choice is the grilled cheese with bacon added, with a side of fries. My friends, that is a truly memorable meal.
The sandwich incorporates every element imperative for success in a grilled cheese. It’s a simple sandwich with few ingredients, but complexity is certainly not needed in this instance. Nicely buttered and griddled bread, crunchy on the outside, softer on the inside. Then a generous portion of their fine pimento is slathered in between. If you’ve not yet come to terms with the greatness of this concoction, let me explain how it’s done—and done so well—at CBG. The texture is smooth and creamy with just enough intact bits of cheddar to give it a bit more textural interest. The grilling and heating of the sandwich softens the cheese even more than usual, and upon biting into this mixture, it quite literally melts across the tongue. Of course the pimentos add a bit of tang and spice, one of the most redeeming aspects of pimento cheese in general. Perhaps I’m cheating by adding bacon; I’m sure some would argue it’s not necessary. But when a restaurant boasts perhaps the best bacon in Little Rock, you do not pass up such an opportunity. Always crisp, always meaty, salty, rich, and all-together spectacular—do not miss the bacon, it’s absolutely wonderful when wrapped in cheese.
Pair it with their parmesan herb fries (which just happen to be some of the best fries in the city as well) and you are assured to sit down to one of the greatest meals in Little Rock. Unfortunately, of late I’ve had a few issues with slow, spotty service at Capital Bar and Grill, but nothing so terrible as to keep me away from their pimento for too long. If you’ve not yet jumped on the pimento-loving bandwagon, sit down at CBG and you too may be singing its praises before too long.
(The Capital Bar and Grill is located at 111 Markham St., Inside The Capital Hotel)