There are many Central Arkansas folks who swear by Red Lobster. Over the years I've attributed that to good advertising, habit, even the presence of cheddar biscuits. But what I think it comes down to is that the menu is accessible and people know what they'll get... seafood (or some resemblance of it) in a combination that's comfortable to them.
Yet, there is a restaurant around these parts that's doing seafood better than the old chain... with more choices and with a better drink selection menu. I give you... Mickie's Bluefish Grill in Conway.
Those lovely Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms ($7.99) you see there were full of hot (almost too hot -- directly from the oven) piping romano and parmesan cheese and sweet crab meat, and served up with a daily Twitter special -- a $1 mimosa. Beat that, fancy pants chains.
More on the jump.
Thing is, you go to the big chains and chances are your choices are breaded and fried or grilled for just about any of your offerings (maybe there's more, it's been a while). Mickie's gives you a lot of choices... for instance, I chose to have my shrimp done Cajun style to go with my platter (Shrimp, Crab Cake and Clam Strips, $15.99 with two sides). Those were some nicely spicy shrimp. However, I could have chosen to have them sauteed in lemon butter instead. Or blackened. Or sauteed Jamaican Jerk style. Or scampi'd, grilled, or batttered and fried with one of the amazing dipping sauces offered (like chili aoili, Cajun ranch, or Mango Mandarin Salsa). Or even done up Asian Sesame style. As I said, lots of choices. The crab cake was good with a heavy meat to breading ratio, and clam strips were crunchy and not chewy.
My companion's fried oysters, by the way? Perfectly cooked and served up with red beans and rice and mashed potatoes. Salads are huge. And did I mention the beverage selection? I did? Okay, that's good. One more thing to mention... the kids meals. No, seriously, I think about these things now. For $4.99, your child gets a choice of hand battered fish, popcorn shrimp, chicken tenders, mini corn dogs, or mac and cheese... a side of steamed vegetables, seasoned fries, garlic-parsley mashed potatoes or mandarin orange slices... a dessert (Choco Taco, cup of fruit or cup of ice cream) and a drink. I only really mention it because the portions were pretty darn big for a kid. And because the waitress brought us Goldfish Crackers for the child to munch on while waiting for dinner. Mickie's Bluefish Grill is at 755 Club Street in Conway, off Salem Road (near the new Kroger). It's open 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, til 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. (501) 329-1122. Oh, and they have a website. And they do Twitter specials. Check it out.