A somewhat pricey, perpetually slammed burger joint in the midst of an outdoor shopping mall may not seem like the prime lunch spot for a couple of thrift-happy vegetarian hipsters, even if those hipsters happen to find themselves stranded in Chenal Parkway shopping purgatory. Certainly it would never have occurred to said hipsters to go out of their way just to eat there. It will now.
Vegetarians of Little Rock, we present Big Orange. Much beloved by carnivorous yuppies for its hormone-free, grass-fed beef and its retro-fusion design, no herbivore should overlook this oasis of full-menu veggie offerings. All of the starters are veggie (some vegan, even), all of the burgers can go blood-free (not vegan, though), and there’s a handful of interesting salads.
We had the White Truffle & Pecorino Veggie Burger, the Curried Falafel & Lentil Burger’wich and the Sweet Potato Fries with mango curry ketchup.
If you want instant gratification, go Curried Falafel. An explosion of textures and flavors, it incidentally exploded all over the plate with our first bite. But we stuffed it back together and soldiered on.
The curry was bold, satisfying, quick. Its heat was tempered by crisp cucumber slices and smooth avocado. Clean cilantro offset the heavy fried falafel and lentils, and the bun was dessert up front — fluffy and buttery, complemented by the faint sweetness of sliced tomatoes. If we have one miniscule complaint, it’s that the patty seemed a little too salty.
The falafel was served with sriracha (a spicy-sweet chile sauce) and tzatziki in generous tubs — add as you wish. They were the perfect blend of heat and relief. The tzatziki was rich, creamy and exceptionally fresh. The sriracha made a fabulous secondary dip for the fries.
Speaking of, the Sweet Potato Fries were sweet, salty and non-greasy, with vivid sweet potato flavor. We loved the smokiness and hint of candied zest in the mango curry ketchup.
We’ve saved the best for last.
The white truffle and pecorino veggie burger was artisanal. The patty was moist, with tactile chunks of bean. The flavors were subtle, their full ambiance unfolding slowly. This is a sandwich that gives more of itself away with each bite. It’s a sandwich that we think — rather, we dream — about for days after our initial introduction. The earthy combination of fresh (very important!), nutty truffle with the buttery flavor of melted pecorino (cheese made from ewe’s milk) was incredibly comforting, and the sporadic bits of fig jam added a pleasant, unexpected sweetness. The baby arugula placated the fig with a mildly bitter, tangy kick, rounding out the palette of major flavors.
Conclusion? Though Big Orange is a burger place, the veggie patties are made with as much care as the beef patties. We are so pleased to discover a restaurant where there are veggie burgers (plural), and they are not an afterthought.
More veggie info can be found here. We're planning to beef up our veggie focus (um, pardon the irony/bad pun) in the coming months. We have a list of restaurants, but we're open to suggestions. If you know veg-friendly places, drop us an email or a comment.