I've long been a fan of Argenta Market as a place to purchase high-quality, locally-sourced produce and meat, but the North Little Rock grocer is also home to some very impressive deli sandwiches and lunch specials. Vegetarians and carnivores alike can find multiple items on the market's regular menu, from a croque monsieur served on jalapeno cornbread to a portobello mushroom sandwich served on a crusty baguette. There's one special they run a couple of times a month, though, that transcends the normal excellence of the menu to take its place among the best dishes in Central Arkansas: the Shrimp and Grits ($10.99).
A favorite of Carolina Lowcountry cuisine, this savory dish is somewhat rare here in Arkansas. Capers does a fairly respectable version, and food truck favorite Southern Gourmasian has a fun, deep-fried version, but the Argenta Market version is probably second only to Ashley's in terms taste and quality. The grits in question are coarse ground, then mixed with a generous amount of smoked Gouda to form a creamy, slightly chewy base upon which rests a scattering of five large, succulent shrimp. Topping everything off is a spicy gravy made with andouille sausage that gives a nice kick to the subtly flavored grits. The shrimp themselves are tender and meaty, cooked just to the point of doneness without becoming tough or leathery, and the flavor is sweet and mild without any of the fishiness that can harm less-than-fresh seafood. It's a good sign for a dish when you see folks around you all eating the same thing — and two out of the three other folks dining at Argenta's quaint dining area around me were all having this dish.
While not available every day, this local favorite is something that comes back by popular demand a couple of times every month, so give the Market a follow over on Facebook to know when you can get your hands on a bowl. In the meantime, you can content yourself with the rest of their regular menu both at breakfast and lunch — and pick up something for the oven or grill to take with you when you go. Argenta Market is located at 521 Main Street in North Little Rock, and they're open Monday-Friday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m - 8 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.