STEAKS AND MORE: At Fire Mountain.
How many times have you and your dining companion had trouble deciding where to eat? You’re in the mood for steak, she’s in the mood for something light. He wants Italian food, you want Mexican food.
But what if — cue the harp player — one restaurant had it all?
Yes, Virginia, there is such a restaurant. And not only will it satisfy just about any particular craving, it is an all-you-can-eat buffet!
That’s not what we were expecting when we arrived at Fire Mountain, an off-shoot of the Ryan’s steak house chain that recently opened next to the Wal-Mart Supercenter on East McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock. We figured the “Fire” part of the name indicated yet another version of a franchised grilled steak place.
And indeed, the grill window is the first thing you see when you enter the restaurant. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and your appetite is the Titanic, baby.
But before you can board the ship, you have to buy your ticket. There is a line of cash registers inside the front door, and you only have one option: the “grill and mega bar,” which is just under $9 per person. A soft drink or iced tea is a little extra.
You pay your money, and a hostess takes you to your table. She promises that your drinks will arrive while you are getting your food. And then she sets you free to explore all of the wonders of Fire Mountain.
The grill area offers steak cooked any way you like it, along with kielbasa, chicken, grilled vegetables and baked potatoes. Next to that is a station featuring cooks who will slice you a piece of ham or pork loin.
Then your eyes wander from the taco bar to the salad bar, and on to the fruit bar. We saw trays of fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, baked salmon, various kinds of cold pasta salads, plus hot pasta with several sauces to choose from, as well as meatballs.
And meat loaf, green beans, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken pot pie, stuffing, pot roast …
Needless to say, we didn’t sample everything, but we darn sure tried.
The standouts were the steak, which was highly seasoned and flavorful, and the fried chicken. The disappointments were the rotisserie chicken, which was bland, and the macaroni and cheese, which was watery.
Everything else was just fine. After all, this is a chain restaurant — a cafeteria, really, with an atmosphere to match. It was crowded with a lot of families on the recent Sunday night we visited (it opened in mid-May), and it was abuzz with activity as customers went to and from their tables to get their food. Our server was attentive, and she refilled our drinks every time they were near-empty.
Otherwise, to get picky would just be unfair, especially when there is so much offered at such a low price.
We even managed to work in a couple of selections from the dessert bar. There were cakes, pies, cobblers, cookies, sundaes, Jell-O and even a couple of soft-serve ice cream machines.
This kind of cheap decadence can only mean one thing: We’re living through the decline and fall of our empire, people. Get out and enjoy it.
4000 Springhill Plaza Court
(On East McCain Boulevard next to the Wal-Mart Supercenter)
North Little Rock
Fire Mountain has every kind of food you can imagine in an all-you-can-eat buffet, for under $9 a person.
10:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday; 10:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday.
Inexpensive. Credit cards accepted. No alcohol.