- FUNKY DIZZY: Good food.
Though you can easily find a great burger, rack of ribs, or stick-to-your-innards plate lunch out there on the highways and byways of Arkansas, we’ve often been heard to bemoan the fact that — away from the centers of commerce at least — what might be called “fine dining” is scarce.
This is not to knock the grab-a-bite places our state is largely famous for. Sometimes, however, you just want to go to a restaurant with real cloth napkins and food that takes more than a dunk in the deep fat to prepare, which is rare once you get out into the little towns.
So it was with great joy a couple of years back that we happened upon Dizzy’s Grill in Benton. A fun, funky place with a great staff and an artfully made slate of menu items, Dizzy’s has since become a favorite stop when this reviewer goes looking for a meal out past the glow of Little Rock. What’s more, now that the barrel racers at the Arkansas Highway Department have quit Interstate 30, it’s even a quick and enjoyable trip down to Benton.
Dizzy’s might be the worst name for a classy restaurant ever. It’s surely in the worst place for a classy restaurant ever: in a dry county, in a strip mall, opposite a furniture emporium on a hill above a Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot. Inside, however, the decor is as carefully presented as the menu, with both possibly best summed up as “Colorful Bistro.”
Dim enough to be intimate, it’s pretty much our definition of the perfect spot for a meal with friends — the lack of a wine list notwithstanding (the owner said they’re working with the state on an exception). Mismatched chandeliers run the length of the room, bedecked with beads and gew-gaws. The walls are various shades of earth tones, offset with paintings in big frames and various quirky knick-knacks. In one corner, there’s a State Fair-novelty--sized Windsor Chair, easily six feet tall. That’s just what stands out. The old saw about “a feast for the eyes” doesn’t even begin to cover it.
As always, however, this reviewer is more about a feast for the tummy. The menu is as funky as the walls, full of interesting and often chuckle-worthy items (you know, like “The Salad Made From Exorbitantly Expensive Ingredients,” a mixture of baby spinach, artichoke hearts, bleu and feta cheeses, marinated grilled chicken and saffron all lumped together on a bed of greens for $10.95). Not looking for novelty, however, we decided on items that had made us smile in the past.
For an appetizer, we tried Dizzy’s three-cheese dip ($6.95), a prodigious bowl of creamy melted cheese topped with sour cream and a dusting of spices. Complex, spicy and stringy, with a side of warm chips, it was so far beyond the watery, Rotel-heavy cheese dips we are used to that Companion and I agreed Dizzy’s might have to come up with another name for it, just to thwart the comparison.
Our pangs quieted, we were ready to move on to the main event. From the long menu of entree items, I tried the crawfish etouffee ($13.95), while Companion selected the pasta primavera with chicken ($12.95).
In a word, the etouffee was magnificent: a huge, charger-sized bowl swimming with sliced onions, marinated chicken, crawfish and peppers, all in a buttery cream sauce that brought everything together and made it sing. It was, in short, the best etouffee I’ve had since I last left Louisiana. With the help of a chunk of the sweet French bread our waiter brought to the table on a cutting board, I soon gobbled up my fill.
Companion, too, bragged about meal: marinated and grilled chicken breast, served with grilled peppers and onions over angel hair pasta, with a spicy red sauce. A big enough portion that she had to take the remainder home in a box, her leftovers passed the fridge test with flying colors, and were even better the next day.
Though Dizzy’s prices might seem a little high, especially for strip-mall-heavy Benton, you definitely get what you pay for (they also have a long, long list of more moderately priced items like sandwiches, baked potatoes and salads, most in the $6 to $9 range). We’ve dined at Dizzy’s several times in the last few years and have always left with both our belts loosened and the feeling that we’ve enjoyed one of the best meals to be had anywhere, for any price. Couple that with a decor you wish you could pull off in your house and a staff that’s friendly and attentive to a fault, and you’ve got a winner.
That, and a darn good reason to make the trek to Benton.
1217 Ferguson St.
When looking for libation in the dry county of Saline, be sure to try Dizzy’s raspberry tea. A zingy twist on the house wine of Arkansas, it’s a nearly perfect companion for a meal sans vino.
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday.
All credit cards accepted. No alcohol. Take-out orders accepted.