- STICK TO YOUR RIBS:
Sure, we like the fine-dining places, those linen tablecloth places where the wine is old, the gazpacho is cold and we can really put a dent in our rich Uncle Alan’s plastic. Still, we’ve also got a considerable soft spot in our clogged little hearts for the great American diner. You know: the joint, the dive, the restaurant with plastic tablecloths, a mounted bass over the serving window, and bathroom doors marked “Guys” and “Dolls.” You just can’t fake that.
Given our love for diners, it probably goes without saying that we’ve dined a time or three at Paul’s Restaurant in North Little Rock. Perched on Park Hill since the mastodons roamed free, Paul’s is under new ownership these days — a circumstance that drew us over like … well, like reporters to a free meal.
The first things you notice when you walk in the door at Paul’s are the techno-pumping DJ booth, the purple shag carpeting, and the seizure-inducing strobe lights. Just kidding. Other than a couple of new tablecloths, the place looks like it has for eons: pure roadside diner, with naugahyde booths and plank tables with the ubiquitous gingham table cloths.
The menu is pure diner as well: a blackboard-short list of sandwiches, appetizers, plate lunches and desserts. On our recent foray to Paul’s, Companion and I went with a little of the weird — an appetizer of the sweet potato fries ($3.99) — and a little of the tried and true: the chicken fried steak ($5.99) and the barbeque beef plate ($5.99).
The sweet potato fries were a bit sweet for my taste, especially coming as they did with a side of caramel sauce for dipping. The more I ate without the sauce, however, the more they grew on me, and we ended up killing most of the big plateful before the meal was done.
Better were our plate lunches, rock-solid trucker-sized helpings that tasted just like you expected them to. My chicken-fried steak was tasty and good, a big portion of chopped steak, breaded in a thick, flavorful, crunchy coating. Served with a yeast roll, a snowdrift of mashed potatoes slathered in peppery white gravy, and a side of greasy green beans with ham, it made for a lunch that really hit the spot.
Companion bragged as well on his barbecue. His helping was similarly generous, featuring sides of beans, potato salad and cole slaw and a cup of tangy — though a little bland — sauce. The meat, he said, was nicely done, with a good, smoky taste and a not-too-dry texture. Served with a frosty glass of iced tea, both our plates were soon mopped clean.
If you’re looking for a lunch that’s just going to knock you back in your chair and make you change religions, look elsewhere. However, for stick-to-your ribs, diner-style cooking and plate lunches, served in about the most homey setting to be found on either bank of the river, you really can’t go wrong at Paul’s. It might not be fancy, but they know how to get it done right, quick, and on the cheap.
3700 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
North Little Rock
Though we were in too big of a rush to indulge, Paul’s features what they swear is the best fried chicken around. It’s cheap, too: $7.99 for a half-bird basket, served with fries, slaw and bread. Call ahead, however; the menu warns that the wait for chicken is around 20 minutes from the time you order.
10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Inexpensive prices. Credit cards accepted. No alcohol.