Dining » Dining Review

Three Fold improved

The noodle and dumpling co. moves to Main Street and a good thing gets better.

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A LOAD OF SOUP: The pork noodle bowl fills the famished.
  • A LOAD OF SOUP: The pork noodle bowl fills the famished.

Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. developed a large cadre of fiercely loyal fans in its almost three-year run in the Pyramid Building at Second and Center. The fans have followed Three Fold south to its new, larger, brighter, less cacophonous location at 611 S. Main St. And still others surely have now just discovered this clean, fresh alternative that's unique in downtown Little Rock.

The formula is still pretty much the same — queue up and place your order at the counter. But, rather than wait for the staff to scoop up your food from steam table compartments and hand it over, now you place a number on your table and staff brings it over after it's been prepared to order in woks and steamers. And, unless you order pan-fried dumplings, the food still comes out super fast.

The noodle bowl, dumpling bowl and steamed buns — choose chicken, pork or tofu — remain the staple lunch/dinner entrees. But now the restaurant is advertising on its menu items that regulars have long been ordering off-menu: a soup noodle bowl ($9.89); a bowl that combines half orders of dumplings and noodles ($12.89) and pan-fried dumplings ($10.79). And there's a separate, miniscule breakfast menu. More on that in a minute.

The time the Three Fold team takes to make noodles and dumplings from scratch is well worth it. Each is firm, flavorful and exceedingly fresh. The shredded chicken and minced-pork fillings in the dumplings are dosed with the signature spices we can't quite pin down, and the pickled veggie relish and shredded carrot slaw add-ons contribute a lot to the flavor. Small and large noodle bowls are $6.49 and $8.49 while the dumpling bowls are $7.49 and $9.49. With each you get a small container of sauce to pour over noodles or dip your dumpling into. There are four heat levels, from non-spicy to "poison." We went with medium, and it provided just the right amount of kick.

The steamed buns ($6.49 and $8.49) come on house-made "mo," a bun with a springy consistency that's somewhere between a regular bread bun and pita. Our shredded chicken, lettuce and the usual pickled veggies soaked into the bottom bun and made the whole thing dreamy good. We're already plotting a return trip to try the pork bun.

BIGGER AND BETTER: Three Fold's new home seats more people, is less noisy than its previous location and has a patio.
  • BIGGER AND BETTER: Three Fold's new home seats more people, is less noisy than its previous location and has a patio.

We also sampled the soup noodle bowl with pork, this time a few slices vs. the minced pork stuffed into dumplings. It came out so quickly that the pork wasn't even fully heated through yet. But what a load of soup! The bulk was provided by the noodles, not broth. We weren't ravenous, but we worked on it a while, probably getting through about one-quarter of it. When we got home and popped it on our food scale, we found we had 2.3 POUNDS of leftover soup. The next day we added two quarts of chicken broth, much of which the noodles absorbed, some leftover pork from another meal and ate on it for days. No lie!

The pan-fried dumplings take 8-10 minutes longer than other dishes, because they are cooked to order — each of the nine plump dumplings browned to a nice crunch on one side. We love the steamed dumplings. We love the pan-fried ones even more, as much for the added texture as taste.

As much as we and hundreds of others are loving the new Three Fold, we're not sure breakfast will survive. First off, our experience is most folks are just trying to get to their offices by the appointed time, so downtown isn't a major breakfast market. There was only one other customer the day we popped in. And the only offering (other than a $1.50 "tea-scented egg" — we're scared!) — is "baozi." The menu describes it as "filled steamed buns, pan-fried to golden perfection." Each in our order of three ($9.99 vs. $4.29 for a single) had seen some time in a pan but still was a huge, very doughy monstrosity that had too little filling to offset the volume of almost-wet dough. We enjoyed the egg with veggies filling the best; the ground pork was the same as is in the dumplings, so thumbs up; we didn't care at all for the red bean, which was slightly sweet the way baked beans are.

Three Fold has a nice vibe. It's a huge space with seating for more than 100 in two dining areas, and sidewalk seating, too. The décor is white and bright, but not clinical, with tall windows and ceilings thanks to being housed in a historic building, the original home of the Arkansas Democrat. The floor is polished concrete bordered in white and gray penny tile, appropriate for the age of the building. Acoustic panels keep the sound — a problem in the old spot — under control.

Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co.
611 S. Main Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
501-372-1739
eat3fold.com

Quick Bite

In a hurry? Call ahead and nab your fabulous food from the to-go window that faces Main Street.

Hours

7 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday

Other info

All credit cards accepted; beer and wine

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