Having been on both sides of the dining game, we're always hesitant to walk into a place an hour before closing. We have too many memories of late diners in our past life working in a restaurant, which gives us a lot of sympathy for the cooks, servers and cleanup staff who don't always get to have a set time by which they can clock out and get home to their families.
Unfortunately, a late start on a recent trip to Jonesboro found us walking into the door of Omar's Uptown right as its formal dining room was closing for the evening, and if it hadn't been for a strong desire to try the place, we would have probably gone somewhere else. The staff didn't seem worried about our tardiness, though, offering us a table in the upstairs lounge area, where they offered us the same full menu they'd been serving all night. Right off the bat, they scored some major points with us.
We settled into our seats near the bar and ordered the Crabmeat Napoleon ($10), a savory play on the French dessert that featured two slices of lightly breaded and fried eggplant and a generous portion of lump crab meat resting atop a tasty creole meuniere sauce, and topped with just a dash of tarragon aioli. The crab was sweet and rich, and both sauces really suited the dish well. The eggplant was fried to perfection, though it was bitter — which is how some people like their eggplant, but not all. Still, that minor complaint aside, the Napoleon was an excellent start to the meal.
We decided to put the kitchen to the test with our main dishes, ordering two that need special care in cooking in order to be done well. The first was the Baja Ahi Tuna ($25), a thinly sliced tuna steak with steamed asparagus, lemon-butter sauce and a dollop of avocado salad. With this dish, Omar's really hit the mark. The sashimi-grade tuna was well seared on the outside and perfectly rare on the inside, allowing the natural buttery flavor of the fish to shine through. The sauce added some excellent brightness to the plate, and while the asparagus was of the simple steamed variety, the tangy avocado salad was just the right amount of creamy, sweet and savory — making this one of the best tuna dishes we've tried in the state.
Our second dish was one of Omar's weekly specials, the Zydeco Filet — and filet is probably the cut of beef with which we find ourselves most often disappointed. Again, Omar's hit a home run, with the beef coming out cooked at just the right amount (we order ours extremely rare) and with a texture that was meltingly tender and full of flavor. The steak was topped by a generous helping of fried crawfish tails, a nice touch that added some good crunch to the plate. The side dishes of roasted potatoes and more asparagus weren't anything out of the ordinary, but with a steak as masterfully done as this, we didn't mind one bit.
If we had any real complaint about Omar's, it's that the upstairs dining area seemed woefully understaffed for the amount of people packed into it. Servers seemed obviously harried, and while our food hit the table in an acceptable amount of time, drink refills seemed out of the question. In the end, we finally had to go up to the bar and ask for our check, which included reminding the server who brought us our food just exactly where we were sitting. Again, given our late arrival, it's hard to hold things like that against the place, but any restaurant at this price point should have its help covered for the entire time they serve a full menu. Still, Omar's is definitely an elite restaurant serving great food, and a definite "must try" for anyone who finds themselves in the Jonesboro area.
301 S. Main St.
While reservations aren't required, our walk-in experience makes us recommend them if downstairs seating is desired. The upstairs area is much more laid-back, however, and features live music on weekends.
Dining room: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Upstairs lounge: 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Full bar. Credit cards accepted.