The respective owners of Lilly’s Dim Sum and Trio’s recently declared their restaurants cell-phone free. The move, effective already, is a reaction to what owners Nancy Tesmer and Kathy Webb of Lilly’s and Capi Peck and Brent Peterson of Trio’s say is a disruptive, excessively noisy cell-phone culture that’s “just plain out of control.” The owners say they’re hoping to enhance the dining experience of their patrons in a similar way that going smoke free did, and they hope that other restaurants will follow suit. To that end, Lilly’s is creating a list of other cell-phone-free eateries on its website, www.lillysdimsum.com.
CAFE SOLEIL This roadside Eureka Springs bistro advertises itself as a “gourmet experience you can afford.” Cafe Soleil lives up to its gourmet claim for sure, starting with the bruschetta duo (one with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, the other with pesto and dried tomatoes), all the way through the ginger-soaked steak and on to the tiramisu. Affordable? Well, the tab was $81 for three, with only two glasses of wine in that sum. Not too much, by any means, though. There’s a screen porch out front, and it feels good to sup and sit and listen to the wind blow through the large pine trees out front. 3094 E. Van Buren. Beer and wine. CC $$-$$$ 479-253-2345 LD Tue.-Sun.
THREE SAM’S The Sams – a father-mother-son team all known as Sam – have been dishing up impossibly huge piles of barbecue at this friendly joint in downtown Mabelvale for five years. They use a water smoker. Purists will argue that this diminishes the power of the smoke in the flavor and can make the meat almost mushy. But there’s no denying that everything is fall-off-the-bone tender. Some are drawn here to Sam’s distinct red sauce. Not too hot, it’s sharp with vinegar and powered more by chili powder than the tomato and sugar that dominate many other sauces. Everything here is homemade, including the skin-on potato salad and a stellar dessert lineup including homemade fudge, good lemon icebox pie and double nut pound cake topped with caramel sauce. It’s a busy place at lunch, but service is with a smile. We defy you to complete the Pig Plate – three ribs, your choice of a pile of chopped beef or pork, sides of fries or onion rings and Texas toast for what turns out to be a bargain $9. The fudge sells for $1 per whopper piece of gooey goodness. 10508 Mann Road, Mabelvale. 407-0345. L Mon.-Wed. and Sat.; LD Thu.-Fri. $ CC (over $10). No alcohol