Brood & Barley (North Little Rock, AR)

After our ~55 mile backpacking trip along Arkansas’s Ouachita National Scenic Trail, we had two items on our agenda before heading back to NH. The first was a relaxing trip to the Quapaw Baths in Hot Springs for a good hour-long soak in the famous baths. The second was going out for dinner to celebrate the end of the trip (to use our well-weathered phrase “after the doing, there is the un-doing”). Looking at the various options around the greater Little Rock area, that lead us to Brood & Barley over in North Little Rock.

North Little Rock is a nice little city in its own right (around 65,000 residents), just across the Arkansas River from Little Rock Proper. Formerly known as Argenta, back in the 1800s it was annexed by Little Rock, but then seceded from Little Rock in the early 20th century, and has a nice downtown, including a Main Street that still has a healthy mix of restaurants, bars, small stores, and pharmacies. In the middle of this strip, we found Brood & Barley. Much like Big Bad Breakfast, it’s in a converted storefront (it appears like it used to be a small department store), with a nice bar and central dining room, supplemented with both outdoor seating out front, and a patio in the rear.

And one of the odder welcome signs I’ve seeing, immediately admonishing guests not to steal the salt and pepper shakers. I guess there’s been a raft of such thefts; each table has a nice set of vintage, kitschy salt and pepper shakers, like the cowboy hat and boots of our tables. But odd admonishments aside, we were quickly greeted and seated at a large table across from the bar as we considered our beer and dining choices.

On the beer side of the menu, Brood & Barley opened in 2020 as a project of nearby Flyway Brewing, but the beer list is curated more as “local Arkansas beer, focusing on German styles”. As such, it was actually a nice, refreshing change from the more-usual-these-days lists of various uber-hopped IPAs and double-IPAs. I started with the Salted Cheery Sour from Bentonville Brewing Co., which was a nice, pleasant gose beer with light salt and cherry notes, and a very refreshing beer to enjoy on the nice, warm Arkansas day.

Next up was the Petite Jean Pilsner from Point Remove Brewing, a classic Pilsner made with American hops and grains and a classic Pilsner yeast, and very carefully slow-poured by Brood and Barley. A near-perfect Pilsner-style lager, this was crisp, fresh, and delicious.

For our appetizers, we started with an order of their “Crabby Fries”. As you’d expected, this was a pile of fries with cheese and Old Bay seasoning, served up tossed with some of their “Philly Sauce” (a cheese sauce intended to resemble a Philly cheesesteak). Nicely done fries, a decent amount of cheese, and just enough celery and spice notes from the Old Bay to make this a pleasant started.

The table was also drawn to another appetizer, deep-fried pimento olives. These are not anything I’d normally order, since I hate olives.
But “for science”, I actually tried these, and they were not bad, but I will not be repeating the experiment. And actually, the consensus even of the olive-likers was that these needed some more cowbell, and were a bit of a disappointment.

Next up was the Crawfish Wedge, a classic iceberg wedge salad topped with deep-fried crawfish bites. The underlying wedge salad was a nicely-composed one focusing on the wedge itself and blue cheese dressing, and the deep-fried popcorn crawfish (nicely cooked to a good tenderness but with a good crisp) added to this in both flavor and texture. Only real issue was the pacing; this arrived after most of the main courses so it got a bit less attention than it would have otherwise.

For my course, I went for the chicken dinner. This was basically a classic fried chicken dinner, with a deep-fried breast, served up with creamed confetti corn and Brussels sprouts. Overall, a very satisfying chicken dinner, although I’m always a bit disappointed in boneless boneless chicken breasts; I greatly prefer both bone-in and dark meat for both flavor and juiciness. The sides, however, were top-notch, especially the confetti corn.

Carol went for the “Beef & Bugs” special, a teres major steak served up with fried crawfish over lemon-zested barley, with green onions. Both the steak and the crawfish (slightly different crawfish than the wedge) were nicely cooked, and the lemon-zested barely a nice companion side.

Steve went for the Fish and Chips, which he reported was generally good, with the fish being mahi-mahi, but the tartar sauce being a bit funky; he would have preferred a normal tartar sauce.

Overall, we rather enjoyed Brood & Barley. The beer selection was perfect for a refreshing celebration, the food selections interesting and mostly focusing on local ingredients, and the flavors good. We won’t be getting the deep-fried olives again, however…

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