Three Fold (Little Rock, AR)

After we concluded our backpacking trip in Arizona, we ended up quickly cleaning our gear and repacking so we could head out to Arkansas to hike the Ouachita Trail. In addition to the backpacking trip itself (which was reasonably enjoyable), we had the secondary goal of being in a nice, remote area near the centerline of the April 8, 2024 total eclipse. Secondarily, we got into town a day earlier, so this was a rare chance of mine to visit a new-to-me metropolitan area: Little Rock. Without double-checking the marked-up map in my parents’ hallway, I’m not 100% sure I’ve even been to Little Rock before, and if so, it’s been a long time (I have been to Arkansas a lot more recently, however, Bentonville and West Memphis…). It’s always nice to explore a new area, and I quickly found that Little Rock has a nice downtown area: a nice river walk with sculptures, several cool older railroad bridges converted in pedestrian bridges, and even an enjoyable brewery. After the better part of a day walking around, we then decided it was time to head out for dinner, checking out a place on the south side of downtown, Three Fold.

Three Fold was opened by owner Lisa Zhang back in 2015 (at a different location on Center Street, now closed), making a simple restaurant that focused on serving dumplings and noodle bowls. Walking into Three Fold is a pretty interesting experience, just because the decor is particularly spartan: concrete floor, white walls almost completely lacking adornment (aside from some welcome noise-absorbing panels), simple wood tables, and some chairs and benches. You order by walking up to the counter, reviewing the menu, and placing your order. The menu shows the same spartan ideal as the decor: they’ve got a half dozen dishes (dumplings, noodles, potstickers, steam buns, or noodle soup). Each has a choice of protein (chicken, pork, or tofu), and a level of spiciness. That’s pretty much it. I ended up going for a “half and half” (half an order of dumplings and noodles), selecting pork for my protein (an oddity: they didn’t want me selecting different proteins for dumpling and noodle), and extra spicy for my spice level, relaxing at a table outside as they delivered my order a few minutes later.

How was my “Half and Half”? Despite the slight quirkiness of the joint, this was a good meal. Heck, a really good meal. Starting with the noodles, this was a simple bowl of flat noodles, cooked to a perfect al dente, served up topped with a flavorful and tender shredded pork, with a pickled veggies, cilantro, sesame-based sauce and a very spicy dunking sauce. This was a simple dish, but everything was nicely tied together, and the meat very flavorful. But the other half of the “half and half” was actually the star: these pork dumplings were pretty much perfect: nice, flavorful and moist pockets of well-spiced pork that just explode in your mouth, surrounded by the perfectly-textured dumpling wrapper. Heck, the table over for us was a couple where one of them was mentioning “hey, I grew up in a Chinese house and can make a good dumpling, but these are great, and the cost reasonable”. I’d have to agree.

So it’s more than a bit of an informal place, and more of a quick dining destination than a fancy dinner, but Three Fold was a great place to stop in for a light dinner. The food was great, tasty, and affordable, the flavors rich and bold, and the service quick. I’d definitely come back if I find myself back in Little Rock. Also note: Three Fold has multiple locations; their other location in the Pleasant Ridge Mall on the west side of town serves up the same basic menu, with cocktails as well.

(And note, this review now adds another state, Arkansas, to the list I’ve visited!)

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