Photographs by Jennifer Christman
Grilled breast of chicken with melted brie and caramelized onions, served with vegetables and Capers Potatoes, is a lunch option at Capers.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
No one would be able to tell classy, cozy Capers was in crisis mode a couple months ago.
Back in January, a cold snap caused the attic fire suppression system to burst, ruining everything from ceilings and walls to furnishings and floors, and requiring what owner Mary Beth Ringgold called in the restaurant's blog "a pretty major renovation." Capers was forced to close, but diners craving its cooking could count on the adjacent gourmet Market at Capers for carryout.
Address: 14502 Cantrell Road (Arkansas 10), Little Rock
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Cuisine: Eclectic with Southern flair
Credit cards: V, MC, AE, D
Alcoholic beverages: Full bar
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Based on a bustling weekday lunch and wildly busy weekday dinner, we'd say people are very glad to have it back. So are members of the friendly staff who are happy to be working again.
Regulars will surely note the nuances. Having not visited the restaurant since my last review way back in 2011, I can't say the interior looked that different to me, but I've eaten more meals on Capers' deck than in its segmented dining room. My friend noticed the traditional restaurant seems "a little bit fresher" adding the experience is "still sort of like going to your aunt's house, complete with china cabinets and oriental rugs" and Wheel of Fortune on the TV in the bar area.
Changes were not immediately noticeable to us on the lunch and dinner menus either.
At lunch, our waitress said nothing was new on the midday menu, save for a tweaked recipe for the shrimp and grits appetizer. And at dinner, our waiter pointed out only one appetizer and two fish entrees that have been added to the otherwise familiar menu of eclectic fare with Southern flair.
For lunch, a friend and I split the aforementioned shrimp and grits ($11.25) starter -- and some confusion. The menu described the sauteed Gulf shrimp as being served over spicy tomato grits. But we didn't detect a hint of spice or tomato in the pale lump of coarse grits in the middle of the mild, saucy dish of five shellfish and spinach. The grainy texture of the grits and the nondescript taste didn't delight. And an odd number of shrimp made it less than ideal appetizer to share.
I couldn't decide what I wanted from Capers' diverse menu -- one of its eight salads ($5.95-$11.95), a Fried Oyster Po Boy ($10.50), Fish Tacos ($12.95), the Bleu Cheeseburger ($9.50) or a Kentucky Hot Brown ($9.95).
Then I did what I never do: I ordered a grilled chicken breast ($10.50). I had overlooked it, until the waitress recommended it for its topping of melted brie and caramelized onions. The richness of the cheese and onions elevated the chicken, as did a helping of the creamy, cornflake-crusted casserole known as Capers Potatoes and a side of mixed vegetables.
My friend ordered the Crawfish Enchiladas ($12.95), a flour tortilla bundle of crawfish, peppers, onions and cheese cloaked in crawfish cream sauce, served with a heap of grits. She described the hearty lunch portion as pleasantly spiced.
On this visit and my next, we'd have to miss out and pass on Capers' made-from-scratch desserts ($6.75) such as chocolate creme brulee, coconut cream pie, white chocolate bread pudding, Key lime pie and double-chocolate cheesecake.
I'd return with a date on a Wednesday night for dinner and we were amazed by how many tables were taken, mostly by well-dressed mature couples. Clearly Capers is doing something right. And we figured out what that something was with a glance at a specials list on the table: Select half-price bottles of wine are available Monday through Thursday. Still, it was a school night; I opted for a single pour of Peachy Canyon red zinfandel, which at $7.50 is toward the low end of Caper's by-the-glass prices ($5-$12.50).
We shared the one appetizer our waiter pointed out as new, the Camembert ($7.95), a warm wheel of soft cow's milk cheese, cloaked in fig jam, accented with roasted garlic cloves and served with buttery toasted baguette slices. Simple in ingredients, but assertive in aroma and flavor, it might have been my favorite dish of both visits.
Or at least my second favorite. The medium-rare 8-ounce filet mignon ($33.95) was magnificent. It came served in a puddle of plush spicy crawfish cream sauce, with a side of garlic and white cheddar mashed potatoes and a stray piece of bacon. Maybe that slice -- of which the menu made no mention -- was supposed to come around the filet but fell off? Whatever. Bacon is always a bonus.
My date ordered the grilled mahi mahi ($24.95), one of the new fish dishes (the other is a tortilla-encrusted red snapper, $25.95). While the bit I snagged seemed a bit busy, he enjoyed every bite of the citrus marinated fish, served with a three-pepper slaw, mango/avocado salsa and white cheddar grits.
Interesting, we encountered grits three times, and yet we never had one caper at Capers.
Weekend on 03/16/2017
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