Aaron Eats: Little Grill brings island flavor to Tuttle Creek

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Spring break is over, the snow has melted again and it’s time to resume life in the “Little Apple”. The work weeks drone and the chaotic winds of desperation are beginning to once again fill campus. But nestled down inside of the traumatic experience we call ‘college’ is one of the more enjoyable times of day. When we yet again settle in with an empty stomach and satisfy the most basic bodily needs and cravings with food.

The hint of warm weather gives rise to a whole new level of dining experiences. Seeking warmth in both body and soul, springtime becomes a happier time. Grills are being fired back up and the smell of barbecue lingers through the neighborhoods all across town. Following the smells and soaking up the sunshine, my friends and I found our journey’s end this week just past the Tuttle Creek dam, at Little Grill.

This small Jamaican restaurant, suitably named for its size, displays a flair of island appeal perfect for the coming of spring. Outwardly appearing to be any other small bar/grill in rural Kansas, new customers may feel cautious about entering upon arrival. But fellow hungry travelers, fear not, for inside you will find some of the nicest people around.

The smell inside the restaurant was absolutely delicious. The aroma of foreign spices not so familiar to the common Kansan’s nose was almost more intoxicating than the full size bar full of rum specialties and more.

Greeted quite promptly by the barkeep we were given free roam to find a most comfortable table. With waitress in tow we selected a raised table with barstools next to the window and dove right into the menu.

Limited to a smaller menu than most restaurants will boast, I was disappointed at first in the options for appetizers and main courses. That disappointment did not carry over into the meal however as I was pleasantly presented with a delicious variety.

Out in a reasonable amount of time, but not terribly fast, came our starters for the evening. A powerful combination of fried mushrooms and spicy ranch dip was the first to grace our palates in a long line of food. Deliciously crunchy, yet not overwhelmingly fried, the mushrooms’ true flavor poured through the dish. A bit too much water hung into the mushrooms unfortunately, so biting into one was like an explosion of flavor that caught me off guard almost every time.

Alongside this glorious basket of fruity fungi came another curious simplicity in the form of potato crisps. It was a wondrous event when these simple snacks came to our table. Not so boring as a plain tortilla chip, I was most delighted by the difference serving up a new chip could do. A thicker, crunchier, more flavorful potato crisp than I have had in a long time.

On to the main course! Or so we hoped‚ and waited‚ and hoped. Probably over-emphasized due to the fact that it was a lazy Sunday afternoon, but it really was a long trip to a restaurant. Clocking in from start to finish at just under two hours, we weren’t displeased but experienced the drain of the time.

For dinner we ate chicken. What better way to enjoy a nice Jamaican flavor than to embody it fully within a succulently roasted piece of white meat. A meat that itself has little flavor, chicken is the perfect canvas for the chef’s creative ambition.

The Little Grill has many things, jerked. Jerk Chicken was on my plate and let me tell you, if you’ve never had it, it’s an experience. The spice was probably a bit overwhelming for the more mild-mannered types, but the flavor was bold. Packed with a delicious host of peppers, herbs and juicy chicken, I was anything but hungry when I left.

But dinner was not over yet, I had yet to take down my side dish. Instead of the salad or red beans and rice, I decided to take down a nice bowl of gumbo.

Not like any gumbo I’d ever had before, this big bowl of happiness made my journey complete. With broth that literally warmed my soul and chunky potatoes, carrots and meat it was absolutely miraculous.

Feeling the warmth of cozy comfort food and soaking in some culture, the Little Grill played a great part in a wonderful afternoon. For the adventurous give Jerk a try, for the rest of you light hearted eaters, stick to the chicken strips to avoid a meltdown.

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