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J and J Diner (Joyce’s) has been around in North Little Rock since 1991. My advanced mathematical calculations put the restaurant right at 30 years, no small number in the food world. Until a few weeks back, yours truly, a 9-year resident of the area, had never been. Why? I have no clue. Some places just slip through the cracks, I guess. But as I found out, it’s better late than never.
The no-frills eatery is currently takeout only, which isn’t a negative for me. I am still not especially keen on eating indoors right now and many of J and J’s dishes travel well, so the lack of dine-in service wasn’t a downfall.
Step inside and you’ll notice a standing dry erase board filled with 14 popular soul food items written in faint cursive. The counter is a few feet to the right and behind it is the owner, Joyce. She gabs with patrons whiling tending to the to-go packages brought to her by kitchen staff. It all looks like something she’s done thousands of times before. Things seem to move a little slower inside J and J Diner. This isn’t a criticism, just something to keep an eye on for your upcoming visit. I actually liked the slow, neighborhood vibe to it all.
And the food was all I wanted it to be. A plate comes with a protein and two sides. I resisted the pig feet and smothered chicken in favor of the fried chicken, pot roast and smothered pork chop. Sides of turnip greens, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, steamed cabbage and candied yams all happened.
First and foremost, everything was delicious, but some items stood out more than others. The smothered pork chop was the entrée star. A massive, deep-fried chop came smothered in brown gravy—the same gravy was also used to bathe the roast beef and mashed potatoes. My fried chicken was a tad disappointing, only because I was hoping for a thigh and/or breast piece, rather than a couple of chicken wings. The turnip greens proved to be salty, but their heavy hand of seasoning was masked after a good mixing with the sweet, candied yams.
When it comes to soul food, I am more of a mixer anyways. As for the black-eyed peas and steamed cabbage? Both were soft and tender, with just the right amount of bite. For dessert, I passed on the lemon cake in favor of peach cobbler. Their version tended to be on the runny side, but the combination of peaches, sugar, and cinnamon made it difficult to stop eating after a few bites.
In the end, I enjoyed everything about J and J Diner. Now it’s time for me to learn the menu and figure out the specials each day. Fried catfish, meatloaf, and hamburger steak are all calling my name.
J and J Diner (Joyce’s)
1123 E Washington Ave. (North Little Rock)
Hours: Wednesday & Thursday noon-2:30 p.m.; Friday noon-3 p.m.; Sunday noon-4 p.m.; Closed Saturday, Monday & Tuesday
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