We’re back at it again, trying to gauge exactly what we truly love to eat here in Little Rock. This time around, we’re taking a look at one of the most subjective food items out there … the burger. Here’s the question I posed on Facebook…
“What is your favorite restaurant to get a burger in the Little Rock area?”
We had 74 comments, with 38 different burgers being mentioned and 116 total votes. As always, these are very informal polls, so please treat this post as just a nice resource for quality burger options in our area. Here’s the crazy thing that struck me right off the bat … of the 38 places mentioned, I had not even had the burger at 24 of them. Granted, I’m not a big burger guy, but it still speaks to the quality options we have in the area.
So who reigned supreme? To no surprise, Big Orange and David’s came out on top. Both places are wildly popular, produce a consistently great burger, and have multiple locations to hit a wider audience. Big Orange took in 16 votes and David’s came in second with 14. There was a considerable drop-off after those two. The next tier of spots included: The Box, The Root Cafe, Gadwall’s Grill, South on Main, Arkansas Burger Co., and Capital Bar and Grill … all receiving between 5-7 votes. Of these, the South on Main burger, which I’ve written about quite a bit of late, is my personal favorite. I know several folks who claim that The Root’s cheeseburger is the absolute best burger in town, but I can’t speak to that one, as I haven’t had it in a few years.
Tier three consisted of these spots: Cotham’s (original location), Buffalo Grill, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, The Pantry, Grumpy’s, Alley Oops, Midtown Billiards, Sports Page, Burge’s, Purple Cow, Bobby’s Cafe, Burgers Pies and Fries, Four Quarter Bar, and Monkey Burger … all receiving between 2-4 votes. The H.A.M. is served only on Fridays, and when they run out, they run out, so get there early. It’s a decadent burger that’s sure to please even the pickiest of palates.
We had several places that each received one mention. These included: Skinny J’s, The Spot, Ciao Baci, The Southern Gourmasian, Leo’s Greek Castle, Mick’s BBQ, Brewster’s II Cafe, K Hall and Sons, VFW on Kanis, The Butcher Shop (Friday), Canon Grill, Markham Street Grill & Pub, JoJo’s Bar-B-Que, The Terrace, Jacks Bar and Grill, and Doe’s Eat Place. If you haven’t had the chicken burger at The Southern Gourmasian, please put it on your to-do list. Also, the Ciao Baci burger is super underrated.
Finally, a few reactions from readers…
Karin Schoultz: “We looooove old school, straight up, plain Jane good old Buffalo Grill burger!!!!!”
Laurie Ringler: “David’s or Gadwall’s, but that’s only because I live north of the river. Special occasions call for Big Orange.”
Emilie F. Partis: “Top choice is always and will always be the herbed butter burger at Purple Cow (with a triple treat chocolate malt just to insure the heart attack factor!). Second runners up would be the cheeseburger at Big Orange or at Cothams in Scott.”
Alicia Tuggle: “When The Butcher Shop does their Friday lunch burger, other than that I mostly go for terrace restaurant for convenience for the taste and the price is good too. Plus it’s usually enough for me to have 2 meals out of due to the fries too (I always order the night time fries if it’s lunch).”
Vicki Funkkjunkie Weber: “Big Orange Midtown always. Hickory smoke burger. And dying to try the Razorback! And we now have one of the Burgers, Pies and Fries places that started in Jacksonville here in Conway. It’s a great burger but I’m not a fan of the “cheese” or the bun.”
Danny Huber: “I like all the burger comments. The hidden gems in this thread are Bobby’s Cafe and Monkey Burger. If you haven’t been…GO!”
There are so many really cool events and dinners coming up in the very near future around Little Rock. Check out all of the details below…
HarvestFest in Hillcrest is one of my absolute favorite events in Little Rock … there’s just so much to walk around and see, do, buy, drink, and eat. October 22 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. is when things go down. From FB: “HarvestFest in Hillcrest is a one-day event each fall in the historic Little Rock neighborhood of Hillcrest designed to bring friends and families together in celebration of the season. We have a wide array of activities for kids and adults alike, vendors selling their wares, food, fashion, music and much more. Come join the fun. We know you won’t be disappointed. A portion of the proceeds from this event goes to support The Allen School.” Here’s hoping for great weather.
The mighty chicken wing has been a hot topic on the blog of late … and if you’d like to get your wing eating/competing on … make sure to check out the Wingin’ It for Alzheimers on October 22 from 1-3 p.m. at the Diamond Bear Brewery. For tickets or competition information, click here.
And don’t forget about the World Cheese Dip Festival on October 22.
The Arktoberfest Craft Beer Festival and Catfish Cookoff is also on October 22. For all the FAQs, click here. From the looks of it, there will be no shortage of food and drink, and if you love local craft brew, this is the place for you. Should be a great line-up of brewers.
The Arkansas State Fair is October 14-23. I leave it up to you to seek out the details … including concerts, food, drink, rides, etc. There’s a lot to cover.
Chef Matt Bell of South on Main will host the Little Rock No Kid Hungry Dinner on Monday, October 24. This multi-course dinner starts with a reception at 6 p.m. and features guest chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line in Memphis and Levon Wallace of Cochon in Nashville. For ticket info, click here. For more information, contact Emily Roth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-551-3470.
Also on October 29, save some room for cornbread and head down to SOMA for the Arkansas Cornbread Festival from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. This is always such a well-run event. Folks can eat and compete … and this year’s top prize is $1000. Eat chili in the Heights and then some cornbread in SOMA … not a bad day.
On Thursday, November 3rd, Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals (CARE) will host Paws in the Vineyard from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Trapnall Hall. “Paws in the Vineyard will be the PURfect combination of wine and whiskers! Guests will enjoy delicious food, bold beverages, a silent auction, a wine pull, and live music while meeting a few of CARE’s adoptable dogs. Tickets are $60 and can be purchsed at centralarkansastickets.com or by calling CARE at (501) 603-2273.” I’ve been told Trio’s is heading up the food for the event.
The Central AR Asian Festival is set for November 5th from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at 6221 Colonel Glenn Road. Here are the details: “Join us for the largest community festival in Central Arkansas celebrating Asian-Pacific Islander cultures! Free Admission, Authentic ethnic food vendors, food trucks, patio dining, live performers & demonstrations, indoor/outdoor activities.”
The Next Course, the annual fundraiser dinner benefiting Youth Home, Inc., will be held in the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library on November 3 at 6 p.m. All proceeds from the evening will be used to benefit the teens in Youth Home’s Residential Treatment Program in Little Rock. “This unique culinary dining experience includes a wine reception and five courses with chef’s tips and instruction on how to prepare the next course. Wine will be served with each course and seating is limited.” For ticket info, click here.
Random thoughts and ramblings on local food and drink…
I went to my first “biker bar” last week, that being Rodney’s Handlebar & Grill on the side of I-30, and I gotta tell you … it was nothing like I expected. But in a good way. Well, honestly, I was not sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised with the clean, comfortable, and inviting setting. The menu was simple, but well-executed, due in large part to the skills of Matt Clark (formerly of Waffle Wagon fame). My chicken BLT with onion rings was spot-on, as was my buddy’s fried bologna sandwich. Go check the place out … I feel quite confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Plus, you can tell people that you ate at a biker bar, which is good for street cred.
I took my in-laws to South on Main for the first time. Stellar service and excellent food and drinks seem to have kept me in good standing, for the time being. My Old-Fashioned still rates as the best version in town, and the same can be said for the restaurant’s double patty cheeseburger with bacon jam, which came with a side of fries and soaked salad. We love our burgers in Little Rock–as evident by the almost-rioting that breaks out when I bring it up on the blog–and South on Main’s version has quickly become a personal favorite. The melted pimento cheese and crusty exterior of the patties are what put it over the top. I rarely order a cheeseburger for dinner in such upscale settings, but this one is the exception.
It looks like Honey Pies is beginning to crank up its coffee service, which is good news because the pies and ice cream are on point. I ordered the fudge brownie and apple pies for a party and both were well received. Honey Pies is now offering $5 mini pies, which is a nice alternative, especially if you want to try out a pie without making a major commitment.
Maybe giving food tours in Little Rock is my new thing…because I really enjoy it. I was honored to give a tour to a wonderful group of folks who were the high bidders for the “Saturday Night in the Heights” silent auction item at this year’s Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance fundraiser. We visited three popular restaurants—Boulevard Bistro, ZAZA, and Heights Taco & Tamale Co.—all on foot, and had a fun time tasting some of Little Rock’s most popular dishes. The frites and baked pimento cheese at Boulevard made the cut, as did the Forager pizza at ZAZA, and the frozen mojitos and chocolate cake at HTT, just to name a few. Special thanks to all of the restaurants for donating to such a wonderful cause and to Brad and Tammy for their winning bid. Here’s to next year!
I can’t get over the amazing veggies coming out of my Fall Farmshare Basket from Rattle’s Garden. The zucchini, purple-hull peas, green beans, and peppers are all wonderful. If you are interested in participating if future programs with RG, please contact their Facebook page. I can’t recommend Tara and her produce highly enough.
Another shout out goes to Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, a meat share program I’ve been participating in for the past year. I tag the company a lot on my FB posts, so many of you know how much I cook with their meats on a weekly basis. Go check out their website, as they’ve really streamlined the ordering process, while offering good deals on top-notch meat.
It’s easy to forget about the unassuming El Palenque tucked back off Rodney Parham, but that would be a mistake. I love the simple shrimp burrito, even for take-out, which is what we did on Sunday. A side of refried beans with the burrito is also a pro move.
In recent weeks on the blog, there have been several mentions regarding our lack of variety as it pertains to food and drink in Little Rock. It got me to thinking … is there an area or, dare I say, multiple areas, where we have an embarrassment of riches? Maybe, maybe not, but “bars” popped into my head right off the bat. So I posed this question on Facebook…
“What is your favorite bar to grab a drink in Little Rock?”
We had 50 comments, with more than 34 different bars being mentioned. As always, these are very informal polls, so please treat this post as just a nice resource for quality bar options in our area.
Many times, choosing your favorite place to grab a drink is about more than if the bar serves bad ass cocktails or has local beers on tap. The atmosphere, the music, and the bartender(s) can all play such critical roles in choosing your favorite watering hole. For me, nothing beats South on Main. It’s got that amazing combination of stellar bartenders, a great list of cocktails, and inviting atmosphere that almost always puts it at the top of my list, and apparently, yours too. It finished second only to the iconic Capital Bar and Grill in voting.
The Pantry Crest and Big Orange Midtown were only a few votes short of South on Main and CBG, and for good reason. Both places are gorgeous, carry an excellent selection of beer, and often deliver some of the best cocktails in town.
The Pizzeria, Ciao Baci, Local Lime, and Flyway Brewing were next up. Local Lime serves the best margarita in town and Flyway, which usually offers 8-10 of their own beers on tap, is such a nice and relaxing spot to unwind.
The Fold, Trio’s, Rebel Kettle, The White Water Tavern, and Heights Taco & Tamale Co. also received multiple votes. In this group, the bartending skills of Merrick Fagan at Trio’s really stand out. Merrick is really starting to make a name for himself through his craft cocktail creativity.
Other places receiving votes include: Raduno, Baja Grill, YaYa’s, Four Quarter, Cache, Stickyz, Lost Forty, SO, One Eleven, The Faded Rose, JJ’s Grill, Zack’s Place, Pizza D, The Hillcrest Fountain, 109, Samantha’s, Stone’s Throw Brewing, By the Glass, Reno’s, Oyster Bar, and Boulevard Bistro. This is another excellent group of bars. I love the beauty of One Eleven and Samantha’s, enjoy grabbing a beer at The Faded Rose, and am looking forward to checking out JJ’s Grill.
Thank you to everyone who participated…we’ll try to do one of these each week for the immediate future. I’ll leave you with some more reader comments…
Lisa Prince Thomas: “I work in the Little Rock River Market and Cache Restaurant is in the same building and Stickyz Rock N’ Roll Chicken Shack is across the street. So that’s my easy two picks, both with completely different atmospheres and excellent places for a little after work ‘wet-your-whistle.'”
Mallory Burns: “South on Main, Capital Bar and Grill, Heights Taco. All are so happy and comforting in their own way.”
Alicia Tuggle: “For just drinks the new JJ’s grill in LR has good drink prices and happy hours and daily specials and also crafty hour and then there is the some minutes every hour for domestics too.”
E.W. Swan: “My wife and I had a couple of amazing cocktails at Ciao Baci a few weeks ago.”
Mason Hargett: “I have only been twice, but I really like going to Rebel Kettle Brewing Co.”
Amber Smith: “I have to give a shout out to the bars I’ve enjoyed due to the awesome bartender…Dylan when he was at Big Orange, The Fold…I don’t know your name, but you’re always accommodating, especially when my husband is on call and can’t drink but wants a watermelon drink, and Hunter when she was at Boulevard.”