We started with 30 but have upped it to 40. This is my fun and comprehensive list of 40 Unique Little Rock Food Experiences to do Before You Die. Now remember, this is about the experience, and while great food is definitely part of the equation, it’s really about highlighting places, events, settings, and dishes that are truly part of Little Rock’s (and the surrounding area’s) food culture. The choices are numbered below, but they are in no particular order of awesomeness.
40. Beers and Bites at Flyway Brewing
Flyway is that perfect combination of great beer, fun bar food, and a casual neighborhood atmosphere that all ends up screaming Little Rock. Sorry, I mean North Little Rock. Anytime an out-of-town guest comes to visit, one of the first place I take them is to Flyway. It never disappoints.
39. Drinks at Capital Bar & Grill
This is one of Little Rock’s most classic bar settings and you just can’t go wrong with ordering a Southern Comfortable, the bar’s signature cocktail of Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka, Yellow Chartreuse, fresh lemon juice, and house-made pecan soda.
38. Eating Chocolate at Izard Chocolate
Yes, we actually have a chocolate maker right here in town, and owner/chocolatier Nathaniel Izard gets better and better with his craft. Go check out his small, Hillcrest shop and get some truffles, caramels, and dark chocolate bars. If you’re reading this and can’t make it to Little Rock, Izard also ships online.
37. Breakfast at The Root
No restaurant truly reflects Little Rock’s casual Southern vibe more than The Root. They also serve what many consider to be the best breakfast in town. Get the biscuits and gravy and a donut muffin. The coffee is also excellent, as is the casual, laid back vibe of the place.
36. Kolaches at Wild Sweet William’s Bakery
Are Wild Sweet William’s authentic kolaches worth the 55-minute drive (each way) from Little Rock to Searcy? The answer is yes, just make sure you get there by 9:30 a.m. or you run the risk of the bakery being sold out. And that’s not all they do well. The scones are some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Honestly, just go and order one of whatever they have that day.
35. Chef’s Tasting at Ciao Baci
Jeffrey Owen is one of the very best chefs in town and he also has a nightly chef’s tasting menu that features 5 courses for $45. It’s a great value and allows diners a chance to really explore the menu.
34. Saturday Seafood Boil at K Hall and Sons
I’ve never actually ordered the seafood boil but I’ve seen the line and heard the raves. K Hall is a fun place to be on a Saturday morning, and if crab legs and crawfish aren’t your thing, go inside and order a bacon cheeseburger.
33. Concert at South on Main
Some of my absolute best memories in Little Rock have taken place at South on Main. There’s nothing quite like watching a fantastic concert with an Old Fashioned in one hand and a fried duck wing in the other.
32. Ramen at Arkansas Heart Hospital
I can safely say no other hospital in America serves tasty ramen to a rabid fan base of folks. Show up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11-2, but be prepared to wait in line.
31. Cheese Dip Tour
Cheese dip is probably Little Rock’s most iconic dish. Heck, you can find it on about 80% of the menus in town. Take an afternoon and do a cheese dip crawl. You’ll want to hit up Mexico Chiquito’s drive-thru (respect history), Dizzy’s, Baja Grill, El Palenque, and Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
30. Yazoo Pizza at Layla’s
Layla’s is a super no frills establishment that’s about as beloved as it gets in Little Rock. The gyros are good and the Yogurt Plate is not to be missed, but the Yazoo Pizza, a double crusted concoction, is the star of the show. Note, Layla’s now also has a NLR location.
29. Strawberry Shortcake at Trio’s
I’m not personally a big fan of Trio’s take on strawberry shortcake, but it’s something every Little Rocker must try at least once. It’s fun to be at the restaurant’s lunch service during strawberry season and see every table with the dessert.
28. Steak at Doe’s Eat Place
The character and history of Doe’s Eat Place makes it a must-visit, but so does the food. Order a 2-lb Porterhouse (which comes with soaked salad and fries) and an appetizer of fried shrimp.
27. Crawfish at The Faded Rose
During crawfish season, you gotta check out The Faded Rose on Wednesdays (starting late afternoon) for their mud bugs. You won’t be disappointed, but be prepared for a crowd.
26. Fried Catfish at Lassis Inn
I’m not saying it’s the best fried catfish in town (we do have many excellent choices), but there’s nothing like eating a plate of it, along with some fried Buffalo ribs, inside the iconic Lassis Inn. The place is old, small, and home to the smallest booths on earth. Oh, and make sure you don’t dance.
25. Pie at Charlotte’s
Pie … another beloved food item in Little Rock. Make the short drive to Keo for a slice of coconut cream pie at Charlotte’s. If you have a little room, get a piece of strawberry cake as well.
24. Hanging on the Patio at 42 bar and table
Little Rock has no shortage of great patios and this one is the best. What’s not to love? A great view and top notch restaurant, all inside the Clinton Library. This was an easy choice to make the list.
23. Lunch at kBird
The popular food truck turned brick-and-mortar is now located in a Hillcrest neighborhood house. What it lacks in ambience, kBird certainly makes up for in food. From shrimp curry to green papaya salad to tofu pad Thai, the food at kBird is as authentic as it gets and rivals any Thai restaurant in the country.
22. Attending the Cornbread Festival
We have a ton of great festivals but this one is my favorite. It’s in a neighborhood I love (SoMA), features a food I adore (cornbread), and is very well organized. Add music, beer, and friendly folks to the equation and you’ve got yourself a fantastic festival.
21. Burger at Midtown Billiards
Speaking of SoMA, one of the classic burgers in town is served up by this beloved hole-in-the-wall billiards hall/bar. I’m told the later you go, the better the burger tastes. It was pretty damn good when I went at 7:30 p.m.
20. Dinner on the Patio at Brave New Restaurant
I’ve actually never eaten on the patio at Brave New but I’ve seen it from the inside, have heard many folks speak glowingly about it, and know it’s one of the very few places you can actually eat and get a decent view of the river. Oh, and the food at Brave is excellent. I recommend the Mixed Grill.
19. Peanut Butter Pie at Three Sams BBQ
This is a total and complete gut bomb that should not, I repeat, should not, be eaten by one person. But the peanut butter pie at Three Sams is insanely delicious and something that everyone should try at least once before they die. Note: this will send you to an early grave.
18. Paella at The Pantry’s Birthday Party
The original Pantry location celebrates its birthday each year with a paella extravaganza. Owner Tomas Bohm opens up the restaurant for the day and cooks an enormous amount of paella in a massive pan. It’s all quite a spectacle. If to go to The Pantry at regular business hours, make sure to order The Board, lasagna, and cheesecake.
17. Chicken Strips at Franke’s
You know I love Franke’s and at the heart of it all are those fried chicken tenders. But I also enjoy walking into the restaurant and being in that warm and cozy space for 45 minutes. Oh, and Franke’s is nearing it’s 100th birthday.
16. Pizza at Deluca’s
The hour’s drive to Hot Springs for Deluca’s pizza is something that must be done. I think it’s some of the best pizza you will eat, and I doubt you’ll ever meet anyone like owner and pizza maker Anthony Valinoti.
15. Breakfast at Gadwall’s
Some restaurants just agree with you, and Gadwall’s agreed with me the moment I walked into the establishment last year. It’s a typical greasy spoon type place, and that’s meant as a compliment. We don’t have many good ones in town. Go to Gadwall’s for breakfast on the weekend and order the fried chicken biscuit sandwich.
14. Donuts at Mark’s
Seriously, the donuts at Mark’s in Levy are just crazy good. Like some of the best you’ll find anywhere. Just make sure you arrive early and order the coconut, chocolate glazed, or glazed. And good news … Mark’s now accepts credit cards!
13. Eating Chicken Wings in the Parking Lot of Chicken King
Chicken wings are best eaten immediately, but NLR’s Chicken King is take-out only, so your best option is to tear into an order of hot garlic wings right on the hood of your car. There’s something so freeing about the entire experience.
12. Dinner at One Eleven
From casual Chicken King to Little Rock’s most elegant restaurant … One Eleven. I don’t eat at the restaurant often but it really is a perfect spot to celebrate the most special of occasions.
11. Chef’s Tasting at Table 28
Chef Scott Rains, one of our top chefs in town, does a chef’s tasting upon request. Don’t quote me on this, but I think you need a least a week’s notice and eight folks in your party. It will probably run you $100 per person (not including drinks), but it’s well worth it.
10. Ice Cream at Loblolly
Little Rock’s only local ice cream maker has new SoMa digs, making it an ideal spot to take the kiddos, especially during the soon approaching warmer months.
9. Cup o’ Bacon at Dickey-Stephens Park
For $6, you can actually get a cup o’ bacon, thanks to the fine folks of Petit Jean. You haven’t lived until you’ve downed several strips of bendy bacon while watching a few innings of a Trav’s game.
8. Whole Spread at McClard’s
Listen, McClard’s gets a lot of recognition for its longevity, but the truth of the matter is that the bbq was fairly average on my visit. That said, go to McClard’s, sit at the bar, and enjoy one of life’s greatest guilty pleasures …the Whole Spread. It’s two tamales with Fritos, beans, chopped beef, cheese, and onion. If you’re a wuss, like me, get the Half Spread (one tamale). The dish is great … and so is sitting there while watching the restaurant hum along during an afternoon lunch service.
7. Cheeseburger at Leo’s
Leo’s is this old little dive restaurant in the heart of Hillcrest that I’ve written about many times over the past few years. I absolutely adore its greasy cheeseburger with a side of perfectly fried onion rings.
6. Beer and Pizza at Vino’s
Sure, maybe Vino’s best years are far behind it, but there’s something I still love about that irresistible smell of beer, pizza, and yeasty hops.
5. Dinner at Star of India
While the food is good, what makes Star of India truly stand out is one of the more personable owners in the business, Sami Lal. The Chicken Tikki and Saag Paneer are pretty darn great as well.
4. Lunch at WunderHaus
Take a short 30-minute trip up to Conway for lunch at WunderHaus for delicious Eastern European-style comfort food dishes. Nowadays, many restaurants claim to be farm-to-table, but WunderHaus is the real deal, sourcing many of their ingredients from nearby farms.
3. Get Yelled At at David’s
Most folks will tell you they hate walking through the doors at any of the David’s Burger’s locations and getting yelled out with a big “Welcome to David’s!” Not me. I actually kinda like it. For better or for worse, it’s one of the unique aspects of this highly successful local burger chain.
2. Cocktail and Salad at Big Orange Midtown’s Bar
What’s not to love? Eating one of the best salads in town at one of the nicest bars in town while enjoying one of the better cocktails in town sounds like a pretty darn fine evening to me.
1. Walk Around Aimlessly at Colonial
Goodness, I love doing this! Not only is Colonial one of, if not the, finest liquor stores in Little Rock, but they also have an extremely knowledgeable staff that’s always ready to help out. It’s just a fun spot to spend 30 minutes while looking at bourbons and studying wines.
Lunch or Dinner at Oyster Bar, Drinks and Music on Cajun’s Wharf Deck, Tour and Drinks at Rock Town Distillery