Even though Arkansas is a landlocked state, good seafood can be had here in Little Rock. You just need to know where to find it. Here is a nice rundown of my top seafood dishes in the area that I’ve eaten over the past 3+ years.
Shrimp a la Plancha at El Palenque
Here’s a little secret you may or may not know… Chef David Martinez is one of the best cooks in the city. Judging by the always packed restaurant, you do know. Order the Shrimp a la Plancha, a beautiful plate of grilled shrimp and onions with refried beans, rice, and avocado.
Thin Fish at The Faded Rose
If you are a lover of fried catfish, I just don’t think you will find any better than what The Faded Rose is cranking out with this super thin, fried-to-perfection version.
Black Cod Samfaina at The Terrace
A beautiful piece of pan-seared cod is accompanied by a deliciously salty ragu of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and onions.
Specials at Trio’s
It’s really difficult to narrow it down to one dish, so I’ll just recommend that you keep an eye on Trio’s rotating fish specials. I recently had the glazed salmon, which was amazing, as was my cioppini, a bowl of mixed seafood of scallops, mussels, grouper, and shrimp.
Catfish at South on Main
The first thing I ever at South on Main, this seared catfish is still a staple on every seasonal menu. Chef Bell is a master at pairing it with other ingredients, making this fairly light dish a must-order.
Salmon at The Pantry Crest
When you look down at your plate of salmon with a side of asparagus, couscous, and spinach, you think “What the hell is so special about this dish?” And then you take a bite of the most perfectly cooked, simply seasoned salmon in town … and it all makes sense.
Crawfish Etouffee at The Faded Rose
A hearty portion of mildly spicy, slightly thickened, blond roux with a plentiful supply of small crawfish tails is topped with a pile of seasoned rice.
Bouillabaisse at Boulevard Bistro
Check to make sure it’s on the menu, as I think they rotate the bouillabaisse in and out. This dish is a seafood lover’s paradise.
Walleye at Brave New Restaurant
It’s been a few years for me, but I do remember the walleye being quite delicious and a signature Little Rock dish. To not include it on this list would be a travesty. Well, that’s a little dramatic, but you know what I mean.
Fried Shrimp at Doe’s
Doe’s does some pretty mean fried shrimp. The soft, lightly fried crust is what I enjoy most about these jumbo-sized bad boys.
Redfish at Maddie’s Place
I love red fish. Maddie’s seared red fish with garlic grits, green beans and crawfish etouffee sauce is as beautiful as it is tasty.
Ensalada del Sol at Heights Taco & Tamale
This beautifully presented salad includes skewers of medium-sized, well-seasoned shrimp resting atop a bed of crisp, chopped romaine lettuce. Perfectly ripe slices of avocado and mango sit on the edges.
Shrimp Soup at Rosalinda’s
Admittedly, the actual shrimp in this dish are average at best, but they impart such a wonderful flavor to the broth, making it a must-order on any visit to Rosalinda.
Shrimp and Grits at Ciao Baci
Ciao Baci’s version of shrimp and grits isn’t on the regular menu, so keep an eye out of it. Chef Owen uses top-notch shrimp, which make all of the difference.
Scallops at One Eleven
I rarely order scallops in Little Rock, but One Eleven has an excellent supplier, so if you’re hankering for some sweetness of the sea, this is it.
Green Shrimp Curry at kBird
Sweet, a little sour, and a tad spicy … the green shrimp curry really has it all to ignite your taste buds.
Shrimp Diablo at El Palenque
This dish is probably the spiciness plate I’ve ordered while living in Little Rock. That said, I’m a little bit of a wimp, but if you like hot, order the Shrimp Diablo.
Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose
Much like the delicious crawfish etouffee, TFR’s shrimp and grits features a delicious blond roux and plump, perfectly cooked shrimp.
Sushi at Kemuri
Any of Kemuri’s numerous sushi rolls are a hit. Like its sister restaurant, Oceans, if you’re in the mood for the best sushi in town, expect to find it at either of these two spots.
Tilapia Assada at Bossa Nova
I know most folks are down on tilapia right now, but Bossa Nova’s version, a pan-seared piece of fish with basil pesto, is pretty damn good.
Fried Catfish at Flying Fish
It’s Little Rock … you know I had to mention fried catfish a few times on this list. Like most everything at Flying Fish, the catfish is consistently good.
Crispy Squid Filet (or Calamari Snitzel) at Table 28
Tender, meaty strips of squid filet are beer-battered, fried, and then served with cocktail sauce. This is not your run-of-the-mill calamari.
Shrimp Tacos at Baja Grill
The shrimp tacos aren’t necessarily my first choice when dining at Baja Grill (Pig Sooey is), but that’s not to say they aren’t great. They are … mainly because the shrimp are a tad blackened and a little spicy.
Citrus Tuna Ceviche at Local Lime
This redesigned ceviche at Local Lime includes chunks of Ahi tuna, avocado, along with cucumber, lime, cilantro, and a ginger citrus jalapeno vinaigrette.
Boiled Crawfish at The Faded Rose
Hey, it’s crawfish season (until about mid-late May). On Wednesday nights starting at 4 p.m. (and until they run out), you can grab yourself a platter of the mud bugs. Just make sure to order a beer, as they tend to be spicy, but in a good way.
Buffalo Ribs at Lassis Inn
Eating Buffalo ribs at Lassis Inn is something every Little Rocker should do at least once in their life. This bottom-dweller fish is definitely an acquired taste, but if you enjoy yourself a meaty, hearty fish rib, these are for you.
Grilled Oysters at South on Main
Oysters, check. Butter, check. Parmesan cheese, check. What’s not to love?
Stock Pot at The Pantry
This dish is changing constantly, but no worries, it’s only a matter of if it will be “really good” or “great.” Delicate white fish, broth, and root veggies often provide the foundation of one of my all-time fav Pantry dishes. Keep an eye out as I don’t see this dish currently on the menu at either restaurant.
Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish at Chi’s
Delicate pieces of white fish rest in a thick and spicy sauce, making Mama Chi’s Spicy Fish a must-order each time I’m at this Chi’s location.
Shrimp Po’boy at Table 28
This po’boy doesn’t get near the attention as some of the other around town, but it’s just as good. Chef Rains loads it with fried shrimp, kale slaw, and pickled peppers.