In general, 2018 was a pretty good year for the Little Rock dining scene, and, per usual, I did my fair share of eating out. Below are my 50 Favorite Dishes in 2018. Dishes are in no particular order and only come from Little Rock/North Little Rock restaurants.
50. Club Sandwich at Crazee’s
First, let me start out by saying that I officially love this restaurant. From the simple, no frills menu to the dark, cozy atmosphere, I’m down with all things Crazee’s. And that goes for the Club Sandwich, an often mundane menu item that is elevated at Crazee’s by the perfectly fried bacon.
49. Turkey Melt at Burge’s
Like most things at Burge’s, the Turkey Melt is simple and classic. A white bread bun is filled with iceberg lettuce, smoky, thick slabs of turkey, American cheese, and fried bacon. Oh, and a heavy dose of mayo.
48. Jagerschnitzel at The Pantry
This shows up on most Best Of list posts I write, because, quite frankly, it’s one of my absolute favorite dishes in Little Rock. Comfort food at its finest, The Pantry’s Jagerschnitzel is a breaded pork cutlet drowning in mushroom brown gravy. And the best part? The pile of cheese spaetzle buried underneath the pork.
47. Rosalinda Plato at Rosalinda’s
The tender skirt steak is the star of the plate, but let’s not forget about the amazing rice and bean combo, as well as the sweet plantains and hunks of avocado. Rosalinda’s is an absolute hidden gem and one of the best restaurants in the area.
46. Bacon Cheeseburger at K Hall & Sons
There’s nothing flashy about K Hall’s bacon cheeseburger. It’s just a classic offering at a reasonable price, but if you’re looking for a juicy cheeseburger with crispy, yet bendable bacon, this is your jam. Bonus points for the sesame seed bun.
45. Nachos at Maddie’s Place
I’ve written about this glorious gut bomb several times over the past year. It’s an absolute train wreck on paper but heaven on the palette. Thin tortilla chips are topped with pulled pork, pickles, sour cream, bbq sauce, cheese, and damn near everything else in Maddie’s kitchen.
44. Cheese Dip at Dizzy’s
I’m no expert on cheese dip, nor will I ever be, but I did want to finally try Dizzy’s version after all of these years. Glad I did because it’s legit. It’s a thicker, mild take on an Arkansas classic.
43. Meatloaf at Table 28
Who goes to a fine dining restaurant and orders meatloaf? Answer: my wife. Yes, my wife orders meatloaf every single time at Table 28, and while I always razz her, truth be told, it’s pretty fantastic.
42. Smoky Chicken Tortilla Soup at Baja Grill
This is the best soup in Little Rock. Why? The smoky chicken. It’s really that simple. But look out for hints of chipotle, along with black beans, corn, tortilla strips, and sliced avocado, which all make this a must-order item at Baja Grill.
41. Huevos Motulenos at Trio’s
On paper, this brunch dish just seems so very odd, but it somehow all works. Here’s the rundown … two fried eggs with corn tortillas, black beans, salsa, green peas, feta cheese, and fried bananas. Strange, right? But the sweet and salty combination is killer.
40. Egg Roll at Forbidden Garden
Because good ones are so few and far between, I’m a man who respects a quality egg roll. Let’s face it, they are almost impossible to find, mainly because most places dole out the frozen crap. Not Forbidden Garden. Fresh, perfectly fried, and just begging to be dipped in duck sauce, this egg roll is the real deal.
39. Peanut Butter Pie at 3 Sam’s
This is a classic case of a picture being worth a thousand words. Just look at that hunk of pie. I shutter to think how many calories are in one slice, but I’m guessing close to half a normal human’s daily allowance.
38. Chicken Tikka at Star of India
The Chicken Tikka Masala typically gets all of the attention. But it’s sauce-less cousin–Chicken Tikka–is where it’s at, especially at Star of India where the chicken is so tender.
37. Thai Chop Salad at Big Orange
Best salad in Little Rock? If not, it’s definitely in the conversation. I could drink a gallon of that ginger-soy vinaigrette in one sitting if it was socially acceptable. Big Orange also does a great job with cooking the steak to a requested medium-rare each and every time.
36. Pho at Mike’s Cafe
We have two legitimate pho options in Little Rock, and I can tell you the one at Mike’s Cafe is much better than Pho Thanh My’s version (which isn’t bad). The broth is pure gold and those tender slices of steak, along with a ton of noodles, green onion, and cilantro, make this pho an absolute winner.
35. Pupusas at Rosalinda’s
Rosalinda’s shows up on the list again, this time for its pupusas. What is a pupusa? It’s a thick corn tortilla filled with meat and/or cheese. In this case, I prefer Rosalinda’s plain cheese because, honestly, the real magic is with the accompanying slaw. Make no mistake, the gooey cheese is pretty overwhelming, but in a good way.
34. Fried Green Tomatoes at Maddie’s Place
I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like fried green tomatoes, so if you’re on the hunt for an excellent option, check out the appetizer at Maddie’s Place. Each slice is super crispy and the small pile of crab meat on top makes the dish even better.
33. Breakfast Tacos at South on Main
It is damn near impossible to find a good breakfast taco in this town. About the only one I’ve come across is actually at South on Main’s brunch service. The combination of egg (sunny side up), chorizo, and hot sauce is a winner.
32. Sausage Banh Mi at Boulevard Bread
I’m not sure if this one is on Boulevard’s regular menu, but if not, it needs to be. A nicely grilled, house-made sausage is combined with pickled carrots, sliced radish, jalapenos, cucumber, cilantro, and sriracha mayo.
31. Tacos at Del Campo a la Ciudad
Del Campo quietly makes some of the very best tacos in town. I prefer the barbacoa, but, truth be told, each meat filling is excellent. What separates Del Campo’s tacos from the competition is the corn tortillas that are handmade-to-order. Let that sink in for a sec.
30. Bento Box at Mt. Fuji
Mt. Fuji is like that old friend who you know will always be there … and you love to catch up with a few times a year to make sure life is going well. I believe it’s Little Rock’s first sushi restaurant, so the place holds a ton of nostalgia for many folks. The lunchtime bento box is a great deal and never disappoints.
29. Tacos at La Pasadita
Speaking of never disappointing … I probably went to La Pasadita no less than 15 times in 2018 and the food was always spot-on. And I’m pretty sure my kids are addicted to the tacos and burritos. My favorite is the pastor, but, much like Ciudad, you really can’t go wrong with any item.
28. Fried Catfish at Brewster’s Cafe
Brewster’s does a Top 5 fried catfish for me, so if you’ve never been, please go check it out. Each piece is fairly meaty and perfectly crisp.
27. Spaghetti at Doe’s
Spaghetti at Doe’s? WTF?!?!? But even more shocking was that it landed on this list. Seriously, go order a plate of spaghetti at lunch and tell me those meatballs and marinara sauce aren’t fantastic.
26. Pasta Salad at Taziki’s
Ahh, pasta, you are a true nemesis. From Doe’s spaghetti to Taziki’s weekend pasta salad, it’s fair to say I’m addicted to carbs. The balsamic dressing that’s applied to this penne is one notch below crack.
25. Cheese Dip at Gadwall’s
Yes, another cheese dip is on my list. After six years of living in this state, I think 2018 marks the first year I feel like a true Arkansan, mainly because I now crave cheese dip on a regular basis.
24. Blackened Salmon at The Pantry
Honestly, I could probably come up with a post for Top 50 Dishes at The Pantry, so it’s really hard to narrow things down for a list like this. That said, this Blacked Salmon with Stewed Veggies (night’s special) was an absolute hit. The seasonings packed a punch and the meaty piece of salmon was cooked just right.
23. Sushi at Kemuri
I’m not going to narrow it down with a special roll or piece of fish, so let me just say “sushi” at Kemuri is my pick for this list. It’s all good, from monster-sized, set-on-fire rolls to delicate pieces of raw salmon.
22. Coconut Donut at Mark’s
Let’s start with the obvious. Mark’s has the best donuts in the area. That’s not a knock on any of the other places. It’s just that Mark’s can hold its own with any classic donut-maker in the country. At the top of the mountain is their coconut donut.
21. Jalapeno Cheddar Tots at Ciao Baci
At my funeral, I’d like to request these tots to rain down on my casket. OK, you get the picture. I like them … a lot. They’re larger than typical tots and the side of buttermilk dill ranch is a perfect accompanying condiment.
20. Cheeseburger at Ciao Baci
You know what pairs well with tots? The best burger in Little Rock. Granted, burger rankings change depending on whichever way the wind blows, but CB makes my current fav. This pub-style burger with a fat patty and all of the traditional fixings is another must-order.
19. Green Papaya Salad at kBird
Here’s another dish I’ve written about countless times. Heck, at this point, you’re probably grown tired of reading about it. All tastes and flavors are in play here … sweet, sour, tangy, spicy, and fresh.
18. Scallops at One Eleven
About the only place I order scallops in Little Rock is at One Eleven. The presentation is so beautifully elegant and the taste of the each seared scallop is always fresh and sweet.
17. Sausages at Fassler Hall
From what I can tell, Fassler Hall has been a wonderful addition to our dining scene. I’ve only been once, but I left impressed with the large space, plentiful beer options, and delightful grilled sausages.
16. Leo Burger at Leo’s Greek Castle
Here’s another burger I’ve written about way too many times. Simply put, I love it. It’s not pretentious … just a burger’s burger. The double patty always plays well for me, as does the straightforward toppings and white bread bun. And cheers to American cheese!
15. Fried Catfish at Crazee’s
I know fried catfish is a touchy subject in these parts, so what I’m about to type will ruffle a few feathers. Crazee’s has the best catfish in town. Deal with it. The thick pieces of heavily coated fish are always perfectly fried and served piping hot.
14. Feed Ya Soul Bowl at TAE
This is the South in a bowl … rice, peas, squash, and the some of the best darn greens imaginable. I’m a mixer, so you can tell this dish is right up my alley.
13. Veggie Plate at Franke’s Cafeteria
I use the term “veggie plate” loosely, as you can mix and match here, and some of the veggies, like the cabbage, are laced with pork. The eggplant casserole is a Little Rock classic and the fried okra is lightly dusted with cornmeal, just the way most folks prefer.
12. Cheese Dip at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
Yes, I know, another cheese dip. Think that makes three on the list. But HTT’s version is certainly worthy and an ideal meal-starter with a frozen mojito.
11. Pretzel at Flyway Brewing
The food at Flyway has gotten so good that it’s easy to forget what started it all … the pretzels. My favorite just might be the Shadow Hands, which is topped with espresso salt and served with a chocolate dipping sauce.
10. Huevos a la Mexicana at Guadalajara
I only wish Guadalaja was located a little closer to my house. All of the food is excellent, but I particularly enjoy going for breakfast for the Huevos a la Mexicana, a plate piled with scrambled eggs, rice, and refried beans.
9. Mexican Pizza at Canon Grill
On the other end of the Mexican food spectrum is Canon Grill’s Mexican Pizza. Laugh all you want, but this work of art is highly addictive. It probably also gets bonus points for being ideal hangover food.
8. Lobster Roll at 42 Bar and Table
A good lobster roll? In Little Rock? Yes, sometimes dreams do come true. Thanks to the folks at 42, we got a few days to enjoy authentic lobster rolls. And yes, everything was right, from the toasted split bun to the lightly mayo-dressed chunks of lobster.
7. Pizza at The Pizzeria
For Neapolitan-style pizza in Little Rock, it’s tough to beat The Pizzeria. And, for me, while I love the toppings they use, it’s really about the thin, slightly charred crust.
6. Shrimp and Grits at The Faded Rose
We definitely have some fantastic takes on Shrimp and Grits in this town, but my favorite still resides at The Faded Rose. The shrimp always taste so good, and I love the blonde sauce and grit cakes. I genuinely eat it at lunch when they serve a smaller portion.
5. Pecan Pie at Sandy’s
The key to this wonderful piece of pie is the thin, crispy layer of pecans on top. The crust isn’t too shabby either, making it an ideal way to end any meal at Sandy’s.
4. Cuban Nachos at Baja Grill
I’ve been gushing about Baja Grill of late, and this dish below is one of the main reasons. The Cuban Nachos are what dreams are made of … a pile of tortilla chips is topped with smoked pork, black beans, queso, jicama slaw, guac, sour cream, and a touch of heaven. Make sure to split these with a friend.
3. Naan at Saffon
I was very impressed with my one visit to WLR’s newest Indian restaurant. All of the items on the buffet were fresh and quite tasty, but the real gem was this delicious naan they brought out to the table. It’s thinner and crispier than most versions.
2. Pastor Torta at La Poblanita
Never heard of La Poblanita? It’s a taqueria near Kanis and Barrow with a small lunchtime buffet and a full menu with all of the standard offerings, including this Pastor Torta. The hearty sandwich is filled with tender pork, a thin layer of refried beans, lettuce, and tomato.
1. Cinnamon Roll at Cinnamon Creme Bakery
We adore our cinnamon rolls in this town, and, for me, none is better than what Cinnamon Creme Bakery is cranking out. It’s soft, rustic, misshaped roll is filled with an ample amount of cinnamon and topped with a cream cheese icing.