Living in Little Rock for almost five years has allowed me to build up a strong list of restaurants to bring my out-of-town guests. These places aren’t necessarily serving the absolute best food in town, but they are restaurants with an excellent combination of food and atmosphere, while also truly reflecting the essence of Little Rock.
South on Main
I’ve said it for a few years now, but South on Main’s unique offering of dynamite, elevated Southern food and cocktails in a setting that also hosts amazing concerts makes it one of our top restaurants to take out-of-towners. Simply put, it’s the entire package … all in a casually cool setting with consistently excellent service. It’s a good idea to keep up with the concert schedule on their website and be sure to make reservations/purchase tickets in advance. South on Main is also open for Sunday Brunch, serving popular items like biscuits, breakfast tacos, and fried oysters eggs Benedict.
What to Order: Old Fashioned with The Double: Two All-Beef Patties, Comeback Sauce, Pimento Cheese, Bacon Jam, Fries and a Soaked Salad
Doe’s Eat Place
The place where Bill Clinton hung out will always be a cool draw to non-locals, making Doe’s inclusion on this list a complete no-brainer. Oh, and Doe’s also happens to serve one of the best steaks in town at a fairly reasonable cost. While I’m not a huge fan of the Delta-style tamales, they should be the start of any meal, along with the deliciously addictive fried shrimp. Save room for soaked salad and buttered Texas toast, perfect for dipping in the meat juice from your medium-rare, 3-lb Porterhouse. Doe’s is no-frills but absolutely charming and one of the most historically relevant restaurants in town.
What to Order: 3-lb Porterhouse (make sure to call ahead and reserve on busy nights)
The Root Cafe
Little Rock’s only true farm-to-table restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it has long served the best breakfast in town, this charming SoMa District cafe recently started serving dinner as well, which is great news, especially if you enjoy dishes like pork belly, arancini, and beef tenderloin. While a grant allowed ownership to double the size of the restaurant and create a kitchen area that is better suited to handle bigger crowds, The Root maintains a quaint, down-home feel that has made it wildly popular with locals.
What to Order: Biscuits and Gravy for breakfast; hamburger for lunch
Flyway Brewing, located in North Little Rock’s Argenta District, played a large role with Little Rock’s craft beer scene catching up with the rest of the country. There are usually about 9-10 beers on tap, so even your pickiest beer connoisseur should be able to find something that suits their palette. Stouts, IPAs, brown ales, and wheat beers … Flyway has it all and the food isn’t too shabby either. The limited menu is filled with several hits, like smoked trout nachos, soft pretzels, and marinated tofu sliders. Flyway’s atmosphere is casual and unpretentious, a true reflection of Little Rock mentality.
What to Order: Bluewing beer (blueberry wheat) with Duck Confit Nachos
Capital Bar and Grill
CBG has been through some ups and downs over the past few years, but there’s still no denying its importance to Little Rock’s dining scene. More importantly, located inside The Capital Hotel, CBG is a restaurant many out-of-towners will actually check out. And that’s a good thing, because Capital Bar and Grill has gotten its groove back, serving the classics in a sophisticated setting with just the right amount of Southern charm and elegance.
What to Order: Pimento Cheese (appetizer) and Duck Pot Pie
It isn’t fancy and may not be in the nicest area of town, but the old-school setting and insanely small booths at Lassis Inn will leave your guests with lasting memories. And so will the fried catfish and buffalo ribs. If you’re really feeling crazy, order one of the ice cold 40-oz beers. Does Lassis serve the best fried catfish in town? In my opinion, no. But it’s still damn good and the history and charm behind this restaurant make it a must-stop for folks looking to get a true taste of Little Rock.
What to Order: Fried Catfish, Buffalo Ribs, Fries, and Tomato Relish
The Pantry Crest
Restaurants and food can be so damn subjective, but The Pantry Crest is one of the very few restaurants that’s beloved by all. And let’s face it, when you have out-of-towners, sometimes you need a sure thing with a restaurant. The Pantry Crest is a sure thing. European comfort classics never tasted so good, at least not in this town. With a beautiful decor, elite service, and a menu that includes such dishes as lasagna, truffle deviled eggs, and charred Romaine Caesar Salad, The Pantry Crest is a perfect spot to take non-locals. And I have … many times. FYI, the original location in WLR is just as nice.
What to Order: The Pantry Board and Cheesecake
Much like Lassis Inn, kBird isn’t much to look at, but hole-in-the-walls are my thing and I’m a firm believer they are the backbone to any city’s dining scene. kBird is the best Thai food you will find in this area, or, for that matter, any area. It’s that good, and if your guests are more concerned about where the locals are eating, as opposed to trendy spots with overrated food, kBird is an excellent option. The menu is quite small, which means everything is great. Side note, if you see a jar of ginger cookies sitting by the register, order at least one, if not all of them. It’s probably the best cookie you’ll eat in Little Rock.
What to Order: Green Papaya Salad
Truthfully, I feel a little foolish putting two restaurants (CBG being the other) that are located under one roof. One Eleven, located inside The Capital Hotel, is as fine-dining as you’ll get in Little Rock, and sometimes out-of-towners are in search of elegance. Make no mistake, One Eleven is more than just a beautiful setting. The food and service are absolutely elite, and while the restaurant may not view itself as a “special occasion only” type of place, for most of us, it is.
What to Order: Seared Diver Scallops with Potato Gnocchi
The Faded Rose
Little Rockers love New Orleans and folks around here just can’t get enough of the food associated with this city. The Faded Rose has been serving up Cajun & Creole-influenced dishes for almost 35 years … all in a casual setting that seems to always be full. The menu rarely changes and includes staples like shrimp and grits, thin fish, and a blackened rib-eye. The food is consistently good, as is the service, making it a perfect place to take out-of-towners.
What to Order: Crawfish Etouffee