From interesting, inventive culinary pursuits to hearty Cajun, authentic Central American fare, sushi, pizza, and more, Little Rock, Arkansas is big on good food.
Named in honor of 42nd President Bill Clinton, who lived and governed from Little Rock for many years, 42 Bar and Table is fittingly located inside the Clinton Presidential Center. Start with an order of oysters Rockefeller, fried green tomatoes, or, during brunch, pull-apart monkey bread made with local pecans. Entrees include a coconut-crusted grouper with pineapple salsa, angus ribeye with wild mushrooms, rack of lamb, bone-in pork chop, and creole shrimp penne. For a lighter option, the smoked salmon salad is a good choice. On nice days, ask for a seat outside on the terrace overlooking the Arkansas River.
A favorite of former President Clinton and loyal locals alike, Doe’s Eat Place is a no-frills diner specializing in steaks and hot sandwiches. Start off with a half-dozen signature hot tamales, topped with chili or fried or boiled shrimp. Po’ boys, subs, cheeseburgers, and fish sandwiches are all options here, but you can’t go wrong with a family-style steak, available in sirloin, T-bone, or Porterhouse cuts.
@ the Corner, centrally located near the convention center and other downtown draws, serves up hearty breakfast and brunch in a diner-style atmosphere. For a trusty staple, try the breakfast sandwich, with fresh farm egg, bacon, and cheddar on a biscuit with a side of hash browns. For a heavier lift, try the chicken-and-waffles, with fried chicken atop waffles with maple syrup and honey butter. Parfaits, poutines, salads, burgers, wraps, pancakes, and an extensive brunch cocktail list are all available.
With locations in hip Hillcrest (Pantry Crest) and West Little Rock (Pantry West), the Pantry brings a unique Eastern European flair to the Little Rock food scene. Popular with going-out crowds, families, and dates alike, regulars flock here for the decadent truffled deviled eggs (topped with signature parmesan crisps), rich house-made lasagna, and fresh salads, like arugula and pear. Sausages are ground in-house. Crispy fish and chips or the house-ground burger with a side of shoestring fries are always good picks.
Not far from downtown, a go-to pizza spot in the popular South on Main (SoMa) neighborhood, Raduno serves up seriously tasty brick-oven pies, hearty sandwiches, and scratch-made pasta dishes. Staples include the margherita, spicy pepperoni, sausage and fennel, and many more. Salads come as sides or as full mains (try the chopped kale). Locals also love Raduno’s weekend brunch, featuring breakfast pizza.
Think Little Rock is too land-locked to have serious sushi? Kemuri, with two popular locations in the Heights and the West side, shatter that misconception. A massive menu features dozens of signature rolls, robata, small bites, and Japanese rice and noodle dishes. Most nights are full of dates, families, birthday party-goers, and girls out on the town. And even though the atmosphere is on the swankier side, the come-as-you-are vibe makes everyone feel right at home.
“The Root,” as locals call it, is a laid-back, diner-style joint located in SoMa. Sourcing as much as possible from local farmers and producers, The Root Cafe blends hefty mains, like burgers, brats, and sandwiches, with light vegan and vegetarian fare. The organic pickle-brined tofu is breaded and fried and comes with fresh cucumber pickles, a smashed chickpea and parsley salad, and house chipotle tahini on a buttered bun. The “State fair” style brat comes topped with grilled onions and peppers, yellow mustard, and garlic mayo. Breakfast biscuit sandwiches are also a popular pick here.
Also in SoMa, El Sur serves up authentic traditional Central American and Honduran fare in a casual, welcoming atmosphere. Baleadas, tacos, and arepas are all good choices. For the signature dish, order the Con Todo, a folded flour tortilla with fried beans, Honduran cheese, cream, fried plantains, avocado, and pickled onions, filled with a choice of steak, chicken, eggs, and more. Don’t let the small front of the restaurant fool you—there’s a huge beer-garden-style section in the back featuring games.
Ristorante Capeo, an Italian date-night staple just across the Arkansas River in North Little Rock’s Argenta arts district, blends industrial interior elements, like high ceilings and exposed brick, with the coziness of white linen service. Start with a bowl of house-made soup or the restaurant’s signature three-dip bruschetta—whipped herb feta, tomato-basil, and pesto-ricotta served with slices of grilled bread. Any pasta dish on the menu is a solid pick, but popular choices include the Pappardelle alla Capeo, a blend of veggies with bacon in a rich tomato sauce, and tagliatelle noodles tossed in a house-made bolognese. Beef tenderloin, pork chop, veal, and lamb dishes are all on the entree options, and, for a smaller appetite, split one of several wood-fired pizzas. Extensive wine list with half-bottle options available.