It's safe to say that the Little Rock food scene has catapulted to new heights over the last few years. And we can thank some of the really great new restaurants, as well as a wide range of historic eateries that have made their mark on locals and visitors, alike.
In this month's issue of Little Rock Soiree magazine, food writer Rex Nelson pays homage to some of the legendary restaurants gracing some of central Arkansas' streets by highlighting 10 dishes you have to try before you die.
Here is the list:
1. Ribs at Sims with a side of greens and cornbread — Nelson said the founders -- Allen and Amelia Sims -- quickly became known for their smoking techniques and their sauce and the quality didn’t decline after Ron Settlers, a longtime employee of the original location on 33rd Street, took charge. Though the 33rd Street original is gone (replaced by a restaurant at 2415 South Broadway), the vinegar-and-mustard sauce remains. A side order of those perfectly cooked greens and cornbread is the perfect combo at Sims, one of the city’s top barbecue spots.
2. Tamales at Doe’s — If you go to Doe’s for dinner, Nelson said you're likely going to order a steak. But, he begs the question "Why come to Doe’s if you don’t get an appetizer of tamales?" If it’s lunchtime, the tamales will be your meal. Woodruff County native George Eldridge spent years taking friends and business associates to the original Doe’s in Greenville, Miss. He finally convinced the owners of that restaurant to let him open the first franchise location in 1988. And it was after President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign run when the eatery became more famous the Greenville original.
3. Chopped pork plate at the White Pig Inn — Nelson credits White Pig Inn on East Broadway in North Little Rock as another classic. The classic restaurant is even older than Sims. It opened in 1920 when U.S. Highway 70 was among the main east-west routes in the country. From the start, the meat here has been prepared over an open fire, using only hickory wood.
4. Eggplant casserole and egg custard pie at Franke’s — According to Nelson, you’re not going to have just eggplant casserole and egg custard pie after going through the cafeteria line at this 90-year-plus restaurant. You’re going to get some of the fried chicken or the roast beef, which will be carved as you watch. You’re going to try other vegetables ranging from fried okra to rice and gravy. Still, the eggplant casserole is the cafeteria’s most famous item and should be a must-eat item on everyone's list.
5. Pimento cheese at the Capital Bar & Grill — Here you can order a pimento cheese sandwich or have it on the burger, which rates among the best burgers in the state, Nelson said. The burger comes with pickles made in-house and Parmesan fries, meaning that you’ll need to set aside time for a nap if you order this for lunch.
6. Smoked turkey sandwich and a cherry limeade at Burge’s — Nelson said the Heights location of Burge’s has been around long enough (36 years) to qualify as a classic, especially since a couple of generations of Little Rock residents have now grown up on its turkey sandwiches and cherry limeades (perhaps with a side of onion rings). After moving to Lewisville, Ark. from Shreveport in 1953, Alden Burge began smoking turkeys in his back yard for friends and family members, he added.
7. Buffalo ribs at the Lassis Inn — It’s safe to assume that most Central Arkansas residents don’t know how to get to the Lassis Inn, Nelson said. If you’re headed west on Interstate 30 after leaving downtown, look to the right as soon as you pass the Roosevelt Road exit. That’s it! It’s the blue building with the neon beer lights in the window. Lassis Inn – in some form or fashion – has been in business for more than a century. He recommends going for the buffalo — not the mammal, but the bottom-dwelling fish pulled by commercial fishermen from the slow-moving rivers of east Arkansas.
8. The hubcap burger at Cotham’s — The Little Rock location will suffice for this giant burger, but you probably should head out to the original Cotham’s in Scott for the full experience, Nelson said. In 1984, a couple of tables were added to feed local farmers. The hubcap has been talked about by Rachel Ray on national TV and featured on the Travel Channel’s program “Man Vs. Food.” In fact, Food Network Magazine once voted it the best burger in Arkansas, a state that has more than its share of places with good burgers.
9. Gumbo at the Oyster Bar — The Oyster Bar has been around since 1975, but it looks like it has been around since 1924, Nelson said. Those of us who think about gumbo on a regular basis often leads to the Oyster Bar, which offers plenty of charm with its backdoor entrance, its vintage refrigerator door hanging from a wall and its great jukebox.
10. Foot-long chili dog at the Buffalo Grill and chopped steak at the Faded Rose — Nelson said Paul’s chili dog at Buffalo Grill features chili, cheddar cheese, mustard, onion and slaw. Over at the Faded Rose, it’s ideal to start with the Creole soaked salad (mixed lettuce, chopped tomatoes and green olives tossed in a garlic vinaigrette just like the Creole Sicilian joints do it in New Orleans). That’s followed by the chopped sirloin, which comes in a lemon butter sauce with a big slice of grilled onion on top. On the side, have the potato wedges with the buttermilk dressing for dipping. Yum!
Get more scoop on these fabulous dishes in Soiree's full write-up here.
Movie watching can work up quite an appetite. That's why several food trucks are going to be on hand feeding all of the festival-goers this weekend during the Little Rock Film Festival, starting today (May 17).
Many will be open on Little Rock's Main Street 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday and then again on Saturday and Sunday.
Open from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., Main Street Food Truck Fridays will take over the corner of Main and Capitol in the plaza today (May 17). Here are the food trucks lined up for today's outing:
Kirk Anderton will be playing live music during the afternoon.
Tonight at 6th and Main at the BEST Day Parking lot (across from the Arkansas Repertory Theatre), a few trucks will be open from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Here is the listing:
Tomorrow (May 18), at the same parking lot, there will be a few vendors open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Get food from the following:
And Sunday (May 19) at the parking lot, check out these food trucks that will be open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Some of the vendors on Saturday and Sunday will stay open from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. and more vendors may be added.
For more information, click here.
Another weekend is upon us and it's all about food...again!
So if you're a foodie (or even if you're not), check out this fun and yummy events happening in Little Rock this weekend:
Friday (May 17) - Sunday (May 19)
International Greek Food Festival at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church -- Of course, you've been hearing all about it! We even featured in our blog yesterday, but we think it garners another listing. Treat your family to gyros, sweet baklava, calamari, dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), hummus and more. Take a break from snacking to enjoy performances from dancers of all ages and disciplines, including flamenco, Greek, Irish, Indian, Middle Eastern and Russian. Then, take a trip to the kid’s area, complete with face-painting, games and rides. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. May 17, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. May 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m May 19. For info: GreekFoodFest.com. Admission FREE!
Saturday (May 18)
9th Annual Buzz-B-Q at North Little Rock RV Park -- More than 100 cook teams will compete in "Pro Joe" and "Average Joe" divisions for their share of $5,000 in cash and prizes. Categories will include pork, ribs and chicken. A portion of the proceeds from the 2013 Buzz-B-Q Food and Music Festival will benefit Camp Sunshine, an annual four-day camp for pediatric burn survivors completely funded by The Arkansas Professional Firefighters. Check it out from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. For info: 1037TheBuzz.com. Admission is $10.
Cheese and Craft Beer Event at The Bernice Garden -- Boulevard Bread Co. and Hillcrest Artisan Meats are joining forces for a beer, cheese and sausage tasting in the garden from 1 - 3 p.m. Taste lots of cheese, beer and brats and learn about them in the process! Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Boulevard Bread Co. location in The Heights, 1920 N. Grant St., Little Rock.
Patz & Hall Wine Dinner at Ashley's at the Capital Hotel -- Put on the ritz at this special dinner hosted by Winery President Russell Joy at the one-and-only Ashley's at the Capital Hotel with a scrumptious gourmet menu that includes wine pairings with each appetizer, entree and dessert. Dishes range from beetroot gazpacho with horseradish ice cream to zucchini flower stuffed with peekytoe crab and lobster veloute. A reception featuring passed hors d'oeuvres and sparkling wine will start at 6 p.m. Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. For info: www.capitalhotel.com. Registration is $125 per person. For reservations, call (501) 370-7011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beyond Hunger: Feast in the Field at Heifer Village -- Get a true farm-to-fork experience with this unique dinner celebration raising funds and awareness sustainable agriculture benefiting Heifer projects in the Arkansas Delta and Nepal. Starting at 6 p.m., enjoy a family-style dinner that features local foods prepared by chefs from the Capital Hotel and hear from distinguished guests, project participants and a special musical performance by Arkansas' own Cody Belew. Come dressed in all-white, casual attire. For info: www.heifer.org. Individual tickets are $75. This fun celebration was listed as one of our favorite finds in this month's issue of Soiree! See the full write-up here.
The annual International Greek Food Festival is starting tomorrow (May 17) and running through Sunday (May 19) at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 1100 Napa Valley Drive, Little Rock.
Admission is free. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. tomorrow (May 17) and Saturday (May 18) and 11 - 3 p.m. Sunday.
The festival offers an intriguing medley of Greek, Armenian, Georgian, Romanian, Russian, Indian, Middle Eastern, English and American dishes menu favorites. A limited menu of mouth-watering cuisine -- Greek chicken dinner, gyros platter, baklava, pastry plates -- can be enjoyed at the festival, ordered online or picked up at a drive-through.
Visitors can enjoy music, dance and other cultural traditions.
The festival will include Old World Market, selling specialty foods such as falafel, Greek olive oil, hummus, dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), cheeses and the popular secret salad dressing handmade -- Pete's Famous -- and bottled at the church. Frozen dinners to-go, homemade pastries, Russian collectibles, imported gift items from around Mediterranean will also be available.
A kids' area features face painting, a candy walk, a climbing wall, rides and grilled hot dogs.
Continuous entertainment includes Greek, Scottish, middle Eastern, Indian, Russian, flamenco and Irish dancers, cloggers and guitarists.
See the full entertainment schedule here.
Guided tours of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church are scheduled. Everything takes place at the church, 1100 Napa Valley Drive, Little Rock. Admission, parking and trolley service are free.
To view a complete schedule click here or call (501) 221-5300.
Looking for something fun to do tonight?
Take advantage of great sales, specials and lots of fun at Happy Hour in the Heights, the historic district's monthly event happening every third Thursday.
Here is a look at what you can expect tonight (May 16):
For more information, click here.
While the film festival gets its start today in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock, National Craft Week festivities are brewing across town at Professor Bowl, 901 Towne Oaks Dr., Little Rock.
For the first time ever, Professor Bowl will be celebrating the 8th Annual National Craft Beer Week. There will be a total craft beer tap take-over from several breweries, including Diamond Bear, Core Brewery, Vinos, as well as other out-of-state American craft breweries, such as New Belgium, Samuel Adams, O’Fallen, Piney River and more.
There will be 17 draft beers total downstairs in the 250-capacity bar featuring pool tables, pinball machines and retro video games. There will be other craft drafts split between the newly renovated upstairs lounge and the bowling alley.
Professor Bowl will be hosting a beer tasting every night at 5 p.m. with simple appetizers free of charge (downstairs) from 5 - 7 p.m. and a flight of six samples of any of the 26 available craft drafts for just $8.
They will keep the party going all week with $2.50 drafts and an extra special beer lover’s dinner every night, with a suggested craft beer pairing for just $9. Its full menu will be available featuring the bowling alley's renowned wings and burgers.
Here is the rundown of special events the rest of this week:
For more information, call (501) 224-9040.
Today (May 15) is the start of the biggest movie festival around -- the Little Rock Film Festival!
If you're planning on making a stop at this year's festival -- screenings, panel discussions, parties and all -- until Sunday (May 19), we cover just about everything you need to know in our go-to guide below:
Here are a few highlights:
Wednesday (May 15)
"Short Term 12," Golden Rock Narrative Screening, Argenta Community Theater -- 6:30 p.m. (it's also showing at The Rep at 7:30 p.m.)
Thursday (May 16)
"Up Among the Hills," Made in Arkansas Screening, Historic Arkansas Museum -- 1:20 p.m. (it's also showing at the Cornerstone Pub at 2:35 p.m. Sunday, May 19)
Filmmaker Happy Hour at the Arcade Theater Site -- 4:30 p.m.
Friday (May 17)
Filmmaker Welcome Reception, Heifer International -- 4:30 p.m.
Saturday (May 18)
Filmmaker Brunch, Ashley's at the Capital Hotel -- 10:30 a.m.
Sunday (May 19)
Farewell Party, Crush Wine Bar -- 10:30 p.m.
Check out the full schedule here.
All-access Gold passes are $300, silver passes are $150 and bronze passes are $50. Passes may be purchased at the door or online by clicking here.
If you don't purchase a pass, you can attend film screenings or panels by waiting in the Rush/Standby line and purchasing an available ticket (suggested donation $10) after passholders have been seated.
All Gold Pass holders and film makers get anytime access to our chauffeur driven cars – courtesy our transportation sponsor North Point Toyota. Getting around Little Rock otherwise is as easy as hopping on a trolley that tours through downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock – where the festival venues are at. If you're still feeling lost, contact one of the many volunteers at the event or reach out at email@example.com and they will help you find your way around Little Rock
Boulevard Bread Co., 400 President Clinton Ave. (open for breakfast, lunch and early dinner)
Bosco's Restaurant & Brewing Company, 500 President Clinton Ave. (open for lunch and dinner)
Dizzy's Gypsy Bistro, 200 River Market Ave. (open for lunch and dinner)
Rumba-Revolution Music Room, 300 President Clinton Ave. (open for dinner)
Bookends Cafe, River Market Books & Gifts, 120 River Market Ave. (open for breakfast and lunch)
North Little Rock
Argenta Market, 521 N. Main St. (open for breakfast and lunch)
Reno's Argenta Cafe, 312 Main St. (open for lunch and dinner)
Cregeen's Irish Pub, 301 Main St. (open for lunch and dinner)
Starving Artist Cafe, 411 Main St. (open for dinner)
Little Rock's best food trucks will also be on hand during the weekend portion of the film festival, so be on the lookout for our blog post Friday that will include all of the trucks that will be open to satisfy your appetite!
For more information about the festival, click here.
If you’re a fan of country and western singer Trace Adkins, you know he’s one of two finalists to win NBC’s "All Star Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday (May 19).
Arkansans are invited to help Adkins earn an extra $100,000 for his charity of choice, the American Red Cross, by purchasing his limited edition ice cream Maple Macadamia Mash Up before this Sunday at Walgreens.
For this week only, purchases of Maple Macadamia Mash Up developed by Trace for Walgreens’ Delish Brand will be tallied as part of the "Celebrity Apprentice" final competition.
Brigette Williams, American Red Cross in Arkansas communications information officer, said that money raised equals more than 10,000 meals for disaster victims or 20,000 blankets. What a great cause!
Adkins knows of Red Cross care first hand after disaster responders arrived after a fire at his Nashville home in 2011 while he was on tour. Like most Arkansans who have experienced a residential fire, he had no idea why Red Cross was there when his wife called to inform him of the fire. Since that time, Adkins has learned more about Red Cross response to residential fires and other disasters and has joined the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet.
With five Red Cross disaster responses daily across the state, primarily home fires, thousands of Arkansans also appreciate the around-the-clock disaster relief provided by Red Cross and understand the need for such care here as well as across the country.