Best Restaurants in Arkansas 2022

At least the pandemic pounds Arkansas collectively packed on are well earned. This year’s Readers Choice picks reveal that while plans and routines went sideways during the COVID-19 era, we didn’t miss many meals.

You’ll find plenty of tried-and-trues among our annual survey of readers’ favorites, restaurants whose time-tested formulas keep diners returning year after year. As Vino’s owner Henry Lee knows very well, when you have something that works, you don’t need to mess with it. Rhett Brinkley and Lindsey Millar tell the story of that Little Rock institution through an oral history.

Newer restaurants and food trucks get plenty of love in this list, too.

YGFBFKitchen Restaurant & Catering in Conway launched on wheels four years ago and has already expanded twice, settling into a brick-and-mortar and attracting fans from far and wide. Owner MaryAnn Strange established her chef bonafides by cooking meals so good her girlfriend passed the dishes off as their own, Stephanie Smittle reports.

Searcy has been showing out lately, too, beckoning us, Lindsey Millar writes, with Knightfire BBQ and Wild Sweet William’s Bakery scones that dance like sugarplums in our dreams.

BEST OF THE BUNCH

Best overall restaurant in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Cypress Social (North Little Rock)

Finalists: Ciao Baci, Petit & Keet, The Root Cafe, Trio’s Restaurant

Best overall restaurant around Arkansas

The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke)

Finalists: Copper Mule Table & Tap (Bryant), The Hive (Bentonville), MuleKick (Magnolia), Red Oak Steakhouse at Saracen Casino Resort (Pine Bluff)

Best new restaurant in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Camp Taco

Finalists: Lili’s Mexican Street Food, Press Waffle Co., Rosie Pot & Kettle, White Water Tavern

Best new restaurant around Arkansas

The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke)

Finalists: Best Cafe (Hot Springs), MuleKick @MAD (El Dorado), Pizzeria Ruby (Johnson), Red Oak Steakhouse at Saracen Casino Resort (Pine Bluff)

Best chef in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Peter Brave (Brave New Restaurant)

Finalists: Brayan McFadden (Brood & Barley, North Little Rock), Jeffrey Owen (Ciao Baci), Capi Peck (Trio’s Restaurant), Scott Rains (Table 28)

Best chef around Arkansas

James Hale (The Grumpy Rabbit)

Finalists: Dianna Bratton (Taco Mama, Hot Springs), Joseph Coleman (Saracen Casino and Resort, Pine Bluff), Matthew McClure (The Hive, Bentonville), Rob Nelson (Tusk & Trotter)

Best server in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Mary Katherine Peek (Flying Saucer)

Finalists: Katherine Coling (Red Oak Steakhouse, Pine Bluff), Libby Corinne (Pizza D’ Action), Naya Taylor (Brood & Barley), Yassine Tebba (Ciao Baci)

BEST PANDEMIC-INFLUENCED DINING

To-go beer from a restaurant in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Flyway Brewing (North Little Rock)

Finalists: Brood & Barley (North Little Rock), Ciao Baci, Lost Forty Brewing, Mockingbird Bar & Tacos

To-go bottled wine from a restaurant in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Petit & Keet

Finalists: Ciao Baci, Crush Wine Bar, Trio’s Restaurant

Curbside in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Star of India

Finalists: @ the Corner, Mockingbird Bar & Taco, Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co., Trio’s Restaurant

To-go cocktail mix from a restaurant in Little Rock/North Little Rock

The Pantry

Finalists: Baja Grill, Brood & Barley, The Fold Botanas & Bar, Mockingbird Bar and Taco

BEST EARLY EATS 

Bakery in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Community Bakery

Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., Cinnamon Creme Bakery, Dempsey Bakery, Hillcrest Little Bakery 

Bakery around Arkansas

Wild Sweet William’s Baking House (Searcy)

Finalists: Ozark Mountain Bagel Co. (Bentonville), PattiCakes Bakery (Conway), Serenity Farm Bread (Leslie), Ambrosia Bakery (Hot Springs)

Breakfast in Little Rock/North Little Rock

@ the Corner

Finalists: Hillcrest Little Bakery, Mugs Argenta, Red Door, The Root Cafe

Breakfast around Arkansas

Blue House Bakery & Cafe (Bryant)

Finalists: The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville), Jaclyn’s Kitchen (Rogers), Ozark Cafe (Jasper)Sweet & Savory Cafe (Eureka Springs)

Brunch in Little Rock/North Little Rock

@ the Corner

Finalists: Four Quarter Bar, Lost Forty Brewing, Red Door, The Root Cafe

 Brunch around Arkansas

The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke)

Finalists: The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville), Local Flavor (Eureka Springs), The Parsonage (Jonesboro), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville)

Coffee in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Fidel & Co.

Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., Nexus Coffee and Creative, Mylo Coffee Co., River City Coffee  

Coffee around Arkansas

Onyx Coffee Lab (Fayetteville)

Finalists: Arsaga’s (Fayetteville), Mountain Bird Coffee Company (Eureka Springs), Red Light Roastery Coffee House (Hot Springs)

BEST SINGLE DISHES

Barbecue in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Whole Hog Cafe

Finalists: Corky’s Ribs & BBQ, Count Porkula BBQ, HB’s Bar-B-Q, Sims Bar-B-Que

Barbecue around Arkansas

McClard’s Bar-B-Q (Hot Springs)

Finalists: Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (Marianna), KnightFire BBQ (Searcy), Smokin’ Buns (Jacksonville), Wright’s Barbecue (Johnson)

Burger in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Big Orange

Finalists: Brood & Barley, Ciao Baci, Cypress Social, Petit & Keet

Burger around Arkansas

The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke)

Finalists: Best Cafe (Hot Springs), Big Orange (Rogers), Copper Mule Table & Tap (Bryant), Hugo’s (Fayetteville)

Catfish in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Eat My Catfish

Finalists: Cypress Social (North Little Rock), Flying Fish, Lassis Inn, Soul Fish Cafe

Catfish around Arkansas

Dondie’s White River Princess (Des Arc)

Finalists: Brown’s Catfish (Russellville), Catfish Hole (Fayetteville), Eat My Catfish (Benton), Flying Fish (Bentonville)

Cheese dip in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Heights Taco & Tamale

Finalists: Baja Grill, Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro, La Hacienda, Local Lime

Cheese dip around Arkansas

Stoby’s Restaurant (Conway)

Finalists: Baja Grill (Benton), Copper Mule Table & Tap (Bryant), Local Lime (Rogers), Taco Mama (Hot Springs)

Desserts in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Cheesecake on Point!

Finalists: Cypress Social, Table 28, Trio’s Restaurant, Petit & Keet

Desserts around Arkansas

Charlotte’s Eats & Sweets (Keo)

Finalists: The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke), The Hive (Bentonville), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville)

French fries in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Big Orange

Finalists: Brood & Barley, Doe’s Eat Place, Esters SOMA, Faded Rose

French fries around Arkansas

The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke)

Finalists: Big Orange (Rogers), Hugo’s (Fayetteville), Smitty’s Garage Burgers & Beer (Rogers), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville) 

Fried chicken in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

Finalists: Ceci’s Chicken N Waffles, Cotham’s in the City, Flyway Brewing, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill

Fried chicken around Arkansas

YGFBFKitchen Restaurant (Conway)

Finalists: AQ Chicken House (Springdale), Campground Grill (Austin), Holly’s Country Cookin’ (Conway), Monte Ne Inn Chicken (Rogers)

Ice cream/cool treats in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Loblolly Creamery

Finalists: Kilwins, Le Pops, The Original ScoopDog (North Little Rock), The Purple Cow

Ice cream/cool treats around Arkansas

Andy’s Frozen Custard (Conway)

Finalists: Just Ice Cream (Benton), Mamoo’s Paradice Cream (Hot Springs), Scoops Ice Cream (Hot Springs), Trash Creamery (Bentonville)

Pie in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Community Bakery

Finalists: Blue Cake Company, Bobby’s Country Cookin’, Soul Fish Cafe, Trio’s Restaurant

Pie around Arkansas

Charlotte’s Eats & Sweets (Keo)

Finalists: Holly’s Country Cookin’ (Conway), Mud Street Cafe (Eureka Springs), Three Sams BBQ & Catering (Mabelvale), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville)

Pizza in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Zaza Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza

Finalists: Damgoode Pies, Iriana’s, The Pizzeria, Vino’s Brewpub

Pizza around Arkansas

DeLuca’s Pizzeria (Hot Springs)

Finalists: MuleKick (Magnolia), Pizzeria Ruby (Johnson), SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint (Hot Springs), Valhalla Kitchen + Bar (Benton)

Salad in Little Rock/North Little Rock

ZaZa Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza 

Finalists: Doe’s Eat Place, The Faded Rose, The Root Cafe, U.S. Pizza

Salad around Arkansas

ZaZa Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza (Conway)

Finalists: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), MuleKick @ MAD (El Dorado), Valhalla: Kitchen + Bar (Benton)

Brian Chilson
THE ROOT CAFE

Sandwich in Little Rock/North Little Rock

The Root Cafe

Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., Cypress Social, Esters SOMA, Hillcrest Artisan Meats

Sandwich around Arkansas

The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke)

Finalists: MuleKick @ MAD (El Dorado), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint (Hot Springs), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville)

Soup in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Boulevard Bread Co.

Finalists: Baja Grill, Cafe Bossa Nova, Community Bakery, Mike’s Cafe

Soup around Arkansas

The Grumpy Rabbit (Lonoke)

Finalists: Baja Grill (Benton), Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse (Eureka Springs), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), The Pho House (Hot Springs)

Steak in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse

Finalists: Cache, Doe’s Eat Place, Petit & Keet, Sonny Williams’ Steak Room

Steak around Arkansas

Mike’s Place (Conway)

Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), Red Oak Steakhouse at Saracen Casino Resort (Pine Bluff), Taylor’s Steakhouse (Dumas), The Vault (Hot Springs)

Sushi in Little Rock

Kemuri

Finalists: Ocean’s at Arthur’s, Mt. Fuji Japanese Restaurant, Rock N Roll Sushi, Sky Modern Japanese

Sushi Around Arkansas

Osaka Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar (Hot Springs)

Finalists: Ai Sushi (Hot Springs), Blu Fish House (Bentonville), Meiji Japanese Cuisine (Fayetteville), Sushi House (Bentonville)

Tacos in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Heights Taco & Tamale

Finalists: Baja Grill, Camp Taco, The Fold Botanas & Bar, La Hacienda

Tacos around Arkansas

Baja Grill (Benton)

Finalists: Local Lime (Rogers), The Social Taco (Rogers), Torchy’s Tacos (Fayetteville), Taco Mama (Hot Springs) 

Tortilla chips in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Heights Taco & Tamale Co.

Finalists: Baja Grill, Camp Taco, Casa Mañana, La Hacienda

Tortilla chips around Arkansas

Baja Grill (Benton)

Finalists: Local Lime (Rogers), Mamma Z Tortilla and Tamale Factory (Bentonville), Taco Mama (Hot Springs), Xuma Kitchens (Fayetteville)

Yogurt/smoothies in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Finalists: Argenta Nutrition, The Nutrition Place, TCBY

Yogurt/smoothies around Arkansas

Natural State Smoothies (Fayetteville) 

Finalists: Grinds Coffee Co. (Cabot), The Healthy Spot (Greenbrier), Panther Nutrition of Cabot (Cabot)

BEST INTERNATIONAL 

Chinese in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co.

Finalists: Mr. Chen’s Authentic Chinese Cooking, Fantastic China, Fu Lin, Mr. Hui’s

Chinese around the state

The Wok (Hot Springs)

Finalists: Jade China Restaurant (Conway), Lin’s Garden (Bentonville), Mong Dynasty (Fayetteville), Ying Chang Hmong & Chinese Hot Food

Indian in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Star of India

Finalists: Bawarchi Biryanis, The Indian Feast, Saffron Indian Cuisine, Taj Mahal Indian Kitchen

Indian around Arkansas

Saffron Indian Cuisine (Rogers)

Finalists: Curry Point (Bentonville), Flavors Indian Cuisine (Bentonville), Khana Indian Grill (Fayetteville), Pandiya’s South Indian Cuisine (Bentonville)

Italian in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Bruno’s Little Italy

Finalists: Graffiti’s Italian Restaurant, Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom, Ristorante Capeo (North Little Rock), Sauced Bar and Oven

Italian around Arkansas

Pasta Grill (Conway)

Finalists: Bocca Italian Eatery & Pizzeria (Fayetteville), Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking (Eureka Springs), Tavola Trattoria (Bentonville), Vetro 1925 (Fayetteville)

Japanese in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Kemuri

Finalists: Aji Ramen Bar, Benihana (North Little Rock), Rock N Roll Sushi, Sky Modern Japanese

Japanese around Arkansas

Umami Sushi Lounge & Grill Fusion (Conway)

Finalists: Sushi House (Bentonville), Meiji Japanese Cuisine (Fayetteville), Osaka Japanese Steakhouse and Bar (Hot Springs), Tokyo House Sushi & Ramen (Fayetteville)

Mexican in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Heights Taco & Tamale

Finalists: Baja Grill, Camp Taco, El Palenque, La Hacienda 

Mexican around Arkansas

Baja Grill (Benton)

Finalists: Local Lime (Rogers), Table Mesa (Bentonville), Taco Mama (Hot Springs), Yeyo’s El Alma De Mexico (Bentonville)

Other international in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Layla’s Gyro

Finalists: Buenos Aires Grill and Cafe, Cafe Bossa Nova, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Maryams Grill

Other international around Arkansas

Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs)

Finalists: A Taste of Thai (Fayetteville), Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe (Bentonville), Tangiers (Fayetteville), WunderHaus (Conway)

Brian Chilson
KEMURI

BEST SPECIALTY DINING

Business lunch in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill

Finalists: Allsopp & Chapple, Doe’s Eat Place, The Faded Rose, Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom

Business lunch around Arkansas

Mike’s Place (Conway)

Finalists: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), The Parsonage (Jonesboro), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville)

Dog friendly in Little Rock/North Little Rock

The Rail Yard

Finalists: Bark Bar, Dugan’s Pub, Flyway Brewing, The Root Cafe

Dog friendly around Arkansas

Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Beer Garden (Hot Springs)

Finalists: Good Dog Cafe (Fayetteville), Nomad’s Southtown Kitchen + Bar (Fayetteville), Saddlebock Brewery (Springdale), Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe (Bentonville)

Fine dining in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Petit & Keet

Finalists: Allsopp & Chapple, Brave New Restaurant, Cache, Table 28

 

Fine dining around Arkansas

Red Apple Inn (Heber Springs)

Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), The Preacher’s Son (Bentonville), Red Oak Steakhouse at Saracen Casino Resort (Pine Bluff), Vetro 1925 (Fayetteville)

Fun in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Cypress Social

Finalists: Camp Taco, Flyway Brewing Co., Hill Station, Rock N Roll Sushi

Fun around Arkansas

JJ’s Grill (Fayetteville)

Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), MuleKick @ MAD (El Dorado), SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint (Hot Springs), The Tower Bar at The Momentary (Bentonville)

Gluten free in Little Rock/North Little Rock

The Root Cafe

Finalists: Cafe Bossa Nova, Dempsey Bakery, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill

Gluten free around Arkansas

Baja Grill (Benton)

Finalists: Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint (Hot Springs), Snack Lab (Bentonville), Tavola Trattoria (Bentonville)

Healthy in Little Rock/North Little Rock

The Root Cafe

Finalists: 42 Bar and Table, Esters SOMA, Layla’s, ZaZa Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza

Healthy around Arkansas

Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot) 

Finalists: Bombadil’s Cafe (Eureka Springs), MELD kitchen+sandwich bar (Bentonville), Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, ZaZa Fine Salad + Wood Oven Pizza (Conway)

Home cookin’ in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Maddie’s Place

Finalists: Bobby’s Country Cookin, David Family Kitchen, House of Mental, Soul Fish Cafe

Home cookin’ around Arkansas

YGFBFKitchen Restaurant & Catering (Conway)

Finalists: Holly’s Country Cookin’ (Conway), Mama Dean’s Down Home Cookin (Jacksonville), Peggy Sue’s Place (Heber Springs), The Parsonage (Jonesboro)

Outdoor dining in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Cypress Social

Finalists: Baja Grill, Brave New Restaurant, Casa Mañana, Flyway Brewing

Outdoor dining around Arkansas

Rolando’s Restaurante (Hot Springs)

Finalists: Bike Rack Brewing Co. (Bentonville), MuleKick (Magnolia), Postmaster’s Grill (Camden), WunderHaus (Conway)

Place for kids in Little Rock/North Little Rock

All Aboard Restaurant & Grill

Finalists: Big Orange, Crazy Hibachi, The Rail Yard, The Root Cafe

Place for kids around Arkansas

The Purple Cow (Hot Springs)

Finalists: Big Orange (Rogers), MuleKick (Magnolia), Smitty’s Garage Burgers & Beer (Rogers), Stoby’s Restaurant (Conway)

Seafood in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Kemuri

Finalists: Brave New Restaurant, Brood & Barley, Lassis Inn, Petit & Keet

Seafood around Arkansas

Dondie’s White River Princess (Des Arc)

Finalists: Blu Fish House (Bentonville), Fred’s Fish House (Mountain Home), Leon’s Catfish and Shrimp (Pine Bluff), Powerhouse Seafood & Grill (Fayetteville)

Vegetarian/vegan in Little Rock/North Little Rock

The Root Cafe

Finalists: Brood & Barley, Esters SOMA, Maryams Grill, Star of India

Vegetarian/vegan around Arkansas

Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot)

Finalists: Baja Grill (Benton), Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), Snack Lab (Bentonville), SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint (Hot Springs)

Brian Chilson
BRAVE NEW RESTAURANT

BEST TAKEAWAY/MOBILE DINING

Butcher in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Hogg’s Meat Market (North Little Rock)

Finalists: The Butcher Shop, Edwards Food Giant (Cantrell), Hillcrest Artisan Meats, Heights Corner Market

Butcher around Arkansas

Weldon’s Meat Market (Hot Springs)

Finalists: Butcher Boys Meat Market & Deli (Van Buren), Jim’s Meat Market (Bentonville), Richard’s Country Meat Market (Fayetteville), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville)

Caterer in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Trio’s Restaurant

Finalist: Catering to You, Heritage Catering, The Root Cafe, RX Catering

Caterer around Arkansas

Two Sisters Catering (Sherwood)

Finalists: Carmelita Catering Co. (Bentonville), Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot), Wright’s Barbecue (Johnson), YGFBFKitchen Restaurant and Catering (Conway)

Deli/gourmet to-go in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Burge’s Hickory Smoked Turkeys and Hams

Finalists: Boulevard Bread Co., Bray Gourmet, Gandolfo’s New York Deli, Hillcrest Artisan Meats

Deli/gourmet to-go around Arkansas

Pea Farm Bistro (Cabot)

Finalists: Breitweiser’s Meat Market (Benton), Weldon’s Meat Market (Hot Springs), Cafe 1217 (Hot Springs), Stone Mill Bread & Cafe (Springdale)

Food truck in Little Rock/North Little Rock

Delta Biscuit Co.

Finalists: Cajun Trouxth, Cheesecake On Point!, El Sur, Lili’s Mexican Street Food

Food truck around Arkansas

La Casa De Mi Abuelita Maw Maw’s House (Redfield)

Finalists: Ozark Mountain Bagel (Fayetteville), Rock ’N’ Roll Hibachi (Hot Springs), Yeyo’s Food Truck (Bentonville), Ying Chang Hmong & Chinese Hot Food (Fayetteville)

BEST BY REGION

Overall restaurant in Benton/Bryant

Baja Grill (Benton)

Finalists: Copper Mule Table & Tap (Bryant), Eat My Catfish (Benton), Valhalla: Kitchen + Bar (Benton), Verona Italian Restaurant (Benton) 

Overall restaurant in Rogers/Bentonville

The Preacher’s Son (Bentonville)

Finalists: The Hive (Bentonville), Local Lime (Rogers), Tusk & Trotter (Bentonville), Wright’s Barbecue (Bentonville) 

Overall restaurant in Conway

Mike’s Place

Finalists: Holly’s Country Cookin’, Pasta Grill, WunderHaus, YGFBFKitchen Restaurant

Overall restaurant in Eureka Springs

Ermilio’s Italian Home Cooking

Finalists: Bombadil’s Cafe, Grotto Wood Fired Grill and Wine Cave, Le Stick Nouveau, Local Flavor 

Overall restaurant in Fayetteville/Springdale/Johnson

The Farmer’s Table Cafe (Fayetteville)

Finalists: Bocca Italian Eatery & Pizzeria (Fayetteville), Hugo’s (Fayetteville), Rolando’s Restaurante (Fayetteville), Wright’s Barbecue (Johnson)

Overall Restaurant in Hot Springs

DeLuca’s Pizzeria

Finalists: Cafe 1217, Rolando’s Restaurante, SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint, The Vault

Trisha Anderson

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