Eat Little Rock: Downtown, Riverdale, Hillcrest and the Heights

Little Rock is becoming a foodie paradise.  New, innovative restaurants are popping up all the time, and old favorites are upping their game.  We do suffer a lack of international foods, but the landscape is quickly changing.  You can now find a few good places to get international food.  We suffer from an excess of pizza and Tex-Mex, but it’s hard to find really good Mexican or Italian food. What we do have is excellent cuisine and reasonable prices when you compare them with other major cities.

Here is a list of the must-try restaurants in Little Rock, broken down by neighborhood.  Included is a good variety for business travelers, people planning a romantic night out, or people who are just looking for a nice spot.

Southside Main Street (SoMa)

South Main is the latest neighborhood in Little Rock to be revitalized.  Generally, South Main is considered the area on Main Street between I-630 and Roosevelt Road in downtown Little Rock.  You’ll find the Bernice Gardens Farmer’s Market here, The Green Corner Store (and Loblolly Creamery’s ice cream) and some quaint antique homes (a few also serve as hotels).  You’ll also find some of the most innovative dining in the city.

  • The Root Cafe: The Root uses locally farmed ingredients to make fresh, cafe style food. They have breakfast, sandwiches, burgers and salads.   The menu does alternate based on ingredients. Located at 1500 S. Main St, 501- 414-0423.
  • South on Main: South on Main is a fine dining establishment that serves elevated Southern cuisine for lunch and dinner.  Located at 1417 S. Main St, 501-375-5100.
  • Boulevard Bread:  Boulevard Bread is the local answer to all those chain sandwich shops.  If you want a nice deli sandwich or salad, skip the chains and head over here for something really good (this location is on1417 S. Main St.,501-375-5100 but there are locations in the Heights at 1920 N. Grant St. and in the River Market building).
  • Community Bakery:  The best and original location for Community Bakery is on Main Street.  They do have a cafe with a small selection of deli items, but they are known around town for their cakes and pastries.  Their doughnuts and pastry are great and they have the best beignet in the city.  Located at 1200 Main St, 501-375-6418).
  • Midtown Billiards: Midtown Billiards is a bar, so smoking is allowed and it’s 21 and up only.  I’m including it here because if you’re up late, it’s pretty much the only place in the city to get real food late (like 3-4 a.m. late).  During the day, they have one of the best burgers in the city if you feel like venturing to a “dive” to get one.
  • Bruno’s Little Italy: Bruno’s offers up some of the best Italian in the city, maybe even the state.  The location on Main is a newer location, but the food is just as delicious as it once was.  The atmosphere is casual, romantic and maybe a little cramped on a busy night.  Located at 310 Main St #101, 501-372-7866.

River Market / Downtown

Most tourists find themselves in the River Market at some point.  The Clinton Presidential Center, several museums, shops and the Market itself draw people.  The downtown area has become a great place to snag a bite.

  • Lost Forty Brewing:   Lost Forty is a craft brewery with a restaurant.  The restaurant and food are just as much stars as the craft brew.  An unusual thing is the communal seating.  They have several large tables that are shared (there are a few other tables and bar seating).  You’re sure to make a friend when you dine and drink at Lost Forty.  Located at 501 Byrd St, 501-319-7335.
  • The Flying Fish: Long been a favorite for fried fish (and a few healthy options), the Flying Fish is short on formality and long on flavor.  You place your order at a window, generally for something fried and delicious, and take a seat.  Located at 511 President Clinton Avenue, 501-375-3474.
  • Gus’s Fried Chicken: Gus’s originates in Memphis and serves up some of the best, spicy fried chicken in the south.  They have chicken and waffles for Sunday brunch.  Located at 300 President Clinton Ave, 501-372-2211
  • One Eleven: No list of great restaurants would be complete with the Capital Hotel’s flagship (but the hotel’s bar and grill isn’t bad either).  One Eleven is one of the finest dining establishments in the city, offering up elegant Southern food with fresh ingredients and clever plating.   Located inside the Capital Hotel, 111 W Markham St, 501-370-7011.
  • Iriana’s: Little Rock has a lot of pizza, but Iriana’s is unique.  They have a nice crust (not too thick or too thin) and their “sweep the floor” is a local favorite.   Located at 103 W Markham St, 501-374-3656.

Airport Area

The airport is pretty close to SoMa and the River Market, so if you’re in town for the day, you could also head over there.  To be truthful, the food around the airport isn’t the best variety the city has to offer.

  • Homer’s: Homer’s serves breakfast and lunch (they close at 2 p.m.) on weekdays.  They serve Southern soul food, like chicken fried steak and fried catfish.  They also make great burgers and sandwiches.  It’s a great place if you want to try a traditional Southern plate lunch.  Located at 2001 E Roosevelt, 501-374-1400.
  • Lassis Inn: Lassis Inn is one of the oldest restaurants in Little Rock (open since the 1930s) and the best places to go if you’re looking for authentic Southern catfish (that and fixins is pretty much all they serve).  Located at 518 E 27th Street, 501-372-8714.
  • Boston’s: Boston’s is a franchise with a sports bar theme.  They have typical sports bar food.  They are open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. so they will likely be open when your plane lands.   Boston’s is located in 3201 Bankhead Dr, inside the Holiday Inn, 501-235-2000.
  • Whole Hog BBQ (in the airport): This is a cheat, but Whole Hog has some of the best BBQ in the state and the airport location doesn’t disappoint.  If you’re really hungry, it’s worth stopping and at least grabbing a sandwich to go.  Between gates 3 and 4, passed TSA, so you have to be heading to or from a flight to partake.


The Heights and Hillcrest is a hip, young neighborhood with eclectic shops, and a fun mix of restaurants.

  • Ciao Baci: Ciao Baci has a great wine list and cocktail menu. The food is a more laid back, fine dining experience. The menu is Mediterranean inspired and changes seasonally. It’s located inside a bungalow with a great patio.
  • Zaza Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza Co.: If you’re looking for Neapolitan style pizza, Zaza has it. The wood stove makes the crust extra thin and crispy.  Zaza also serves fresh salads and gelato. Some unique pizza toppings are available. Located at 5600 Kavanaugh Blvd, 501-661-9292.
  • Acadia: Acadia is casual fine dining with a Cajun style menu.  The atmosphere is perfect for a date or business dinner.  They have a great patio when the weather is nice. Located at 3000 Kavanaugh Blvd, 501-603-9630.
  • Damgoode Pies: Damgoode Pies is more pizza, but with a toothy crust that makes it win “best in Little Rock” quite often.  The white sauce (especially the spicy white sauce) is a must try.  Located at 2701 Kavanaugh, 501-664-2239.  They also have a brewpub at 500 President Clinton Avenue and a dine-in location at 6706 Cantrell. [Hillcrest/Heights location closed for renovations].
  • Cafe Bossa Nova: Cafe Bossa Nova is a Brazilian restaurant and one of the better international restaurants in Little Rock. It’s connected to a great Brazilian bakery too.  The menu consists of fresh ingredients and combinations not often seen elsewhere.    Located at 2701 Kavanaugh, 501-614-6682.
  • Mylo Coffee: This hip coffee shop roasts raw, green coffee from single farms, estates, and cooperatives.  They usually have a good selection of pastry and sandwiches, but it can get crowded in here.  Located at 2715 Kavanaugh Blvd, 501-747-1880.


Riverdale and Cantrell have some new developments, but some of the oldest, most established fine dining in Little Rock is located here.

  • Cajun’s: Cajun’s is known for their deck parties and live music by the locals, but they do have a great menu of seafood, and a nice patio overlooking the river.  The atmosphere is casually upscale, except when a deck party is going on.  Located at 2400 Cantrell Rd, 501-375-535.
  • Brave New Restaurant: Brave New Restaurant hasn’t lost a step, even though it’s been on the Little Rock dining scene for decades.  Some of the success is the location, with spacious river views, but most of it is the menu. The food is always innovative, fresh and delicious.  Brave New Restaurant is upscale fine dining. Located at 2300 Cottondale Ln Suite 105, 501-663-2677.
  • Red Door: Red Door calls themselves modern Southern cuisine.  Their menu consists of grilled meats, corn bisque, sandwiches, shrimp and grits, fish and fresh vegetable sides.  The atmosphere is upscale casual.  Their Sunday brunch is a can’t miss. Located at 3701 Cantrell Rd, 501-666-8482.
  • Izzys: Izzy’s was doing healthy, gluten free and vegan before it was cool.  They have some of the best tamales you’ll ever taste.  Besides tamales, the eclectic menu matches the eclectic decor in the restaurant.  You’ll find a little of everything like pasta, pizzas, sandwiches and salads.
  • Trio’s: Trio’s was one of the original fine dining establishments in Little Rock, and they still don’t disappoint.  They’ve been serving fresh, local foods since before it was the thing to do. The Voodoo Pasta is known by most local diners.  The menu alternates but fuses all kinds of cuisines using whatever is fresh.
  • Maddie’s Place: Maddie’s Place presents a menu of Southern comfort food with a New Orleans influence.  Their prices are excellent for the kind of upscale cuisine you get.  The atmosphere is casual.  Located at 1615 Rebsamen Park Road,  501-660-4040.
  • The Faded Rose:  The Faded Rose has a Cajun style menu with traditional po-boys, gumbo, crab cakes, red beans and rice and all of the other Cajun favorites you’d expect. They also have burgers and some house-made desserts.  Located at 1619 Rebsamen Park Rd, 501-663-9734.

More Eat Little Rock: Bowman, Chenal, University and Rodney Parham.

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