Preacher’s son

From the Editors: The statewide restaurants recommended here are personal favorites of the Arkansas Life staff and freelancers. We pay for all meals and dine anonymously to ensure that we have the same experience y’all might have, and we do not give special treatment to advertisers or potential advertisers. Think there’s a place we missed? Let us know at We’ll make sure to give it a try!


$ Under $12

$$ $12-$25

$$$ $26-$40

$$$$ $41+

Typical meal for one person, not including tip, etc.


Yeyo’s Mexican Grill

The Hive $$$

There’s a reason chef Matt McClure has racked up the James Beard noms: The man’s got a way with what’s been dubbed “high South cuisine.” For us, that translates to pitch-perfect Berkshire pork chops and local pasture-raised chicken served up with sides and sauces that would make Granny proud: rich tomato jam, roasted okra, blistered pole beans and sorghum vinaigrette. Icing on the hoecake: The space, tucked off 21c Hotel’s art-filled lobby, is easy on the eyes, and the bar serves a mean cocktail. (200 NE A St.; (479) 286-6575)

Oven & Tap $$

A perennial date-night favorite, this Southern-meets-Italian eatery off the Bentonville Square is fueled by a wood-burning oven, which inflects every dish with a homey, hearthy vibe. The Neapolitan-style pizzas are solid, but chef Luke Wetzel’s skill shines in his small-plate offerings. We always order the wood-fired edamame and the meatballs, and have yet to say no to that Brussels sprouts Caesar. Wash it all down with a glass of Montepulciano or a Negroni. (215 S. Main St., Suite 3; (479) 268-5884)

Preacher’s Son $$$

In light of chef Matt Cooper’s upbringing (son of a Methodist preacher) and the place that he’s serving (a restored church), any other name would just feel wrong. What the name fails to capture, however, is that this Ropeswing Group/Walton-backed restaurant has rightly earned praise as offering some of the best food in the state—pork shank with hanna grits and a watermelon mostarda, for example, or fresh strawberries with burrata and pickled fennel—and done it all sans gluten to boot. Plus, as a James Beard Award nominee for design, the environs are equally as awe-inspring. (201 NW A St., Bentonville; (479) 445-6065)

Yeyo’s Mexican Grill $-$$

What started as farm-to-food-truck authentic Mexican has grown into a cheery brick-and-mortar spot at Bentonville’s 8th Street Market that’s home to some of our favorite south-of-the-border specialties—street tacos! mezcal!—and a mole special that’s worthy of a trek up north. Savor those guajillo chile-sauce-soaked enchiladas, but make sure to save room for a scoop or three of Mexican chocolate ice cream. (801 SE Eighth St.; (479) 657-6954)


The Dixie Pig $

“Oh, you’re headed to Blytheville? Can you bring back a bottle of Dixie Pig sauce?” Tell us you’re driving up Interstate 55, and this is the refrain you’ll hear from us— along with directions on how to swing by this NEA barbecue joint. We’d tell you to bring us back a “pig sandwich,” but we know that thing would never make it out of the Blytheville city limits. You’d gobble it up in two bites, and we wouldn’t blame you a bit. (701 N. Sixth St.; (870) 763-4636)


Katmandu Momo $

If there’s one thing we love, it’s dumplings. Chicken and dumplings? Chinese pan-fried pork dumplings? We don’t discriminate. So when we heard that Katmandu Momo—Little Rock’s Nepali dumpling shop and food truck—was opening a brick-and-mortar in Conway, we were stoked. And when we heard the restaurant would be expanding its menu beyond momo to include noodle and rice bowls, as well as appetizers? Well, let’s just say we’ll see you in Conway. (1018 W. Oak St.; (501) 205-8679)


Wunderhaus $$

It’s probably a bit ridiculous to drive 30 minutes for dinner (or lunch, or brunch) when you’ve got a plethora of goodness within walking distance. But there’s something special about the homey European comfort food that comes out of this Conway kitchen. And there’s something even more special about the folks behind it all and the place they’ve created. We’d drive even farther for a bite of that curry-simmered bratwurst or that gremolata-topped osso bucco. (900 Locust Ave.; (501) 358-6806)

ZaZa Fine Salad & Wood-Oven Pizza Co. $$

Our college pizza experiences were a little bit different than those offered up by ZaZa. Where we had rubbery cheese and questionable pepperoni, the UCA/Hendrix kids in have wood-fired crusts and locally sourced toppings (think: freshly foraged mushrooms). Where we had ranch-soaked iceberg “salads,” they’ve got ahi tuna over spring mix with ponzu vinaigrette. Jealous? Yep. But at least we’re no longer broke and can partake at will in both Conway and Little Rock. (Multiple locations; (501) 336-9292)


Fox & Fork $$

Think there’s not much in the way of dinner options between Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas—or at least an option that doesn’t come on a bun? This Clarksville bistro, located just a stone’s throw from Interstate 40, will convince you otherwise. (We were convinced by the pork rillettes, followed by a bone-in rib-eye and a mound of rosemary fries.) It’s open for lunch, too—get the Cuban!—and there’s a full bar and live music (check Facebook for a schedule) to boot. (117 S. College Ave.; (479) 647-5010)

Oark Burger Co. $

We miiiight plan our jaunts up to the Ozarks around lunchtime just so we can pass through Clarksville in time for a half-pound Oark bacon burger and a slice of the daily pie at this roadside burger joint tucked into a (super-duper nice) gas station. If the weather’s right, we take that burger and that pie (seriously, don’t miss the pie) out to the covered, fan-cooled deck. Then we stop by for another round on our way back through town. (1100 E. Main St.; (479) 754-0092)


Craig’s Bar-B-Q $

Apart from the faces behind the counter, not much has changed at this shoebox of a barbecue restaurant in map-dot DeValls Bluff since the Craig Brothers opened their doors in 1947. Not the pork, not the slaw and—thank goodness!—not the sauce. Which. Is. Everything. (You could put that sauce on cardboard, and we’d eat it.) Word to the wise: Bring cash! And if it’s a weekend, save room for pie at Ms. Lena’s across the way. (15 Walnut; (870) 998-2616)

Ms. Lena’s Pie Shop $

Maybe you’ve had coconut cream pie. And maybe you think that particular pie is the best coconut cream pie. Hear us out: Unless said pie came from Ms. Lena’s, that’s likely not the case. Ditto for lemon meringue, chocolate, apple, buttermilk, egg custard, etc. Have a slice while you’re in DeValls Bluff, and bring $20 to take a whole pie home. Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only. (2885 Arkansas 33 S.; (870) 998-1385)


Taylor’s Steakhouse $$$$

Hoofing it 90 minutes down Interstate 530 from Little Rock might seem a little extreme for dinner—at least until you try the best steak of your life. Just outside of Dumas, the family-grocery-turned-steakhouse offers a full menu, from barbecue shrimp to chocolate bread pudding. But the real reason you’re going is the bone-in, dry-aged rib-eye. Follow the Facebook page for news of extra-long agings—and trust us, it’ll be worth the wait. (14201 Arkansas 54; (870) 382-5349)

Khana Indian Grill


Local Flavor Cafe $$

Eureka Springs is a lot of things. “Quirky” is one. “Touristy” is another—which can make it hard to snuff out good dining options, unless you know where the locals go. This is where the locals go. And it’s where we head, too, whether it’s lunchtime (shrimp and grits, please), brunch time (we’ll take the quiche du jour), dinner time (grilled salmon will do just fine) or just … wine time. (71 S. Main St.; (479) 253-9522)

Sparky’s Roadhouse Cafe $$

Did you just get off the Kings River? Still dripping Beaver Lake water? Done and dusted after an Ozark hike? The folks at Sparky’s in Eureka Springs don’t mind, and you’ll find everything you need to revive your weary self: guacamole burgers, chicken-and-goat-cheese quesadillas, smoked brats and beer. Lots and lots of beer. The patio is where you’ll want to be, BTW. Especially if you’re especially lake-y. (147 E. Van Buren; (479) 253-6001)


Hugo’s $-$$

Nothing’s changed in this Fayetteville hot spot. Not the bric-a-brac behind the bar, not the Derek’s Special, not the cozy red glow emitted by the Typewriter sign on the back wall. It’s been this way for 31 years, serving as pre- and post-game headquarters for going on two generations of Razorback fans. Those Bleu Moon burgers? They’re like tiny time machines of deliciousness, as are the grasshopper crepes, the nachos—and don’t even get us started on those handcut fries. (25 1/2 N. Block. Ave.; (479) 521-7585)

The Root Cafe

Khana Indian Grill $-$$

There aren’t many fast-casual places that double as date-night destinations, even in Fayetteville. But with environs this transportative—from the handpainted rickshaw out front to the punched-tin pendants inside—and food this scrumptious, this Indian eatery has “big night out” written all over it. Grab a couple of cucumber-scented gin and tonics and some samosas to share, then split a thaali combo plate, savoring chickpea chole and chicken tikka masala—you’ll swear you’re 7,927 miles east. (2101 N. College Ave.; (479) 287-4736)

Leverett Lounge $$

Blink while driving down Leverett Avenue, and you’ll likely miss the itty-bitty Leverett Lounge, and that would be a real shame. Because you’d miss out on the fried Gulf oysters with the three-chile sauce and sweet vinegar. The seared cod with leeks and romesco sauce. The smoky orange margarita (made with mezcal instead of tequila). Oh, you want to turn around? Don’t worry, we understand. (737 N. Leverett Ave.; (479) 249-6570)

A Taste of Thai $-$$

When we were poor college students, this Thai spot just off the square was where we went to feel cultured and fancy. Now that we’re real adults with real jobs, we’re happy to know that the food is still just as delicious—and wildly affordable. Our bill does start to rack up, though, when we can’t decide between the summer rolls, chicken satay, tom yum soup, pad thai and garlic and pepper chicken … (31 E. Center St., Suite 100; (479) 251-1800)

Wood Stone Craft Pizza + Bar $$

Like your pizza topped with local goat cheese, in-season fruit marmalade, prosciutto, arugula and balsamic reduction? Or maybe local uncured ham, butternut squash puree, house ricotta, roasted Brussels and cider molasses? If so, this duo of Fayetteville woodfired bistros-slash-bars will hit the spot. Grab a barrel-aged Manhattan from the bar while you wait, and end the meal with a housemade limoncello. (multiple locations; (479) 444-1947)


Murry’s Restaurant $

We’ve said it before: Murry’s restaurant is legendary. The food? Unparalleled. The service? The top-most of notches. The experience? You’ll feel more at home in Murry’s dining room than in your own, and you positively won’t want to leave, even after the catfish and bread pudding are long gone. But don’t take our word for it—perhaps we’re a little biased. If we’re wrong, though, then so are Southern Living and Garden & Gun. Which means at least we’re in good company. (U.S. Highway 70; (870) 255-3266)


Dannie’s Cafe $$

We never—like, never ever—expected to find pan-seared scallops or Chilean sea bass with leek ragout in a restored 100-year-old red barn on the outskirts of Hope. Watermelons, sure. But a full rack of New Zealand lamb? Berkshire pork chops with caramelized apples? We’re still reeling from our discovery, and you will be, too—especially once you meet the couple behind it all: Flora and Bob. They’ve got stories aplenty, and they’ll be happy to share. (475 County Road 54; (870) 777-8870)


McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant $

Sometimes, a certain editor of this magazine will feign a “need” to “hike” around the shores of Lake Ouachita juuuust to have an excuse to dig into a slaw-smothered chopped pork sammie at this barbecue institution. (Another editor swears by what is called “the spread”: Delta-style tamales smothered in beef and beans and all manner of yumminess.) And always a cold longneck beer or two. You know, because of that “hike.” (505 Albert Pike Road; (501) 623-9665)


Low Gap Cafe $$

You might wonder: How does a place so far off the beaten path not only manage to subsist but thrive—and to do so purely by word of mouth alone? Well, let’s just say it doesn’t take much more than a bite of pan-seared red snapper or spinach-artichoke dip to understand (or any of the desserts that Marie Bottini, who owns the place with her husband, Nick, whips up daily). Then you’ll just be asking: Why in the heck didn’t I come out here sooner? (Arkansas 74, Low Gap; (870) 861-5848)


Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales $

You might know Lake Village as “that place you drive through on your way to Florida,” but we’re telling you: There are reasons aplenty to make it your destination. Lake Chicot State Park is one. Rhoda’s is another. You’ll want to snack on a trio of her famous tamales, all cornmeal and ground beef and chicken fat and spices, while you wait, but what you’re really here for is a batch to go, which Ms. Rhoda packs up all snug in a coffee can. (714 St. Mary St.; (870) 265-3108)


Serenity Farm Bread $

Nestled in an Ozark valley alongside Cove Creek, with a wood-fired brick oven turning out old-world sourdough …. What can we say, really, except this place is a little slice of heaven. Serenity Farm’s pastry chef has 31 years of experience, and she whips up such delicacies as pain au chocolat, maple-pecan sticky buns, banana bread and cream-cheese danishes, all made with that heavenly dough. (805 U.S. 65 S.; (870) 447-2210)

Skylark Cafe $

It’s like having lunch at your bohemian friend’s small-town bungalow, if your bohemian friend is also a damn good cook who’s really got a way with smoked-brisket tacos, spinach-queso-covered nachos and the strawberry pie to end all strawberry pies. “May all who enter leave as friends,” a sign reads by the door—and it’s true. One visit to this Leslie establishment, and you’ll feel like you’re a part of this place. (401 High St.; (870) 447-2354)


Big Orange-Midtown $-$$

This is where we head when the kids want milkshakes, Dad wants a burger and Mama just needs a cocktail. All three menu items are—dare we say—at the top of their games, especially if that milkshake is whatever’s on special (lately, we loved the lemon icebox blueberry number), the burger is tof he Hickory Smoke burger variety and the cocktail is … well, any of them. There are two locations in Little Rock and one in Rogers, but the Midtown location in Little Rock is our fave. (207 N. University Ave., Suite 100; (501) 379-8715)

Boulevard Bistro $$-$$$

We love Boulevard Bread Co. so much around these parts that we call it “Bouley” and have the Main Street-location phone number memorized. So when the Heights location in Little Rock expanded and added dinner a few years back, you can imagine our zeal. Nowadays, we stop in on the reg for what we think is one of the finest steak-frites in the state, and fried chicken and grits topped with a sunnyside-up egg for brunch. Try to nab one of the two-top nooks in the window. Très romantic. (1920 N. Grant St.; (501) 663-5949)

Bruno’s Little Italy $$

We cried when it closed, then cried from happiness when it reopened two years later. Why? Because of the marinara. Because of the Bruno brothers. Because of the lasagna. And because Little Rock deserves good, red-and-white-checkered-tablecloth-with-a-jug-of-Chianti Italian. And that’s exactly what Bruno’s is. (310 S. Main St.; (501) 372-7866)

Cache $$-$$$

Every city needs an expense-account lunch spot. This—with its proximity to all of downtown’s high-rises and, well, expense-account holders—is Little Rock’s. But even those of us on far-less-corporate budgets can indulge in a lunch away from the office canteen at this swankly appointed restaurant, thanks to the lunch menu’s $10 sammies, $12 catfish and—gasp!—wood-fired pizzas. (425 President Clinton Ave.; (501) 850-0265)

Eliella Ristorante $

It’s not the most glamorous—but in this strip-mall-located, gas-station-abutting locale, you’ll find real-deal Mexican fare that is, for our money, the best Little Rock has to offer. Although the extensive menu boasts traditional standouts, including a killer pozole and menudo, we often make the trip solely for the tacos. The asada and barbacoa are great, but more adventurous eaters who opt for the lengua or cabeza are richly rewarded. (Bonus: Tacos are a buck from 3-8 p.m., M-F.) (7700 Baseline Road; (501) 539-5355—though you may need to speak Spanish)

The Fold $$

You know that point in the “fall” when it’s so flippin’ hot, but you’re still dying to dine al fresco? The Fold, with its gigantic garage-door windows and climate-controlled patio is where to head. You’ll feel like you’re outside even when you’re still very much inside, and you’ll get to partake in some of our favorite tacos, burritos and margaritas to boot. Mix and match from the taco menu (we’ve yet to find one we don’t like), but be sure to start with an order of “los cuatro buenos”: guac, habanero queso, salsa roja and salsa verde. And a pitcher of those spicy margaritas, please and thanks. (3501 Old Cantrell Road; (501) 916-9706)

kBird $$

Richard Glasgow, the man behind this hidden Thai spot tucked away in residential Hillcrest, spends a month each winter in Thailand, bumming his way through the countryside, backpack in tow, soaking up everything he can on the local cuisine. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Well, that and the fact that he brings back all the spices and whatnot he can’t find locally. It’s as authentic as it gets, and lordy, does it show. Don’t miss the soups, or that green papaya salad, made with papayas Richard whacks open with a very authentic machete. (600 N. Tyler St.; (501) 352-3549)

Mike’s Place

Lost Forty $-$$

It’s hard to know what’s better here: the locally made beer or the locally sourced beer snacks. Luckily, you don’t have to decide. Pair your happy-hour round of Easy Tiger lagers with a helping of smoked-jalapeno pimento cheese, your lunch beer with a smoked brisket sandwich, your “brewmosa” with drop biscuits and homemade sausage gravy (or the biggest, most delicious cinnamon roll you’ve ever seen). (501 Byrd St.; (501) 319-7275)

Mike’s Cafe $

We all agree: The best thing we’ve ever bought for $3 is the banh mi at this Asher Avenue Vietnamese-slash-Chinese eatery. On the menu, it’s considered an appetizer, even though it’s a full-size sandwich loaded with sweet lacquered pork, crunchy veggies, fresh herbs and jalapeño slices. But you take their word for it, and you get that “appetizer” and follow it with a full serving of pho, and maybe you take some home. Or maybe you just eat it all right then and there. (5501 Asher Ave.; (501) 562-1515)

One Eleven $$$-$$$$

First of all, it’s gorgeous. And we know, we know—you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or a restaurant by its gleaming zinc bar. Conveniently, however, the dishes that come out of chef Joël Antunes’ kitchen taste as good as his dining room looks. This is French-y food worthy of a special-occasion splurge: filet with Bordelaise sauce, yellowfin tuna tartare, diver scallops with lemon beurre blanc and the like. (111 W. Markham St.; (501) 370-7011)

El Palenque $

For the longest time, if we were feeling peckish for authentic Mexican fare, we aimed the car either north to Levy or south to Geyer Springs (Taqueria Guadalajara and Taqueria Karina, respectively). But for the past few years, after stumbling across El Palenque in a nondescript strip mall on Rodney Parham, we realized it’s definitely not necessary to make the drive. Our personal favorites here are the tacos arrieros—which come with steak, chorizo, avocado and pico de gallo—and chilaquiles, (though frankly, you really can’t go wrong). (9501 N. Rodney Parham Road; Search Taqueria El Palenque on Facebook)

The Root Cafe $$

Food just tastes better when you know where it came from. And when you know it came from a local farmer who raised it sustainably and ethically, and who’s benefiting as much from your meal as you are—well, it just doesn’t get much better than that. Now that The Root is offering dinner service—with rotating dishes such as Berbere-spiced fried chicken (with mac and cheese, and house-fermented sweet pickles) and smoked shiitakes (with cornbread, purple-hull-pea relish and braised greens)? That’s just the best. (1500 S. Main St.; (501) 414-0423)

South on Main $$-$$$

On nights when we’ve got friends in from out of town, we cross our fingers that we can snag a seat at the bar or—if we’re really lucky—at a booth while this Southern-restaurant-slash-music venue has a show on the books. The food is good, the cocktails are even better, but it’s when the stage is hopping and the seats are filled that it’s hard to top. Expect clever twists on grandma classics, including a killer take on chicken spaghetti. But if we’re being honest, we usually go straight for the burger and fries. (1304 S. Main St.; (501) 244-9660)

Three Fold $

We’re not gonna lie: Three Fold is right around the corner from our offices, so we’re in there at least once a week. OK, twice. Fine, you caught us. At least three times a week, you can find one of us devouring a noodle bowl, pan-fried dumplings or that incredible noodle soup. The menu and the design of the space may trend toward the minimalist, but the one thing they don’t skimp on is flavor. (611 S. Main St., (501) 372-1739)


Jones Bar-B-Q Diner $

It’s a little tough to explain, but here goes: You take a foil pouch proffered through the small window that separates the kitchen from the dining area. You sit. You take a bite of the sandwich, chopped pork and slaw on white bread. And it’s like seeing color for the first time. Then you look at Mr. Jones, who’s run the place since what seems like forever, and you see the James Beard Award loose in the slant-hanging shadow box. And just like that, it all makes sense. (Pro tip: Get there early. Seriously.) (219 W. Louisiana St., Marianna; (870) 295-3807)


Morrilton Drive-Inn $$

When it comes to this small-town drive-in just off Interstate 40, midway between Little Rock and Russellville, you may have some questions. Are the high school kids who man the counter a little rambunctious? Uh, yep. Is it actually a Never Never Land satellite where there are no parents and/or owners? It seems likely. But, y’know what, we’re not going to question what makes a Magic Burger and onion rings paired with a butterscotch milkshake so darn delish. Never never. (1601 Oak St., Morrilton; (501) 354-8343)


Whispering Woods $$-$$$

Ever been to the Norfork Lake area? No? Some advice: Go. And on your first visit, acclimate yourself to your surroundings on the charming, umbrella-shaded patio of this mini resort overlooking the water. Owned by a pair of hospitality-industry stalwarts who were charmed by this neck of the woods, the Grill at Whispering Woods serves up seafood and steaks—pan-seared sea bass with olive-caper sauce, handcut ribeyes with tarragon butter—with a side of killer Ozark Mountain views. (4245 Highway 177 S., Jordan; (870) 499-5531)


Local Lime $$

There’s a lot to love at the Little Rock iteration of Yellow Rocket Concepts’ homage to Baja-Cali Mexican cuisine—specifically, those margaritas. But it’s the new, ginormous location at Rogers’ Pinnacle Hills Promenade that’s really got us craving a stop-in for some carnitas tacos, pescado vera cruz or a heaping helping of chicken enchiladas. And always, always, a house margarita. Or three. (multiple locations; (501) 448-2226)

Monte Ne Inn Chicken $$

It’s like Grandma’s Sunday dinner, only—dare we say it—better. (Sorry, Grams.) You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit, and what you get is all-you-can-eat, family-style helpings of bean soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, coleslaw and homemade rolls and apple butter. The chicken is most definitely finger-lickin’ good, but it’s the bean soup that’ll have you booking a table for next week. PS: Booking a table is highly recommended. (; (479) 636-5511)

Persephone on Wheels $-$$

Listen, we take a lot of food photos around here, and we can say this without reservation: This humble truck is churning out some pretty dang photogenic food—all bright greens and pickled pinks, a rainbow of deliciousness. And it’s not just easy on the eyes, y’all—chef Mike Robertshaw’s and partner Meredith Butler’s Mediterranean mashups are flavor explosions. Clever, too. Just try not to smile when you order that falafel waffle with a side of Aphrodite fries. (; (360) 990-8177)

Saiwok $$

Both our food writer and our photographer couldn’t stop gushing over this Vietnamese street food spot in an unassuming strip mall in Rogers. Not that we could blame them. With everything from banh mi to bao to rice noodle bowls to pho—all with clever, South-ified twists (smoked pork belly bao with white barbecue sauce, for one), this place has us all in a tizzy. (And quite hungry for lemongrass chicken.) (; (479) 202-5961)


28 Springs $$-$$$

We know what you’re thinking: Is it worth the drive to Siloam Springs? We wondered that, too. And then we saw the bar (which is gigantic). And snagged a seat at it. And ordered a 28 Springs Burger with a side of double-fried fries. And devoured it. But there’s more to this sophisticated bistro than burgers and beverages. Whether you’re after a plate of steak-frites for dinner or a muffaletta for lunch, you won’t regret making the drive. (; (479) 524-2828)


Wilson Cafe $$

No matter how many times we’ve gone, it always feels a little surreal rolling up in the Tudor-styled Wilson, the town that billionaire Gaylon Lawrence Sr. bought back in 2010 and has since revived. But you know what? When you take a bite of the fried green tomatoes or the Strawberry Fields salad or the Good Ol’ Burger (to say nothing of that—swoon—coconut pie), we think yo’ll agree: Best. Reality. Check. Ever. (2 N. Jefferson St., Wilson; (870) 655-0222)