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To make this list, you not only need to be a restaurant that serves top-notch food, but one located in a small Arkansas town. That means any town with a population under 5,000. Let’s get right to 20 Outstanding Small-Town Arkansas Restaurants!
Fried chicken, spaghetti, chicken Parm, and lasagna? Yes, please. The carbs are aplenty at the nearly 75-year-old Tontitown institution. Try a little bit of everything with The Venesian Sampler at the restaurant, a 2018 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame award winner.
I had to include one dairy bar on this list and Yellow Jacket Drive-In in Sheridan is it. Expect a solid cheeseburger and fries, pickle chips, and onion rings. The burgers are somewhat small, so get a double patty and wash it all down with either a fountain drink or shake.
The Grumpy Rabbit has helped put Lonoke on the food map, thanks to a beautiful setting and excellent food. Executive Chef James Hale leads the way, executing an approachable menu with hits like the smashed tater tots, patty melt, Reuben sandwich, and blackened redfish. Save room for dessert. The carrot cake is a winner.
The James Beard Award-winning Jones Bar-B-Q keeps things very simple. Arrive early or run the risk of missing out on one of their tangy pulled pork and slaw on white bread sandwiches. A visit to Jones is something every Arkansan should do at least once.
How do fried catfish and unlimited hushpuppies sound? Throw in a massive salad boat buffet along with a dynamite view of the White River and you have the popular JoJo’s Catfish Wharf in Mountain View.
If you find yourself driving down Highway 65 with some hunger pangs and are close to Clinton, consider a quick stop at L’Attitude Bistro. This no-frills restaurant is a nice spot to grab a soup, salad, and/or sandwich. Try out the Crispy Chicken Club. The thick-cut bacon on this sandwich is no joke.
Does Country Village Oven Bakery make the best cinnamon roll in Arkansas? I happen to think so. But everything at the Star City mainstay, from the donuts to breads to apple fritters to pies, is dynamite. The bakery is off the beaten path but well worth the effort to get there.
Dondie’s is like no other restaurant you’ve ever eaten at before. For one thing, it’s in the shape of a replica riverboat and sits near the White River in Des Arc. This enormous buffet with fried catfish as the main draw opens to adoring patrons on Friday and Saturday nights from 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
I imagine you’d be hard-pressed to find better barbeque in the Northeast Arkansas than what newbie Ray’s Rump Shack is cranking out in Lake City. The brisket, pulled pork, and sausage are all must-orders, as are sides like mac & cheese, beans, and potato salad.
Another barbecue entry? Hey, this is Arkansas, and the tiny Craig’s Bar-B-Q is the pride and joy of De Valls Bluff. Make sure to stop for a quick pulled pork and slaw sandwich (or two) and a slice of coconut cream pie.
I hope Rose Bud fully understands how fortunate they are to have a place like Grumpy’s Getaway. Everything I tried on my one visit was absolutely fantastic. That includes the fried chicken tenders, hamburger steak, onion rings, pickle chips, and possum pie.
Speaking of pie, good luck finding a better one than the coconut cream pie at The Whippet Restaurant in Prattsville. For an entrée, order the fried catfish. It comes with “The Set-Up,” which includes tomato relish, slaw, hush puppies, and beans, along with a heavy helping of downhome service.
I don’t care where you live in Arkansas, Reid’s needs to happen. The barbecue is that good. Try the pork ribs, sliced brisket, and pulled pork and try to tell me that isn’t some of the state’s best barbecue. Save room for dessert. Reid’s serves a variety of fried pies and cheesecakes.
Redfield is a short, 20-minute drive from Little Rock, and while the burgers and fries at The Mammoth Orange are worth the quick trip, just seeing the bright orange, dome-shaped dairy bar will put a smile on your face. The entire experience is a blast from the past.
Yes, sorry if you’re getting tired of cheeseburger and fried catfish suggestions, but Hurley House Café in Hazen is another spot that does these dishes just right. Opt for the double patty burger if you’re feeling extra hungry.
Eureka Springs is a huge tourist destination, so it’s no surprise that the small town is home to some excellent restaurants. Local Flavor Café, with dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant Parm, and Sweet and Spicy Grilled Shrimp, help land the restaurant on this list. If you love Vanilla Crème Brûlée for dessert, don’t think twice about ordering this one.
Charlotte’s is famous for their pies, so famous, in fact, that you’d be smart to order a few slices right after sitting down. Why? The restaurant usually sells out within a couple of hours after opening. Get the coconut cream or caramel, but a slice of strawberry cake will also delight. The Keo Klassic, a signature sandwich that comes with smoked turkey, tomato, onion, avocado, and Monterey Jack on sourdough, dipped in a rich Parmesan garlic cream and grilled, is also a popular dish.
You haven’t truly lived life if a trip to Coursey’s Smoked Meats has yet to happen. The 77-year-old, St Joe eatery sells the best smoked bacon, turkey, and cheddar cheese that money can buy (and they even ship). Just passing through? Get a sliced turkey sandwich for the road.
Simply put, Taylor’s has the very best steak I’ve ever eaten. Anywhere! Seriously, the dry-aged ribeye makes the 1.5-hour drive from Little Rock feel like a small price to pay for steak greatness. The filet is also memorable, and save a little space for the cheesecake.
England got a huge boost with the opening of Bosses Chicken at the beginning of the pandemic. The town and surrounding areas have really embraced the restaurant that does fried food–like catfish, chicken wings, and okra–just right.
For more great small-town Arkansas restaurants, click here.
Cover photo is vanilla creme brulee at Local Flavor Cafe in Eureka Springs.
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