12 Best Restaurants in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Fort Smith is the second largest city in Arkansas and home to a vibrant food scene. From classic barbecue joints to contemporary cafes, Fort Smith’s diverse culinary offerings reflect the city’s rich history and culture. This article highlights 12 of the best restaurants that Fort Smith has to offer.

I have carefully curated this list to include established favorites along with some hidden gems. For each restaurant, I describe the ambiance, signature dishes, and what makes it stand out. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, these 12 restaurants should be on your Fort Smith dining bucket list.

The Haunted Hotel and Bistro

Tucked away on Garrison Avenue in a Victorian-style building, the Haunted Hotel and Bistro has a unique vibe. Dark woods, flickering candles, and ghostly apparitions (pictures only!) enhance the haunted house theme. Despite the spooky decor, the Southern comfort food shines here.

Customer favorites include the fried green tomatoes topped with lump crab meat and the blackened redfish. Everything is made from scratch using fresh, seasonal ingredients. So if you’re looking for an Instagrammable meal in historic downtown Fort Smith, look no further than the Haunted Hotel and Bistro.

Ed Walker’s Drive-In Restaurant

For old-fashioned burgers and shakes, Ed Walker’s Drive-In is a Fort Smith institution. It originally opened in 1949 as a walk-up root beer stand. Today, guests can still enjoy crispy onion rings, juicy patties, and thick milkshakes from the comfort of their cars.

On nice days, sit at one of the picnic tables and soak in the vintage vibes. Make sure to try the seasoned curly fries and the chili cheese dogs. The classic neon-trimmed building certainly adds to the retro experience. All ingredients are fresh and you can taste the made-from-scratch quality. For diner-style comfort food, Ed Walker’s Drive-In delivers consistent flavor.

Table Mesa Bistro

For an upscale dining experience, schedule a dinner reservation at Table Mesa Bistro. James Beard recognized chef Joel Antunes serves elevated cuisine with Southwestern and Mediterranean influences in a chic urban setting. Start your meal with a creative cocktail like the prickly pear margarita. Then feast on dishes like duck breast with polenta or the popular bison ribeye with chimichurri.

The menu changes seasonally based on what ingredients are at their peak. With exposed brick walls, chandeliers, and candlelit tables, Table Mesa provides the perfect ambiance for a romantic date night. The extensive wine list offers bottles from around the world to perfectly complement your meal. For special occasions or anyone who appreciates culinary artistry, Table Mesa should be first choice in Fort Smith.

Neumeier’s Rib Room

Located along Garrison Avenue, Neumeier’s Rib Room has satisfied Fort Smith’s barbecue appetite since 1941. Third-generation owners continue the tradition of slow-smoking premium cuts over original brick pits. The tender brisket and fall-off-the-bone ribs simply melt in your mouth.

Pair your meat with traditional sides like baked beans or potato salad. Or opt for the Rodeo Special with a loaded baked potato and Texas toast. If you want quintessential Southern barbecue in a casual tavern environment with live music on weekends, Neumeier’s delivers. Don’t forget extra napkins and wet wipes!

La Huerta

Craving authentic Mexican food? Look no further than La Huerta. This lively downtown restaurant specializes in dishes from the Hidalgo region of Mexico. Crowd pleasers include the table-side guacamole, fajitas sizzling on cast iron skillets, and mole poblano bursting with complex flavors. La Huerta’s signature dish, however, is Cabrito al Pastor. Tender young goat is marinated in spices and roasted on a revolving trompo.

Carved table-side with fresh tortillas, white onions, and cilantro, it’s a unique dining experience you won’t soon forget. Colorful ribbons, papel picado banners, and Mexican music create a festive ambiance. With its blend of tradition and hospitality, La Huerta represents the heart of Fort Smith’s Latin American community.

21 West End

For Southern comfort fare with gourmet twists, make a lunch or dinner reservation at 21 West End. Housed in a 1920s bungalow, this cozy restaurant feels like your eccentric Aunt’s house. Chef offerings might include duck fat tater tots, adult mac and cheese with lobster, or chicken and dumplings with a scratch-made pie crust.

The menu changes often, but you can trust that everything utilizes seasonal ingredients. Stop in on a weekend morning for chicken and waffles drizzled with honey bourbon sauce and spicy pecans. Handwritten chalkboards, mismatched vintage furniture, and funky art create a welcoming, laid-back vibe. When you want homestyle classics reinvented with upscale flair, 21 West End hits the spot.

Eastside Bistro

Eastside Bistro brings contemporary cafe cuisine to Fort Smith in a repurposed modern space. Huge windows flood the sleek dining room with natural light. The scratch kitchen takes a farm-to-table approach and utilizes fresh ingredients from local purveyors. Build your own omelets shine at brunch, accompanied by fluffy buttermilk pancakes with maple cinnamon butter.

For lunch, try the blackened shrimp tacos with pineapple salsa or the Insta-worthy rainbow veggie bowl. Thirst-quenching mimosas, wines, and Fort Smith Brewing Company craft brews complement any meal. The recently revamped dinner menu includes pan roasted chicken in thyme cream sauce, seared diver scallops, and hand-cut steak frites. For a lighter take on modern dining, Eastside Bistro excels with quality and sophistication.

Calico County

If you have out-of-town visitors, take them straight to Calico County. This beloved meat-and-three spot captures old Fort Smith charm. Red-and-white checkered table cloths, vintage Coca-Cola signs, and copper pots hanging from the ceiling enhance the cozy diner aesthetic.

Of course traditional comfort fare takes center stage here. The slow-roasted pot roast with brown gravy, chicken fried steak, and baked spaghetti can’t be beat. And don’t forget to save room for a hot fudge brownie sundae! With friendly counter service and prices that can’t be beat, Calico County offers the perfect taste of nostalgia. Be prepared to wait during peak mealtimes as locals and tourists flock here.

Clayton’s Family Diner

Ask any Fort Smith local where to find the best breakfast biscuits and gravy – everyone will point you to Clayton’s Family Diner. This beloved greasy spoon with only 16 bar stools opens early to serve hefty plates of comfort food. Customer favorites include fluffy pancakes as big as dinner plates, loaded hashbrown bowls, and three-egg ham steak omelets.

Of course you can’t miss the giant country fried steak smothered in peppery gravy. Homemade pies, cinnamon rolls dripping with icing, and lunchtime sandwiches keep hungry patrons coming back. Decorated with local sports memorabilia and family photos, Clayton’s feels like the community’s kitchen table. The cash-only policy and no-frills setting just enhance the old-school appeal. So arrive with an empty stomach and loose pants if you visit Clayton’s!

The Pancake Shop

For 60+ years, Fort Smith locals and hungry travelers have started their days at The Pancake Shop. This tidy diner slings out delicious breakfast plates featuring golden brown pancakes and waffles cooked on the flat-top grill. Flavors like pumpkin spice or chocolate chip elevate the traditional favorites. Hearty three-egg omelets bursting with fillings also satisfy.

Be sure to also try the flaky biscuits blanketed in savory sausage gravy or sweet strawberry sauce. With swift counter service from friendly staff, this straightforward establishment focuses on doing the basics right. Daily lunch specials like pot roast, chicken pot pie, and meatloaf keep patrons coming back for later meals too. If you want hot, hearty comfort foods in an old-fashioned setting, look no further than The Pancake Shop.

Doe’s Eat Place

Ranked as one of the best steakhouses in America, Doe’s Eat Place deserves a spot on any Fort Smith foodie’s list. This no-frills restaurant stays true to its Greenville, Mississippi roots from 1941. Expect butcher paper covered tables, questionable cleanliness, and incredible hot tamales and charbroiled porterhouses.

Skip the salad and fill up on the crispy French fries instead. Then cut into tender char-crusted steaks oozing juices and melting butter. Just be prepared to pay for quality. Doe’s Eat Place accepts only cash for payment to this day. With a speakeasy vibe and famously friendly staff, Doe’s remains a true American original after over 80 years in business. Just come hungry!

Tribute to the Martini

For a touch of Vegas glamour, make reservations at Tribute to the Martini bar and grill. This contemporary restaurant pairs gourmet entrees with an extensive martini menu inside The Blue Lion. Sophisticated decor features crystal chandeliers, mini champagne bottles, and sparkly jewelry displays in the lounge area.

Start your evening with jumbo prawns and bleu cheese fondue before indulging in surf and turf or pistachio crusted salmon. End your meal on a sweet note with the limoncello mousse tower or salted caramel bread pudding. With live music, superb service, and craft cocktails, Tribute to the Martini brings luxury dining to Fort Smith’s entertainment district.

Conclusion

From iconic steakhouses to contemporary cafes, Fort Smith offers an array of dining gems for every taste and budget. Barbecue lovers flock to Neumeier’s while Mexican food aficionados praise La Huerta’s authenticity. For special occasions, the elevated fare at Table Mesa impresses while homey joints like Calico County excel at friendly comfort.

Whether visiting historic landmarks or shopping at the boutiques downtown, be sure to sample the local flavors at these 12 best Fort Smith restaurants. With creative chefs and fresh ingredients, the food scene here invigorates residents and delights newcomers. Indeed, the culinary diversity proves that Fort Smith offers appealing cuisine beyond just its Arkansas location. So pull up a seat and stay awhile at one of these wonderful dining establishments.

Leave a Comment