12 Best Restaurants in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Hot Springs, Arkansas is known for its naturally heated mineral springs and bathhouses, but its restaurant scene also deserves acclaim. From classic Southern fare to innovative new menus, Hot Springs offers something to suit any taste and budget.

Historic downtown is home to most of the top restaurants, many in repurposed buildings dating back over a century. The mountainous landscapes surrounding the city provide beautiful views from restaurants overlooking scenic vistas.

To help visitors plan memorable dining experiences, here is a guide to 12 of the best restaurants in Hot Springs. For each entry, there is information on ambiance, signature dishes, and what makes the restaurant stand out.

Expect to find recommendations for romantic date night spots, family-friendly eateries, charming cafes, and restaurants specializing in everything from gourmet comfort food to upscale cuisine. Make sure to come hungry to Hot Springs, a culinary destination in itself.

Southern Kitchen

Southern fare meets modern style at this downtown breakfast and lunch spot that focuses on classic comfort foods and hospitality. The attractive interior has high ceilings, exposed brick walls, large windows letting in natural light, and counter seating.

Friendly staff keep the vibe lively while serving generous portions of favorites like fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, and short rib hash. Vegetarian options are also available, and the restaurant uses local ingredients whenever possible. Get there early to avoid long waits on busy weekends.

Standout Dishes: Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits, Veggie Quiche, Ricotta Beignets

Rolando’s Nuevo Latino Restaurante

For a taste of Latin American and Caribbean cuisine in Hot Springs, head to Rolando’s. Vibrant flavors of cilantro, lime, and chili peppers spice up dishes at this festive Pan-Latin restaurant near Bathhouse Row. Dine indoors surrounded by brightly colored folk art from various countries or outside on the patio, which comes equipped with a salsa bar.

Seafood features prominently on the diverse menu, including crab empanadas, whole fried snapper, and Panamanian-style ceviche. Plenty of meat and vegetarian options round out the choices. Sip on a fruity mojito or margarita to complete the island vacation ambiance.

Standout Dishes: Ropa Vieja, Arroz con Camarones, Ceviche Trio, Cuban Sandwich

Deluca’s Pizzeria Napoletana

Husband and wife owners Daniel and Stephanie DeLuca trained in New York and New Haven to master the art of thin-crust Neapolitan pizza. The results are on delicious display at this casual pizzeria with high wooden ceilings located downtown near Bathhouse Row.

In line with tradition, pies are baked at 900 degrees in a brick oven to achieve the perfect crispy yet chewy crust topped with high-quality ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, housemade mozzarella, and locally sourced meats. Go classic with the Margherita or opt for creative specialty pizzas with arugula and prosciutto or fig and gorgonzola. Pasta, paninis, salads, and wine round out the offerings in this warm, friendly spot.

Standout Dishes: Neapolitan Pizza, Prosciutto Arugula Pizza, Pappardelle alla Bolognese

The Waters: An American Bistro

Head just north of downtown to The Waters, which overlooks Lake Hamilton and combines upscale dining with a relaxed bistro ambiance. Stunning floor-to-ceiling windows afford gorgeous views of the lake and mountains beyond. The seasonal New American menu highlights regional ingredients in dishes like seared diver scallops with mushroom risotto, blackened redfish with jasmine rice, and bacon-wrapped venison tenderloin.

Extensive wine and cocktail menus plus a lengthy draft beer list provide tasty ways to accompany your meal. A small plates happy hour menu is also available. With sublime food, drink, and views, The Waters makes for special waterfront dining.

Standout Dishes: Pan Seared Diver Scallops, Blackened Gulf Redfish, Petite Filet Mignon, Crispy Brussel Sprouts

McClard’s Bar-B-Q

No list of Hot Springs restaurants is complete without the legendary McClard’s. Going strong for over 90 years, this classic barbecue joint and Arkansas institution got its start when second-generation owner Alex McClard took over, eventually passing the mantle to his daughter.

Today it retains its no-frills roadhouse vibe, packed with locals and out-of-towners lining up for smoky, fall-off-the-bone ribs basted in a sweet and tangy sauce. The slow-cooked meats like chopped pork and smoked turkey melt in your mouth, while sides including beans, slaw, fries, and potato salad balance out the rich flavors. Save room for homemade pies and cobblers too. Despite its fame, McClard’s remains friendly, affordable, and welcoming to all.

Standout Dishes: Ribs, Chopped Pork, Smoked Turkey, Pecan Pie

Starlite Diner

For classic American comfort food in a 1950s-style diner, look no further than Starlite. This shiny silver diner car sits along Highway 7 offering hearty breakfasts and diner fare all day. Try fluffy pancakes topped your way, biscuits and gravy, omelets stuffed with fillings like chili and cheese, or fried chicken livers with cream gravy.

For lunch or dinner fill up on patty melts, club sandwiches, meatloaf, fried catfish, and daily blue plate specials like chicken fried steak or pot roast. Pie, cake, and ice cream round out your Midwestern-inspired meal. Swift, friendly service helps maintain Starlite’s status as a neighborhood gem.

Standout Dishes: Chicken Fried Steak, Country Fried Chicken, Fried Catfish, Meatloaf, Banana Cream Pie

Colonial Pancake House

Warm pecan syrup. Fluffy pancakes as big as dinner plates. This is what the Colonial Pancake House has been known for since 1926, when it opened downtown as Sam Wun’s Chinese Laundry and Pancake Shoppe. Nearly a century later under different ownership, locals still flock here for tall stacks of pancakes in 26 varieties. Beyond breakfast, you’ll also find plate lunch specials, sandwiches, salads, and Hot Springs classics like fried chicken livers with pepper cream gravy. But those pancakes steal the show.

Try favorites like pecan pancakes drizzled with the signature pecan syrup or peanut butter chip pancakes topped with peanut butter sauce before new taste creations like Italian cream cake pancakes or caramel craze pancakes. Bring your appetite!

Standout Dishes: Pecan Pancakes with Pecan Syrup, Peanut Butter Chip Pancakes with Peanut Butter Sauce

Rolling Hills Restaurant

Overlooking the Ouachita Mountains, Rolling Hills combines incredible vistas with excellent Southern cuisine in a laidback yet upscale setting. Huge windows allow diners to soak in the expansive views while enjoying dishes sourced from local producers. Start with deviled eggs or pimiento cheese dip before moving on to entrees like bacon-wrapped meatloaf, blackened catfish, or chicken fried steak smothered in peppery gravy.

Daily specials, hearty sandwiches, fresh salads, and indulgent desserts like Mississippi Mud Pie complete the menu. Polite service and scenic outlooks make Rolling Hills an ideal destination for a relaxing, quality meal with loved ones. It’s just minutes from downtown on Hot Springs Mountain Drive.

Standout Dishes: Chicken Fried Steak, Blackened Catfish, Fettuccine Alfredo, Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Cafe 1217

Tucked on historic Malvern Avenue lies Cafe 1217, an intimate restaurant known for its commitment to fresh regional cuisine with European flair. Chalkboard specials showcase what’s in season while the regular menu Tempts with dishes like applewood bacon and blue cheese crusted filet mignon, pan seared sea scallops in champagne cream, or linguine tossed with grilled chicken, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes.

For a lighter bite, sample composed salads or gourmet sandwiches at lunch. Don’t miss the crème brûlée for dessert, accented with fresh berries. Extensive wine list and craft cocktails allow you to pair regional vintages or handcrafted drinks with your meal. The cozy dining rooms feature stained glass, a fireplace, and local art.

Standout dishes: Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon, Pan Seared Sea Scallops, Linguine Primavera, Crème Brûlée

DeLuca’s Pizzeria Napoletana

For authentic Neapolitan-style pizza right in Hot Springs’ historic downtown, DeLuca’s Pizzeria fires up tasty thin-crust pies in a 900-degree brick oven. Husband and wife owners Daniel and Stephanie DeLuca trained in New York and New Haven to master the nuances of genuine pizza Napoletana.

Made with only a few quality ingredients like imported San Marzano tomatoes, fresh housemade mozzarella, olive oil, and double-zero flour, each 12-inch pie achieves the ideal balance of crispy crust with tender center topped with flavorful toppings. Build your own or opt for specialty pizzas like the fun Fig Fabulous with prosciutto, figs, and gorgonzola. Pasta, paninis, beer, and wine round out the offerings at this laid-back gem.

Standout Dishes: Margherita Pizza, Fun Fig Fabulous Pizza, Pappardelle alla Bolognese

Crabby’s Seafood Bar and Grill

Right on Lake Hamilton, Crabby’s dishes up fresh catch, classics comforts, and stunning waterfront views. While waiting for your food, sip a cocktail on the outdoor deck overlooking the shoreline. Then dive into baskets loaded with crunchy deep fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, and of course, crab.

Or select composed plates featuring fried, blackened, or grilled seafood along with chicken, steak, and pasta entrees. Top it all off with a towering slice of peanut butter silk or chocolate suicide pie. Affordable prices keep Crabby’s accessible while awesome lakefront vistas make it a prime place for seafood any night of the week. It’s located right off Highway 7 north of downtown.

Standout Dishes: Fried Shrimp Basket, Fried Catfish Plate, Any Dessert Pie

Cupcake Heaven

Indulge your sweet tooth without regrets at Cupcake Heaven, a cherubic bakery filled with rows of too-cute-to-eat cupcakes. Fluffy vanilla and chocolate cupcakes tempt from the case, topped with swirled frosting and decorative candies. But the real stars are the creative flavor combos like lemon raspberry, chocolate salted caramel pretzel, red velvet cheesecake and cotton candy.

Gluten-free and vegan options are also available. Take just one or get a half or full dozen to sample multiple flavors. Chocolate dipped strawberries, macarons, cake balls, pies, cakes, cookies and gelato fill out the rest of the menu along with bubbly frappe chilled coffee drinks. Take home a signature cupcake candle for the perfect gift.

Standout Items: Lemon Raspberry Cupcake, Cotton Candy Cupcake, Champagne Gelato

Conclusion

The restaurants described here represent just a taste of the fabulous dining scene in Hot Springs. Food lovers will discover even more options for innovative cuisine, beautiful ambiance, and quality service by exploring Hot Springs’ distinctive neighborhoods like historic downtown, the mountain drives, lakefront communities and more.

Whether planning a romantic dinner, casual lunch or family night out, Hot Springs’ vibrant and welcoming restaurant community offers something delectable for every occasion. Come hungry and get ready to experience Arkansas cuisine at its finest.

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