12 Best Restaurants in Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson


As the capital and most populous city of Arkansas, Little Rock offers a vibrant dining scene with cuisine ranging from classic Southern comfort food to innovative takes on international flavors.

The city is home to over 1,000 restaurants, with new hotspots continually opening their doors. From upscale establishments serving crafted dishes in sleek interiors to laidback burger joints with tasty grub and local charm, Little Rock’s diverse culinary landscape has something to satisfy every palate.

When it comes to the best restaurants in Little Rock, there is serious competition. The local food community takes great pride in sourcing top-quality ingredients from regional purveyors to create meals that honor time-tested recipes while also experimenting with contemporary techniques. Many restaurants embrace Arkansas’ natural bounty, incorporating fresh produce and meats from local farms and artisanal goods from smaller producers across the state.

The unique culture and history of Little Rock also shine through in its cuisine. There are Southern classics perfected over generations, fusion eateries blending culinary traditions, and nostalgic diners and drive-ins that offer hearty comfort food. From rustic ranch meals to elevated takes on soul food, the restaurants of Little Rock provide an appetizing tour through different eras and cooking styles.

To highlight Little Rock’s exceptional and eclectic dining scene, here are 12 of the best restaurants that should not be missed on any visit.

Petit & Keet

Overview: This contemporary American bistro helmed by Chef Nick Bottini brings creative flair to an elegant yet casual dining experience in downtown Little Rock. Seasonal menus feature Bottini’s refined takes on brasserie classics along with regional ingredients and eclectic touches.

Signature dishes not to be missed are the duck fat roasted chicken and the short rib bourguignon. Standout starters include the fried oyster lettuce wraps and the ham and ricotta croquettes. With a swanky bar, and interior featuring chandeliers, exposed brick and dark woods, Petit & Keet is perfect for a special night out.

The Pantry Crest

Overview: Open since 1938, The Pantry Crest is a beloved mainstay of Little Rock’s dining scene, famous for its thin, crispy crepes prepared tableside. Guests can choose from an extensive list of savory and sweet crepe fillings, with menu highlights including the creamed chicken or crawfish crepes for entrées and the strawberry, peanut butter or Nutella crepes among dessert options.

The Pantry Crest also serves soups, sandwiches, salads and daily blue plate specials. Housed in a historic building dating to the 1930s, the restaurant’s interior features classic décor with exposed beams and charming French country vibes.

South on Main

Overview: Occupying a restored historic building with an open-air rooftop lounge overlooking downtown, South on Main blends chef-driven entrees with artfully crafted cocktails. The regularly changing New Southern-inspired menu incorporates seasonal and locally sourced ingredients into dishes like fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese, shrimp and grits, crawfish étouffée, and buttermilk marinated chicken.

The bar program earns national recognition for expertly made classics, signature drinks like the Vietnamese coffee martini, and an extensive wine list. South on Main also hosts special dinner events and prix fixe tasting menus that showcase the depth of Chef Matt Bell’s culinary talent.

Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom

Overview: Focused on quality handmade food and craft beer, Raduno brings authentic Italian pizza and small plates to Little Rock’s SoMA neighborhood. Their signature wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas are made using imported ingredients and feature creative toppings ranging from fennel sausage to Brussels sprouts to burrata cheese.

Beyond pizza, Must-try dishes include the duck egg carbonara, the massive meatballs with whipped ricotta, and rotating seasonal salads. Raduno also offers Italian wines, signature cocktails, and local draft beers all served in a stylish and lively setting with a sprawling patio. It’s the perfect spot for sharing Italian comfort food with friends.

The Hive

Overview: Nestled along Little Rock’s emerging Main Street corridor, The Hive proves that stellar contemporary cuisine can come from a modest cafe-style restaurant. Executive chef Timothy Morton and his team craft a seasonally inspired menu evolving every four to six weeks based on what’s fresh and ripe within central Arkansas.

Signature plates range from crispy catfish tacos with Mississippi comeback sauce to Moroccan-spiced lamb with saffron carrots. Every preparation bursts with creative flair while allowing quality ingredients to shine. The Hive’s intimate yet relaxed vibe, with café seating up front and a lounge in back, cultivates communal dining whether enjoying a full meal or simply some wine and small plates with good company.

Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co.

Overview: Three Fold stands out as Little Rock’s premier destination for Asian noodles and dumplings, with a menu spanning Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese specialties made in-house daily. Perennial favorites include the pork and chive dumplings, udon carbonara loaded with crispy bacon, Malaysian laksa studded with shrimp and fish cakes, garlicky Szechuan dan dan noodles, and massive bowls of steaming pho.

Yet every menu item bursts with authentic flavor, from the fluffy bao buns to the aromatic Vietnamese coffee poured tableside. Three Fold’s minimalist-chic decor provides a relaxing ambiance in which to slurp and savor Asian soul food.

The Pizzeria

Overview: Opened by Arkansas native Jay Sparks following two decades working in award-winning restaurant kitchens from NYC to Napa Valley, The Pizzeria brings craft pizza back to Little Rock by focusing on quality ingredients like imported Italian flours and San Marzano tomatoes.

Beyond the beautifully blistered and chewy-crisp Neapolitan pies, the menu covers starters like bacon-wrapped dates, salads featuring local produce, homemade pastas such as squid ink cavatelli, and sweets including seasonal fruit galettes. With exposed brick walls, an open kitchen and anchored by a black and white tiled pizza oven, The Pizzeria channels old-world charm while letting innovative food shine.

Cypress Social

Overview: Blending Southern hospitality with vibrant Latin flair, Cypress Social shakes up Little Rock’s dining scene with playful yet polished small and large plates perfect for sharing. Situated in East Village, Cypress Social comes from respected Arkansas restauranteurs the Parks family, with local legend Vetri Martin overseeing an exuberant menu spanning tacos, tamales, ceviches, Argentinian-style grilled meats and more.

With colorful cocktails featuring fresh juices and Latin spirits, a lively atmosphere mixing sleek and rustic design elements, and a sprawling patio, Cypress Social captures big, festive flavors for any spirited celebration with family and friends.

The Faded Rose

Overview: This New Orleans-inspired eatery transports diners to The Big Easy with authentic Cajun and Creole specialties served in a funky yet romantic 19th century riverfront mansion. Menus change seasonally but often include Louisiana staples like gumbo YaYa, fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, blackened redfish, crawfish etouffee, and bread pudding doused in whiskey sauce.

Many recipes come straight from the family kitchen of Chef and owner Rebecca Brandt Neville, a native Louisianan. From the old-world courtyard strung with lights to the dining rooms filled with antiques and local art, The Faded Rose offers adventurous, joyful cuisine alongside Southern hospitality.

Oceans at Arthur’s

Overview: Set within the grandeur of Little Rock’s historic Arthur’s Steakhouse, the adjoining Oceans restaurant remains under the direction of the Arthur’s culinary team while focusing its menus on expertly prepared, sustainably sourced seafood. The progressive American plates exhibit bold creativity through dishes like Hawaiian tuna and escolar crudo, cast iron seared scallops with truffled cauliflower, whole roasted red snapper, and lobster thermidor showcasing some of the finest seafood available.

Extensive raw bar and sushi offerings are also freshly prepared in house. From the polished yet lively ambiance to intricate desserts like the “Black and White” with white chocolate and black sesame mousse, Oceans brings contemporary coastal cuisine to landlocked Arkansas.

YaYa’s Euro Bistro

Overview: As Little Rock’s premier French restaurant, YaYa’s transport diners to Europe through classic Continental cuisine made with Arkansas ingredients. Chef and owner Daniel Bryant channels his classical training in France into artful executions of coq au vin, cassoulet, escargots, bouillabaisse, rack of lamb, and other rustic bistro favorites.

An award-winning wine program encompasses Old World selections from France, Italy and Spain complementing the menu’s blend of tradition and innovation. YaYa’s cozy, welcoming atmosphere encourages guests to linger for hours over excellent wine, food, and conversation. From special holiday feasts to the monthly farm-to-table dinner series to everyday à la carte dining, YaYa’s Euro Bistro offers a savory escape for Francophiles.

Brave New Restaurant

Overview: Led by James Beard Award semi-finalist Chef Peter Brave, this eclectic eatery expands Little Rock’s culinary landscape with its ever-evolving modern American tasting menus. The restaurant moves seasonally to inhabit different vacant spaces around the city, creating immersive pop-up dining experiences through Brave’s boundary-pushing plates, hyper-local ingredients from Arkansas farmers and food artisans, and intentional design components transforming each temporary location.

Past standout dishes include creative riffs on Southern staples like the duck leg “ham” with redeye gravy and cornbread pancakes plus delicate composed plates such as roasted scallops with corn pudding and chanterelles. Brave New Restaurant thus keeps local diners excited about the next highly anticipated event.

Conclusion

Little Rock rewards intrepid diners with exciting culinary discoveries across an array of restaurants certain to impress food lovers of all interests. From updated versions of Southern comfort cuisine to elevated international fare, many establishments create one-of-a-kind dining experiences by embracing Little Rock’s spirit, history and promising future growth.

The restaurants featured here represent the diverse flavors and hospitality Arkansas’ capital city has to offer visitors and locals alike. So pull up a chair, grab some napkins, and get ready to explore a distinctive food scene spanning new American cuisine, authentic global flavors, lovingly prepared classics, specialty cafes, high-end steak houses, noodle shops, bakeries, old dives and more hidden gems waiting to be savored bite by tasty bite.

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