What To Eat in Arkansas
Fruit pies, cream pies, and fried pies are so good throughout Arkansas that one tends to forget that it also is one of the great barbecue states, its top parlors featuring not only masterfully smoke-cooked ribs and pulled pork but also out-of-this-world barbecue beans. The “Natural State” is a bonanza of fried chicken, especially up north, spicy tamales along the Mississippi River, and all-you-can-eat catfish feasts nearly everywhere.
Fried pies are single-serving crescents of pie-crust pastry dough pinched around a lode of apple, peach, apricot, or sweet potato and deep fried until brittle. When cooled, they're easy to eat out of hand. When still warm, they warrant the a la mode treatment.
Many barbecuists around the country slow-smoke ribs to supreme succulence over hickory coals, but Arkansas masters add sensational sauce and side dishes to the formula. Ozark sauces tend to be tangy, peppery, complex, and so delicious that white bread dunked in them tastes great. Such magnificent sauce is a prime ingredient in the barbecue beans that are ribs' de rigueur companion.
NWA, locals’ shorthand for Northwest Arkansas, produces tons of poultry; and there are several restaurants in the region that make a big deal out of chicken dinner. Pan-fried chicken, of course, but also charcoal-cooked chicken and barbecued chicken: all are at their peak in this region.
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Dandy downhome fare priced right, service with an ingenuous smile, live music on weekends & all-you-can-eat Friday catfish: Brenda's is an Ozark country gem.
Tall meringue pies are Arkansas-excellent at Greenbrier's Wagon Wheel, which also is a great place for breakfast biscuits and regular or chocolate (!) gravy.
Ms. Lena's of De Valls Bluff makes Arkansas-excellent pies, sold whole or by the slice. No indoor dining. All take-out or eat-off-the dashboard.
The Old Mill Bread & Flour Co. specializes in soft-crusted “American hearth breads” including spinach feta, cinnamon swirl & cranberry pecan.
The Root Cafe is an inviting Little Rock gem that sources local ingredients for such dishes as chunky sweet potato fries with ‘Hickory Chip’ mayo.
The Pantry is a homey Little Rock gem serving such German and Czech dishes as béchamel spaetzle, mushrooms & shallots, and a snappy house-made brat.
At this Russellville, Arkansas, Whatta-burger restaurant, the boast is that burgers are "custom made," which they are, and they are beautiful.
One of the USA's best chicken restaurants, AQ offers fried chicken, charcoal chicken and BBQ chicken with excellent side dishes and fried peaches for dessert.
Stubby's of Hot Springs sets the highest standards of slow-smoked pork, ham and beef BBQ; its side dishes of smoked pit potato and pot-o-beans are unequalled.