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Central Benton Bryant
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15 Places to Eat in Saline County


Saline County is located a short distance southwest of Little Rock. Its two biggest towns are Bryant and Benton, and for a long time, the area’s food scene was primarily known for its chain restaurants. Well, times, they are a-changing. Here are 15 Places to Eat in Saline County. And they are all local.

Valhalla Kitchen + Bar

You would be hard-pressed to find better pizza in all of Central Arkansas than what Valhalla is cranking out on a daily basis. The Sausage + Spicy Honey with Soppressata, sausage, pepperoni, jalapenos, and hot honey is the way to go, but do not rest on sandwiches like the Loki Turkey and BLT. The mountainous salads are also a hit.

Baja Grill

Baja Grill is under the same ownership as Valhalla, and heck, the two restaurants even reside in the same building, all part of Craig Roe’s and Heather Baber-Roe’s small Saline County dining empire. Baja Grill dates back over a decade, graduating from a food truck to two uber-popular brick-and-mortars (one in Little Rock). Expect creative spins on Cali-Mex cuisine with a variety of tacos, burritos, and, of course, nachos. Pro tip: get the Cuban Nachos.

Salem Dairy Bar

I have eaten at a lot of dairy bars throughout Arkansas, and I have to say, Salem Dairy Bar still makes the best burger out of them all. The junior double cheeseburger is the best option if you’re looking to get the full dairy bar burger gut-busting experience. Add a side of onion rings, maybe some chili, and wash it all down with a vanilla shake.

Speakeasy Café

Coffee lovers need to skip Starbucks in favor of Speakeasy Café. When at the café, I always get a cold brew (black). The food at Speakeasy is every bit as good as the java. Opt for the breakfast burrito, avocado toast, or Bodega Breakfast Sandwich during the AM hours. There are a variety of lunchtime sandwiches as well. Bonus: Owner Michael Carpenter also runs his popular Rocket 88 BBQ in the parking lot out front.

MaMa Mia Pizzeria

This food trailer tucked back on Cross Street, just a stone’s throw off Main, is a little gem. The pizza will delight, but it was the Smoked Guinness Corned Beef Reuben, a special the day I went, that proved to be the showstopper. The owners like to change this up, introducing new concoctions from time to time, so follow them on social media and go check out MaMa Mia Pizzeria for yourself.

Dales Donuts

Saline County loves, and I mean loves, Dales Donuts. As they should. Dales makes elite donuts, and I doubt you’ll find a better apple fritter in this area. But make no mistake, pricy, designer donuts are not a thing here. This old-school spot only does the classics, so grab yourself a chocolate iced, blueberry cake, glazed, or one of those fritters.

Blue House Bakery & Café

Blue House has quickly become crazy popular, as evident by a full dining room on most weekends. Breakfast items like the muffins, breakfast burrito, blueberry scone, croissant egg sandwich, cinnamon roll, and avocado toast are all excellent.


Speaking of breakfast, I imagine that you can’t go wrong with anything at Niecy’s in Benton, but the fluffy pancakes are definitely a must-order, as is the ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. Those with bigger appetites should try the scratch-made biscuits and gravy, as well as a breakfast burrito filled with sausage, egg, and cheese. Niecy’s opens at 5:30 a.m. and serves breakfast all day.

David’s Burgers

Easy choice here. Those of us in Central Arkansas are quite familiar with this local chain. While the beef burgers are simple and delicious, and the never-ending, dine-in fries are what dreams are made of, it’s the grilled chicken sandwich that is the true gem of the menu. You won’t find better.

Verona Italian Restaurant

Sizeable, cheese-drenched Italian dishes are what Verona specializes in. Lunch is a good time to go so you can take advantage of a menu filled with specials like manicotti, lasagna, eggplant Parmigiana, Fettucine Alfredo and chicken piccata.

SugarDumplin’s Cupcakes

SugarDumplin’s isn’t all about the cupcakes, but I gotta say, going there without getting at least 4 would be a huge mistake. Moist but not insanely sweet, these cupcakes come in a variety of flavors, all of which have no shortage of icing on top. Flavor offerings include strawberry cheesecake, peanut butter fudge, coconut, strawberry lemonade, and white chocolate mocha, just to name a few. The shop also bakes cookies, brownies, and mini cheesecakes.

Copper Mule Table & Tap

Yes, the burgers and fries are good, as are the Cajun entrees, but to go to Copper Mule and not order the fried pickle chips appetizer would be a huge mistake. Big. As a self-proclaimed expert on the matter, I can tell you without a doubt that these are some of the very best you will eat.

Blue Heaven Restaurant & Bar

This massive restaurant just off I-30 has just as big of an outdoor seating area as inside. But wherever you end up sitting, just know this, the food and friendly service are next level. I loved my chicken fried steak covered in cream gravy with sides of mashed potatoes and fresh greens, as well as the Reuben with a heavy hand of kraut.

Taqueria Azteca

The Benton mainstay now has a second location in Maumelle. Simple tacos, massive burritos, and fresh salsas, including an addictive verde version, are what help keep Taqueria Azteca as popular as ever with the locals who are looking for top-notch Mexican food.

Garry’s Slingblade Drive-In

Garry’s Slingblade Drive-In is the very same dairy bar featured in the highly acclaimed Billy Bob Thornton film. Yes, the burgers, shakes, onion rings, and even a Reuben sandwich are all good, but it’s really the setting, which is filled with memorabilia from the movie, that stands out. Everyone should go at least once.

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Kevin Shalin is a food writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Sara, and one daughter, Sydney. His oldest daughter, Natalie, is a freshman at Loyola University in Chicago. He started his own blog, The Mighty Rib, twelve years ago while living in Houston. Six months later, he began writing for Eating Our Words, a Houston Press food blog. After a year in Boston, he moved to Little Rock, where he’s been for ten years. During that time, he’s written for publications like Little Rock Soiree, Arkansas Times, AY Magazine, and The Local Palate.

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2 responses to “15 Places to Eat in Saline County”

  1. Jenny Carlisle says:

    I know you don’t really want a lot of “you left out” posts, but I hope you will check out Burger Shack in the historic district of Benton. Then, you could drop David’s. Good place, but a chain after all. Burger Shack has fantastic food and a great community atmosphere, as well as more than just burgers.

  2. Vicki Steele says:

    Olde Crow General Store definitely should be included in this list. Where Hwy 5 and 9 meet in Saline Co. Best artisan grilled sandwiches ever! Known for the Rubicon (ruben), but they’re all good, just ask the locals. Homemade pies, local grass fed meat, fresh eggs, and a friendly atmosphere. Come see us!

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