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I have lived in Little Rock for a little more than 10 years. During that time, several great restaurants in the area have come and gone. Even though losing restaurants is, unfortunately, par for the course in the industry, I thought it would be nice to dedicate a post to Remembering 10 Great Little Rock Area Restaurants that were particularly hard to see close over the past decade.
To this day, I would argue that The Southern Gourmasian is the best food truck Little Rock has ever seen. The masterful fusion of Southern and Asian dishes–highlighted by the iconic Spicy Chicken & Dumplings and a Shrimp & Grits that was insanely delicious—are what made the truck insanely popular with locals. A downtown brick-and-mortar followed, but unfortunately, didn’t last very long.
My go-to neighborhood sushi spot for the first two years in Little Rock, Igibon provided reasonably-priced, no-frills eats in a low-key retail strip space off Rodney Parham. The restaurant has been gone for several years now, but I still hear readers clamoring for a return. Truth be told, Igibon had slipped over the last year of its existence, but I still miss the place.
Losing Franke’s hurt badly. The cafeteria was close to celebrating a 100-year anniversary before calling it quits. By the end, the quality of food wasn’t where it needed to be, but that doesn’t tarnish the cherished memories for so many, including yours truly. I spent countless lunch breaks scarfing down a plate of fried chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, and cabbage. And those desserts!
I think many folks would agree that Central Arkansas is somewhat lacking in the Italian food department, so losing Zaffino’s in 2020 was a real kick in the gut. Simple, well-executed dishes like lasagna, manicotti, chicken cacciatore, and Italian sausage with penne, all helped build a loyal following for the Sherwood eatery.
Hanaroo reminded me a lot of Igibon, a spot that offered affordable sushi in a casual setting. The bibimbap was also a headliner for a restaurant that had a very loyal following. Unfortunately, the move from one downtown location to another never quite felt right with clientele, and the restaurant closed after just a few months at the new spot.
This house-turned-restaurant on the eastern edge of downtown Little Rock served up the most delicious comfort food for over three decades. Oh, how I miss that tiny buffet, especially when it was chicken and dressing day. That dish still pops into my noggin every so often, but the pecan pie is what will haunt my dreams. I have never had better, and that is saying something.
I do a fair amount of my work inside coffeehouses, and for a long stretch, Meteor Café was my favorite one to set up shop for a few hours of food writing. Yes, Intelligentsia Coffee was great, but it was the bright, modern setting and steady flow of customers that helped set the mood for a quality work environment. The pastries weren’t too shabby either.
Maybe I was never the biggest fan of the food at Cajun’s Wharf, but I also never got a chance to frequent the popular riverside restaurant in its heyday. Whatever the case, the loss of Cajun’s Wharf left a huge void in Little Rock’s food scene, one that still has not been filled several years after its closure. The overall lack of eateries with a view of the Arkansas River is dumbfounding, to say the least.
One of the knocks on Little Rock’s food scene is the overall lack of diversity, so losing a restaurant like Kimchi was a major blow. Here’s hoping someone steps up and brings authentic Korean food back to the capital city, and more importantly, that our community embraces and supports it.
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