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Readers choose the best restaurants in Arkansas 

click to enlarge DAMGOODE: The pizza winner.
  • DAMGOODE: The pizza winner.

Time again to reveal our readers’ picks of the best restaurants in Arkansas. Ours is the oldest restaurant contest in Arkansas and still the best, we modestly assert.

Rules are simple. We include ballots in two consecutive issues of the Times. Then we count the votes. We name winners in two categories — Pulaski County and the balance of the state. With our readership concentrated in Central Arkansas, far more votes are tallied for local restaurants.



This year’s ballot had a few changes, including a new category for best chef. Here are the results.



OVERALL
An old favorite, who you’ll meet again later, and, from Hot Springs, a new first-place finisher.

LITTLE ROCK
Brave New Restaurant

RUNNERS-UP: Faded Rose, Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some, Trio’s.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Chef Paul’s of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: James at the Mill of Johnson, Mike’s Place of Conway, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar of Hot Springs.



NEW
A lot happened at the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005, making this category sort of a math nightmare. We’ve decided to include all the top vote-getters, including a couple that opened at the end of 2004, after balloting was completed for last year’s contest.

LITTLE ROCK
Ferneau

RUNNERS-UP: Aydelotte’s of North Little Rock, Bubba and Garcia’s, Lulav, Nu Cuisine Lounge.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Mike’s Place of Conway

RUNNERS-UP: Rolando’s of Hot Springs.



ITALIAN
One of Little Rock’s oldest restaurants is still one of its best-loved. And a new winner from the Spa, an apparent hotbed of Italian food.

LITTLE ROCK
Bruno’s

RUNNERS-UP: Ristorante Capeo, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Villa.

AROUND ARKANSAS
J’s Italian Villa of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Facci’s, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar and Rocky’s Corner, all of Hot Springs.



ASIAN
A slight change in category here (from Chinese and other) produced quite a different outcome, with a pan-Asian winner in Little Rock and a frequent high finisher back on top in Conway.

LITTLE ROCK
Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some

RUNNERS-UP: Chi’s, Fantastic China, Fu Lin, P.F. Chang China Bistro.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Jade China of Conway

RUNNERS-UP: Fuji and King’s of Hot Springs, Thai Diner of Fayetteville.



MEXICAN
From an embarrassment of riches, the usual leaders, with a switch in the top order in Little Rock this year in favor of a growing local chain famous for value.

LITTLE ROCK
Senor Tequila

RUNNERS-UP: Browning’s, El Porton, La Hacienda.

AROUND ARKANSAS
La Hacienda of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Don Juan of Hot Springs, El Acapulco of Conway and Jose’s of Fayetteville.



FUN
What’s it mean? Read the winners and see if you can figure it out.

LITTLE ROCK
Purple Cow

RUNNERS-UP: Cajun’s Wharf, Chuck E. Cheese, Vino’s.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Doc’s Pizzeria of Hot Springs

RUNNER-UP: Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar of Hot Springs.



OTHER ETHNIC
This covers a lot of turf, as our globe-circling winners indicate. (We allowed some Asian-flavored votes to count, despite the combination of the Chinese category with other Asian entries.)

LITTLE ROCK
Star of India

RUNNERS-UP: Cafe Bossa Nova, Mount Fuji, Terrace on the Green.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Brau Haus of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Bohemia and Garbanzo’s, both of Hot Springs.



BAKERY
Old in Little Rock. New in the rest of the state.

LITTLE ROCK
Community Bakery

RUNNERS-UP: Boulevard Bread Co., Mickey’s, Silvek’s.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Ambrosia of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Ed’s of Conway, Klappenbach’s of Fordyce, Mueller’s of Hot Springs.



BARBECUE
The top joints were even more solid than normal this year.

LITTLE ROCK
Whole Hog Cafe

RUNNERS-UP: Corky’s, Chip’s, Sims.

AROUND ARKANSAS
McClard’s of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Hog Pen of Conway and Roland’s and Smokin in Style of Hot Springs.



BREAKFAST
Solid and familiar winners, but we detect less interest from a decline in total votes. Is a big breakfast a fading custom?

LITTLE ROCK
Ozark Mountain Smokehouse

RUNNERS-UP: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, IHOP.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Pancake Shop of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: English Muffin and Perkins Family Restaurant of Hot Springs, Stoby’s of Conway.



CATFISH
Stop the press. An old-timer broke a local competitor’s stranglehold on first in Little Rock.

LITTLE ROCK
Catfish City

RUNNERS-UP: Catfish Hole and Grampa’s of North Little Rock, Flying Fish.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Fish Nest of Pearcy

RUNNERS-UP: Fish House of Conway, Jason’s Burgers and More of Hot Springs, Woods Place of Camden.



DELI/GOURMET SHOP
Is it a deli or is it a gourmet shop? That is the question that split voters.

LITTLE ROCK
Jason’s

RUNNERS-UP: Boulevard Bread Co., Diane’s, Downtown Deli.

AROUND LITTLE ROCK
Cafe 1217 of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Cafe Nibbles of Fayetteville, Cheese Corner of Hot Springs, McAlister’s of Conway.



HAMBURGER
Zowie. A new face in Little Rock, though it’s a place long known, through a succession of owners, for great burgers.

LITTLE ROCK
Sports Page

RUNNERS-UP: Arkansas Burger Co., Buffalo Grill, Cotham’s in the City.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Jason’s Burgers and More of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Mean Bean of Conway, Feltner’s Whatta-Burger of Russellville.



PIZZA
The earth moved. For the first time ever in this contest, U.S. Pizza didn’t win in Little Rock, though the margin was slimmer than a piece of pepperoni.

LITTLE ROCK
Damgoode Pies

RUNNERS-UP: Pizza Cafe, U.S. Pizza, Vino’s.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Doc’s Pizzeria of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Larry’s of Bryant and Rocky’s Corner and Rod’s Pizza Cellar of Hot Springs.



SEAFOOD
Order is restored here with a repeat win for two old favorites.

LITTLE ROCK

Cajun’s Wharf

RUNNERS-UP: Faded Rose, Flying Fish, Vermillion Water Grille.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Cajun Boilers of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Fisherman’s Wharf of Hot Springs, Mike’s Place of Conway, Power House of Fayetteville.



STEAK
There’s a reason our winner is a favorite among lobbyists and legislators. You do get quality for the price.

LITTLE ROCK
Sonny Williams’ Steak Room

RUNNERS-UP: Butcher Shop, Doe’s, Faded Rose.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Coy’s of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Brick House Grill of Hot Springs, Colton’s of Conway, Porterhouse of Hot Springs.



DESSERT
Strawberry shortcake. Let us at it. Banana delight. Raspberry pie. We could go on.

LITTLE ROCK
Trio’s

RUNNERS-UP: Brave New Restaurant, Community Bakery, Sesame’s.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Perkins Family Restaurant of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Cafe 1217 of Hot Springs, Marketplace of Conway, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar of Hot Springs.



COFFEE
Despite a late start, the 800-pound gorilla of coffee houses now dominates Little Rock voting.

LITTLE ROCK
Starbucks

RUNNERS-UP: Boulevard Bread Co., Java Roasting Co., Sufficient Grounds.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Common Grounds of Fayetteville

RUNNERS-UP: Cool Beans Cafe of Hot Springs, Mean Bean of Conway.



HOME COOKING
Every year we think of retiring this trophy. But Little Rock’s big home-cooking chain is deserving for doing the old-fashioned stuff day in and day out.

LITTLE ROCK
Dixie Cafe

RUNNERS-UP: Franke’s, Homer’s, Your Mama’s Good Food.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Dixie Cafe

RUNNERS-UP: Cracker Barrel, with many locations; Ed and Kay’s of Benton, Oasis of Eureka Springs.



FAMILY
Same song, second verse.

LITTLE ROCK
Dixie Cafe

RUNNERS-UP: Franke’s, Golden Corral, Purple Cow.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Dixie Cafe

RUNNERS-UP: Cracker Barrel, Marketplace Grill of Conway.



ROMANTIC
Good food can be very romantic; witness our winners.

LITTLE ROCK
1620

RUNNERS-UP: Acadia, Capers, Nu Cuisine Lounge.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Chef Paul’s of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Mike’s Place of Conway, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar of Hot Springs, Red Apple Inn of Eden Isle.



WINE
Be of good cheer. Competition is growing in this category.

LITTLE ROCK
Capers

RUNNERS-UP: Acadia, Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some, Nu Cuisine Lounge.

AROUND ARKANSAS
Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar of Hot Springs

RUNNERS-UP: Bordino’s of Fayetteville, Chef Paul’s of Hot Springs, Mike’s Place of Conway.



OTHER CITIES
Here we asked voters to name the best restaurant in cities outside Little Rock. For our purposes, Fayetteville means the Washington-Benton County corridor.

EUREKA SPRINGS
DeVito’s

RUNNERS-UP: Autumn Breeze, Ermilio’s, Mud Street Cafe.

FAYETTEVILLE
James at the Mill of Johnson

RUNNERS-UP: Bordino’s, Copeland’s of Rogers, Powerhouse.

HOT SPRINGS
Coy’s

RUNNERS-UP: Belle Arti, Chef Paul’s, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar.



NEW CATEGORY
Finally, we tried something new this year, a best chef’s category. We learned a few things. Readers, judging by the relatively small vote total, worry more about what’s on the plate than who’s in the kitchen. Nonetheless, a few stood out.



BEST CHEF
Peter Brave, Brave New Restaurant

RUNNERS-UP: Donnie Ferneau of Ferneau, Eric Isaac of Ristorante Capeo, Paul Novicky of Nu Cuisine Lounge, Tony Rogers of Faded Rose, Chris Tanner of Cheers in the Heights, Kathy Webb of Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some.



$100 winner
Scott Pfleegor of Little Rock’s ballot was drawn for our annual cash prize.




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