Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
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.
An old favorite, who you’ll meet again later, and, from Hot Springs, a new first-place finisher.
Brave New Restaurant
RUNNERS-UP: Faded Rose, Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some, Trio’s.
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.
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.
RUNNERS-UP: Aydelotte’s of North Little Rock, Bubba and Garcia’s, Lulav, Nu Cuisine Lounge.
Mike’s Place of Conway
RUNNERS-UP: Rolando’s of Hot Springs.
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.
RUNNERS-UP: Ristorante Capeo, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Villa.
J’s Italian Villa of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Facci’s, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar and Rocky’s Corner, all of Hot Springs.
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.
Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some
RUNNERS-UP: Chi’s, Fantastic China, Fu Lin, P.F. Chang China Bistro.
Jade China of Conway
RUNNERS-UP: Fuji and King’s of Hot Springs, Thai Diner of Fayetteville.
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.
RUNNERS-UP: Browning’s, El Porton, La Hacienda.
La Hacienda of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Don Juan of Hot Springs, El Acapulco of Conway and Jose’s of Fayetteville.
What’s it mean? Read the winners and see if you can figure it out.
RUNNERS-UP: Cajun’s Wharf, Chuck E. Cheese, Vino’s.
Doc’s Pizzeria of Hot Springs
RUNNER-UP: Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar of Hot Springs.
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.)
Star of India
RUNNERS-UP: Cafe Bossa Nova, Mount Fuji, Terrace on the Green.
Brau Haus of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Bohemia and Garbanzo’s, both of Hot Springs.
Old in Little Rock. New in the rest of the state.
RUNNERS-UP: Boulevard Bread Co., Mickey’s, Silvek’s.
Ambrosia of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Ed’s of Conway, Klappenbach’s of Fordyce, Mueller’s of Hot Springs.
The top joints were even more solid than normal this year.
Whole Hog Cafe
RUNNERS-UP: Corky’s, Chip’s, Sims.
McClard’s of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Hog Pen of Conway and Roland’s and Smokin in Style of Hot Springs.
Solid and familiar winners, but we detect less interest from a decline in total votes. Is a big breakfast a fading custom?
Ozark Mountain Smokehouse
RUNNERS-UP: Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, IHOP.
Pancake Shop of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: English Muffin and Perkins Family Restaurant of Hot Springs, Stoby’s of Conway.
Stop the press. An old-timer broke a local competitor’s stranglehold on first in Little Rock.
RUNNERS-UP: Catfish Hole and Grampa’s of North Little Rock, Flying Fish.
Fish Nest of Pearcy
RUNNERS-UP: Fish House of Conway, Jason’s Burgers and More of Hot Springs, Woods Place of Camden.
Is it a deli or is it a gourmet shop? That is the question that split voters.
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.
Zowie. A new face in Little Rock, though it’s a place long known, through a succession of owners, for great burgers.
RUNNERS-UP: Arkansas Burger Co., Buffalo Grill, Cotham’s in the City.
Jason’s Burgers and More of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Mean Bean of Conway, Feltner’s Whatta-Burger of Russellville.
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.
RUNNERS-UP: Pizza Cafe, U.S. Pizza, Vino’s.
Doc’s Pizzeria of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Larry’s of Bryant and Rocky’s Corner and Rod’s Pizza Cellar of Hot Springs.
Order is restored here with a repeat win for two old favorites.
RUNNERS-UP: Faded Rose, Flying Fish, Vermillion Water Grille.
Cajun Boilers of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Fisherman’s Wharf of Hot Springs, Mike’s Place of Conway, Power House of Fayetteville.
There’s a reason our winner is a favorite among lobbyists and legislators. You do get quality for the price.
Sonny Williams’ Steak Room
RUNNERS-UP: Butcher Shop, Doe’s, Faded Rose.
Coy’s of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Brick House Grill of Hot Springs, Colton’s of Conway, Porterhouse of Hot Springs.
Strawberry shortcake. Let us at it. Banana delight. Raspberry pie. We could go on.
RUNNERS-UP: Brave New Restaurant, Community Bakery, Sesame’s.
Perkins Family Restaurant of Hot Springs
RUNNERS-UP: Cafe 1217 of Hot Springs, Marketplace of Conway, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar of Hot Springs.
Despite a late start, the 800-pound gorilla of coffee houses now dominates Little Rock voting.
RUNNERS-UP: Boulevard Bread Co., Java Roasting Co., Sufficient Grounds.
Common Grounds of Fayetteville
RUNNERS-UP: Cool Beans Cafe of Hot Springs, Mean Bean of Conway.
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.
RUNNERS-UP: Franke’s, Homer’s, Your Mama’s Good Food.
RUNNERS-UP: Cracker Barrel, with many locations; Ed and Kay’s of Benton, Oasis of Eureka Springs.
Same song, second verse.
RUNNERS-UP: Franke’s, Golden Corral, Purple Cow.
RUNNERS-UP: Cracker Barrel, Marketplace Grill of Conway.
Good food can be very romantic; witness our winners.
RUNNERS-UP: Acadia, Capers, Nu Cuisine Lounge.
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.
Be of good cheer. Competition is growing in this category.
RUNNERS-UP: Acadia, Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some, Nu Cuisine Lounge.
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.
Here we asked voters to name the best restaurant in cities outside Little Rock. For our purposes, Fayetteville means the Washington-Benton County corridor.
RUNNERS-UP: Autumn Breeze, Ermilio’s, Mud Street Cafe.
James at the Mill of Johnson
RUNNERS-UP: Bordino’s, Copeland’s of Rogers, Powerhouse.
RUNNERS-UP: Belle Arti, Chef Paul’s, Pompeii Cafe and Wine Bar.
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.
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.
Scott Pfleegor of Little Rock’s ballot was drawn for our annual cash prize.