True soul 

It doesn't get more home-style than Mr. Bell's Soul Food.

There are homey restaurants. And then there's Mr. Bell's Soul Food Restaurant in Rose City. Eating at the recent Pine Bluff transplant feels like you're in the back room of the Bells' house. Hand-written signs advertising "Frog Legs" and "Cheesecake" share wall space with paintings of sailboats and angels in the small strip-mall storefront. Above the buffet hangs a glossy of the Original Blind Boys of Mississippi. More often than not, the Bells, Leon and Loretha, are minding the restaurant alone. Mr. Bell cooks, talks on the phone, greets familiar faces and repairs the TV (last time we were in, Quincy Jones' "Sanford and Son" theme announced that he'd successfully gotten it working). Mrs. Bell smiles just about unceasingly, chatters amiably, serves from a buffet steam table, pours drinks, waits on tables and works the cash register.

Which means that it doesn't take much to derail the efficiency of the place. A long line, a big takeout order, a phone call — all can spell a delay in service at the counter and table. But take a breath, good things come to those that wait.

Like baked chicken, breaded and juicy. Or fried pork chops, deliciously smothered in thick brown gravy. Or a smothered, surprisingly tender turkey leg, covered in the same gravy (it's good on just about everything). Or slow-cooked green beans, a lighter shade of green than usual because of all the butter. Or cabbage, richly flavored, we're guessing, with the not-so-secret ingredients of soul food — butter, sugar and some sort of pig parts. Or dessert-quality candy yams. Or, perhaps the jewel of the restaurant, the actual desserts: decadent white coconut cake ($2.99) topped with an inch of icing; moist, pink strawberry cake ($2.49), buttery peach cobbler ($2.99 for 8 oz., $5.89 for 16 oz.).

Like most of its ilk, Mr. Bell's operates with a rotating daily buffet. For lunch, a meat and two veggies and a roll or hot water cornbread (both of which oddly come in plastic sandwich bags) cost $6.99. Or, for $10.99 on weekdays or $11.99 on Sunday, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can do all-you-can-eat. But you'll have to abide by 10 House Rules, printed on a large poster hanging on the wall, sensible all. For instance, "No. 2 Advance payment must be made. No. 3 Only take what you can eat, and please eat what you take ... No. 7 No Doggy Bags."

Of course, it would take a special appetite to be able to eat more than the standard meat and two and a dessert. And we wouldn't be surprised to learn that our ability to put all that away makes ours a special one. Portions are heaping. Mrs. Bell, like all good buffet minders, always digs deep into the compartments in her steam table to pull out the best of her fixin's, the meatiest beef tips, the gooiest section of mac and cheese.

More than most popular down-home joints around Central Arkansas, Mr. Bell's also serves up true soul food, just about any offal you'd want: chitterlings ("chitterlings every day," the sign outside brags), chicken gizzards, pigs' feet, turkey necks. None were available on the daily buffet when we stopped in, and we didn't feel like waiting around for them to be cooked to order. A reason to return.

Be warned: The Bells aren't lying with the "items subject to change" note on the takeaway buffet schedule, though every time we stopped in, the ever-reliable chicken and pork chops were on the menu. And what's life without a little variety?

Mr. Bell's Soul Food

4506 Lynch Drive

North Little Rock


Quick bite

Don't miss Mr. Bell's Arnold Palmer: half tea, half lemonade ($.99). A refill will cost you $.59, which seems a bit trifling, but don't let it hold you back. Nothing's been more refreshing in this Seventh Layer of Hell we've been living in lately.


11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Other info

Credit cards accepted. No alcohol.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Dining Review

  • Culinary art

    Canvas, the new restaurant in the Arkansas Arts Center, impresses.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • SO on Sunday

    Fine dining stand-by still a hit.
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • Right on, Roma

    Good food at a good price in Jacksonville.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation