Best Entrees of 2018

Let’s not waste your time with a long-winded intro. This was a great year for dining in Little Rock, and here were our 30 favorite entrees of 2018, in no particular order.

Duck Tamales at South on Main – There might not be a better restaurant in Arkansas at creating excellent new takes on classic dishes. This one looks like a thousand other tamale dishes around the state, but the first bite ends all comparisons. Shreds of duck meat wrapped in a masa fortified with duck fat just dissolve into delicious satisfaction. Oh, and South on Main’s fancy crackers are the perfect accompaniment. (Steve Shuler)

Elote Salad at The Avenue – Simplicity is sometimes the hardest trait to execute. This variation of Mexican street corn is a perfect appetizer, well balanced with expert spice. (Greg Henderson)

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Charcuterie Board at Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom – I’m a sucker for a good charcuterie board and Raduno has become a go-to spot to share the board which includes a variety of cheeses, meats, fruit, nuts, veggies, and bread. Ask for a drink to pair with your board to savor with the flavors and textures. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Seafood Paella at La Terraza Rum and Lounge – Paella is something easy to mess up and hard to get right. La Terraza tends to hit theirs perfectly every time. It is probably the reason Guy Fieri put it on Triple D this year. (GH)

Burrata at Sauce(d) Bar and Oven – There are any number of varieties of burrata around town, but this one was my favorite. Sauce(d) gives the ball of cheese a kiss of pecan smoke then tops it with a vibrant fennel gremolata for a unique take that is the star of the table. (SS)

Fire Bowl at Poke Hula – This is my go-to when I’m craving a poke bowl. The Fire Bowl is obviously perfect for anyone who is craving something spicy. It has spicy salmon, spicy tuna, avocado, edamame, masago, and is topped off with a Sriracha mayo sauce. For a little extra crunch, I like to add sesame seeds and a little crispy onion on top. (Kaitlin Barger)

Cassava Leaves at Kontiki African Restaurant – No dish challenged me more or kept me coming back like this classic Sierra Leone recipe at Kontiki. Slightly spicy and creamy, it’s the smoked, fermented fish served with the pureed leaves that simply wowed me. This is not a common flavor and no doubt that some people really won’t like it. But for me, it was a marvelous glimpse at a food culture I’d never experienced before. (SS)

Fried Frog Legs at Capital Bar and Grill – Frog legs are something still hard to find around town, especially ones done perfect. The Capital Hotel fried some of these up for a beer dinner not long ago and they were the best version I’ve had in memory. (GH)

Half and Half Waffle at Ceci’s Chicken and Waffles – Next time you’re at Ceci’s, check out their Half and Half Waffle. My favorite pairing is the Red Velvet and Cinnabon, and it’s worth the wait. The soft, sweet waffle balances perfectly with their crispy, juicy and well-seasoned chicken. (SEN)

Patty Melt at TAE – How can you make a patty melt even better? Shove some pimento cheese in inside the patty. Done. (GH)

Biscuits and Gravy at The Pizzeria – Well, I didn’t see this one coming. The Pizzeria’s new weekend brunch hit this month, and this pitch perfect biscuits and gravy is the clear highlight of the menu. I would put it up there with any other version in Little Rock. It’s that good. (SS)

Pulled Pork and Cheesy Grits at Cathead’s Diner – This is one of the most interesting breakfast dishes I have ever experienced, but also one of the most delicious. The different flavors create a mash-up that I haven’t found anywhere else. The dish is served with a side of fresh fruit and fills you up! (KB)

Rice and Ham Pockets at Prestonrose Farm and Brewing Co. – In addition to making some of the best beer in the state, Liz Preston’s kitchen creates some outstanding dishes. These pockets fit the farm setting perfectly, with collard greens wrapped around Ralston Farms rice and savory ham. A mustard sauce to finish was the perfect final touch on another wonderful trip to the beer farm. (SS)

Gumbo and Grits at Flyway Brewing – Flyway does a great job of incorporating gumbo into different items. My favorite, though, is on the brunch menu with the grit cakes. It’s a perfect Cajun brunch item. (GH)

Fried Chicken at Cathead’s Diner – There’s a reason Donnie Ferneau gained a reputation for his fried chicken. His version at Cathead’s is done with chicken tenders, but still features the black pepper spice blend that made him famous. The fact that it’s gluten free makes this one all the more amazing. (SEN)

Ghost Pepper Burger at So Restaurant – I was so surprised that So Restaurant has a bar menu that I wrote a whole feature on it. This Ghost Pepper Burger is the star of the show. Cooked and seasoned to perfection, with a deep heat that never goes to far, this plate by itself is worth a trip to the Hillcrest staple. (SS)

Fried Plantains at Dos Rocas Beer and Tacos – Dos Rocas has been a fast favorite of mine since its opening in November. Everything I tried was delicious, but the Fried Plantains really knocked it out of the park. The texture and temperature were perfect, and the Honduran Crema served on the side was a perfect pairing. For $5, you also get plenty to split between two people. Mouth. Watering. (KB)

Cowboy Breakfast at At the Corner – I am a sucker for a good biscuit and gravy, and At the Corner’s is top notch. Throw an egg and some fried chicken on top and you have one of the best breakfast items in town. (GH)

Trio Platter at Count Porkula – The excellent BBQ food truck-turned-restaurant has continued its standout ‘que at The Rail Yard. For a great taste of what Count Porkula has to offer, get the Trio Platter. It’s all good, but you definitely shouldn’t miss the smoked sausage or the ribs. Oh, and make sure to check out the Dill Pickle Pasta Salad; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever had. (SS)

Take-home Dinners at Boulevard Bread Company – With a new addition to my family, I find myself enjoying local takeout options like Boulevard Bread’s ready-made dinners that I can pop in the oven and enjoy after I get home. They offer a variety of dinners — and often vegetarian — that are delicious, hearty and well balanced. (SEN)

Pimento Cheese at Flyway Brewing – Look, Arkansas loves pimento cheese. And Flyway’s version with smoked Gouda cheese is one of the best in town. It’s only on the Game Day menu, for now, so make sure you get in there during when there’s a game on the big screen. (SS)

Chicken Biscuit at Sauce(d) Bar and Oven – This brunch-only item is a great play between Italian and American food. It uses a traditional biscuit with Italian seasoned chicken and a parmesan gravy. It’s a standout on a very good brunch menu. (GH)

All-American Burger at District Fare – Not going to lie, I almost cried when I first bit into this one. That’s mostly because I didn’t think I’d ever get to try Brandon Brown’s perfect burger again. But Brandon is back, and his burger is once again at the top of the list of the city’s best. (SS)

Seasonal Burrata at Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom – This starter is one of my favorite appetizers in town. It features candied pancetta, sage oil and arugula with warm sourdough bread for dipping. (KB)

Nealie Mae’s Dressing at TAE – Who says dressing is just for Thanksgiving? When C.C. Key put her grandmother’s dressing recipe on the menu, Little Rock got a sublimely seasoned Southern plate that truly belongs on the menu all year long. It is comfort food excellence. (SS)

Oxtail Stew at Kontiki African Restaurant – I like oxtail, but this one is unique. The stew along with rice gives it such a rich flavor that pairs very well with Kontiki’s unique African seasoning. (GH)

Pastel de Mandioca at Dos Rocas Beer and Tacos – This is my favorite dish at the Sundell family’s new restaurant, and it all comes down to that yuca crust. The texture is faultless, with a crispy shell that melts into a savory pillow of root vegetable flavor. It is a mandatory order at any Dos Rocas visit. (SS)

Sashimi Platters at Kemuri and Sushi Café (tie) – I crave sashimi for lunch regularly, and my two favorite platters are a toss up between Sushi Cafe and Kemuri. Both have melt-in-your-mouth butter tuna and salmon. The presentation is beautiful and the fish is fresh, light, and buttery. When I visit Sushi Cafe, I never miss their ginger salad. (SEN)

Gumbo Cheese Fries at Flyway Brewing – Yet another year that Flyway has multiple dishes on our best-of list. This kitchen just sustains excellence, and this fry plate is yet another example. It all starts with one of the best gumbos anywhere in the city, which Flyway loves to layer on multiple plates. Bring a fork for this messy bit of deliciousness. (SS)

Oxtail Mac and Cheese at Petit & Keet – I love a good mac and cheese, this happens to be some of the best I’ve ever come across. (GH)

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Best Entrees of 2018