Few stretches of road are as eclectic and versatile in its dining options as the angled, sloping street that is Rodney Parham. It’s a path lined in eateries offering cuisine from across the globe with everything from fast food to fine dining. Take a ride down Rodney Parham with me, and witness the plethora of opportunities that await the hungry and adventurous. You might be surprised by just how much you’ll find on a single street in this town.
The morning hours will likely require a bit of a “pick me up,” and many folks in this part of town make Guillermo’s Gourmet Grounds part of their daily routine. Yes, there’s a Starbucks a short distance down the road, but you should grab your cup of joe from these local boys instead…you won’t regret it.
Eaters have several nice options for a hearty, satisfying Southern breakfast. Forgo that sausage McMuffin at the Breckenridge McDonald’s and pull up a seat at Delicious Temptations, a small, locally-owned diner tucked away behind the Party City. You can’t beat their fluffy, slightly tangy yogurt pancakes (I like mine with banana and pecans), and their “Southern Benedict” is as tasty as it is filling—two homemade biscuits topped with poached eggs, sausage patties, and spoonfuls of gravy.
There’s also the ever-popular B-Side (connected to their sister restaurant, Lilly’s Dim Sum, Then Some) in the Market Place Shopping Center…an establishment that still manages to rake in awards for “best breakfast” every year…probably in part to their “Biscuit Mountain” — two buttermilk biscuits, with sausage patties and pommes rosti, topped with sausage gravy and sunnyside up eggs.
Around the lunch hour, pop into the timeless BBQ and deli shop known as Terri-Lynn’s. You’ll find smoked meats in all forms, excellent sandwiches, a large variety of hefty hot dog creations, and a number of high-quality desserts. But many regulars will tell you Terri-Lynn’s does the best Delta tamales in town.
Of course there’s Layla’s, one of the city’s finest and most affordable Mediterranean options. I’m hooked on their gyro calzone, personally, but their yogurt plate with a side of baba ghanoush is a wonderful option as well.
But just next door to Layla’s you’ll find a little hidden joint that happens to be one of the best “authentic” Mexican restaurants in town…El Palenque. Those who know, go..and go often. I’m a sucker for their big, fat, deep fried chimichanga with cheese sauce, but you can’t go wrong with their fabulous tacos arrieros, shrimp burrito, chile rellenos, or tortilla soup. El Palenque is cranking out some seriously stellar food…be sure to check them out.
Looking for a mid-day snack to tide you over ’til dinner? Hop on over to Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Sure, it’s a chain restaurant with locations all over town, but their frozen concoctions are excellent and their sandwiches aren’t bad, either. Or you can really indulge by popping into Tracy Cakes—a small, somewhat hidden dessert shop adjacent to the Breckenridge Theater serving up cupcakes, cookies, pies and more.
Around the dinner hour, Rodney Parham continues to deliver (literally) with one of the Damgoode Pies locations serving the folks in this area…just be sure to get something with “pink sauce” and you’ll be set. Another quick but excellent take-out option would be Chinese Kitchen nestled in next to The Pantry. Chinese Kitchen is tiny, but dishes out big flavors with great options like their Cantonese style shrimp, kung pao beef, garlic beef, or lobster with Chinese vegetables. Call ahead and bring some home to your family anytime you don’t feel like cooking.
For more from the Asian arena, there’s the aforementioned Lilly’s…one of the few joints in town offering Korean dishes (like bibimbop), but also classics from Japan, China, and Thailand. Check out their, spicy Thai curry with chicken and basil…it’s worth stopping in for.
Franke’s is still packing them in, too. It’s a classic Arkansas eatery with a big heart and some of the friendliest employees in town. It’s nothing fancy, but nab some of their chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, and their famous “eggplant casserole” off the cafeteria line and you won’t likely be let down. And there’s pie…get that, too.
On the more refined end of the spectrum, Rodney Parham has produced few of the most popular restaurants in town. The Pantry, of course, is a Little Rock institution. Owner Tomas Bohm has created an establishment that many would deem irreplaceable within the Little Rock dining scene…offering an array of German/Czech and otherwise European delights—brats, wiener schnitzel, and some very nice charcuterie. And many claim the Pantry makes the finest lasagna in Little Rock. I’m not arguing.
Lastly, Vesuvio Bistro is definitely an excellent option for Italian. Their “newish” location off Breckenridge Dr. is much bigger than their former digs in the Best Western, and the food is as good as ever. Everyone needs to try their “spaghetti chitarra” at some point — hot pasta alongside portabello mushrooms are thrown in a large wheel of parmigianno reggiano, stirred around a bit until well coated, and plated. It’s a showstopper worth ordering at least once in your life.
There you have it…the best reasons to take a ride down Rodney Parham Road.