We have no shortage of very good food here in Central Arkansas. From appetizers to desserts, vegetarian courses to roasted meats, restaurants in the Little Rock area consistently put out enjoyable dishes day in and day out. But only a few of those are truly addictive.
You know what I mean. These are the dishes that get into your brain until you can’t think about anything else. They jump off the menu at you and demand you order them, and absolutely nothing else will do until you’ve had your fix. They might not be the very best dishes in town, but they’re the ones you will never forget.
Here’s my list of the foods that keep playing with my memory like a grating commercial jingle. These are presented in random order. But be warned: once you read this list, you might find yourself with an irrepressible craving for one or more of Little Rock’s most addictive dishes.
Baked Pimento Cheese at Boulevard Bistro
This is the newest dish on the list and one of my picks for best bites of 2015. The smoky, spicy, warm dip hooks you instantly with its creamy texture and innovative presentation. It’s a must-order every time you visit Boulevard.
Grilled Oysters at Maddie’s Place
One of those dishes that drifts into your conscience when choosing where to go eat, it’s the New Orleans butter that melts onto these fresh bites that will keep you coming back for more. They call it a “special” appetizer at Maddie’s, but that’s less because of their availability and more because they are unforgettable.
Fried Chicken at South on Main
Still my pick for the best fried chicken in Arkansas, South on Main brines the chicken before double battering and frying it up with some amazing macaroni and cheese. But it’s the sweet pepper relish that really makes this dish instantly crave-worthy. Get it with dark meat for extra flavor.
Sugar Daddy at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.
Look, the sour cream chocolate cake is unbeatable in my book. But if you want the dessert that will instantly sink its talons in you, get this pretzel-topped soft serve. The mix of sweet and salty is immensely satisfying and dangerously tempting.
Bacon-Wrapped Dates at The Pantry/The Pantry Crest
It’s not the best appetizer on The Pantry’s menu (that would be the charcuterie board), but I dare you to simply pass over these bite-sized delicacies without some level of regret. There is a level of depth in this extremely simple bite that you will remember for a long time to follow.
Burrata at Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom
It looks just like a ball of mozzarella, which would be delicious, but then you cut it open and the rich, soft, creamy center spreads so easily onto the bread, and you find yourself more and more wishing you’d ordered two or three. Not only is it addictive, but I believe this burrata is the best dish you can get at Raduno.
Zucchini Salsa at Local Lime
Chances are this is one of the first dishes you thought about when you read the headline on this post. And it’s incredibly simple as well, but the saltiness of the pumpkin seeds and the smooth texture of the salsa itself will keep you dipping the entire evening. I dare you not to include this in your salsa trio order.
Chicken and Waffles at Waffle Wagon
It has simply been too long since I’ve had this masterpiece from Matt Clark. I miss it. I need it. The spicy chicken and sweet maple syrup and perfect waffle just call to me … well, what? I did say it was addicting.
Quail Lollipops at Table 28
Confession time: Table 28 made these spicy, savory little bites for a wine festival back in 2014. And I must have eaten 30, at least. If that isn’t the definition of addictive food, I don’t know what is.
Cheeseburger at Midtown Billiards
There’s just something about being in a smoke-filled pool hall with dozens of service industry professionals and getting this wonderful burger with its crisp patties, melted cheese and fresh veggies that has to be experienced. Those who have had it will tell you, this burger is a rite of passage into Little Rock’s night life.
Ginger Cookies at kBird
Our own Daniel Walker named these his best cookies in the city, and it’s not hard to see why. On two occasions, I’ve seen people walk in and simply order the entire lot, no matter how many are left over. One bite of the spiced treats will help you understand why so many keep coming back for more.
Half and Half at The Root Café
This is one of those plates that I don’t always think about, but once I’m at The Root, I find it impossible to ignore. Made with half sweet potato fries and half regular, they are perfect for sharing. Or not. I mean, nobody would judge.
Peanut Butter Pie at Three Sams BBQ and Catering
Another number one from our resident dessert expert, this pie embraces its peanut butter goodness and takes everything to the next level. Peanut butter filling, crushed peanuts, Reese’s peanut butter cups … if peanut butter is your thing, you need to get to Three Sams ASAP.
Smoked Turkey Salad from Burge’s Hickory Smoked Turkeys & Hams
Honestly, you can’t even make this list without “turkey crack,” the affectionate nickname given to this delight by Heights residents. The smoky flavor of the turkey paired with the seasoning in this spread is remarkable. This is the kind of addiction that has you driving across town to get a pint. Or a quart.
Spiced Pecans at The Capital Hotel
The original addictive Little Rock food, these pecans balance sweetness, spiciness and saltiness with a crispy texture that is gone way too soon. “I bet you can’t eat just one” was created with these pecans in mind.
Le Petite Roche Cheese Dip at Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro
Cheese dip is naturally addictive. I mean, it comes to the table, and the next thing you know you’re running your pinky around the inside of the bowl. Dizzy’s does it better than most, with a thick, velvety dip framed by fresh salsa and sour cream. It’s a bit pricy, but you probably won’t regret it after the first bite.
Dark Chocolate and Banana Muffin at Mylo Coffee Co.
I swear, every time I walk into Mylo, I tell myself I’m going to get something different. And almost every time, I get this muffin, chock full of fresh banana flavor that doesn’t get too sweet. For a guy who prides himself on trying new things all the time, this particular dish has me beat.
Spicy Chicken and Dumplings at The Southern Gourmasian
It’s a plate that takes your taste buds right to the edge of burning up and holds you there, firing all your endorphins and melting your mouth. And yeah, it’s spicy. But after you wipe the tears away, you know you’re going back hard for the next bite.
Taro Chips at Three Fold Noodles & Dumpling Co.
This bag of chips is easily enough for two people, and yet I find myself incapable of sharing them with anybody. Just one more bite of that sweet, salty crunch. And then just one more. And pretty soon the bag is empty and I’m planning my next trip to Three Fold.
Grilled Bread + Butter at Lost Forty Brewing
From the first day, I knew this one would haunt me. The rich, crusty bread comes with your choice of three butters that all work well with the molasses flavors from the spent grain. And don’t forget the trio of pickles that comes on the side. Yeah, I’ve ordered other plates at Lost Forty, but this is the one that makes me sad when I pass it over.