The Best Dishes of 2017

From refined to rustic, from brand new dishes to longtime staples, this year’s list of 20 best plates is a representation of where Little Rock’s food scene is right now. It’s a hodgepodge of regional influences, Southern history and even some international input. Fortunately for all of us, a lot of it is delicious. We went through hundreds of dishes and photos and found the 20 best plates we ate in 2017. Enjoy!

Irish Poutine at Dugan’s Pub – I usually go with traditional poutine, but this non-traditional variety really hits the spot. It is really the perfect hangover food. It has their normal fries, bangers, corned beef, Guinness gravy, and then it all gets topped with their house made mozzarella sticks. (Greg Henderson)

Rice Hoecakes with Fire Grilled Corn Succotash at Petit & Keet – We had our first look back in May and the hoecakes became an instant favorite. The entree is gluten-free, vegetarian, and has a good mix of textures and flavors. It’s big enough to share, but you might just want it all for yourself. (Sara Edwards Neal)

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Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini at The Avenue – Hot Springs dining just keeps getting better, and in 2017 the biggest addition was The Avenue at The Waters Hotel. That’s where chef Casey Copeland concocted this gem: a plate of nine incredibly light tortellini stuffed with wilted spinach and fresh ricotta. So simple, so lovely. (Steve Shuler)

Green Papaya Salad at kBird – Everything I’ve ever ordered at kBird is amazing, but I keep going back for the salad. It is different than anything else you can find in Little Rock, fresh and tangy, not to be beat. (Sara Slimp)

Strawberries Several Ways at The Root – This was a surprise hit from The Root’s dinner menu. It featured local strawberries cooked up in a variety of different ways. Simple, yet fantastic. (Greg Henderson)

Tuna Poke Bowl at Kemuri – The poke bowls at Kemuri are wonderful, but the tuna poke bowl is my personal favorite. The fresh tuna is served atop rice alongside a rainbow of vibrant, fresh ingredients. In addition to making a beautiful presentation, the blend of textures, colors and flavors makes this dish a favorite. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Trotter Springroll at Table 28 – There’s no way to make a “best of” list without Table 28. It’s just a matter of picking what dish to include. This year, it’s this playful spring roll, stuffed with the tender meat from the pig’s foot and flash fried. And the whole thing would be incomplete without a zinger of a sweet ginger sauce made with ginger grown in Arkansas. (Steve Shuler)

Superfood Salad at Heifer Café – Simple and light, I always get this to go when I need a quick lunch during the work week. It has tons of veggies and blueberries so you can survive the day without a food coma around 3 p.m. (Sara Slimp)

Shrimp and Grit Cake at At the Corner – The At the Corner folks usually stick to serving up some awesome Canadian style brunch, but for this one-off dinner for Fat Tuesday with Lost Forty they did a Cajun-ish dinner. The Shrimp and Grit cake was the easy highlight, spicy and rich, and a very different take on a classic Cajun dish. (Greg Henderson)

Egg Drop Soup at A.W. Lin’s – Hands down one of my all time favorite soups is the egg drop soup from A.W. Lin’s. I crave this soup. The consistency is thick, has a substantial amount of egg, and the flavor is fresh and well seasoned. It’s perfect on its own or a great appetizer to kick off your dinner. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Roasted Root Vegetables at SO Restaurant – This celebration of cold weather vegetables is good enough to order as your entrée. The cumin vinaigrette that covers everything is such an elegant way to elevate each root vegetable while tying everything together. In his first year at the helm at SO, chef Cody Rudd has already shown that the future of this legacy establishment is still bright. (Steve Shuler)

Fire in the Hog House at SoGo Bistro (Stone’s Throw Brewing) – The ultimate “treat yo’self” food, after having a few drinks at Stone’s Throw make sure to give this a go and have your mouth light up on fire! It’s a cheesy, spicy, and very filling french fry basket, so make sure you have someone to share it with. Or don’t and don’t have any regrets. (Sara Slimp)

Gilbert’s Gumbo by 42 bar and table – Gumbo is comfort food to me, I’ve eaten it at every place that serves it in the city. At the Harvestfest gumbo cookoff, I got a surprise though with the gumbo from 42 bar and table cooked up by chef Gilbert Alaquinez. It was some of the best I’ve had around. (Greg Henderson)

Cheeseburger and Sweet Potato Fries at The Root Café – This pairing manages to stay at the top of my list of favorites. The burger is always fresh, juicy and perfectly seasoned. I especially enjoy the burger with a side of sweet potato fries, which is served with an amazing, spicy, homemade Hickory Chip mayo. This is one of my all-time favorite comfort meals. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Chicken Spaghetti at South on Main – There’s no doubt this is the best thing I ate in 2017. Chef Matt Bell managed to keep everything whimsical about this dish intact while giving every part of it a major upgrade. It’s the flavor from your childhood on a plate that is clearly adult. That level of cooking is uncommonly superb. (Steve Shuler)

Thai Glass Noodle Bowl at The Southern Gourmasian – Especially for any gluten-free friends, this is my favorite thing to when I’m craving an equivalent to ramen. It’s 10 times better than any ramen I’ve ever had, especially with the chicken added to it! Ask for a little extra spice and sometimes the chef will throw in one of his homemade pepper oils. Yum! (Sara Slimp)

Peking Duck at Petit & Keet – This was a recent special that used a breast for a Peking that should be making the main menu after the first of the year. (Greg Henderson)

Triple Meat Calzone at Layla’s Gyros and Pizzeria – The triple meat calzone is stuffed with pepperoni, sausage, beef, mozzarella cheese and served with a side of marinara sauce. The crust is baked to perfection and when you slice open the pocket, the inside is melty and hot. This calzone is worth the wait and large enough to share. (Sara Edwards Neal)

Brisket Frito Pie by Dempsey Barbecue – Full disclosure: Ken Dempsey used to write for Rock City Eats and is a good friend of everyone here. And he makes ridiculously good brisket, which he brought to this humble dish at a pop-up at Flyway Brewing this year. His excellent chili and pickled vegetables nonwithstanding, it was the thick slice of heavenly brisket that will stay in my memory for years to come. (Steve Shuler)

Hot Fish at A.W. Lin’s – My view of the traditional Chinese food scene changed dramatically when I discovered the authentic menu at A.W. Lin’s. My favorite is this hot fish dish. It is fish cooked in a super spicy broth, and served with a side of steamed rice. The flavor is intense and very satisfying if you love spicy foods. (Greg Henderson)

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The Best Dishes of 2017