2015 was a huge year for food in Little Rock. I think when we look back it will be seen as a maturing point for the food scene. The diversity exploded in 2015 with a number of spaces opening that were not just your average pizza or burger joint, although to be fair, there were plenty of those. Some of they key openings included Southern Gourmasian’s brick and mortar spot, Heights Taco & Tamale, Zangna Thai, Lulu’s Crab Boil, Raduno, Arbela, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Lulu’s Latin Rotisserie & Grill, as well as the rise to prominence of late 2014 openings like Three Fold, kBird, and Lost Forty.
It also became clear that it was not enough to just cook good food or live off of legacy name recognition, a restaurant had to combine food quality with community and marketing savvy to thrive in the Little Rock Food scene. Several big closings dotted the landscape like the always amazing yet underrated Natchez, Hillcrest favorite Acadia, Sweet Love Bakery, and the awful, yet somehow well respected Juanita’s.
Central Arkansas emerged as a big player in the beer world. Lost Forty barely got the doors open before they took over as the largest brewer in Arkansas. Stone’s Throw and Blue Canoe both announced expansions. NWA beer giants Ozark Beer and Core Brewing both announced plans to move into the area. Finally a number of openings were announced with Flyway opening their doors just before the year wrapped up.
So with all this news what stories made their way to the top of the list? Here are the top food news stories in 2015 based on total reads in order.
- La Madeleine announces Little Rock location – The Chi family will bring the famed Dallas based eatery to Little Rock in 2016
- Heights Taco & Tamale Co. Opens – Yellow Rocket concepts renovates the old Browning’s location for their new Ark-Mex eatery.
- Juanita’s Closes – The legacy concert and tex-mex spot announces closing after years of decline.
- Mama B’s Re-Opens – The local favorite burger joint seemed to pop up overnight after closing a couple of years ago. We also brought a first look at the new spot.
- Whole Foods Moves into New Location – Once the smallest Whole Foods in the franchise, the Little Rock location got a big upgrade along with a new address. Also First Look 1, First look 2.
- Piro (now Raduno) Brick Oven and Barroom Opens – The South Main Pizza joint opened to a lot of fanfare. Thankfully after a rocky first few months they really started to find their groove by the end of the year.
- Boulevard Remodels, Adds Bistro – Boulevard Bread Co has always been a local favorite, however when they opened the expanded space along with a full dinner menu they became one of the hottest spots in the city. First Taste
- Lulu’s Crab Boil – The Chi family struck twice in this year’s top 10 list, this time for their new Asian-Cajun space Lulu’s Crab. The fusion works surprisingly well here.
- Zangna Thai – After years of complaining about the lack of quality Thai in LR, someone finally did something about it. Zangna became a great addition to the scene.
- Southern Gourmasian – There is absolutely no food truck more heralded in Little Rock than Southern Gourmasian. So when they announced the opening of a brick and mortar it is no surprise that a lot of people were excited.