Pimento cheese…that wonderful Southern spread. This simple little concoction is so addictive, so enticing, it’s not only making a splash on menus throughout Arkansas, but you’ll find it on menus from coast to coast these days. It’s easy to understand why, too…cheese, mayo, peppers, and some spices…there’s no way that can go wrong. We’ve eaten it a variety of ways here in Little Rock, and we’ve darn near enjoyed them all. Here’s our top picks for pimento cheese around town:
South on Main: On the fancier end of the pimento spectrum you’ll find this version whipped up by Matt Bell and crew. It’s listed on the bar menu, but it’s almost always available…just ask for it. SoM’s version takes cheddar cheese, mayo, piquillo peppers, and a touch of hot sauce and crams them into a little jar. But the kicker is the added layer of salty bacon jam they place on top, which really sets this version apart.
Hillcrest Artisan Meats: Your favorite neighborhood meat and sandwich shop whips up their pimento occasionally and slathers it on bread to make one sensational sandwich. Their’s is a bit spicier than some of the others, which I enjoy. They combine it with thin slices of salty salami and put all this on crunchy, slightly buttery, “brick-pressed” bread. It’s one heck of a sandwich.
Big Orange: Here at everyone’s favorite burger joint, they do pimento cheese two ways: either straight up in a jar served with soda crackers, or as a topping on one of their thick, juicy burgers. Personally, I prefer going the burger route with their pimento, as they pair it with a sweet, slightly acidic green tomato relish…it all makes for a very satisfying eating experience.
Lost Forty Brewing: The latest of Yellow Rocket’s concepts takes a slightly different approach to pimento compared to its sister restaurant, Big Orange. Here they smoke their jalapeño peppers prior to adding them to the cheese and mayo mix…a very nice touch, indeed. They top it all with a few strips of bright red goat horn peppers and a few pieces of cracker bread to smear it all over. A worthy option off a menu that’s already full of winning snacks.
Capital Bar & Grill: Their version is certainly one of the most celebrated in Arkansas and has been a staple on the menu for years. Little has changed about this pimento since it was first introduced by former Ashley’s chef, Lee Richardson…and we’re glad that’s the case. It’s a mix of sharp cheddar, vinegar, roasted peppers, dijon mustard, mayo, and cayenne. A fairly traditional combination, but for some reason, it remains uniquely theirs…a must for any pimento fans in Arkansas.
Boulevard Bistro & Bar: These folks, for whatever reason, have always been my personal favorite choice for pimento cheese. The bakery sells it in a to-go tub, which is how I’ve generally eaten it in the past. But with the arrival of their new full service restaurant (at their Heights location), they’ve taken things to a whole other level. Now you’ll find their perfectly-done pimento baked in a small cast iron dish and topped with crunchy bread crumbs. I’m telling you…pimento cheese does not get much tastier than this.
Bray Gourmet: This downtown deli and catering company probably doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. They do an excellent version of smoked turkey spread, one of their more popular items, but they’re also serving a mean homemade pimento cheese. Grab one to-go sometime, it comes in the milder original form or in a spicy jalapeño version…both good, but I generally like the extra heat of jalapeño. We’ve used it to make grilled cheese sandwiches in our house, something I’d highly recommend.