Hot Springs is easily our favorite quick getaway spot. It is nice when you have time to plan an outing and spend a date night in the spa city, but where the area really shines is being an impromptu adventure.
Especially this time of year, we use any excuse to jump in the car and make the roughly hour drive. It doesn’t matter if my afternoon meetings cancel, wrap up a project early, the kids ask to spend the night with a friend, or I just have an unexpectedly long lunch, we will often make the quick drive for a change of pace.
A few weeks ago we profiled several restaurants to make a date night out of. Most of those, unfortunately, need a reservation to get in. So any last minute trip is out of the question. These spots, however, are perfect to just pop in unannounced for a great bite before you hit some trails or after a walk down Central Ave’s bathhouse row.
Back Porch – The Back Porch is great for a great casual dinner while still having good food. They have a solid lineup of steaks, seafood, oysters, and pastas. If you want the best experience, try to score you a spot on the deck right around sunset, it might be the best seat in Hot Springs.
4810 Central Ave Hot Springs
Cafe 1217 – If you are like me and always look for where the locals enjoy, Cafe 1217 is your spot. The sandwiches and salads are great for a lunch stop. This is one of those spots you do not want to skip dessert, they have some excellent house made cakes and pies. They also have several entree options if you want a bigger meal, or want to grab something to make a picnic by the lake out of.
1217 Malvern Ave Hot Springs
Cajun Boilers – Cajun Boilers is another one of those great back deck options. The place is no frills, but offers some solid cajun and seafood options on a quiet little inlet off the Ouachita river.
2806 Albert Pike Rd Hot Springs
Don Juan – Don Juan has been a tex-mex institution in Hot Springs since 1994, which is saying something if you know how much the city has changed since then. For those of us who have grown up in this area of the country, this style of Mexican food is practically comfort food. Good cheese dip, chimichanga, enchilada, quesadilla, and all the other Americanized-Mexican favorites you love, executed well.
1311 Albert Pike Rd Hot Springs & Hot Springs Mall location.
La Hacienda – If you are a fan of the La Hacienda in Little Rock, you will likely love this one too. The menus are slightly different, but you will find most of the same items here as well, and often times better executed. It is one of those spots that is great to have familiar food in a new setting.
3836 Central Ave Hot Springs
1490 Higdon Ferry Rd, Hot Springs
Quapaw cafe – While others have great lake and river views, nothing says Hot Springs quite like a bathhouse. Quapaw cafe is located inside the Quapaw Bathhouse, which is one of only two currently operational. The food menu is fairly simple with sandwiches and salads, however their tea selection is some of the best in town. It makes the perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon by taking in a quick spa, grabbing something to eat, and relaxing over a hot tea. If you want something a little harder, journey over to neighboring Superior Bathhouse Brewery once you leave.
413 Central Ave, Hot Springs
Stubby’s – Hot Springs is blessed with good bbq, Stubby’s and McClards being the best of the bunch. Stubby’s is great thanks to its location just across the street from Oaklawn. They have great brisket, ribs, and the normal chops of bbq. It makes for a great getaway in combination with the track, especially this time of year.
3024 Central Ave, Hot Springs
Dolce Gelato – Sometimes you just want to skip it all and grab some great dessert. For the past 10 years Dolce Gelato has been one of the best spots in Hot Springs to fill that need. Everything (obviously) starts with their gelato. They also rotate through several other specialty desserts like tiramisu and different cakes and they feature a full coffee and espresso menu to go with it. There are a number of good non-dessert menu options however with their panini sandwiches, soups, and salads.