Here's the thing you need to know about Little Rock: If you're going to explore the city, you need to do so on an empty stomach. There's a reason why it has been named "America's Next Hottest Foodie City" by the Foodie Flashpacker, why Forbes Travel Guide has said it’s a "Top 5 Secret Foodie City," and why Southern Living magazine has called Little Rock a city "...All Food Lovers Need to Eat at Now."
Here's a secret that even some locals may find surprising: Little Rock is home to a thriving ethnic restaurant scene. Many of them have popped up far from the hustle and bustle of downtown and are operated by first-generation immigrants who've made new lives for their families in the capital city. These local favorites may be a little off the beaten path, but we promise they're worth the trek.
Located in the picturesque Hillcrest neighborhood, Café Bossa Nova brings bold Brazilian flair to this historic part of town. Locals love it for their infamous pão de queijo, an almost addictive cheesy bread roll from Brazil. Still, the restaurant's diehard fans know there's no better time for a visit than Saturday nights when the classic Brazilian comfort food feijoada (a type of black bean stew) is on the menu.
With a menu that lists both classic and whimsically modern sushi rolls alongside a range of curries, Kemuri has cemented itself in the hearts of locals as one of the must-eat spots in the Hillcrest Historic District. Pro tip: Don't sleep on Kemuri's brunch. People can't get enough of their chocolate cappuccino pancakes.
This family-run African restaurant is on a mission to bring tasty and authentic African food to Little Rock. Kontiki is owned by Christian Domingo, who emigrated from Sierra Leone and has lived in Arkansas for more than 20 years. He has a passion for cooking and is enthusiastic about sharing African cuisine and culture.
Just a few steps from Taqueria el Palenque is another must-eat spot: Layla's Gyro. The menu boasts a range of Mediterranean classics, but it's their calzones that keep you coming back for more. Well, that and the Yazoo pizza…and their class gyros…and their baklava…and pretty much everything else they serve!
Located near the University of Arkansas – Little Rock campus, you'll frequently find students slurping up a giant bowl of pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) at Mike's. The menu focuses on Vietnamese cuisine and includes an extensive selection of noodles to choose from. With plates piled high with food and a wallet-friendly menu, it's easy to see why so many, both locals and visitors alike, have fallen in love with Mike's.
Little Rock has no shortage of fantastic Mexican restaurants; any local you ask will have strong opinions on which one they think is best. Taqueria el Palenque is regarded as one of the best taco shops in town. You'll find it tucked into a small strip mall, but don't let the outside fool you: you're walking into one of Little Rock's shiniest hidden gems.
How good is the food at Star of India? The fact that it was inducted into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame in 2021 should give you a clue. Whether for the lauded lunch buffet or their dinner menu that seems to encompass every corner of India's vast cuisine, this is another can't-miss spot in west Little Rock.
Looking to burn a few calories after your meal? Little Rock has 1,200 miles of cycling trails.