When it comes to fine dining in the Little Rock metro, everyone knows downtown and Argenta can’t be beat. Whether you’re craving American, Italian or something a bit more unique, delicious options await around every corner. Another perk is that almost every restaurant is located in a pedestrian-friendly, walkable part of town. Here, Little Rock Soirée shares five favorite restaurants in the area to get superb service, award-winning food and creative cocktails. You’re welcome!
111 W. Markham St. | 374-7474
You don’t need us to tell you that the cuisine at the Capital Hotel’s One Eleven is top-notch, but we will. Then we’ll also back it up with some facts. Here’s one: This year the restaurant was named a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant. Chef Joël Antunes (also a James Beard Award winner, among other accolades) creates cuisine like none we’ve ever tasted. Lunch there can’t be beat and we often order the “Express Lunch,” which features a soup, starter, main course, cheese, bread and dessert. For dinner, the braised short ribs with vegetables is our favorite. Ask for a wine pairing, and you won’t be disappointed. Dessert is a must, as pastry is where Antunes really shines. Try the pineapple sundae with vanilla meringue, or the roasted apples, fresh donuts and toast ice cream. The coffees, which are made of beans grown exclusively for the Capital Hotel, are also noteworthy.
Samantha’s Tap Room & Wood Grill
322 Main St. | 379-8019
A new addition to the Creative Corridor on Main Street, Samantha’s Tap Room has quickly become one of our favorite spots. We love popping in for drinks on the patio, or for a working lunch. There’s a cool, downtown vibe that permeates the place. And let’s be completely honest, we also love that there are 32 beers and 20 wines on tap. Lunch includes entrées like the chopped salmon salad, cheeseburgers, sandwiches and fish tacos, all of which are delicious. For dinner, we always choose the grilled Chilean sea bass, but we hear the bacon wrapped quail breast is also to-die-for.
425 Main St., North Little Rock | 376-3463
Just across the river in Argenta, Ristorante Capeo is one of our favorite spots for date nights and celebrations. Argenta has a certain charm that can’t be found just anywhere; it’s peaceful, warm and welcoming, and this upscale restaurant mirrors all of those qualities. Plus, the fine Italian fare here is hard to beat. Capeo makes its mozzarella caprese appetizer from scratch daily. And when we say “from scratch,” we mean they even make the cheese themselves and serve it with fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil. If you’re just having a first course, the tagiatelle al ragu Bolognese and risotto are both simple options that pack a decadently flavorful punch. But if you really want to go all out, order a nice glass of red wine paired with the osso buco Milanese. This cross cut of the veal shank is braised with vegetables and served on a bed of saffron risotto. We haven’t met a dessert on the menu we didn’t love, but we’re fools for any type of crème brulee. Capeo’s white chocolate version can only be described as transcendent.
Bruno’s Little Italy
310 Main St., Suite 101 | 372-7866
A Little Rock legend, family-owned Bruno’s Little Italy recently re-opened downtown in the ground floor of the Mann Lofts. We couldn’t possibly be more ecstatic! Jimmy Bruno opened the original Bruno’s in Levy in 1948. Now his sons, Vince and Gio Bruno, operate the Main Street location, which has an Italian ambiance like none other. We’d go there just to feel like we’re in Little Italy for the evening, but fortunately the food is also a major draw. The insalata miscolanza, a house salad tossed with cured meats and cheese is a must, as is the spaghetti bordelese ala Sol Alman (a nod to one of Bruno’s first patrons).
And don’t miss the decadent Cannoli Siciliano for dessert. Another reason we love this place: you’ll likely chat with members of the Bruno family while you’re there, and you get the sense that they authentically want you to have a wonderful dining experience. Here, patrons feel like family, and that’s just the kind of place we love.
Cache Restaurant & Lounge
425 President Clinton Ave. | 850-0265
The vision of local businessman and philanthropist Rush Harding and his son Payne, Cache is located in the River Market and is a must. First of all, it might be one of the only restaurants in the area where you can get foie gras. Totally understand if that’s not your thing, but if it is, drop in and try their appetizer portion with local jelly and brioche. Cache serves lunch, but we love coming here for dinner and drinks. You can’t miss the maple glazed pork chop, accompanied by asparagus and corn and mushroom risotto. For pasta lovers, the lobster and crab fettucine is one of our faves. The wine list is impressive and extensive, but so too are the signature cocktails. We like one with local flair, like the Daisy Bates, a pineapple rosemary margarita. We’ll have another, please!