In the realm of Little Rock dining, good decks and patios are plentiful and wooded vistas are a dime a dozen. But what about a meal with an actual view? The private Little Rock Club and its 30-story city panorama notwithstanding, here are five spots that offer great food plus a unique window to the outside world.
1. Brave New Restaurant
Why: Postcard-worthy views of the Arkansas River and downtown
Brave New is the quintessential Little Rock river view. When the river’s high, the deck can seem ready to launch, as if it’s a ferry full of people. But the proximity to the water and the postcard-worthy view of downtown alone make a visit worthwhile. Of course, folks go for the food; the view is house money. Brave New is a bit more high-brow; it’s the Stella Artois to Leo’s PBR (which may be coming soon, by the way). Popular for both lunch and dinner, take in a cool river breeze over smoked salmon salad or lobster ravioli and watch the city’s skyline light up in the evening over Pasta Primavera or good, ol’ fashioned New York Strip.
2. Best Impressions
Why: Tavern on the Green-like views of the McArthur Park greenspace.
The Arkansas Arts Center’s in-house restaurant, open to the public for lunch, is bound to make this list, right? Of course, galleries of great art are mere footsteps away, but the view from inside Best Impressions is pretty good, too. Floor-to-ceiling windows open onto MacArthur Park’s front greenspace, blooming with vivid color in the spring and fall. Stretching to Ninth Street, the view takes in the beautiful architecture of the cathedral at St. Edward Catholic Church and some of the MacArthur Park Historic District’s stately homes. Take it all in while enjoying salads, soups, sandwiches and entrées including penne pasta dishes and pan-seared salmon. And the desserts make for some great art themselves.
3. Cajun's Wharf
Why: Iconic river spot is an Arkansas institution
The view of the river at Cajun’s may not be quite as dramatic as Brave New’s, but a high-quality river view it is nonetheless. And let’s face it. The deck at Cajun’s is an Arkansas institution, and the people viewing may be unsurpassed. Cajun’s, as its name suggests, specializes in seafood, but the steak, chicken or pasta will more than do the trick as diners enjoy the famous — infamous, perhaps? — deck overlooking the river at the eastern edge of Riverdale. Many folks think of the deck at Cajun’s as part of the bar, but you can eat out there, too.
4. Leo’s Greek Castle
Why: The Lower Kavanaugh streetscape
Yes, Leo’s. This burger/gyro/malt/Saturday breakfast institution in “downtown” Hillcrest is gloriously lost in time. Roughly the size of a Chenal master bath, the former fillin’ station sits cradled in the bosom of what can only be described in technical terms as a strip mall. But as with most of Hillcrest, aesthetics rule the day. The Lower Kavanaugh streetscape unfolds mere feet from the front door and includes joggers, walkers, bikers, baby carriages and dogs, all operating at a leisurely pace. What’s not to like? Sit back among those who can walk home and those who wish they could, and watch it unfold much as it did 60-plus years ago. Plus, new ownership promises exciting changes.
5. The Flight Deck
Why: Front-row seats for the flight line and runways at Clinton National.
Who doesn’t love a good airport vibe? Get your pilot on at the Flight Deck in the Central Flying Service terminal, where breakfast and lunch staples such as the “greatest cheeseburger in aviation history” have satisfied customers arriving and departing — and lunch-paroled downtown office workers making the short trip for a change of scenery — since 1983. The Flight Deck provides a front row seat to the flight line outside Central and the runways at Clinton National. Enjoy a delicious country breakfast or maybe even some catfish over lunch while you watch the private jets taxi, take off and land, and you’ll even have a good seat for the commercial big boys as well.