Arkansas: The Natural State
Arkansas is famous for its great outdoors and friendly people. What you may not know is that The Natural State can also refresh your spirit with great culinary escapes.
A quick trip off the beaten path just southeast of Little Rock brings you to two of Arkansas’s best loved restaurants: Charlotte’s Eats & Sweets in Keo and Cotham’s in Scott. Charlotte’s is located in a historic pharmacy building complete with walnut soda fountain. Sandwiches, including the famous “Keo Klassic”, salads, and burgers along with renowned homemade pies and cakes are what have put the restaurant on the culinary map. The coconut pie was selected as one of the top pies in the South by Southern Living magazine readers.
Cotham’s is an old general store and museum that is known for its famous 17 oz. Hubcap Burger. If you’re really brave you can try the “Double Hubcap”. Southern fried catfish, onion rings, and fried green tomatoes are offered as well as various fried pies and daily plate lunch specials.
The Hive in Bentonville emphasizes the unique culinary identity of the state while articulating Chef Matthew McClure’s approach to the foods and ways of cooking that are familiar to this region. McClure’s menu stays true to the cuisine of the High South with a lot of pickling and preserving, jam making, and sourcing whole animals whenever possible. It also highlights the region’s local purveyors and farmers. His culinary approach has garnered attention. McClure has been a James Beard Award finalist the past two years. The Hive is located inside 21C Museum Hotel, a boutique hotel and contemporary art museum.
In the Arkansas Delta, food is a part of the cultural heritage of the region. In Marianna, you’ll find Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, Arkansas’s first and thus far only recipient of a coveted James Beard Award. The Southern Foodways Alliance believes Jones’s to be the oldest, continuously operated, African-American owned business in the South. For over a century, a member of the Jones family has been selling some of the best “Q” around, featuring the family’s secret sauce. Arriving early is recommended since the scrumptious pork sells quickly. Once it’s gone for the day, it’s gone!
It’s all about pie in DeValls Bluff. The Family Pie Shop has been featured in USA Today, the New York Times, and Roadfood. From the flaky fried pies to the meringue-topped chocolate and coconut creations, it’s dessert fantasyland. Right down the road, travelers will find Ms. Lena’s Pie Shop. Featured in Southern Living magazine, Ms. Lena’s daughter Viv carries on the family’s pie traditions, featuring traditional flavors such as chocolate and pecan as well as specialty variations like Mounds, peanut butter, and sour cream apple.
The Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery has the distinction of being the only brewery located inside a national park. The operation, located on Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park, also now makes its own brew on site using thermal spring water, making it the world’s only brewery and distillery using thermal spring water as the main ingredient. A restaurant onsite serves pub fare using local produce when possible. The national park also showcases the picturesque Ouachita Mountains in all their glory during fall, alive with vibrant foliage and vivid color.