Unusual Restaurants in Arkansas
Have a dining adventure in Arkansas. From lighthouses to airplane restaurants, we've got plenty of unique ideas perfect for your next romantic Arkansas getaway, vacation, or when you just need a break from cooking. Below are just a few suggestions regarding unusual restaurants and dining venues, whether its location or type of food offered. Get more information about dining in Arkansas, our famous Southern cuisine, as well as Arkansas wineries and breweries. You can even find some famous “Southern cookin’” recipes, Arkansas-style, in case you get a craving for them once you’re back home.
The Lighthouse Inn, Fort Smith -- Located on the banks of the Arkansas River, The Lighthouse Inn opened in 1974 and has been a local dining tradition since. Dining on the banks of the Arkansas River, the natural setting amid the bold hues of red and orange skies at sunset as well as moonlight reflecting off the water at night makes this a romantic spot for all ages. The menu features seafood, steaks and chicken. Should the weather questionable….there is a sign hanging in the restaurant stating: "Coil up your rope and anchor here till better weather doeth appear." 6000 Midland Blvd., (479) 783-9420.
Dondie’s White River Princess – Located on the shore of the White River in downtown Des Arc, this popular place is patterned after an old riverboat. The buffet features huge, crispy catfish fillets, boiled shrimp and chicken strips. You can dine on board without ever leaving the ground. It was built to resemble the steamboats that once traveled up and down the White River, docking at Des Arc. The restaurant has won numerous awards and has been featured on television and in magazines for its outstanding catfish and hospitality.
The menu features an all-you-can-eat buffet which includes huge catfish fillets, steaks, chicken strips, fried shrimp, peel ‘em and eat ‘em shrimp, crawdads, clam strips and barbecue…just to name a few items. Dondie’s also has a wide selection of menu items including award-winning prime rib, rib eye and sirloin steaks, “Riverbend Chicken” and frog legs. The desserts are not to be missed. 101 East Curran Street, (870) 256-3311.
Parachute Inn, Walnut Ridge – Meals aboard a plane didn’t use to be unusual but they are quickly becoming an endangered species. You can still have a meal aboard a plane, albeit a stationary one at this one-of-a-kind restaurant. Housed in a Southwest Airlines Boeing 727, the interior has been painstakingly restored to the original “Southwest” look and seats have been reconfigured to fit tables. Diners can stash their coats in the overhead bins. Features Southern-style home-cooking. 10 Skywatch, (870) 886-5918.
The Mammoth Orange Café, Redfield – Located between halfway between Little Rock and Pine Bluff on Ark. 365, this roadside oddity was built in 1966, inspired by a giant orange restaurant in Fresno, California circa 1950s. The menu features hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, salad bar and dinner specials. 103 North Ark. 365, (870) 397-2347 or (870) 397-2572.
Café Africa, Little Rock Zoo – Housed in the newly renovated historic lion house at the Little Rock Zoo. Built in 1933, this Works Progress Administration all-rock building features a stone fireplace, multi-level dining, and a wide variety of food for kids and adults alike. Cafe Africa is also available for private party rental. Regular hours for Cafe Africa are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during winter months and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March through October. #1 Jonesboro Drive, (501) 666-2406.
General stores used to be as common as Wal-Mart but they have rapidly disappeared from the landscape. A few are left and most seem to have reinvented themselves into great eateries. Though they are not just found in The Natural State, these places are “uniquely Arkansas.”
Here are some suggestions. This is, by no means, all of them.
- Cotham’s Mercantile – Perhaps the most well-known “general store” in the state. The original Cotham’s in Scott occupies an old general store which partially sits on stilts over Bearskin Lake. Down-home country cooking has made it “Where the Elite Meet to Eat.” Known for its trademark hubcap hamburgers and handmade onion rings.
- Historic Oark General Store & Café – The oldest continuous-operation store in Arkansas, established in 1890; the building has the original floors, walls, and ceiling. The Cafe features home cooking, steaks, ribs, catfish, frog legs, and homemade chicken fried. Located in the tiny Arkansas River Valley town of Oark.
- Abe’s Ole Feed House – This South Arkansas restaurant is housed in an old country and has gained a regular following with its all-you-can-eat offerings. These include fried catfish, seafood, barbecue ribs, variety of salads and vegetables, plus desserts and huge homemade cinnamon rolls. Located in the Lawson community just outside El Dorado.