The extraordinary class of 2023 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame
The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame is the pinnacle for restaurants, restaurateurs and festivals throughout the state, showcasing the best of the best when it comes to defining our foodways. Established in 2016, its aim is to recognize the epitome of culinary excellence within our borders. This year’s class of inductees showcases some of these incredible locations, individuals and families who are the absolute tops in Arkansas food. Here are the 2023 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Restaurant Inductees.
The Bulldog Restaurant
- 3614 Arkansas 367, Bald Knob, (501) 724-5195
Originally opened by Bob and Lece Miller in 1978, The Bulldog Restaurant has become the must-stop for travelers, sports teams and camp-goers for generations of folks traversing northeast Arkansas. Today, the Bald Knob mainstay is run by sisters Jennifer Muckelberg and Julie Roberts who, along with their parents and kids, (move comma, add another, ensure the continuation of a tradition of juicy burgers, plate lunch specials, pork and chicken barbecue, footlong hot dogs, soft-serve ice cream delights and the seasonal, sensational shortcake, an annual rite of spring for Arkansas food lovers.
- 112 North Division Street, Blytheville, (870) 762-2366
Steven Johns opened the Kream Kastle in 1953 as a milk bar — now known as a dairy bar — with hot dogs and ice cream. Soon after, he began offering pork barbecue, and history was made. The pig sandwich — a hand-shredded, smoked pork sandwich with coleslaw and the famed, thin Kream Kastle sauce — became a sought-after commodity, Today, Suzanne Johns Wallace and her husband Jeff still operate the landmark, open every weekday. Though the restaurant suffered a fire that severely damaged its pit and kitchen, the couple quickly rebuilt and continue to offer the simple menu of pig sandwiches, pig salads and Kastleburgers for enjoyment at the original Blytheville location.
The Ozark Café
- 107 East Court Street, Jasper, (870) 446-2976
The second oldest continuously operating restaurant in Arkansas first started offering breakfast and lunch back in 1909. The counter-and-table country diner is still serving biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried steak and Ozark favorites to this day. Now expanded across three storefronts, this must-stop along Scenic Arkansas 7 offers a newspaper-sized menu of old favorites and newer adventures in dining. Its Excaliburger — a thick beef patty fully dressed between two grilled cheese sandwiches impaled on a knife — is one of dozens of burgers and sandwiches known to thrill and surprise. Breakfast bowls of chocolate gravy, thick-sliced Ozark ham and piles of bacon grace the mornings, while hearty dinners keep the joint packed until closing each evening.
Proprietor of the Year, Chef Jamie Mcafee
- Pine Bluff Country Club, 1100 West 46th Avenue, Pine Bluff, (870) 535-0132
Whether it’s at the Pine Bluff Country Club, the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College’s (UAPTC) Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute (CAHMI), or one of the dozens upon dozens of events he caters throughout Arkansas, Chef Jamie McAfee brings South Arkansas to the table. Raised in McGehee, the attentive culinarian was steeped in the cuisine of an under-recognized region. For decades, he’s stylized the menus at the venerable Pine Bluff Country Club, catering to a wide array of appetites with Frog Legs Glace, fried green tomatoes topped with grilled shrimp and remoulade, a selection of extraordinary steaks hand-selected and cut and offered with half a dozen styles of premium toppers, and both peanut butter and peppermint cream pies that date back to 1914.
Festival of the Year
Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-Off
More than 4,000 steaks are grilled up by the nation’s best beef masters at the each May, where the town square is taken over with charcoal grills and hungry festival-goers who choose to line up for a hot, flame-broiled steak from one of the dozens of competitors.
Gone but not Forgotten Bohemia Restaurant
- Hot Springs
For more than half a century, Bohemia Restaurant stood along Hot Springs’ Park Avenue and served superb Continental fare to generations of diners. Opened by Mr. and Mrs. Earl Duchac in the mid-20th Century and featuring the fine cuisine of Czech-born chef Adolph Thum, the mural-clad dining room was often the scene for proposals, birthday celebrations and business deals. The expansive menu covered everything from Hungarian goulash to escargot.
- 1200 Main Street, Little Rock, (501) 375-6418
This year, an over-whelming number of nominations came in for a longtime downtown Little Rock staple. Originally opened in 1947, Community Bakery offers breakfast, lunch, pastries and desserts — including decadent truffles, statuesque wedding cakes and big, almond-slathered bear claws.