Part of this is awarding local restaurants for their best of the best entrees. This year, everyone has a chance to reign victorious in one of our 12 categories, but today I want to take a look at our well-deserved Feast Month Visitors Choice award winners from last year. Add all of these spots to your list of places to go in Hot Springs because the competition is always fierce, making for a well-deserved victory in each scrumptious category.
2278 Albert Pike Road
Of all the delicious BBQ joints Hot Springs has to offer, Smokin’ In Style BBQ came in as last year’s winner.
When the restaurant started 19 years ago on Oct. 14, 2004, it was offering something different. Instead of baby back ribs, a meatier St. Louis cut rib is used. Instead of chopping pork, pork is actually pulled from a boston butt. Rather than using sauce to flavor their meat, Smokin’ IN Style uses a homemade Memphis-style dry rub seasoning. But of course, a variety of sauces are still available on the table to give your meal the flavor profile you desire. Choose from mild, hot, sweet molasses, Memphis Sweet (owner Joe Johnson’s favorite), or a Carolina yellow sauce for those who like their BBQ more west coast-styled.
The number one sellers are the pulled pork and four bone plates. Both come with two sides, and John recommends the baked potato salad or their handout fried seasoned with their signature dry rub. Pair it with a glass of their extremely sweet tea, and you will be smokin’ in style.
336 Central Avenue
The Ohio Club is notorious for a lot of things. There is the fact that it’s the oldest club in Arkansas, and a known place Gangster Al Capone frequented when in Hot Springs. Oh, and the fact that it’s haunted. But in a more modern-day take on its popularity, the Ohio Club has become known for its burgers. And we’re talking big, juicy, thick burgers of the gourmet variety.
Although I’ve never had a burger I didn’t like from the Ohio Club, of all the burgers I recommend the Hawaiian Burger. It’s a hearty patty topped with a grilled pineapple slice, bacon, and teriyaki sauce. (And this recommendation is coming from someone who thinks pineapple on pizza is a sin.) Pair this with the crispy fries and an Old Fashion, and you’re doing the Ohio Club experience right.
236 Ouachita Avenue
It’s self-proclaimed that Hot Springs is the pizza capital of Arkansas, and there’s a good reason for it. So let me call your attention to the one pizza shop that won out over all others during last year’s Feast Month: SQZBX Brewery and Pizza.
SQZBX (pronounced squeezebox) offers up what co-owner Zach Smith calls “heavy Jersey” style pizza. It has that thin crust, just more toppings than would come on a New Jersey slice.
Smith recommends the Fungal Jungle, which is a pie topped with seasonal mushrooms and mozzarella. Pair this with the pepperoni chips and Smith’s seasonal german-style Oktober Fest brew and you will get the full unique and authentic SQZBX experience.
In December, SQZBX will celebrate six years of serving up pizza in an environment that celebrates the “personal expression of the good things in life.” Don’t miss this warmly lit nook located just off Central Avenue in Downtown Hot Springs.
200 Higdon Ferry Road
Since December 2018, Capo’s Tacos has been serving up tacos like Hot Springs had never seen before. During last year’s feast month, the restaurant came in as the well-deserved winner of Best Taco.
It’s all in the name: The best taco to get at Capo’s is the Go Big or Go Home. Wrapped in fried dough, this taco is filled with chicken, steak, shrimp, chorizo, and topped with lettuce, tomato and cheese. Fried chips come with it, but a refreshing and unique drink pairing is the spicy cucumber margarita, which is made with muddled cucumbers and jalapeños.
215 E Grand Avenue
501 Prime is a steak house just outside of downtown Hot Springs boasting local pride, and it’s honestly such a gem in our community. Now, this is on the finer side of dining, but it’s absolutely worth it to make an occasion if necessary just to have an excuse to come here. Make your reservations, but come a bit early to enjoy a pre-dinner beverage in the luxurious Bourbon Bar. If the weather permits, I would recommend dining under the patio’s twinkling string lights, but eating inside is just as complementary to such a lavish experience.
420 Malvern Avenue
When it comes to authentic Southern-style cuisine, it takes something truly exceptional to stand out in the heart of the South. Mama Vee's, a food truck nestled within the 420 Eats Food Truck Court, has accomplished just that.
This food truck is all about serving up traditional Southern plates with a generous helping of southern hospitality. From Chicken and Waffles that strike the perfect balance between crispy and tender to the mouth watering fried catfish that's fried to golden perfection, Mama Vee's doesn't skimp on portions or flavor. And for the love of all that’s holy, don't miss out on the Grilled Paula Dean Ham and Cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich that takes comfort food to a whole new level. And no meal at Mama Vee's is complete without a tall glass of sweet tea, a true Southern staple that's the perfect complement to any dish.
1217 Malvern Avenue
Cafe 1217 has raised the bar for vegetarian dining with a case full of flavors and creative dishes. From vibrant salads bursting with seasonal produce to hearty plant-based entrees, this cafe's commitment to exceptional vegetarian options has rightfully earned them this award. This is a place where herbivores and omnivores alike can come together to appreciate the richness of plant-based cuisine, and a visit to this culinary gem is a must for anyone seeking a palate-pleasing meal in the name of good health.
502 Central Avenue
When it comes to satisfying your sweet cravings in downtown Hot Springs, there's one place that stands out as the crown jewel of confectioneries – Fat Bottomed Girls. Located in the heart of the town, it's more than just a bakery; it's a delectable adventure that takes your taste buds on a journey of pure indulgence.
The moment you step inside Fat Bottomed Girls, you're greeted with a sight that's nothing short of a dessert lover's dream come true. Their selection of cupcakes is an ode to decadence and creativity. Each cupcake is a work of art. From classic favorites like red velvet and chocolate peanut butter to more adventurous choices like lavender lemonade and creme brulee, these cupcakes are a testament to culinary innovation. No matter your preference, you're sure to find a cupcake that speaks to your soul.
But that's not all that makes Fat Bottomed Girls a must-visit. It's a destination that encompasses more than just cupcakes. Attached to an extensive gift shop and an ice cream and candy store, it offers an all-encompassing sweet experience. Whether you're looking for the perfect gift, indulging in a scoop of ice cream, or just craving a delightful treat, this place has it all.
216 Central Avenue
If you ever find yourself strolling through downtown in the morning, chances are you'll spot a long line of eager patrons forming outside The Pancake Shop. This unassuming family diner has been a cornerstone of the community for a remarkable 83 years, and it's easy to see why.
To no one’s surprise, what stands out about this eatery is its commitment to buckwheat pancakes. In an era where this old-school gem is often forgotten, The Pancake Shop continues to serve up stacks of these wholesome, nutty-flavored pancakes. It's not just about what's on top either; they infuse the batter with fruits, creating a symphony of flavors that's not just a garnish but an integral part of the pancake experience. The plain pancake is a classic hit, but the blueberry and chocolate chip variations come pretty close to stealing the show.
But I’d be remiss not to talk about their unique creations, too, like the deep-fried French toast. To accompany your meal, you can wash it down with their freshly squeezed orange juice and enjoy a cup of coffee paired with real cream. But that's not all. The sausage is farm-to-table, and the ham hails from the famous Petit Jean brand. They even serve some classic, old menu items like stewed prunes, oatmeal, and grits.
608 E Grand Avenue
This Vietnamese gem is all about comfort food, and they've totally nailed it. Their specialty? Pho: a classic Vietnamese soup that's basically a bowl of flavorful broth, noodles, your choice of protein (usually beef or chicken), and a ton of mix-and-match toppings. What's awesome about pho is that it's like a hug for your taste buds – it's both savory and rich, but at the same time, it feels clean and refreshing.
If you're up for a food journey that's all about authenticity and innovation, you've got to swing by The Pho House. Dive into a steaming bowl of their amazing pho and let it take you on a flavor-packed trip to Vietnam. It's more than a meal; it's an experience.
1521 Malvern Avenue Suite 6570
If you’re looking for a romantic night out, this charming Italian restaurant has made a name for itself serving up the flavors and traditions of Italy with unmatched flair. What sets Via Roma apart is its unwavering commitment to the art of Italian cooking. From the moment you step inside, you're greeted by an ambiance that transports you to the heart of Italy. The menu is a culinary love letter to the country's diverse and rich food culture, offering an array of delectable dishes that cater to a wide range of tastes.
Whether you're savoring a classic Margherita pizza with a perfectly thin, wood-fired crust, indulging in a hearty bowl of house-made pasta, or relishing the mouthwatering flavors of osso buco, Via Roma ensures that every bite is an authentic taste of Italy.
420 Malvern Avenue
Neighboring the beloved Mama Vee’s in 420 Eats is Rock ‘N’ Roll Hibachi — a multi-award-winning staple in the community. It’s pretty simple, a food truck serving up hibachi, it just happens to be done really well here. In my personal experience, it’s unbeatable. Anytime I’m looking to incorporate some vegetables in a filling meal, I look to Rock ‘N’ Roll. And even in my hungriest times, I have always had some leftovers for a later meal. With the value of what you get, it’s no surprise Rock ‘N’ Roll keeps winning all these awards.
In Hot Springs, where every month is a celebration of good food and community spirit, these winners represent the very best of local cuisine. So, as Feast Month approaches and you plan your culinary adventures, make sure to include these outstanding establishments on your list of places to visit. After all, it's the passion, dedication, and creativity of these culinary artisans that make dining in Hot Springs a truly delightful experience.
Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. In her free time, she enjoys playing games, skating, walking her dog Murphey and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative (or both!)