On Jan. 25, the Division of Arkansas Heritage announced the finalists for this year’s class of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. Now in its fifth year, the program was created in 2016 to recognize and dignify the legends of the state’s food scene with this highest honor.
The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame is broken down into the following categories:
• Arkansas Food Hall of Fame
• Proprietor of the Year
• Food-Themed Event
• People’s Choice
• Gone But Not Forgotten
Nominations for this year’s class poured in from around the state in October 2019, tallying more than 2,000 in total. Since then, a special committee has been hard at work to decide who takes the next step into “finalist” status. That committee includes Paul S. Austin, Jimmy Bryant, Chip Culpepper, Cindy Grisham, Stacy Hurst, Montine McNulty, Rex Nelson, Tim Nutt, Kat Robinson, Christina Shutt, Donna Uptigrove, David Ware and Stanley Young.
The winners from this group, this year’s official inductees into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, will be announced in a virtual ceremony in February.
Notable winners and finalists from past years include Lassis Inn, Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts, the International Greek Food Festival, Bruno’s Little Italy and Murry’s Restaurant, just to name a few.
“There were many unknowns for each Arkansan in 2020. Celebrating food people and places is more important than ever. We are so pleased to honor these special entities as a special part of Arkansas’ heritage and culture.”
— Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism
Gone But Not Forgotten
This award remembers the collective culinary legacy of a once-and-always influential Arkansas restaurant that has since ceased operations.
Browning’s Mexican Grill
1946 – 2010
The historic spot for Hispanic fare occupied a spot on Kavanaugh Boulevard in Little Rock for more than 60 years; the same place that Heights Taco and Tamale Co. operates out of now.
Dairy Hollow House
1979 – 1998
For two decades, the humble Dairy Hollow House was talked about for miles. Despite its quaint size and location, it was acclaimed by the likes of The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Times and CNN.
Habib’s Café and Delicatessen
1888 – 1984
Habib’s was a mainstay of the Delta for nearly 100 years. Founded by brothers Antoine and Habib Etoch, the cafe stood on Cherry Street in downtown Helena from the ‘80s to the ‘80s, itself outliving the two brothers.
Fisher’s Steak House
North Little Rock
1947 – 2005
Fisher’s was a landmark on Broadway in North Little Rock for the better part of a century, where many memories were made and even a movie was filmed.
Uncle John’s Restaurant
1984 – 2018
For years, Uncle John’s was a hidden gem of delicious Italian food in Crittenden County. Sadly, a fire overtook the building in 2018, but its memory lives on in many of its former patrons’ hearts.
This award honors a community food-themed event or festival that makes our state a great place to live and visit.
Arkansas Cornbread Festival
Pulaski County – Little Rock
Since 2011, the Arkansas Cornbread Festival has delivered music, entertainment and, of course, cornbread by the droves to the SoMa district of Little Rock.
Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival
Bradley County – Warren
Now in its 65th iteration, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival is an annual celebration of the area’s favorite red berry.
Magnolia Blossom Festival & World Championship Steak Cook-Off
Columbia County – Magnolia
The festival and its subsidiary steak cook-off have drawn crowds to the town of Magnolia for three decades.
Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church’s Annual Spaghetti Dinner
Chicot County – Lake Village
This event is one of the oldest events in the state’s history, as the church has been churning out homemade spaghetti dinners at this traditional gathering for more than 100 years.
Tontitown Grape Festival
Washington County – Tontitown
Speaking of historic traditions, the Tontitown Grape Festival is the longest-running community gathering in Arkansas, with recognition from the Library of Congress as such.
World Championship Duck Gumbo Cookoff
Arkansas County – Stuttgart
The World Championship Duck Gumbo Cookoff is part of the most popular annual attractions in the entire state, connected to the Wings Over the Prairie Festival and World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest.
Proprietor of the Year
This award honors a chef, cook and/or restaurant owner in Arkansas who has made significant achievements in the food industry.
Executive chef/Owner, Star of India
Since 1993, Sami Lal and the rest of his staff at Star of India have been serving up fresh, authentic Indian cuisine.
Owner, Chef’s Table by Jamie
After more than 30 years in the country club culinary scene — in McGehee and Pine Bluff — Jamie McAfee now has his own food truck, Chef’s Table by Jamie.
Matthew McClure of Bentonville
Executive Chef, The Hive
Matthew McClure was named “The People’s Best New Chef” for the midwest by Food & Wine magazine in 2015. These days, you can find him at The Hive, located in the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville.
Executive Chef/Owner, Trio’s Restaurant
In addition to her role at the stapled restaurant Trio’s, Capi Peck has also served as the president of the Arkansas Restaurant Association and is a recipient of the Salut au Restaurateur Award from the Arkansas Hospitality Association.
Proprietor, Deluca’s Pizza
From Brooklyn to Hot Springs, Anthony Valinoti has created one of the most notable and acclaimed pizza joints in Arkansas history.
Arkansas Food Hall of Fame
This award recognizes those long-standing restaurants that have become legendary attractions in Arkansas.
AQ Chicken House Restaurant
1207 N. Thompson St., Springdale, 72764
111 W. 8th Ave., Pine Bluff, 71601
103 E. Front St., Portia, 72576
701 N. 6th St., Blytheville, 72315
1410 N. Arkansas Ave., Russellville, 72801
2901 N. College Ave., Fayetteville, 72703
K Hall & Sons Produce
1900 Wright Ave., Little Rock, 72202
112 N. Division St., Blytheville, 72315
Monte Ne Inn Chicken
13843 AR-94, Rogers, 72758
806 N. Thompson St., Springdale, 72764
336 Central Ave., Hot Springs National Park, 71901
Star of India
301 N. Shackleford Road, Little Rock, 72211
8201 Cantrell Road, Suite 100, Little Rock, 72227