Audacious, Bodacious and Remarkable Burgers You Need to Add to Your Itinerary in 2018
Story, Photos and Video by Kat Robinson
The burger is the great American sandwich. It can be found in every state, with variations all over the place, but the premise usually remains common: red meat on a bun with or without condiments, vegetables or cheese. Lists of the greatest burgers of a region may be chosen in any fashion — sometimes by popular vote, other times by sheer luck of the draw.
I’ve been keeping up with good Arkansas burgers longer than I’ve been writing about food. Everyone has a favorite. In the past couple of years, many of those favorites have been lost — such as the excellent Rock Burger at Arkansas Burger Company, the splendid versions at Burger Mama’s, the Demolicious at Gail’s Diner, and of course, the beloved Hubcap at Cotham’s Mercantile.
If I were to share my entire list of favorites, it’d fill this magazine. There are so many different but good burgers in Arkansas that deserve celebrating. Limiting this list to 25 places was nearly impossible (especially when it comes to sister restaurants and separate locations). What you’ll find here are the best burgers I’ve found that are available right now in Arkansas. This list will probably surprise you.
1. The Bull Burger
Eight ounces of hand-patted and spiced beef, topped with a mound of cheese of your choice, melted into the patty, set onto a house-made bun (the jalapeno-cheddar is divine) with fresh lettuce, tomato and onion and with a sweet and spicy ridged pickle chip. Add on the Bull Jam, a special tangy sauce, and you have a two-handed, substantial, perfectly balanced burger you won’t ever forget.
306 South Elm Street
Emerson, Arkansas 71740
2. The Monkey Burger
Monkey Burger/It’s All About Makin’ It
An enormous, two-patty affair (the cook won’t tell you how much each patty weighs) perfectly seasoned with notes of onion, garlic and black pepper on a large bun with lettuce, tomato, white onion and hamburger dill pickles. I have yet to find a better burger in Pulaski County.
4424 Frazier Pike
Little Rock, Arkansas 72206
3. The Oark Melt and the Cheeseburger
The Oark Burger Company and the Oark General Store
These two separate restaurants are run by brothers — in this case, the Eiseles. The general store (the oldest such store in Arkansas) serves a crowd-pleasing cheeseburger that’s popular with visitors, especially the motorcycling crowd. The Burger Company, opened last year on the east side of Clarksville, offers the same good beef but in several variations. The perfect blend of grilled mushrooms and onions, Muenster cheese and Texas toast make the Oark Melt one of the more buttery and memorable burgers in the state right now.
Oark Burger Company
1100 East Main Street
Clarksville, Arkansas 72830
Oark General Store
10360 County Road 5440
Oark, Arkansas 72852
4. Shroom Swissalaka
The nephews of the man who opened Feltner’s Whatta-Burger in Russellville 50 years ago have made their own name as burger barons in Fayetteville. High-quality beef and a superlative grilled/smoked mushroom addition to this Swiss cheeseburger combine for a genuinely satisfying meal.
2768 North College Avenue
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72703
5. Big Orange Burger
It’s hard to choose among all the amazing burgers at Big Orange, so I’m going with the simple one — on its classic orange-ish bun, a nice hand-patted patty seasoned well, proper green leaf lettuce, tomato, red onion and plank-style refrigerator dills. Traditional but also awesome.
17809 Chenal Parkway, Suite G-101
Little Rock, Arkansas 72223
207 North University Avenue, Suite 100
Little Rock, Arkansas 72205
2203 South Promenade Boulevard #3100
Rogers, Arkansas 72758
6. Bacon Cheeseburger
Locals know Jerry’s for the Sweetheart Special — two steaks for one price on Thursday nights. It’s the same custom flame-licked grill that makes the burgers at Jerry’s so genuinely good, a no-frills affair only enhanced with crispy bacon.
424 Arkansas Highway 463
Trumann, Arkansas 72472
7. Build-Your-Own, medium rare
Don Dugan’s marvelous burgers were key to the success of his previous venture, Markham Street Grill and Pub. With several years of grill patina, this burger now surpasses that standard. Cooked to order (yes, rare is an option), paired with provolone cheese and a sumptuous herb mayo, absolutely magnificent.
401 East 3rd Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
8. The Ohio Burger
The Ohio Club
The spiciness in the eponymous burger at the state’s oldest bar doesn’t just come from hot mustard or jack cheese but from the spice hand-forced into each burger patty. The Ohio Burger comes on a specially made square ciabatta as soft as a potato roll with bacon, lettuce, tomato and a single fried onion ring.
336 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, Arkansas 71901
9. Large Margo Beef with Cheese
Margo’s Catfish Diner
Just like the sort of burger you’d get if you were having dinner at your mom’s, except bigger. Make that your grandma, the one who has the patch of cucumber in the garden out back. The homemade bread-and-butter slices, fresh tomato, even the sesame seed bun add to the cooked-in-Mom’s-kitchen flavor about it.
807 Willow Street
North Little Rock, Arkansas 72114
10. All-Aboard Open Faced Cheeseburger
Rustic Rail Eatery
A big slab of beef on a split ciabatta bun, topped with bacon, mushrooms, grilled and three types of cheese, for a marvelous fork-worthy burger that’s a meal in itself.
211 South Pruett Street
Paragould, Arkansas 72450
11. The Miss Anna and the Five Pound Giant Cheeseburger
Miss Anna’s on Towson and Ed Walker’s Drive-In
It’s hard to separate these two Fort Smith favorites. The sister operations utilize buns made from a tiny bakery out back of Ed Walker’s. The Miss Anna, with its ample bacon, cheddar and barbecue sauce on a seasoned patty on a seeded bun, is the local gold standard of burgers. But it’s often overlooked thanks to its gigantic counterpart, the largest burger in the state, a five-pound patty giant cheeseburger that takes 20 minutes to cool and is served sliced, family-style.
Miss Anna’s on Towson
5001 Towson Avenue
Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901
Ed Walker’s Drive-In & Restaurant
1500 Towson Avenue
Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901
12. Fat Boy
Greg And Jim’s Grocery & BBQ
This burger won’t win prizes for looks, but it’s sure worthy of notice for its sheer size and flavor. Three quarters of a pound of Angus beef with your cheese of choice, stacked in layers on an average-size bun makes this hot mess hard to handle. But the composition is right. You might have to unhinge your jaw.
4850 Old Military Road West
Colt, Arkansas 72326
13. Double Cheeseburger
The standard among Arkansas’ dairy bar burgers, the Bulldog’s burgers are griddle-fried smashies with just the right amount of salt and pepper and the perfect amount of juiciness. Paired with slices of American cheese, mayo and tomato, this burger is a moist and hearty handful.
3614 Highway 367 North
Bald Knob, Arkansas 72010
14. Blacksheep Burger
Blacksheep Joe’s Smokehouse and Grill
Three 1/3-pound beef patties smashed on the griddle and interspersed with three slices of cheese and three slices of bacon on an undersized bun with your choice of condiments from a bar. Banana peppers and plank refrigerator dill pickles alongside the joint’s Old Faithful barbecue sauce elevate this double-hander.
327 US Highway 62
Yellville, Arkansas 72687
15. Pimento Cheeseburger
The Root Café
A local burger served at dinner, its fresh farm-raised beef, lightly seasoned and paired with sharp pimento cheese, house-made smooth-sided sweet pickles and a herbaceous mayo on a just-baked bun make this an excellent comfort-food burger. ONLY comes with a garden fresh salad.
1500 S. Main Street
Little Rock, Arkansas 72202
16. Chili Cheeseburger
The gold standard of chili cheeseburgers can’t be picked up and two-handed in polite company. The classic country diner’s outstanding chili, full of chunks of tomato and bell pepper, is poured over a hand-patted patty and then topped with finely shredded cheddar cheese right before serving. A guilty pleasure.
4322 Dollarway Road
Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71602
17. #3 Combo (comes with drink and fries)
CJ’s Butcher Boy Burgers
The Bubbus family’s enterprises, including the quickly spreading David’s Burgers and Fort Smith’s Patrick’s Butcher Boy Burgers are all pretty good, but it’s the first of the Bubbus’ restaurants situated in a former Russellville Waffle House that has the best flavor in its patties, which are grilled from fresh-ground beef as you order. Grilled onions are the only upgrade you need.
2803 North Arkansas Avenue
Russellville, Arkansas 72802
18. Where The Buffalo Roam
Tusk & Trotter American Brasserie
The only non-beef burger on the list, this bison burger made from Ratchford Farms’ buffalo is paired with a piquant aioli, grilled mushrooms and onions, bacon and a fried egg along with Swiss and cheddar cheeses. Get it with boiled peanuts.
110 Southeast A Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72712
19. Bobby Burger
The appearance of this hefty glistening burger with a pound of beef, and slices of bacon and cheese turns heads every time it’s ordered. The beast takes up a plate on its own, and its thick but smashed patty is light on spice but hearty.
18505 MacArthur Drive
North Little Rock, Arkansas 72118
20. Bleu Moon Burger
A frequent contender for best burger in the state, this blue cheese-loaded burger served in the subterranean lair frequented by Fayetteville locals has achieved legendary status.
25 1/2 North Block Avenue
Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701
21. The Juicy J
The kitchen sink of Arkansas burgers, this is an open-faced, pepper jack grilled cheeseburger on Texas toast topped with chicken, mushrooms, grilled peppers and onions, fresh tomatoes and cheese dip — a forkburger with no equal.
314 Main Street
North Little Rock, Arkansas 72114
117 North Pruett Street
Paragould, Arkansas 72451
205 South Main Street
Jonesboro, Arkansas 72401
22. Bubba Burger
The king of backyard grilled burgers, this flame-broiled giant with over half a pound of meat comes with red onion, green leaf lettuce, tomato and ridged refrigerator pickle planks. It’s especially good with the mammoth onion rings.
2813 West Pine Street
Arkadelphia, Arkansas 71923
23. Mount Chilimonjaro
Available 24 hours a day, it’s hard to see the griddle-fried beef patty beneath the layers of chili, cheese, chunks of red onion and hamburger dill slices, but overall this is one patty-melt meet chili cheeseburger you’ll never forget.
2515 Rogers Avenue
Fort Smith, Arkansas 72901
The colossus that inspired so many others (plus a popular Little Rock food truck), the original thick patty burger served between two grilled cheese sandwiches is still a standout on a menu that also includes a deep-fried burger and the Cheese Volcano, a burger patty topped with a mountain of shredded cheddar on the griddle, resulting in a Saturn-like ring of crusty fried cheese around the center.
107 East Court Street
Jasper, Arkansas 72641
25. Double Cheeseburger
Red River Café
There’s nothing on the menu to indicate how audacious a simple double cheeseburger can be at this truck stop restaurant off Interstate 30 in south Arkansas. What comes to the table is a startling yet well-balanced flavor tower, served on a knife because no toothpick would be sturdy enough for such proportions.
5279 US Highway 67 West (I-30 Exit 18)
Fulton, Arkansas 71838