Across the Arkansas, there are untold numbers of restaurants, whipping up everything from barbecue to soul food to sweets to hot tamales. Some of those restaurants capture our hearts – and stomachs – in a special way. They stay with us, and we go back, day after day, week after week and so on.
These are the restaurants the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame was designed for. Since 2016, the Food Hall of Fame has been spotlighting the exceptional in Arkansas food, from the restaurants to the chefs to the dearly departed food spots.
Arkansans came out in force for the nominations. More than 2,000 nominations were submitted, an increase of roughly 40 percent from last year. Every Arkansas county – all 75 of them – was represented in the nominations submitted.
These nominations were for five awards: Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, Proprietor of the Year, Food-Themed Event, People’s Choice, and Gone But Not Forgotten.
This year, 13 Arkansas restaurants are finalists for the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame in the fifth year of the awards’ history. These restaurants include:
• AQ Chicken House of Springdale (Washington County)
• Colonial Steak House of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County)
• Dairy King of Portia (Lawrence County)
• Dixie Pig of Blytheville (Mississippi County)
• Feltner’s Whatta-Burger of Russellville (Pope County)
• Herman’s Ribhouse of Fayetteville (Washington County)
• K Hall & Sons Produce of Little Rock (Pulaski County)
• Kream Kastle of Blytheville (Mississippi County)
• Monte Ne Inn of Rogers (Benton County)
• Neal’s Café of Springdale (Washington County)
• The Ohio Club of Hot Springs (Garland County)
• Star of India of Little Rock (Pulaski County)
Five individuals were nominated for Proprietor of the Year. The names will be familiar to most who follow the Arkansas culinary scene. They include Sami Lal, Jamie McAfee, Matt McClure, Capi Peck and Anthony Valinoti.
The Food-Themed Event category nominations went to the Arkansas Cornbread Festival, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, the Magnolia Blossom Festival & World Championship Steak Cook-Off, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church Annual Spaghetti Dinner, the Tonitown Grape Festival, and the World Championship Duke Gumbo Cookoff.
In the Gone But Not Forgotten category, five departed restaurants will vye for the prize. These include Browning’s Mexican Grill, Dairy Hollow House, Habib’s Café and Delicatessen, Roy Fisher’s Steak House and Uncle John’s.
The People’s Choice award, determined by the largest number of nominations for a given restaurant, will be announced at the ceremony.
The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame ceremony will be held virtually on Feb. 22 at 6:15 p.m.