It might seem old-fashioned, but the progressive dinner can be a great way to enjoy multiple restaurants in one night. So we’re taking that concept and giving you and your friends some ideas for a fun night out in a great Central Arkansas neighborhood. The plan: hit five local restaurants for five different courses in one evening. Here are the rules:
- All restaurants have to be in reasonable walking distance. No driving, and no walking a mile to get to your next spot.
- All restaurants have to be open on Friday and/or Saturday night. These are the best nights to try something fun like this.
- Only local restaurants are considered; no chains. Should be self-explanatory.
- Only one course at each restaurant, though you can make up the courses and what order they go in. You can only visit each restaurant once during the progressive dinner.
This week’s neighborhood is SoMa, a casual community that supports the arts and features plenty of shopping and entertainment. Again, these are just my suggestions for courses and order; feel free to make up your own.
1. Pre-dinner Drink: Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom
You want to know why writing a piece like this is harder than it looks? Because several of these spots can easily fit in for another. It is logical to visit South on Main or even the new Core Public House. Raduno, however, has one of the best selections of craft beer in town, with a strong lineup on tap. They also have a great, well curated wine selection and an exceptional cocktail program.
While you are in, grab a barrata. This cheese appetizer has been on Raduno’s menu since the place was called Piro, and I can’t imagine it ever getting taken off. It pairs perfectly with their craft beer options.
Other options: Cocktails at South on Main, beer at Core Public House, dessert first at Loblolly Creamery
2. Appetizers: The Root Café
If you still haven’t done dinner at The Root, you are missing out on an incredible dining experience. No doubt, you’ve already tried breakfast or lunch at the SoMa mainstay, but dinner is somehow where the restaurant shines brightest. It’s here that the Sundells’ fierce devotion to local food and quirky-cute ambiance are at their best.
The best part of the menu is the small plates. Honestly it is best just to grab a few friends and order the entire section, you won’t regret it. Go for the Arancini, any of the empanada’s, or their unique fruit dishes.
The Root sources its meats and produce to maximize freshness, meaning the very best dish on the menu is likely made from whatever the market had on hand that day.
Other options: BBQ Shrimp at South on Main, Burrata at Raduno
3. Entrees and Dinner Cocktails: South on Main
There is always something to love at South on Main. Chef Matt Bell takes pride in locally sourcing when possible, and puts his own unique spin on high south cuisine.
They just released an all new menu, filled with great options. The steak and gas station potato wedges (featured photo) are fantastic. Also look for the ribs when they are on the menu, these are usually a good bet. Be sure to check their calendar when deciding to go and catch a good band when you can.
The restaurant just recently updated its cocktail menu, so while you are there grab a drink. With more than four years of bar keeping excellence in the books, you will find something to fall in love with at South on Main.
Other options: Pizza at Raduno, Anything on Special at Root
4. Dessert: Loblolly Creamery
This was the only stop that I didn’t even have to think about. Loblolly’s move from the Green Corner Store to its own scoop shop opened up a brand new world of ice cream in Little Rock. Where you could once find only eight flavors, you can now have your pick of dozens of ice creams, sherberts and sorbets. Vegan and/or gluten free? Loblolly has you covered, and it doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of flavor to take care of you. The ice cream flight is a wonderful choice for a group, or you could go with a melt-in-your-mouth brownie a la mode to split between two people. Loblolly is one of those places that, even with its ardent group of followers, I still don’t think gets enough love.
Other options: Donuts at South on Main, pastries at Community Bakery
5. Late Night Cheeseburger: Midtown Billiards
That’s right. I invented a course just for Midtown. Many a person’s night has ended at Midtown, and most of those included the fabled burger from the dive bar’s flat top grill. And it is an absolute revelation. The crisp sear, the perfect seasoning, the toasted buns, the fresh vegetables … they’re all important to the burger’s success. But it’s also the place that does it. Midtown Billiards is a longtime Little Rock institution, and it’s hard not to appreciate the tens of thousands of burgers the bar has served up over the years as you dig into yours. It might seem insane to end an evening of eating with a cheeseburger, but I guarantee that nobody at Midtown will be judging you.
Other options: after-dinner drinks and a concert at South on Main, after-dinner drinks at Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom