I made the move a few years ago to the Governor’s Mansion District in downtown in large part because of the great business district on South Main. We loved the close-knit, walkable community that SOMA offered. It is an area that has become a thriving example of the turnaround that can happen when businesses and neighbors invest in an area. It has a little bit of everything that someone could want.
Coffee, Tea, and Sweets
Community Bakery has long been the gathering spot along South Main. The coffee shop and bakery has a renewed energy lately thanks to new owner John Brandenberger and the life he is pouring back in the decades-old spot. On any morning or afternoon, you can catch a good number of neighbors and guest to the area enjoying their coffee, pastries, and sandwiches. The coffee has also taken a step up recently with the switch to Guillermo’s locally roasted beans. It is a great area to stop in, or sit for a bit to work.
Boulevard Bread, at the other end of SOMA, is another great stop. They do a great job with their coffee and espresso drinks, so it is a good way to get started. This is also the location they bake all their bread that gets delivered to restaurants around the city, so there are always some fresh offerings available to pick up while you are in. Their food lineup is not as big as the Heights location, but what they have is always excellent.
Green Corner Store at the other end of the block also shouldn’t be overlooked. They installed an excellent tea bar a little over a year ago and it might be one of the best hidden gem destinations for tea in the city. They have a wide variety that is always made to perfection. While you are in there you can also pick up a great assortment of locally made products including chocolates, kombucha, popcorn, caramels, and more.
Loblolly Creamery just next door has made a good name for themselves across the state in the ice cream business, but they do a good job with coffee as well. Pro tip, just get the coffee poured on top of the ice cream so you do not have to choose between the two. As far as ice cream goes they have a great selection of over 30 flavors that rotate frequently, all made here in Little Rock, usually using local ingredients.
The Root just across the street is one of our most frequent stops, we walk over for breakfast at least once a week to enjoy some of the best biscuits and gravy in the country. The Root maintains a very strong relationship with local farmers and producers, something that comes through in every menu item. Their lunch lineup recently landed them a spot on the Food Network’s Diners Drive-ins and Dives, but the dinner service added last year might be the biggest underrated menu on Main Street.
South on Main made their name with great food, but their live music lineup is really the best in Little Rock. It is no surprise given the legacy of that very stage as a music venue in Little Rock, but South on Main brings in great acts all the time, something worth keeping an eye on for a night out. They do a great lunch, brunch, and dinner service. Chef Matt Bell is widely regarded as one of the top chefs in the region, and their bar program has been rated among the top in the city since opening.
Raduno just a couple of doors down has also built a name by following great food with good drinks. They have one of the best craft beer lineups in the city, and the cocktails are just as good. The pizza is some of the best around too and they always take a creative approach to their pies. Their patio is the real focal point, and is really the only one in SOMA. It is great for Sunday brunch to sit and watch the heavy pedestrian traffic and get to visit with neighbors as they walk by.
Dos Rocas is the newest addition to the street, but the owners Jack and Corri Sundell also own Root down the street so it feels right at home in SOMA. The space just opened late last year and is a mix of traditional Latin dishes and Arkansas’ own version of Tex-Mex (lovingly called Ark-Mex). The combination makes for an excellent menu that pairs well with their lineup of hard to find local craft beers and an excellent cocktail lineup.
Bernice Garden Farmer’s Market sets up on Sundays in the spring, summer, fall and is consistently one of the best markets around. Expect lots of local produce, artisan goods, and local crafts. They also regularly have food trucks set up serving during the market.
After Dinner Drinks
Rock Town Distillery made their move to South Main last year and with it brought a fantastic bar option featuring craft cocktails using their spirits. They made the smart move to hire several veteran bartenders who craft some of the best cocktails around. It is also unique in that you can get to know the spirits you are drinking by going on a distillery tour where you can see future products being distilled, aged, and bottled just down the hall from the bar.
Core Brewing across the street does not brew their beer on site, although they do have a small setup in the back to do it someday. They do feature their NWA produced beer, including a number of their beers that are only found in the tap room. They also have a limited selection of cocktails available as well as food from Foghorns. Keep an eye out for live music here and retro gaming nights which are always a lot of fun.
Midtown Billiards may be the best definition of a dive bar in Little Rock, especially after the death of Pizza D’s. It is a no frills place where the beer is cheap and plentiful. It is also one of Little Rock’s few 5am liquor license locations, meaning you can quite literally drink until the sun comes up. Be sure to stop in on Thursday nights for Bottle Toss, which has become one of the most unique events in Little Rock. Also, their hamburgers may be the best in the city.
Atlas Bar is going to fill a nice gap in the bar scene of SOMA when it opens in a few weeks. The concept will be a neighborhood cocktail bar featuring drinks and food from around the world. It will be a great asset to fit between a no-frills place like Midtown, and a high craft bar like South on Main. Expect it to be a comfortable place to settle in and share a drink with friends and neighbors.