I've been asked who I'd vote for on this year's nominating ballot for Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. I can't tell you that, but I can share some of the really cool stories I've written on Arkansas's classic restaurants.
Hold on folks, this'll be a long one.
As you know from reading Tie Dye Travels, I've been covering the state of Arkansas for ten years now as a food journalist, writing about food, restaurants and the dining experience in addition to the travel, stories of interest and other tidbits I share with you. I have a unique and growing insight into Arkansas food and the places where you can enjoy it.
When it comes to selecting classic restaurants for inclusion in this year's Arkansas Food Hall of Fame, it's up to you to do the nominating. This piece showcases a whole lot of fantastic restaurants that deserve your attention. Scroll on through to see these options - and click through for stories I've written about each one.
Last year's inaugural class: Jones' Barbecue Diner in Marianna, Lassis Inn in Little Rock, Rhoda's Famous Hot Tamales and Pies in Lake Village.
|White House Cafe in Camden.
The second oldest restaurant in the state: Ozark Cafe. In Jasper, this old fashioned soda fountain and family restaurant sits right on the square, offering views of memorabilia from all the years since its opening in 1909. If that wasn't enough, the restaurant's unusual selection of burgers certainly takes the cake.
|Ozark Cafe in Jasper.
|The Ohio Club in Hot Springs.
The oldest cafeteria in Arkansas: Franke's Cafeteria. Though long removed from its original spot downtown where it operated as a bakery in 1919. the four-generation Franke family ownership of this dual-location cafeteria has remained steady over the years. Here's where you'll find congealed salads, cinnamon cream pie and the famous eggplant casserole.
|Williams Tavern Restaurant at Historic Washington State Park
And then there's the oldest restaurant building still being used as a restaurant - that'd be the 19th century Williams Tavern Restaurant at Historic Washington State Park near Hope.
Central Arkansas's oldest barbecue joint: The White Pig Inn. I demur to my friend Rex Nelson on this one, since he even uses the image of the pig sign out front as his blog's logo. Steady service along the highway in North Little Rock since 1920. The article also talks much about Blytheville's famed barbecue joints, including Yank's and Penn's and Dixie Pig.
|Skyline Cafe in Mena.
|McClard's Barbecue in Hot Springs.
|Mexico Chiquito in Little Rock.
The original cheese dip comes from Mexico Chiquito, where the Donnelly's started selling an emulsion of cheese and spices served with tortilla chips in the 1930s.
There's the extraordinarily unchanging breakfast favorite, The Pancake Shop, in Hot Springs.
|The Pancake Shop in Hot Springs.
|The Old South in Russellville.
There's also the last outpost of a once strong chain started in Fort Smith. The Old South location in Russellville was actually the second in the franchise, opened in 1947 - and it ran continuously 24 hours a day through the 20th century. It's recently received new life and interest.
Arkansas's famed diners include more than just The Old South but also Neal's Cafe in Springdale, Benson's Grill in Fort Smith and Frontier Diner in Little Rock. Rock Cafe in Waldron has served its small community well all the way back to 1936.
There are also the great home cooking places like Eunice's in Fort Smith and both Dave and Ray's Downtown Diner and Bobby's Country Cookin' in Little Rock.
|The Venesian Inn in Tontitown.
|Burge's in the Heights in Little Rock.
|Coursey's Smoked Meats at St. Joe.
|Steffey's Pizza in Lavaca.
Prefer more exotic fare? Star of India in Little Rock is always deserving of your attention.
There's good classic gyros and such offered from the former gas station where Leo's Greek Castle lives, and the food truck turned brick-and-mortar classoc of Paizi's Gyros in Fort Smith.
|Fred's Hickory Inn in Bentonville.
|Trio's in Little Rock.
DeVito's two locations are quite different, but both sell Italian food and fresh trout - whether it's the fine dining establishment on Center Street in Eureka Springs or the right-by-the-creek fish-for-your-supper family restaurant at Bear Creek Springs near Harrison.
|Patrick's Burgers in Springdale.
|Bulldog Restaurant in Bald Knob.
|Taylor's near Dumas.
|Woods Place in Camden.
And then there are tamales - Arkansas Delta style - originating with the line that's come to Pasquale's Tamales in Helena-West Helena and including the famous Lackey's chicken tamales at Smokehouse Barbecue in Newport and the renown ones at Little Rock's Doe's Eat Place - which earns a place as a true Arkansas classic thanks to its strong ties to Arkansas political history.
For Cajun fare, there's Cajun's Wharf in Little Rock and Who Dat's? in Bald Knob.
|Burl's Smokehouse in Royal.
Celebrate neighborhood favorites. In Little Rock, Terri-Lynn's BBQ and Deli certainly qualifies, as does Cheers in the Heights, Buffalo Grill, The Faded Rose, Jimmy's Serious Sandwiches and Alley-Oops and, over in North Little Rock, Gadwall's Grill.
|Dondie's White River Princess in Des Arc.
|Local Flavor Cafe in Eureka Springs.
|Stoby's in Conway.
|Glasgow's Restaurnat in Bentonville.
There are Asian joints like Forbidden Garden in Little Rock, places that have serve sushi forever like Mt. Fuji,
A few German restaurants carry on that part of our heritage - such as Emmy's German Restaurant in Fort Smith and Bavarian Inn in Eureka Springs.
|Molly's Diner in Warren.
|Jeri-Lyn Donuts in Blytheville.
Incredible doughnut shops: Many of you have found my list of 21 Arkansas Doughnuts to Try Before You Die helpful. Amongst those grand delights are Jeri-Lyn Donuts of Blytheville, Dale's Donuts of Benton, Mark's Do-Nuts in North Little Rock, Spudnuts in Magnolia and El Dorado, Irish Maid Donuts of Fort Smith and Pine Bluff, and Lybrand's Bakery of Pine Bluff. Other bakeries of note include our state's oldest, Magnolia Bake Shop in Magnolia, as well as Little Rock's longtime standard Community Bakery and Van Buren's answer, Paul's Bakery. You can also raise an argument for Rick's Bakery in Fayetteville and Ed's Custom Bakery in Conway
|Shangri-La Resort in Mt. Ida.
|Lindsey's Hospitality House in North Little Rock.
|The Purple Cow in Little Rock.
One more note - while recent favorites such as Big Orange and David's Burgers don't qualify for classic Arkansas restaurant status, their proprietors (Yellow Rocket Concepts and the Bubbus family, respectfully) do qualify for proprietor of the year.
Now that you have this information, head to the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame nomination form and vote. Vote early and often and all that jazz. And thank you for helping support Arkansas's restaurants.