2021 in Review: The 21 Most Read Eat Arkansas Stories of the Year

2021 was supposed to be an improvement over 2020 for restaurants, eateries, and all things Eat Arkansas. In January, coronavirus cases were climbing to record numbers, but vaccines were becoming available, offering a ray of hope. However, restaurant workers – essential workers at the start of the pandemic, when all non-essentials went home – were stuck in Group 1-C, not eligible to receive the vaccine until mid-March, after the lifting of capacity guidelines on restaurants. In February, a record snowstorm caused a downtown water main to burst, flooding the basements of two Main Street restaurants, forcing one to close for decades. month. Over the year, restaurants have grappled with labor shortages, inflation, supply chain issues and two new variants of COVID, and despite it all, you could still go out for to eat. It may have taken longer, the menu item you wanted may not have been available, but for the most part the issues were not obvious to customers. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t there (tip well, please).

Despite all the pandemic-related issues, it’s been a great year for Eat Arkansas. Quesabirria tacos caused a stir, we dove deep into the thriving local taco truck scene, we did a 6th grade science fair experience at the office with local glazed donuts, new restaurants sprang up and announced 2022 openings, Jones Bar-BQ in Marianna nearly burned down, but rebuilt with help from the community, then made a major publication’s 2021 restaurant list. 2021 hasn’t been terrible. Here are the 21 most read food stories from Eat Arkansas this year.

21. Main Street restaurant basements flooded after water main burst

by Rhett Brinkley

“It’s just another headache, that’s what it is,” said Chris Tanner of Samantha’s Tap Room. “You just went through all that shit, finally open all the half-open restaurants, then Almighty God, here we go again.”

20. The Indian star of Arkansas: Sami Lal

By Rhett Brinkley

Matt white
THE LIVING LEGEND: Sami Lal.

We profiled the gregarious Star of India owner who was inducted into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame this year.

19. A Beginner’s Guide to Bourbon

By Griffin Coop

If you’re craving a new spirit this year, don’t be afraid to try bourbon. Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you on your way.

18. The best coffee lives up to its name.

By Rhett Brinkley

Brian Chilson
BAKED, SOAKED, GRILLED AND TORCHED: French toast with crème brûlée at Best Cafe.

The Hot Springs Motor Court restaurant has turned into a destination.

17. The timeless appeal of Newport’s Postmaster Spirits

By Jordan P. Hickey

Archia Khan
THE POSTMASTER: Owner Ross Jones with his wife, Lua.

If that name rings a bell, if it whispers of a past hangover, it’s probably because of the all-too-timely product that made headlines in April 2019: Trump Tonic. (“Trump tonic will grab you by your ‘anywhere,'” the back of the bottle reads.)

16. Kream Kastle is a greasy spoon and a living fossil

By Guy Lancaster

Bacon Cheeseburger at Kream Kastle.

Where the parking lot is always full of vans and the number of napkins tossed into your brown takeout bag is directly proportional to the messiness of the food and, therefore, indicative of its quality.

15. Hot Springs hooch: A new distillery emerges from the pandemic leaner, wiser

By Dwain Hebda

moonlight shelvesBrian Chilson
Flavored moonshine is the specialty of Crystal Ridge Distillery in Hot Springs.

A Hot Springs family started Crystal Ridge Distillery at the start of the pandemic. With flexibility and creativity, they made it work.

14. Pridgin Family Brewery Joins Growing List of Arkansas Small Town Brewers

By Brian Sorensen

Opening a brewery was a gamble for the Pridgin family. Even with Country Monks and Prestonrose enjoying success nearby, beer tastes in Logan County still lean toward cheap industrial lagers.

13. A Guide to Outdoor Dining in Central Arkansas

By Rhett Brinkley

Patios for days.

12. Jones Bar-BQ Diner Makes New York Times Restaurant List 2021

By Rhett Brinkley

Daniel Walker
James Harold Jones

The same year that a fire almost completely destroyed the iconic barbecue institution in Marianna, Lee County, Jones Bar-BQ Diner made the New York Times restaurant list of 50 critic-chosen American restaurants, newspaper editors and reporters.

11. Central Arkansas Condiment World Movers and Shakers

By Rhett Brinkley and Lindsey Millar

Truth sauce, pepper relish and party ranch, oh my!

10. Eat Cheap in Central Arkansas

By Rhett Brinkley

Seven meals for less than $10.

9. The Arkansas BBQ Trail

By Rhett Brinkley

Barbecue tourism in Arkansas is a thing and it’s time for you to hit the road.

8. Arkansas beers to try before you die

By Brian Sorensen, Rhett Brinkley, Stephanie Smith and Lindsey Millar

The Arkansas beer scene has blossomed over the past decade, and we’re here to help you navigate those frothy waters with a selection of a few Arkansas beers worth seeking out.

7. County Lonoke’s Best: Grumpy Bunny deserves a field trip

By Rhett Brinkley

There’s a fantastic new restaurant in central Arkansas, and it’s not located in The Heights, Hillcrest, SoMa, or Argenta.

6. The Central Arkansas Taco Truck Guide

By Rachael Bourné, Guy Lancaster, Jason Woods, Lindsey Millar, Stephanie Smittle, Austin Bailey and Rhett Brinkley

photo of Alejandro Guitierrez of Tacos GodoyStephanie Smith
Alejandro Guitierrez of Tacos Godoy

Little Rock’s (and to a lesser extent North Little Rock’s) taco truck culture is thriving. When we last rounded up Authentic Mexican Food Mobile Vendors in 2010, there were about 15 trucks regularly found in southwest Little Rock. Today there are more than 30, and the number continues to grow.

5. Restaurant owners can open 100% restaurant capacity, but many think it’s too soon

By Rhett Brinkley

In early March, restaurant owners announced the lifting of capacity restrictions at a time when many service sector workers were not yet eligible for vaccination.

4. Big Bad Breakfast is coming to West Little Rock in early 2022

By Rhett Brinkley

Lindsey Millar
BIG BAD BREAKFAST: The Creole Omelette.

Big Bad Breakfast – founded in Oxford in 2008 by James Beard Award-winning New Orleans-born chef and author John Currence – has become a staple in Oxford and beyond, known for its top-notch breakfast and decadent.

3. The Best Donuts in Central Arkansas

By Rhett Brinkley

Take a tour of the local “plain glazing” scene.

2. Best restaurants in Arkansas 2021

By Arkansas Times Staff

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Arkansas Times Readers’ Choice Restaurant Contest, we saluted the restaurants that got us through a tumultuous 2020.

1. “I want the tacos for dipping” – Quesabirria via La Casa De Mi Abuelita Maw Maw’s House

By Rhett Brinkley

Instagram-worthy tacos for dunking.

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