Arkansas‘ Fort Smith of the past was peppered with saloons and bordellos – some of which have now been restored for visitors. After working up an appetite exploring the Old West, guests can eat at one of these 10 best restaurants in town.
Restaurant, American, $
Calico County in Fort Smith stands out in a world dominated by restaurant chains and large corporations – the restaurant’s homely style of cooking has earned it the reputation of being a favored haunt for local Fort Smith citizens. A small, intimate site, Calico County is open seven days a week and serves food throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dishes include a pot roast, served with succulent vegetables, a traditional roast or a home-baked meatloaf with a selection of secret spices. One of the most popular dishes at Calico is the chicken fried steak, featuring a twice tenderized strip of beef deep fried in batter and served with all the trimmings.
Doe’s Eat Place
Doe’s Eat Place in Fort Smith is one of a kind. Despite being part of a small chain of restaurants, the Doe’s in Fort Smith is run by local owners and set within a picturesque, old city building. Regular live music draws talent from local musicians and gives a real sense of life in Fort Smith. The cuisine hails from the Mississippi Delta and takes diners on a voyage through typical Southern fare and hospitality. Doe’s specializes in steaks, which are cut daily from fresh beef loins, and range from porterhouse, T-bone and Ribeye, all of which are cooked to order.
Emmy’s German Restaurant
Restaurant, German, Pub Grub, Dessert, $$
Emmy’s German Restaurant has been serving great German food (based on recipes from the region surrounding Frankfurt) since 1962. Founders Al Thome and Emmy Werner married in Germany in 1952 – while Al was serving in the American army – before returning to America to establish their restaurant in Arkansas. The menu naturally specializes in German dishes, so diners should expect plenty of sausages, meats, and schnitzels. Desserts include the deliciously indulgent black forest gateaux, apple strudel and the bitter sweetness of traditional German chocolate cake, served in generous portions and with lashings of cream.
Cafe, Restaurant, Vietnamese, Vegetarian, $
Green Papaya is a small – but incredibly popular – Vietnamese cafe a few miles from downtown Fort Smith. An inconspicuous venue, this cafe has a firm core of steady followers, which means visitors may well have to queue. Stir-fried meats, cooked with ginger, lemongrass and fiery chillies are served with rice and noodles as well as carefully prepared vegetables, all delivered to the table in generous portions. A dish of shrimp, curried in spices and coconut milk, is served on steamed rice with vegetables – a truly memorable meal with a variety of flavors. Appetizers include a number of different spring rolls, all of which have achieved great acclaim through a number of positive reviews.
Though ostensibly anti-social – given that much of the time spent at MovieLounge could involve staring at a screen – this restaurant and cinema is, in fact, the perfect location for film buffs. Screenings include current and classic movies, as well as live music performances, all of which are accompanied by a fantastic dinner menu. Dishes are eclectic, taking inspiration from all over the globe, but notable options include sauteed lobster with angel hair pasta, cider glazed pork chops, and pulled pork sliders. Desserts such as chocolate mousse, or a crisp-topped creme brulee, make a perfect end to the evening.
Restaurant, American, $
Named after the restaurant’s founder, Rolando’s specializes in Nuevo Latino cuisine. A small group of three restaurants, each venue is proudly independent and equally artistic, promising both quality and quantity. The walls of this restaurant are adorned with murals carved by Rolando himself, depicting scenes from Ecuadorian life. Start off your evening with light bites such as tamales and quesadillas – locally famous for their flavor. The main courses however, are a celebration in the versatility of meat, with a variety of chicken, beef and pork dishes boasting some of the best tastes and textures from Latin America.
Taliano’s Italian Restaurant
Restaurant, Italian, $
Founded by childhood friends Tom Caldarera Jr. and Jim Cadelli in 1970, Taliano’s is steeped in tradition and still going strong more than two decades after its opening. A welcoming and friendly restaurant, the atmosphere conjures the impression that guests are dining with friends, or perhaps even with family. With recipes handed down through the generations, Taliano’s specializes in bespoke home cooking. Guests should expect generous portions of hearty food, served against the backdrop of a classic Italian restaurant. Starters include calamari squid rings and deep fried ravioli, while main courses include a huge variety of pasta dishes – including al forno specialties – and grilled or roasted meats.
Pharmacy, Fort Smith Museum
The 1920s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain at the Fort Smith Museum of History has been voted one of the top 12 ice-cream and soda parlours across the United States. Pharmacy sodas – popularized in iconic plays such as Tennessee William’s A Street Car Named Desire – are part of America’s history, the refreshing minerals historically believed to be medicinally beneficial. The Soda Fountain at the museum serves all manner of carbonated soft drinks and ice cream floats, set in a truly authentic 1920s decorated cafe. It provides visitors with a great chance to experience the soda culture of the Gatsby years.
Bar, Restaurant, American, $$
While the outside doesn’t dazzle, 21 West End in Fort Smith is quite possibly the city’s most glamorous restaurant and martini bar. Tucked away on North 2nd Street, 21 West End is doused in soft lighting within a cavernesque room, not unlike the fine dining equivalent of a Christmas grotto. The food is a combination of classic recipes fused with modern interpretations and ingredients. Star dishes include Chicken Oscar, featuring a panko-breaded breast is lightly sauteed with jumbo crab, couscous and asparagus, as well as pork loin seared with caramelized pears and a cognac demi-glaze. Be sure to save room for the New York-style cheesecake; it is a local favorite with reputedly exquisite flavor.
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