Updated Jun 23, 2023 - Food and Drink

10 essential NWA restaurants locals love

photo of hugo's

Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

An estimated 36 people are moving to the area each day, and we thought we'd welcome those newbies by giving them the scoop on where NWA natives have been eating all this time.

Of note: This is a list of spots familiar to the folks who have lived here awhile, not necessarily the best NWA restaurants.

1. Hugo's

What it's like: We know we said this isn't a best restaurants list, but ask anyone and they'll tell you that Hugo's has some of the best burgers in town. It's been around since the '70s and remains reliably packed.

  • If you're new here, you might walk right by it — the entrance is in a basement.

Where: 25 1/2 N Block Ave. in Fayetteville.

2. Eureka Pizza

What it’s like: With large pizzas as low as $7, it's the definition of "good for the price." Eating Eureka Pizza is somewhat of a rite of passage. It's great for college students, kids' birthday parties or when you just want a solid, cheap pizza.

  • Eureka has been around since the early '90s.

Where: Seven locations in NWA and one in Fort Smith.

3. JJ's

What it's like: We've counted on them for pub food accompanied by local live music since 2008. The one on Dickson Street in Fayetteville gets especially lively.

  • Watch for their frozen margarita specials.

Where: Five NWA locations in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bella Vista.

4. Slim Chickens

What it's like: All things chicken — tenders, wings, sandwiches, wraps and salads. This is one you go to on purpose, because you're craving Slims, and on accident, because it's late at night and their drive-through is still open. And the opinions on Slim's original sauce are strong.

  • Slim Chickens is an NWA success story. The first one opened in 2003 in Fayetteville and the restaurant now has about 140 locations in the U.S. and the UK. And even one in Kuwait.

Where: Nine locations in NWA, including Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville.

5. Gusano's Pizza

What it's like: Lots of specialty and Chicago-style pizzas. Some locations have trivia nights and rooms for parties.

  • OK, so Gusano's technically started in Little Rock, but they've also been ours since 2005 and have more NWA spots than anywhere else.

Where: Five NWA locations in Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Bella Vista.

6. Herman's Ribhouse

What it's like: Like many local haunts, Herman's is near legendary as a place where business gets done. Much of the history you can see on its walls; some you just have to listen for.

  • The food is straightforward — steaks, ribs, chicken, shrimp — but it's seasoned with great care and is unlike any other. Great for dinner.

Where: 2901 N College Ave. in Fayetteville.

7. Neal's Cafe

What it's like: Another place where business has been conducted for generations. Neal's was recently named into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. Maybe it's the pink facade, or the hunting lodge decor.

  • Or maybe it's the portions, which are enormous. Then again, maybe it's the pie. Great for lunch.

Where: 806 N Thompson St. in Springdale.

8. Susan's Family Restaurant

What it's like: Susan's is what all those national chain breakfast joints want to be.

  • Where else could you get a "Chickendale breakfast" of chicken-fried chicken? Served with a side of sass (for regular customers). Great for breakfast but also open for lunch.

Where: 1440 W. Sunset Ave. in Springdale.

9. Table at the Hickory Inn

What it's like: Hickory Inn is another straightforward offering but is a bit of a date night kind of place. The menu offers steaks, seafood, pasta and sandwiches. The ribs are for dipping in the house sauce.

  • It's been around for more than 50 years, so they must be doing it right.

Where: 1502 N. Walton Blvd. in Bentonville.

10. Catfish Hole

What it's like: The Fayetteville location is a favorite of the Arkansas football team. If you leave here hungry, you weren't paying attention.

  • What else but catfish? Frog legs, shrimp and chicken, along with lots and lots of hushpuppies and fries.

Where: ​4127 W Wedington Drive in Fayetteville and 24 Collum Lane W in Alma.

Bonus: 5 emerging staples

The chicken nachos at Yeyo's show why they're here to stay. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

1. Yeyo's

What it's like: Yeyo's gets much of its ingredients from the Rios family farm in Little Flock and the Hanna Family Ranch in Bentonville, which they use to make some outstanding Mexican food. Yeyo's started as a food truck in 2012 and added brick-and-mortar restaurants in 2017 and 2020.

  • Chef Rafael Rios was recently named a James Beard Award semifinalist as one of the best chefs in the South.

Where: Restaurants: 801 SE 8th St., Suite 41, in Bentonville and 101 E Walnut St. in Rogers. Food truck: 122 W Central Ave. in Bentonville.

2. Wright's BBQ

What it's like: Damn good, wood-fired, smoked BBQ that you can order by the pound, on a sandwich or with standard sides like potato salad or macaroni and cheese. It opened in 2017.

Where: 2212 Main Drive in Fayetteville and 208 NE 3rd St. in Bentonville.

3. Pizzeria Ruby

What it's like: Having just opened in 2021, it's too new to call Ruby's a staple just yet, but we predict it'll stand the test of time. The pizza is some of the best in NWA, the restaurant is always packed, and it's in an up-and-coming area in Johnson where housing and commercial spaces are quickly popping up.

Where: 5519 Hackett St., Suite 100.

4. The Farmer's Table Cafe

What it's like: The eclectic and homey restaurant opened in 2014, serving up classic Southern breakfasts and a lunch menu with a build-your-own burger and beans, greens and cornbread bowl. And they're expanding the space!

Where: 1079 S. School Ave. in Fayetteville.

5. Havana Tropical Grill

What it's like: One of the few Cuban restaurants in NWA, it opened in 2010 and was one of four Arkansas restaurants named to Yelp's top 100 places to eat in 2021.

Where: 203 N. 2nd St. in Rogers.

Editor's note: This guide was first published in 2022 and updated in 2023.


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