Capitol Smokehouse slow-roasts every ounce of its menu's barbecue eats, keeping temperatures low for 16 to 18 hours to produce tender bits of brisket, pork, and chicken. Meat seekers can set carnivorous sights on orders of ribs, sandwiches, burgers, and belly-filling sides, as well as a variety of daily specials. Traverse the saucy peaks of the jumbo pulled-pork sandwich, whose summit comes capped with a crunchy hat of coleslaw ($6.25), or set hollowing maws loose on a half-slab of baby-back ribs ($10.99). Capitol Smokehouse & Grill also sates saccharine-minded mouths with its dessert selection, which includes gobs of gooey butter cake ($1.75) and delectable mouthfuls of Candy’s banana pudding ($1.75).
Back Yard Burgers serves up North American Black Angus burgers hash-marked to order on genuine flame-licked grills. Third-pound patties dress for dinner with lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, dill pickles, and a condimental trio of ketchup, mustard, and mayo ($3.59). Or gussy up for patty prom with premium add-ons such as coleslaw, chili, sautéed mushrooms, bacon, and more ($0.35–$0.60 per topping). The grill masters also flip the first white meat, prepping Hawaiian chicken sandwiches with grilled pineapple, mustard, mayo, and lettuce ($4.09). Away from the flames, feel free to enjoy a loaded baked potato ($2.79) and a wide range of pairable plates such as chili cheese fries ($2.59 for regular size), garden salads ($2.19), and sweetly baked fruit cobblers ($1.99).
Sonny Williams’ Steak Room slings savory steaks, cut from aged Angus beef, and fresh seafood in a classy but comfortable environment. Stomach-surf through the seasonally changing menu to find a steak slab that tempts your taste buds, whether it be the 12 oz. fillet ($44.95), the bone-in cowboy rib eye ($45.95), or the New York strip ($44.95). Steaks are primarily cooked medium, medium rare, and 12-leaf-clover rare, and each is paired with the chef’s choice of veggies plus your choice of potato or wild rice with walnuts. Those boycotting beef for personal never-to-be- revealed reasons can nosh on Sonny’s cioppino ($34.95), a mixture of shrimp, clams, scallops, mussels, and fresh fish in a piquant champagne-tomato broth. To finish off the last modicum of hunger, Sonny’s serves a decadent dark-chocolate crème brûlée ($6.50) and Frangelico and vanilla-bean cheesecake ($6.75).
A downtown mainstay for more than a quarter century, Ciao Italian Restaurant quells cravings with Prime Omaha beef and house-made sugar-free marinara rife with garlic, basil, and olive oil. Chef Tony, the eatery's epicurean mastermind, pours more than three decades of culinary experience into the preparation of Maryland-style crab cakes and fettuccine alfredo seasoned with pepper and ground nutmeg. Servers ferry glasses of pomegranate margaritas to tables dressed in gray linens and patrons sink forks into creamy cannolis imported from New York City's Little Italy. The venue's cozy dining area seats businessmen for quick lunches, couples for candlelit dinners, and canine actors for Lady and the Tramp scene studies.
Alexis Jones, the chef and owner of Natchez Restaurant, is doing more than adding contemporary French- and Mediterranean-inspired twists to Southern classics—she's making grown men just about cry. Of her fried-egg-topped gnocchi, food blogger Daniel Walker of the Arkansas Times says, " When I cut into the egg, and the bright golden yolk cascades down the layers of meat, vegetables, and ricotta, I was so happy I nearly welled up with tears … One of the best dishes I’ve eaten in Little Rock." SyncWeekly.com's Spencer Watson had a similarly visceral reaction to Jones's surprising cuisine: of the "light, airy" veggie risotto, he exclaimed, "I want to lie down in this risotto and make risotto angels in it."
The fact that Jones's food is eliciting euphoric reactions should come as no surprise. The young chef has racked up fine-dining experience at some impressive Southern restaurants, including Ashley's at the Capital Hotel and Snackbar, the Oxford eatery of James Beard Award winner John Currence. Jones designs her ever-changing lunch and dinner menus with local, seasonal ingredients, creating unexpected combinations such as veal osso buco with cheese grits and quail served with a cornmeal waffle and pepper-apple compote.
The restaurant's interior is as simple and elegant as Jones's dishes: white walls and floors accentuate jet-black tables and a row of colorful prints. A black-and-white checkered countertop and electric-blue awning overhead give the kitchen and bar area a bistro-meets-diner vibe, like a jukebox that only plays "La Vie En Rose."