Fort Smith, AR – The List

Updated 9/13/22

Fort Smith AR the list cannon

It’s been more than two decades since we and Fort Smith mutually adopted one another, so I approached this with more than usual circumspection. Restaurants were dry when we arrived, then progressed to “private clubs” and finally became wet as the law caught up with current mores. That began a restaurant boom. We’re a town of only 90,000 give or take, but we have many independent eateries worthy of a fine meal.

The dining scene continues to grow and newcomers are pushing the old establishments to up their game. That’s a win for the dining community. It depends on the occasion and what tickles our fancy at a given moment, but all of these are on our regular rotation. They are in alphabetical order, because there is no such thing as anonymity, and I don’t want to look over my shoulder and wonder what might happen when I start the car.

Visiting Fort Smith

 

Founded in 1817 at the confluence of the Arkansas and Poteau rivers, Fort Smith was the gateway to the wild, wild west. Nothing has changed since then. In fact, I can see Oklahoma from my house!

There’s plenty to see and do while waiting for a dinner reservation. Tour the courtroom of Hanging Judge Isaac Parker and see where justice was served at the gallows 79 times or take a walking tour to see the murals and sculptures of the Unexpected Project created by international artists.

Fort Smith Unexpected project

Fort Smith – The List

A J’s Oyster House $-$$$

 

AJ Front

A.J.’s is thriving with indoor and patio dining. Lunch and dinner service 11 AM – 9 PM Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 AM – 10 PM Thursday – Saturday

This is  Cajun casual in the historic Brunwick Place building. On any given late afternoon you will find local barflies congregating after work because the drinks include a generous pour at a fair price.

AJ Bar

Fresh gulf oysters on the half shell are always available and you might bite into a huge pearl as I did. If you prefer baked, they offer rockefeller, bienville and buffalo style. Po’ boys, crawfish boils, shrimp and etouffee are popular, but always ask about the daily specials, because they go fast.

Pearl

cajun prime rib
Cajun Prime Rib with Crawfish Etouffe Topping and Twice Baked Potato

Miguel’s Taqueria $

Miguels

Take-out and indoor dining, 10 AM – 3 PM seven days per week.

I go here for street tacos, tortas and flautas because they are as authentic as they come. It’s inexpensive and tiny, with only five or six tables. Unfortunately, there’s no cerveza, but there are two coolers full of Mexican soft drinks. I wish I could grab a cold Victoria here, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the food.

 

Street taco assortment
Street Taco Assortment: birria, carnitas, chorizo and asada with cilantro, onion and lime

 

azteca torta
Azteca Torta with 3 meats, tomato, onion, cilantro, avocado, beans and cheese

Revel $$$-$$$$

revel main

Dinner service Wednesday – Saturday. Saturday brunch. Reservations recommended.

Chef/Owner Jason Haid opened his exciting new restaurant in the Fort – finally. Its’ debut is a year later than planned thanks to a little thing called covid-19, but that only made the arrival better.

There are many things to like, from the fresh new building and modern decor to the ample outdoor patio space and fountain. The open kitchen allows you to observe the team at work and drinks are made at the integrated bar next to the main dining room.

revel chef team

Given all that, the food is the star of the show and the prices make dining here a great value.

surf and turf
Surf and Turf – Lobster Tail with Filet Mignon and Demiglace.

 

tuscan chicken
Tuscan Chicken and Pasta

 

Rialto $$-$$$

sign 1

Indoor and patio dining. Lunch Thursday and Friday, dinner service Wednesday – Saturday.

Rialto is helmed by two long time players, Chef James Thomas and co-owner Keith Jeremiah. Dine here for the sumptuous specials like osso buco and lobster on risotto, or J.T.’s signature shrimp and grits.

rialto bar

Rialto Osso Buco
Veal Osso Buco

 

lobster on dill risotto
Lobster on Dill Risotto with Vegetable Medley

 

Rib Room $$

rib room front

Indoor and patio dining. 11 AM – 9 PM Monday – Saturday.

Founded by the late Bill Neumeier, their specialty is “dry” ribs, seasoned and smoked to perfection, but full of juicy goodness. Yes, you can have them wet with barbecue sauce or “muddy” with both, but either way don’t forget the fries and a cold beer. Giant baked potatoes, a legacy of the defunct Coney Island, are also on the menu. Betcha can’t eat a whole one.

baked potato
Giant baked potato with chili, cheese and tamales
dry ribs
Full rack of dry rub ribs with french fries and cole slaw

Rolando’s $$

Rolandos sign

Indoor dining and take-out. Lunch and dinner service seven days a week.

This is Ecuadorean cuisine from Rolando Cuzco. Start with home-made guacamole, tamales or taquitos with chorizo and pickled onions (my favorite) and then move on to quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas or a Don Juan burrito as big as your head. Eat lunch here and plan on a nap.

Taquito
Tacquito with Pickled Red Onion

 

Burrito
Don Juan Pork Burrito

 

quesadilla
Jose’s Quesadillas

R&R’s Curry Express $

R&R's Curry

Indoor dining and takeout. Lunch and dinner service Monday through Saturday.

This gem features North Indian Punjabi cuisine and curries are their specialty. My favorite is palak lamb (lamb in spinach curry), but it’s hard to pass up the chicken shahi korma or mixed grill. Raj and his staff will prepare anything you ask, and he likes to experiment. Don’t be surprised if you look up to see him by your table with a little something extra. We were thrilled with the surprise M&M stuffed naan for dessert.

 

Palak Lamb
Palak Lamb – lamb in a spinach curry

 

Tandoori grill
Tandoori Mixed Grill

Taliano’s $$

talianos

Indoor dining. Limited patio dining and take-out. Dinner service Monday through Saturday.

This is a fifty year old, 4th generation tradition in the Fort, serving home-style southern Italian favorites. All the usual suspects are on the menu like chicken and veal piccatta, parmigiana, marsala and florentine. All the pastas you need are there including spaghetti, ravioli, manicotti and fettuccini, but I most frequently choose canneloni, with alfredo sauce of course. Don’t forget to enjoy a glass of Paisano with your meal.

canneloni
Canneloni with White Sauce

 

21 West End $$$$

21 west end bar sign

Indoor dining, dinner service only Monday – Saturday. Reservations recommended.

21 is ancient in restaurant years, continuously operating since 2007. It is the O.G. of Fort Smith fine dining and sets a high bar for the local restaurant scene. Under the direction of owner Kevin Dorey, executive chef Josh Gentry has introduced new whimsical dishes, but kept the traditional favorites. The smart, white leather booths and contemporary art adorned walls make this popular for romantic dinners and celebratory events.

summer peach gazpacho
Summer Peach Gazpacho
21 filet with caramelized onions
21 Filet with Caramelized Onions and Potato Mash

Bars and Cocktail Lounges

These establishments offer a unique opportunity to enjoy fine drink, and maybe a little food to go with it. You’ll be hard pressed to find venues better than these anywhere else, period.

Fort Smith Brewing Company $

FSBC sign FSBC bar

Celebrating their 5 year anniversary, FSBC are local brewers with a lot of good things going on. The Fort Chaffee brewhouse is down the street from where Elvis got his hair cut and they deliver!.

There is regular entertainment, like Who Wants to be a Millionaire night, but my favorite is Brews and Hymns. You read that right. We enjoyed singing church hymns WHILE WE DRANK BEER! Watching random people stumble in and stare at us like we were from Mars was a bonus. Closing with “This Little Light of Mine” we held our iPhones lit and aloft like it was a rock concert. You can’t do this in Iran. America, what a great country!

906 Cocktail and Cigar Lounge $$-$$$

Indoor seating only. Evening service only.

This is a special place if you love cigars and cocktails. The toney interior, replete with leather lounge furniture, a performance stage and a giant TV screen sports room make this the best man cave you can imagine, and ladies are always welcome.  It’s fitted with the ultimate in air conditioning technology, completely exchanging the air every 4 minutes. That makes it non-smoker friendly. Purchase a cigar in their walk-in humidor, or rent a secure drawer for your own private stash.

Papa’s Pub & Pizzaria $

papas pub

Indoor and outdoor patio seating. Evening service only.

papas pizza
Meatlover’s Pizza

Join the crew on the east side of the bar to watch Jeopardy, if you’re willing to abide by the rules. If your cellphone interrupts the show, you will pay for the next round. Cold beer and great pizza is their calling card, as well as a few tv’s, pool and shuffleboard tables. Everybody has a Papa’s story, but don’t believe for a minute what happens there, stay’s there.

tv

pool table shuffleboard

Prohibition $

prohibition sign

Owners Jay and Talicia Richardson’s goal was to create an inclusive and welcoming environment at their cozy downtown bar on Rogers Avenue. Check that box because it’s a great place for anyone that enjoys good conversation and good drinks at fair prices.

prohibition bar interior

Follow them on facebook or instagram for nightly specials like happy hour discounts, or a heads up about entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights.

UnCork’d $$-$$$

uncorkd sign

Indoor and limited outdoor seating. Dinner service only. Reservations recommended.

Chef Jasmine Williams serves excellent food. Choose from tapas or a limited full plate menu if you’re hungry and prepare to enjoy yourself for a short while that might turn into a full evening.

jerk lamb linguine
Jerk Lamb Linguine

Indoor and outdoor spaces give you options where to enjoy wines from the 32 tap cruvet system. Slip in your card and choose between 1, 3 and 6 ounce pours. Choose from tapas or a limited full plate menu if you’re hungry and prepare to enjoy yourself for a short while that might turn into a full evening.

cruvet system
Self-Serve Cruvet System