You might be surprised to learn that there is a burgeoning food scene in the growing Central Arkansas city of Benton. (This also happens to be where we currently live which means that we are especially excited to share our favorite local restaurants in Benton, AR.)

Benton, located along I-30 between Little Rock and Hot Springs, has historically not been known as a foodie hot spot. However this is changing!

The recent upsurge in locally owned restaurants in Benton AR has been due in part to the efforts of Craig Roe and Heather Baber-Roe who have several restaurants in the up and coming “entertainment district” of downtown Benton.

They own two of the restaurants on this list and have also opened a third which we haven’t yet had time to try.

Some of these restaurants have been around for a time while others are basically brand new.

From shakes to sandwiches to bacon flights and more we think that you will enjoy eating at some of these great restaurants in Benton, AR.

Our Favorite Restaurants in Benton, AR

These restaurants listed are in alphabetical order.

NOTE: Always check the opening times and hours before you go. We have tried to provide a link to the websites or facebook pages of each of these restaurants so that you can go straight to the source for opening days and hours.

NOTE: We only include restaurants that we have actually personal visited and enjoyed. If your favorite is not on this list it might just be that we haven’t been there yet!

Let us know of any Benton restaurants that you think we might be missing.

Baja Grill

Baja Grill is one of the happiest restaurants in Benton. This is a great place to gather with friends. It is where you want to go on those evenings when a taco, a margarita, a patio, and laughter are calling your name.

The good news is that in addition to ambiance, Baja Grille also has excellent food and drinks.

They describe their food as Mexi-Cali. We have eaten multiple times at both the Little Rock and the Benton locations and everything is always SO good and super fresh.

The focus here is on high-quality ingredients. Almost all of their items are homemade and prepared in-house. From the salsa to the margaritas to the meats you can definitely taste the quality and the freshness. It is all delicious!

The menu possibilities can be chosen to fit your exact preferences. Select from tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, or bowls then add the meat and the toppings that you want.

My personal favorite is the Baja Pork Bowl but the options are endless!

Baja Grill is one of the best locally owned restaurants in Benton AR. The photo is of three different types of Margaritas. It is a close up of the glasses from the top. The glasses are garnished with limes and have salt around the rim and straws in them. Pin

The Burger Shack

Looking for an old fashioned burger or a great chili dog? The Burger Shack is the place for you. This is one of those super local, super friendly places. It is right in downtown Benton in an old building with a beautiful store counter that appears to have been original.

In addition to the burgers, onion rings and the like they also have a daily special which seems to be very popular with the regular clientele. The specials are home-cooking selections such as chicken spaghetti or meatloaf or chicken fried steak.

You will want to check their facebook page to see what the special is on any given day.

Be sure and arrive early enough to try one of the delicious desserts before they sell out. I was hankering for a piece of blueberry pie on the day we went but, sadly, we arrived too late. Learn from my mistake!

Close up of a basket with a hamburger on the left and tator tots on the right. In the background you can see French Fries with chili on top. The burger has melted cheese on it and lettuce and pickles which you can barely see. This photo is from The Burger Shack which is one of the local restaurants in Benton, ArkansasPin

Garry’s Sling Blade Drive-In

One of the most famous Arkansans happens to be the actor Billy Bob Thornton. Much of his award winning film, Sling Blade, was produced in and around the town of Benton.

There are scenes in the movie which were set in Garry’s Drive in, now often known as Garry’s Sling Blade.

However, this drive-in dairy bar was around long before the movie. It has been a Benton favorite since 1960’s! Over the years it has even had different names such as Whopper Burger and The Dairy Barn.

Now it is a restaurant that both movie buffs and anyone who loves a good old fashioned dairy bar needs to try!

We had burgers and a Frito chili pie which were all very good. Garry’s has a larger menu than you might expect and many locals claim that they have the best ice cream in town. The swirl cone is always a hit!

Photo from above of a frito chili pie and three hamburgers one with fries and two with tater tots. Pin

Mama Mia Pizzeria

If you have not tried Mama Mia Pizzeria you are missing out! This is one of the restaurants in Benton that you have to try. It might just be our favorite.

The chef is from Chicago and we all know that Chicago is one of the best “foodie” cities in the US. The food at Mama Mia Pizzeria definitely reflects that delicious and hearty Chicago style.

There are some items, such as pizza, that are always on the menu but they also have items that vary from week to week and even day to day.

We have tried the deep dish pizza, meatball hoagies, pasta salad, lasagna, baked ziti, and a variety of desserts. Everything has always been excellent.

And definitely don’t skip dessert here – whatever they are serving will be over the top amazing.

They recently opened a building where you can pick up prepared food to go! I suspect that this will become a delicious habit for us.

You will definitely want to follow Mama Mia Pizzeria on Facebook in order to learn about their specials, their hours, and the process for ordering a pizza.

TIP: Always check their opening days and times before you go as those are subject to change. They will also let you know on their page if there are any specials for that day.

photo of a stationary food truck with a deck that has chairs and tables. The sign says MaMa Mia Pizzeria. The sky is grey. The truck is silver and red. MaMa Mia Pizzeria is one of the best restaurants in Benton, AR. Pin

Olde Crow General Store

Olde Crow General Store is a combination cafe and general store that sells local products, farm fresh produce, and a variety of grass fed and non-GMO meats. They also have delicious craft sandwiches and pies.

They serve a Reuben style sandwich called The Rubicon that is so good that it is on our list of the best sandwiches in Central Arkansas.

If you like a Cuban style sandwich the one here is wonderful. Honestly, all of their sandwiches are delicious. You truly can’t go wrong with any of them. But definitely save room for a piece of pie!

Old Crow General Store is a bit of a drive and located just outside of the Benton city limits, however it is definitely worth the extra time it takes to get there.

There is a wooden table in the left foreground. Behind that is a wall with shelves that have a variety of what appear to be home canned items. Above the shelves there is a white sign with black letters that says "grocery." This is the old Crow General Store which is a place that is half cafe and half store. This is one of the best local restaurants in Benton Arkansas. Pin

Riverside Grocery

Catfish in a gas station? You bet!

Friday nights at Riverside Grocery are extra-special. They serve catfish and sides. Delicious sides, y’all. Old fashioned southern sides like pinto beans, green beans, fried potatoes and so much more. We suggest that you do not skip the fried potatoes!

The catfish is crispy and delicious and during the season they also serve crawfish.

However, they don’t just serve food on Friday nights at Riverside Grocery. They also have breakfast and lunch daily. Hey, and on the weekends you can order an Arkansas breakfast delicacy, chocolate gravy!

This is definitely one of the most unique restaurants in Benton, AR.

Tip: There is a fun Saline County swimming hole on the Saline River right here as well.

Close up of a paper plate with fried catfish, hushpuppies, pinto beans, and okra. It is all piled up together on the plate. This food is from Riverside Grocery in Benton, Arkansas. Pin


Rober is the fanciest of the Benton restaurants on this list. This is absolutely the place to go for date night, or for a girls night out, or just to have a nice cocktail.

The atmosphere is slightly dark and quiet/cozy/romantic. You can sit in the lounge or the bar or in comfortable booths in the restaurant.

The dinner menu is small but perfect. We highly recommend the whipped feta as a starter. Or you can try the bacon flight which consists of over a pound of pork belly served 4 different ways.

For your main course you might choose gumbo, short ribs, or an amazing burger…I happen to love the shrimp and grits.

If you want something lighter you can have a drink and share a charcuterie board. The drinks list is extensive. There are many cocktails to choose from as well as a great wine list.

If you are a bourbon and whiskey person then this is definitely the restaurant for you! They have many different bourbons and whiskeys in house. If you can’t pick just one you can even do a whiskey flight!

4 slices of bacon hangin from clips dripping onto a metal grate that says Rober. Each piece of bacon is cooked differently with different coatings on them. Pin

Salem Dairy Bar

The Salem Dairy Bar is almost always busy and for good reason. This is an old-time dairy bar with the best milk shakes in town. You can expect friendly service and delicious food.

You do need to know that there is no indoor dining here. They have some picnic tables that you can use if the weather is nice, but I have noticed that most people get their food to go.

They serve an old-fashioned, deliciously greasy, griddled burger. You can also get fries or tater tots plain or loaded.

Ice cream is a MUST at the Salem Dairy Bar. I mean, you can’t go to a dairy bar and not get ice cream, right?

They don’t make the food until you order it so you can expect your order to take a minute. You can even sit in your car while you wait and they will call to you from their window to let you know that your food is ready.

Better yet, call and order your food ahead of time!

In our opinion this is one of the best dairy bars not only in Benton, but in the state!

Photo of a Small dairy bar. It is painted white and has a walk up window. There is a picnic table outside. There are two red painted signs on the walls under the walk up window. One says Fried Pies and the other says Ice Cream & Shakes. There is a third that you can't quite read because it is behind the picnic table. The sky above the dairy bar is a bright blue. This is the Salem Dairy Bar which is one of the best restaurants in Benton, ARPin

We hope that you enjoyed this list of our favorite locally owned restaurants in Benton, Arkansas!

Here is our list of some of our favorite restaurants in Hot Springs.

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