SoMa Little Rock is one of our favorite of the downtown neighborhoods. It is a fun area with a flair all its own. We love going here for eating out and for unique shopping.
SoMa is a nickname for South Main. This is the first bit of downtown Little Rock’s Main Street that lies south of I-630. This short stretch of road has a great collection of restaurants, a distillery, a purse museum, art galleries, and some unique and interesting shopping.
Enjoy exploring SoMa Little Rock!
NOTE: Do be aware that many of the shops and restaurants in SoMa Little Rock are closed on Mondays.
To learn about more things to do in Little Rock check out our bucket list post of great things to do in this capital city of Arkansas.
Plan Your Visit to SoMa Little Rock
Things to do and see in SoMa Little Rock
Rock Town Distillery
Rock Town Distillery anchors the end of SoMa Little Rock closest to the interstate.
A visit to Rock Town Distillery is a must if you are in the area. It is Arkansas’ first legal distillery since prohibition. They produce award winning bourbon, single barrel bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey and vodka.
You can just stop in just to make a purchase or to have a drink from the bar, but we highly recommend reserving a tour and tasting.
We did the distillery guided tour where we learned all about the distilling process. After the tour you get to taste 8 of Rock Town’s award winning spirits.
Of course the bourbon is wonderful, but y’all…I fell in love with the coffee vodka! A little of that mixed with cream is heavenly. You will want to take a bottle home.
The Esse Purse Museum
On down the street next to The Root Cafe is the Esse Purse Museum. This is a fascinating little museum that features the purses and the contents of the purses that woman have carried throughout the decades. It is both a history of handbags and the history of women.
If you are of a certain age you will recognize some of these handbags.
In addition to the museum there is a store with a variety of fun handbags.
The Villa Marre
Although it is not right on Main Street you should take the quick drive over to 1321 Scott Street to pass by the Villa Marre. This lovely Italianate home was built in 1881 by Angelo and Jennie Marre.
You might recognize it from its appearance in the opening credits of the long-running 80’s television series “Designing Women.”
The house has survived neglect, terrible storms, aging, urban decay and urban renewal. But it still stands and is one of the most recognizable homes in Little Rock.
The Bernice Garden
Bernice Garden is located on the southeast corner of Daisy Bates Avenue and South Main Street. It was a vacant lot when Anita Davis, the owner of the collection at the Esse Purse Museum envisioned it as a gathering place.
She, along with a talented team, created Bernice Garden to achieve these goals. In many ways the building of Bernice Gardens began the renaissance of SoMa.
You will often find a food truck near Bernice Gardens at lunchtime and can eat under its canopy. There is interesting sculpture to see and the garden can be rented for weddings and other types of celebrations.
Other events at Bernice Gardens include a seasonal farmer’s market, as well as a variety of festivals. My personal favorite is the cornbread festival, which is held in the fall. But check their website for other events.
The Escape is a fun place to bring a group of up to 7 friends or family members. You will be locked in one of their four themed rooms and have to work together to figure out how to escape the room.
Food in SoMa Little Rock
Just across the street from Rock Town Distillery is Community Bakery. It is one of the stalwarts of the SoMa area.
Community Bakery is a spacious, light filled cafe where you can read the newspaper over a cup of coffee and a croissant. They have a variety of baked goods including my favorite cookie in Little Rock.
The iced cookies at Community Bakery are absolutely addictive.
South On Main
South on Main is considered to be one of the top restaurants in Little Rock and they are also a music venue!
The food is southern, leaning toward modern southern. The menu changes with the seasons but you will typically find items like Pimento Cheese, Pulled Pork, and Fried Chicken all done in fresh and delicious ways. There is also a delectable Sunday Brunch.
Check the calendar on their website for musical events that require a reservation.
The Root Cafe
The Root Cafe is one of my top 5 favorite restaurants in Little Rock. I love everything I have ever eaten here.
In my opinion, they have the best burger in town, but they also have plenty of options for the vegetarian in your group. They source as much as they can from small local farmers and producers and you can absolutely taste the freshness.
Their spicy bahn mi sandwich made with tofu, although not a traditional bahn mi, is also excellent and we rank it as one of the best sandwiches in Central Arkansas.
They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Be prepared to stand in a line if you stop in at lunch time, but it will be worth it!
Boulevard Bread Company
Boulevard Bread is an award winning bakery that also has a larger location in the Heights area of midtown Little Rock. The location in SoMa Little Rock is smaller but there are a few tables both indoors and out. It is also right next door to Bernice Gardens so you can always get your food to go and eat in the park.
Of course Boulevard has wonderful breads which you can buy to take home. Their sandwiches and salads are pretty special too.
Loblolly is a beloved local creamery and for very good reason! The ice cream at Loblolly is handcrafted and uses local and organic ingredients without preservatives.
Y’all it is so good.
I’ve never meet an ice cream flavor that I don’t like but at Loblolly I usually get the salted caramel. One a really hot day I might switch to the fresh mint chip. Let me know which flavor is your favorite!
Esters is a very laid back place that has both a plant based and an omnivore menu.
It is a mirrored menu which means that the typical meat based items you would see on a pub menu are also offered in a plant based version. Everything is very good and they also have a delicious Sunday brunch.
My tip is: Try the fries. They have won awards for having the best fries in town.
Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom
Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom has some of the best pizza in town. Also be sure to check out some of their appetizers and salads. The apple and gorgonzola salad is delicious. They also have a nice beer and wine selection and the service here has always been great for us.
I will mention that Raduno can get very loud. Something about the layout of the building causes the noise to reverberate a bit when the place is crowded.
Mockingbird Bar and Tacos
Mockingbird bar and tacos has a friendly and casual atmosphere. Obviously they serve tacos, but not just any tacos. These are fresh and delicious tacos made with locally sourced ingredients.
They also have a good selection of vegetarian tacos as well as some other types of food such as nachos, empanadas, and quesadillas.
You will definitely want to try some of their delicious cocktails.
Press Waffle Company
Press Waffle Company is a small chain that recently opened a location in SoMa Little Rock. They were featured on Shark Tank and were offered a deal and have grown from there.
Press Waffle serves both sweet and savory waffles. As of this writing I have not tried Press Waffle, but the photos on the website menu look amazing!
I will come back and update as soon as I get a chance to try their waffles!
Rock and Roll Sushi Soma
Rock and Roll Sushi is a chain sushi restaurant in SoMa Little Rock. It has a fun and vibrant atmosphere and pretty good sushi. I’ll be honest – I love the look and the atmosphere of this place and the sushi is good, but it is not my favorite in town.
However, if you are in the area and having a craving – it will definitely satisfy your “sushi-tooth.”
(Just giving my personal preference, many people love it this restaurant…and…sushi is pretty subjective, don’t you agree?)
Drinks in SoMa
THe Bark Bar
The Bark Bar is on South Spring Street just around the corner from Main Street. This is the perfect place to bring your dog while you have a beer or a cocktail. There is a large play area for the dogs and both indoor and outdoor seating for the owners.
You will also find snacks and treats for both dogs and owners. This is just an all round fun place for dog lovers.
Midtown Billiards has been a Little Rock tradition since the 1940’s. They have award winning hamburgers as well as other kinds of bar food. There are also pool tables, live music, beer on draft, and liquor and cocktails.
The Green Corner Store
Prefer a non-alcoholic drink? The Green corner store is not only the local source for earth family products but they also have a tea bar. You can choose from over 30 types of loose leaf tea and they will brew it for you and serve it either hot or iced. Check out their tea menu.
Rock Town Distillery
Stop by Rock Town Distillery for a beverage made from one of their award winning spirits.
South on Main
In addition to being a restaurant South on Main is also a bar and music venue.
Raduno Brick Oven and Barroom
A nice bar atmosphere along with delicious appetizers and pizza.
Mockingbird Bar and Tacos
Mockingbird has a great selection of Arkansas craft beers, small batch tequilas and great cocktails with fresh ingredients.
Shopping in SoMa Little Rock
The Green Corner Store
The Green Corner Store was Arkansas’ first eco-lifestyle store. They sell and showcase a variety of local, sustainable and organic products for your home, personal care, and wellness.
They also have a tea bar! In addition to selecting a tea to be brewed in the store you can also purchase tea and tea products to take home.
South Main Creative
This is such a fun place to browse and shop. South Main Creative is like a hip and funky antique mall. There are a variety of booths with an eclectic mix of art, clothing, and various collections. You will definitely find something you love here.
Sweet Home Furnishings
Sweet Home Furnishings is the perfect place to shop for unique vintage and antique items for your home. The shop is so well curated and set up in a way that makes it a pleasure to shop there. Be sure and follow them on Instagram to keep up with their latest finds!
Moxy Modern Mercantile
Moxy Modern Mercantile is a vintage inspired store. The merchandise is fun and playful. You will find unique fixtures and home decor as well as wonderful gift items. Be sure and check our the puzzles, games, and greeting cards.
The M2 art gallery has a collection of wonderfully curated artwork from a variety of artists. They also offer museum quality custom framing and art installation.
The Esse Purse Museum
In addition to the museum there is a purse store here. The purses are fun and unique and would make a wonderful gift for your favorite handbag loving person.
Quick History of SoMa
This area of Little Rock has seen a lot of change. From the days when it was a dirt road to the present there have been many incarnations of the South Main Street neighborhood.
In the 1920’s through the 1940’s this neighborhood was flourishing. Central High School and the Governors mansion were built during these years. There were stately homes and gorgeous mansions built on the side streets of area.
Of course you know the issues that Little Rock was having during the 1950’s and 60’s. The residents of South Main began fleeing to the suburbs. Many of the mansions and grand homes were turned into apartments or left to decay at this point.
The worst times came after I-630 was built. This turned the area north of the interstate into “downtown” and the area south of the interstate was basically neglected.
Two businesses managed to survive this time. Community Bakery continued operate through all these years. Midtown Billiards had been around since the 40’s and actually moved to its current South Main spot in the 1970’s.
However, most businesses were shuttered closed and most of the nearby homes were neglected and in disrepair until 2006 when Anita Baker, owner of the Esse Purse Museum, created the Bernice Garden.
From that one small change SoMa Little Rock has continued to grow, revitalize, and thrive.
The transformation is still underway.
We hope that you enjoy your visit to SoMa Little Rock. We love this great downtown neighborhood. Let us know if there is anything that we are missing from this list!
Check out our post about even more things to do in Little Rock!
Thanks for stopping by!