James Beard Foundation
A CLASSIC: Lassis Inn.

Lassis Inn, the 115-year-old fried fish joint at 518 E. 27th in Little Rock, is being recognized by the James Beard Foundation as an American classic restaurant.

It will be one of six recipients of the 2020 American Classics Award, given to restaurants of long standing and high regard. Jones BBQ of Marianna was named a classic in 2013.

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The current owners are Elihue Washington Jr. and Maria Washington. It’s famous for fried buffalo ribs (buffalo being a bottom-feeding freshwater fish, not bison) and for the posted warning about dancing. A little Tyrone Davis on the jukebox can put you in a rhythmic mood.

Said a news release:


The America’s Classics Award is given to locally-owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community. This year’s honorees join the ranks of over 100 restaurants across the country that have received the Award since the category was introduced in 1998. They will be celebrated at the annual James Beard Awards Gala on Monday, May 4, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

In Arkansas, ordering buffalo ribs will land you a plate of fried fish—seasoned, battered ribs cut from local big-boned buffalo fish. In Little Rock, the place to eat them is Lassis Inn. Founded by Joe and Molassis Watson in 1905, it started as a sandwich shop out of their home, with Joe later adding catfish and buffalo ribs to the menu. Lassis Inn (the name is a shorthand for Molassis) later became a meeting place for Civil Rights leaders like Daisy Bates during the ’50s and ’60s. Under current owners Elihue Washington Jr. and his wife Maria, it remains a community hub—a gathering spot where people come for buffalo ribs, cold beer, and warm conversation.

James Beard Foundation
A PLATE OF RIBS: At Lassis Inn, that means fish.

The award was announced by Southern food writer John Edge.