It’s hard, especially if you have a family and you cook, to avoid the big, national chains, but if that’s your only shopping stop, you’re missing out. Little Rock is rich with ethnic and locally owned specialty grocery stores. Here’s our list of essential stops.
7414 Baseline Road
7 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
The theme here is one-stop shopping. Grab the essentials from the grocery: queso blanco from the dairy case; a big bottle of Tapatio hot sauce; a handful of peppers from the bulk bin (take your pick: chile puya, guajillo, ancho, chipotle, arbol, pasilla mulato, morita, pequin); cheap avocados and limes from the ample produce section; a pack of Brenda’s Tortillas, made fresh daily on 65th Street. Then amble a few feet to the butcher counter where you’ll find everything from cabeza (cow head meat) to camarones (shrimp). Next, grab a tray and tongs and, without thinking too hard, pile on as many different flaky, puffy, sugary, fruit-filled pastries and cookies as you can; they’ll likely cost you less than $5. Finally, because grocery shopping always inspires hunger, head to the adjacent restaurant, where you’ll find some of the finest tacos and burritos around.
9112 N. Rodney Parham Road, No. 102.
10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Tucked between Drug Emporium and a clothing store in the Treasure Hill area, you’ll find a storefront labeled “Asian Groceries.” Unlike Sam’s Oriental or Mr. Chen’s Oriental Supermarket, though, the descriptor “Asian” here has a decidedly Southern Asian bent — as in, Indian. If you get there before 5 p.m., you can grab a Spinach Cheese Masala Dosa (stuffed rice flour crepes) from the Veggi Deli snack counter near the back, or a Vegetable Samosa stuffed with peas and potatoes. Nearby, the produce and deli shelves offer diced goat meat, daikon radishes the size of your forearm, eggplants in several shapes and sizes, dates, coconuts, “water buffalo and cow milk butter,” okra and taro root. Frozen goods abound, too — vacuum-packed mango pulp, curried TV dinners and a host of tempting ice cream flavors like anjeer (fig) and rose. Otherwise, the shelves are stocked with inexpensive Indian pantry staples you’re unlikely to find at your big box grocery stores: roti batter mix, bulk bags of jasmine rice, cardamom chai tea bags, 4-pound bags of sesame seeds, lotions and skin care creams, puja cloths for home prayer altars, single-serving packets of masala-flavored penne pasta, dried mung beans and red lentils, telescope-shaped canisters of a chicken luncheon loaf called “Zwan” (a halal version of Spam) and Bombay milk bread.
Heights Corner Market
5018 Kavanaugh Blvd.
8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun.
There has been a grocery store in the Tudor-style 1924 building at 5018 Kavanaugh Blvd. for decades, serving Little Rock’s upper-crustier types in what was once called the silk-stocking ward, close to the Country Club of Little Rock. In 2017, the venerable occupant, Terry’s Finer Foods, gave way to new owners, Eric and Lou Anne Herget, and a new name, but kept the silk stockings on. HCM now focuses on specialty and locally made items, including in-house baked fudge and breads. Frontier organic herbs sold in bulk line one wall; there, find such items as Hawthorne berries and nettle leaf along with other more common herbs and spices. The store’s produce is always top-notch; in summer it hauls in 200 pounds of homegrown tomatoes a week, along with Arkansas peaches and strawberries and greens. Available now: pickled peaches, a throwback to mid-20th century dining tables. Other healthy foods include Bitchin’ Sauce almond hummus and locally made granola. Local but not in the organic isle: North Little Rock’s Popcorn Spot’s loaded potato popcorn. The Corner Market is perhaps most famous for its meats; butcher Nathan Horn is the go-to for peppered hams. Rabbit Ridge Farms in Bee Branch is HCM’s supplier of choice cuts of pork, beef and poultry. There’s also hot soup to go in the market, or a sit-down restaurant in the adjacent Walter’s Green Room, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday and Sunday brunch.
2807 Kavanaugh Blvd.
9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.
HAM has come full circle. When Brandon and Tara Brown opened Hillcrest Artisan Meats in 2011, Little Rock immediately embraced the charcuterie and its deli sandwiches. Business boomed, but the Browns got burned out running the small business and sold to The Pantry’s Tomas Bohm in late 2016. Bohm changed the business’ name to District Fare, renovated the space and repositioned it as more of a deli. Then in 2018, he sold to local restaurateur Daniel Bryant, who promptly hired the Browns to run it and Hill Station, a restaurant in the former home of the Helmich garage on Kavanaugh slated to open early in 2020. Now known as HAM Market, the space has once again been remodeled and the business has been slightly reimagined: Beloved sandwiches, like the Georgie (just butter and ham on a ciabatta) and the H.A.M. (ham, mortadella, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, aioli and Dijon mustard on ciabatta), are now among a daily slate of premade options available to grab-and-go, along with various soups, dips, bone broth and the best meatballs you’ve ever tried. Brown and Co. also regularly offer lasagna, whole roasted chickens and macaroni and cheese for take-home dinners. The meat case always has an assortment of delicious, house-made sausages, along with cuts of meat you don’t often see elsewhere, like hanger steaks, as well as house-cured items like duck ham. You can also find a small selection of gourmet groceries: olives, pasta, sauces and the like.
Sam’s Oriental Store
3704 S. University Ave.
9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Little Rock is home to a number of East and Southeast Asian grocery stores, but Sam’s is the undisputed king. The relatively small shop in a strip mall near the campus of UA Little Rock is teeming with essential items from Asia and other far-flung cultures. (Earlier this year we stood in line with an African priest who had driven several hours for fufu powder.) For folks merely dabbling in Asian cooking, you’ll find dozens of varieties of noodles and rice, bulk garlic and ginger root, fresh tofu, miso, tom yum paste, half an aisle of tea and giant bottles of Sriracha, hoisin, fish and soy sauce. The scene is especially lively on Saturday morning when owner Sam Choi gets his weekly shipment of produce and other goods in from Dallas. Then, you’ll also find delicious house-made veggie kimbap (Korea’s version of sushi) and jap chae (glass noodles). Sam’s also makes its own excellent kimchi, available in various sizes. Important: You can only pay by check or cash here.
405 E. Third St.
9 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Folks who live in downtown’s River Market district have to travel several blocks to get to a supermarket. But they don’t have to go far to get essentials, like bread and milk and cereal and coffee and tea. Stratton’s Market, next door to Dugan’s Pub, fills the niche, and does it well with lots of local labels and specialty items. Low on breakfast supplies? There’s Mylo’s coffee, McCann Irish oatmeal, Bonne Maman jams, Petit Jean hams and bacon and cheese, Richard’s honey from El Dorado, raw honey from Willow’s Apiary in Scott, Ozark Health Bread from Rogers, and, yes, Cheerios and boxed cereals. Party time? Find local salsas Aunt Bee’s from Lonoke, Robbi’s from North Little Rock and Ms. Tonya’s from Fordyce as well as Velveeta in stock. But the moneymaker at Stratton’s is its wine selection, the best downtown. You can get a pricy bottle of Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon or a four-pack of Kahlua Cold Brew Martini; you can also tell Tasha Stratton what you want and she’ll order it for you. Beers and spirits are there, too.
Edwards Food Giant and Cash Saver
edwardsfoodgiant.com and edwardscashsaver.com.
Unlike the other spots on our list, Edwards Food Giant and Cash Saver are full-service supermarkets. We’re including them here because they’re locally owned and also very good grocery stores. There are four Food Giants in Little Rock, including a popular one at 7507 Cantrell Road, and a Cash Saver in Little Rock (1701 Main St.) and North Little Rock (3801 Camp Robinson Road). Food Giant is large, clean and full of helpful employees who’ll offer to carry out your groceries to your car. The store bills itself as “The Meat People,” and the selection is truly something to behold. Plump rows of sausages and pink chunks of pork and beef line the meat case, and the butcher will select the specific cut of meat for your recipe. There’s also always a good selection of local items, including, during the summer, heirloom tomatoes from Arkansas Times Publisher Alan Leveritt’s farm.
To shop at Edwards Cash Saver is to do exactly what the grocery store’s name suggests: save money on your grocery bill, even if you just turn around and spend the dollars you saved on a lunch plate from the store’s popular hot deli counter. Edwards Cash Saver is a “cost plus food outlet,” which means all items are priced at the cost the store pays to source and stock the product. An additional 10 percent is then added to each item at checkout, often resulting in prices far lower than other grocery stores. It’s undoubtedly the cheapest place in town to buy beer, both from local breweries and other domestic and imported beers.
K Hall & Sons
1900 Wright Ave.
8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.
Diehard fans build a line around the perimeter for the specials at K. Hall’s Saturday seafood boil, but it’s impossible to wait in the deli line without noticing something else the Wright Avenue spot consistently does well: just being a grocery store. The bundles of collards, turnip and mustard greens heaped on the store counters are so good they tend to sell out around the holidays, and should you need to skip the prep step, they’re also available in cooked/takeout form in the cooler near the deli counter, with pork-less options. At K. Hall, sweet potatoes come in two size categories, a bushel of raw peanuts sits at the ready, and there’s a shelf with no fewer than seven varieties of Brim’s chicharrones. You’ll find sheet cakes in flavors like red velvet, lemon and German chocolate; dairy staples; small tubs of house-made chicken salad, pralines and peanut brittle to accent your lunch; and a small selection of canned and dry goods. Beside the lunch deli counter, you’ll see a display case with the daily cuts of meat: beef shoulder steaks, whole Petit Jean hams, turkey necks and a variety of cold cuts. The real grocery wild card, though? Take a look in the freezer, where you’ll find frozen alligator, pork jowl, hot water cornbread discs, pickled pork, oxtails, pig’s feet, rabbit, chitlins, frog legs, andouille, crawfish, hot beef patties, coconut shrimp and bulk bags of purple hulls, pintos and speckled butter beans.