Next Great Neighborhood: Little Rock's SoMa
Little Rockers are venturing out of the highly developed downtown banks of the Arkansas River and heading for the close-knit community of Southside Main Street. Nearly 60 years have passed since the desegregation of the neighborhood's Central High School and "white flight" left SoMa to stand as a desolate reminder of the city's darkest hour.
Now, folks have moved in and set up shop along the art-lined streets, which are slated to have new bike lanes installed later this year. It's all the more reason to visit one of our favorite emerging neighborhoods.
Standing as the heart of this neighborhood since the fifties, this cozy bistro is a go-to spot to splurge on French silk pie ($3.50/slice), an apple fritter ($3.50/slice), or bread pudding with rum sauce ($3.25). Though you'll love the small treats, special-occasion cakes such as German chocolate and lemon buttercream ($17.50) are CB's bread and butter.
Sprinkled with whimsical sculptures made of various materials by local artisans, this vibrant community greenspace hosts Sunday farmers' markets for Little Rock locavores. The garden is also home to the annual Arkansas Cornbread Festival, where the Southern staple is open for interpretation by 20-plus competitors.
Owner and SoMa mover and shaker (she also owns The Bernice Garden) Anita Davis displays her 300-piece handbag collection alongside contents that are commonly found within—think cat-eye sunglasses next to a fifties poodle purse. In the gift shop, find high-end, handmade, and vintage purses and jewelry, all designed by women.
This laid-back bakery is a one-stop shop for summer picnics. Loaves such as ciabatta ($5.25), sourdough ($5.75), and pagnotta ($5.75) are baked fresh daily and served alongside salt-cured pancetta ($5.25), house-made pimiento cheese ($5.95/half pint), and farm-fresh salads (from $7.25) and sandwiches (from $5).
Arkansas natives John Bell and Chris Clement opened this quirky store stuffed full of oddities and collectibles found in antiques stores, flea markets, and estate sales around the region. The artful arrangements feature pieces for vintage-lovers, like a full-scale model of the spinal cord and a glittering 1870s French chandelier.
Little Rock's first eco-store stocks everything from soaps and soy candles to greeting cards and pickling kits. Loblolly Creamery (loblollycreamery.com), the in-house soda fountain, churns out small-batch ice creams such as Rum Raisin and Buttermilk (from $3.50), scooped on top of hand-rolled waffle cones.
Chef Matthew Bell, formerly of the Capital Hotel, opened this culinary ode to Southern cuisine last year in conjunction with the literati-favorite Oxford American magazine. Every Wednesday night, dine out while Local Live (a free concert series showcasing the best music talent in the area) takes the stage.
Jack and Corri Sundell spent three years prepping to open their vibrant tribute to local ingredients—and due to the support of the local community, did so debt free. Fan favorites are the burger ($7.75) with beef from nearby Simon Farm served on an Arkansas Fresh Bakery bun and the bratwurst served "old world" or "state fair" style ($7.25).