If you don’t know where the William J. Clinton Presidential Center & Park in Little Rock Arkansas, it could be easy to miss. A massive complex that also includes a library, the center is located on 1200 President Clinton Avenue just off the major highway that brings you through Arkansas.
We were on our way to Hot Springs to soak up a bit of R&R in the town that has an entire drag of thermal bathhouses, and decided to do a stop over in Little Rock – after all, when else would we have an opportunity to see a little bit of Bill Clinton’s former hood.
As you enter the center, you’ll see a massive Presidential car on display before you enter the museum on the main drag. Upstairs is where you’ll find Cafe 42, a contemporary eatery with an expansive view of the nearby Arkansas River. The area is just on the outskirts of the River Market area of Little Rock and a stone’s throw from the Clinton Museum Store and below the Presidential Library.
A native of Arkansas, Cafe 42’s Chef Stephen Burrow uses a “contemporary southern-colonial” approach to his culinary concepts. An avid practitioner of the “farm-to-table” movement, he turns to local farms to fill the restaurant and catering menus with a vast array of fresh produce and all-natural proteins. As head of the Center’s Terrace Gardens, he and staff grow a variety of herbs and vegetables as well which they use at the restaurant.
Lunch was delicious and not surprising given Burrow’s ideology, incredibly fresh. Imagine such creative dishes as grilled or fried chicken wings with a housemade waffle served with a sweet and spicy glaze, or a candied pepper bacon, lettuce, avocado and smoked cheddar sandwich.
Also very southern in style, is the Mortadella Hash with Diced Potato and Mortadella with Sautéed Onions, Roasted Tomatoes and Fried Egg, the Chicken and Dumplings, a Pesto Roasted Chicken and Browned Butter Gnocchi in a rich Herbed Veloute Sauce or the oh so yum Arkansas Arborio and Smoked Black-Eyed Peas with “Picnic Caviar” and a Homemade Tabasco-Cheddar Drop Biscuit. To-die for!
Or, how’s this for a southern twist? Hot and Sour Okra with Stewed Tomatoes and Roasted Eggplant over Warm Baked Grit Custard. The soups are definitely worth trying as well (white bean and ham, seafood bisque, southwest chicken stew) — also ask about their daily specials!
We opted for one of their salads – salmon, arugula and grapes although they also do a delicious Cobb and Caesar salad.
It’s a great lunch spot and depending on how much time you have, you can add a museum or two into the mix, a leisurely walk along the Arkansas River (great photo opportunities) or explore the cultural offerings of the trendy River Market section of Little Rock.
Cafe 42 / Dine at 42
1200 President Clinton Avenue
(In the Clinton Presidential Center)
Little Rock, AR 72201
Disclosure: we were hosted by the Arkansas Tourism Board for many of our activities and meals through Arkansas but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.