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Hot Springs food champs, all things Feast Month

This article was originally published as a blog post with Visit Hot Springs on Nov. 7.

In November, Visit Hot Springs will be bringing back all of the mouth-watering goodness that Feast Month encompasses. We’re talking about a month-long celebration of the diverse, unique, and local loving eateries that make Hot Springs scrumptious.

From appetizers to desserts, Feast Month will do a deep dive into culinary delights at the local spots to score the best tacos, burgers, sushi, pizza, barbecue, food trucks, and more. But they can’t do it without your help. Take the online surveys to vote for your favorite restaurants and their specialties, photograph beautiful plates when you dine out and post them to your socials with the hashtag #FeastMonth, and find great deals while you fill yourself knowing that you’re supporting local businesses all the while.

And to keep it at the forefront of your mind, during Feast Month 95% of all posts on Visit Hot Springs’s social media will be food-related. From hidden gems to history, to "foodie-grams," your taste buds will be tingling with every scroll. Keep up with the socials so you don’t miss important announcements for some of the most iconic local food events happening during Feast Month like the Tom Daniel Chili Cook Off (Nov. 22) and the All in Steak Showdown (today and Nov. 20).

Last year, Feast Month followers voted Stubby's BBQ for the best BBQ, Deluca’s Pizzeria for the best pizza, Ohio Club for the best burger, and Capo’s Tacos for the best taco. And while the votes roll in this month to see what local eateries score the winning titles in the 2021 Feast Month, we spoke with the most recent victors to get their take on what makes Hot Springs a great “foodie destination.”

The trending theme was the fact there is such a diverse selection to choose from when in the Spa City.

“Hot Springs is such a cross-pollination of people from everywhere,” Stubby’s owner Chris Dunkel said. “You have people from all these mixed bags who have migrated into Hot Springs. You have individuals whose families who may have vacationed here, or the race meet brings them here, and they set up roots.”

Chris Dunkel

Dunkel’s family was a set of those visitors who decided to “set up roots” in Hot Springs after visiting and falling in love. They did this by cultivating local eateries since moving from New York in 1976.

“Hot Springs has served as a destination for many different people who want to call it home, and they bring their own taste here,” he said.

Capo’s Tacos owner Joey Godoy shared similar sentiments.

“All this diversity that we have here brings all these flavors and different cuisines to Hot Springs, which is really cool,” Godoy said. Similar to Dunkel, his family came here from Chicago and set up roots by establishing restaurants; having first owned Bleu Monkey, and now Capo’s.

Joey Godoy

“We have quite a bit of diversity in places to eat here,” Deluca’s owner Tony Valinoti carried on, adding that it’s not just diversity in cultural foods, but also something for every budget, from five-star dining to authentic food trucks.

Tony Valinoti

“You can go anywhere, from our Italian food to BBQ at McClard’s to the German food to the beautiful food at 501 prime. Taco Mama or Capos, as far as Mexican. Even Oaklawn has The Bugler, which is just beautiful.”

Ohio Club burger chef Michael Dampier had his own reasons for why Hot Springs is such a great foodie destination.

“It’s the way we all promote each other,” Dampier said. “If a visitor comes to Hot Springs for three or four days, they’re not going to eat at the same location every time they’re hungry. There's a wide variety of different styles, different flavor profiles of food, and we just promote each other by referring to our own personal favorite restaurants.”

Michael Dampier

So in a town with so many glorious food options, what are these restaurant winners’ top choices? (Other than their own creations, of course.)

For Godoy and Valinoti, it’s the classic Hot Springs’ staple McClard’s BBQ.

“I love a lot of my local restaurants, and I love my own creations as well, but I would have to say McClard’s BBQ is my favorite,” Godoy said. “When I was introduced to McClard’s when I first moved here it was something that really made an impact on my palate with the flavors.”

He said McClard’s introduced him to southern BBQ, but also… his wife? Ah, yes, similar to other nostalgic memories locals share at McClard’s, Godoy actually shared a first date with his now-wife at the eatery.

“I’m a McClard’s guy,” Valinoti concurred. “I’m always going to be a sucker for tradition and meat. All the other restaurants I love, but there’s something about walking into McClard’s that evokes the old south.”

For Dampier, he was only able to get his favorites down to two: Rocky’s Corner and Sunshine Store and Cafe.

“At Rocky’s Corner, you have great sandwiches, pizza, salad pasta; plus you’re family there. I’ve been going there for years,” Dampier said. “But Sunshine Store and Cafe is good home cooking. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner they have kind of the blue plate specials — meatloaf, fried chicken, catfish — and just the same, you feel like you’re part of the family.”

So there you have it: expert input from award-winning restaurateurs and chefs to help get this Feast Month ball rolling. Don’t forget to stay up to date on Visit Hot Springs's social media.

To check out the Feast Month Deals redeemable Nov. 1 - 30, click here. To vote in the Visitors Choice Awards, click here.

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