A brand new meals scene emerges throughout the pandemic


There was an uncharacteristic diploma of pandemic optimism within the editorial workplace after we first started discussing the 2022 Natives Information a number of months in the past. We knew we’d probably have acquired our booster pictures, our children can be vaccinated, delta would hopefully be truly fizzling out. It’d be the Natives Information to shifting ahead out of the pandemic: Here’s a checklist of native eating places that boldly accepted the problem of opening throughout the international well being disaster, defying the chances in a time of inauspicious volatility! In case you haven’t but, go strive them in 2022.

And though we bought our boosters and our children vaccinated, the delta variant nonetheless roared again after Thanksgiving and a brand new, scary, extra contagious variant, omicron, emerged. I received’t converse for my colleagues, however I’ve been lowered again to my regular pandemic cynicism.

After two years, nevertheless, we’ve a reasonably good thought of what works. Clear air, masks, distance and vaccines present safety. And whereas we don’t know precisely what omicron is able to but, life and enterprise received’t cease in Arkansas. The state lawmakers can be extra prone to host a public masks burning than mandate them once more. However that doesn’t imply we are able to’t do our half and nonetheless have some enjoyable alongside the best way. So vax up, masks up, open a window or unfold out a bit, and if you happen to’re uncomfortable, take your meals to-go and go away a fats tip. Here’s a checklist of native eating places that boldly accepted the problem of opening throughout the international well being disaster, defying the chances in a time of inauspicious volatility! In case you haven’t but, go strive them in 2022.

Rosie’s Pot & Kettle

Pals Katie McDaniel, Alisha Black and Liz Maxey have been set to open their new restaurant, Rosie’s Pot & Kettle, in March of 2020. They have been scheduled to be cleared by the well being division and hearth marshal the identical week Governor Hutchinson mandated eating rooms be closed to the general public.

“That put us again a complete month earlier than we might truly get cleared to get open for to-gos solely,” McDaniel stated.

Rosie’s, named after Rosie the Riveter, formally opened in April of 2020 in Little Rock’s East Village neighborhood, a few half-mile from Fidel & Co., within the constructing that beforehand housed Calvin’s Soul Meals at 423 Bond Ave.

Brian Chilson
The footlong chili canine at Rosie’s Pot & Kettle.

Identified for its plate lunch specials like meatloaf, pot roast and a cheeseburger that includes native beef sourced from Leis Creek Cattle in Clinton (Van Buren County), and a wide range of scratch-made pies and cheesecakes, Rosie’s needed to get via the early levels of the pandemic capability restrictions with none assist from the federal authorities. Being a brand new enterprise with out payments and payroll from the prior yr, Rosie’s didn’t qualify for the primary spherical of the federal government’s Paycheck Safety Program [PPP] mortgage. Regardless of all of the challenges, Rosie’s has grown and continues to develop, McDaniel stated. “We’ve been very lucky.”

Brood & Barley

The house owners of Flyway Brewery opened gastropub Brood & Barley on June 25, 2020, within the house that when housed Core Brewery at 411 Principal St. in Argenta. Chef Brayan McFadden moved to Central Arkansas from Philadelphia in January of 2020 to move up the brand new restaurant, which was focusing on an April opening. The workforce at Brood & Barley had already begun ordering stock and began the hiring course of when the eating room shutdown was issued on March 19. Brood & Barley has since turn into a well-liked meals vacation spot in Argenta and received Greatest New Bar within the 2021 Arkansas Instances Readers Alternative ballot.

Brian Chilson
GROWING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC: Flyway proprietor Jess McMullen (left) satisfied his cousin Brayan McFadden to maneuver to Arkansas to open a brand new specialty taproom, Brood & Barley.

Rock Metropolis Kitchen, RCK Income Cafe, Rock Metropolis Tacos

Joe Vincent has opened not one, not two, however three eating places downtown throughout the pandemic. Vincent opened Rock Metropolis Kitchen on July 20, 2020, within the Arkansas Division of Finance and Administration Constructing at 1515 W. Seventh St. The situation was initially going to be a brand new restaurant from Flint Flenoy, who owns Flint’s on the Areas and Flint’s on the Flight Deck.

“He by no means did sort of get it going, simply because of the pandemic and him having different places, so he requested us what we [thought] about it,” Vincent stated. Vincent stated timing couldn’t have been worse, however the location was perfect for the instances in an space the place individuals have been nonetheless going to work.

“You might have the state Capitol proper there, the information station [KARK], Kids’s [Hospital], UAMS isn’t far. It appeared like an incredible alternative as a result of these individuals nonetheless wanted to eat, they nonetheless needed to get up within the morning, they nonetheless wanted espresso, breakfast, you understand, the issues we have to put in our physique to verify we get via a workday.”

Brian Chilson
Joe Vincent opened Rock Metropolis Kitchen in July of 2020.

Whereas Vincent and his workforce have been simply getting began with Rock Metropolis Kitchen, an worker on the DFA’s Ledbetter Constructing at 1816 W. Seventh St. inquired about whether or not he had any curiosity in one other house that had been used as a cafeteria/breakroom for years. The couple who had been working the cafeteria took the pandemic as a chance to retire and transfer on to different endeavors, Vincent stated. All of the gear he would wish to open, just like the vent hood, stovetops and fridges, got here with the house. Except for a beauty makeover, it was able to go.

Vincent opened RCK Income Cafe on Aug. 20, 2020, one month after Rock Metropolis Kitchen’s opening. Each Rock Metropolis Kitchen and RCK Income Cafe supply the identical idea and menu and in addition present catering providers. The menu options burgers with turkey and vegan choices, rooster wings, catfish, a wide range of sandwiches, soups, salads and every day specials corresponding to Soul Meals Monday, fish specials on Friday and Taco Tuesdays. Taco Tuesday was so well-liked, the truth is, that Vincent determined to base his subsequent idea on it.

Brian Chilson
Rock Metropolis catfish.

Vincent opened Rock Metropolis Tacos on Could 5, 2021, within the former Poke Hula at 415 E. Third St., turning into the primary Black-owned, brick-and-mortar restaurant to open within the River Market in a decade. Shortly earlier than opening, the brand new taco restaurant began getting a variety of consideration from the media, Vincent stated. Native information stations have been calling, in addition to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“It began to spin uncontrolled,” Vincent stated.

Vincent opened the shop on Cinco de Mayo and “it went loopy,” he stated. “So many individuals confirmed up. We ran out of every little thing. Every part that might’ve went unsuitable went unsuitable on the identical time,” he stated. “So it wasn’t excellent, it wasn’t fairly, however in the long run, it nonetheless turned out to be an incredible day for us. We have been positively overwhelmed, however [there] was a lot help from the town of Little Rock.”

Day-after-day can’t be as busy as Cinco de Mayo, however Vincent stated it helps being in a location inside strolling distance of the River Market and close to inns and companies.

“We’ve finished fairly good over there contemplating the instances that we’re in proper now,” he stated.

Cypress Social

The Keet household’s JTJ restaurant group opened Cypress Social in August of 2020 within the former Cock of the Stroll constructing at 7103 Cock of the Stroll Lane after fully deconstructing the inside of the constructing, from the roof to the flooring. A vacation spot restaurant by design, Cypress Social provides 8,000 sq. ft of indoor house with a further 2,000-square-foot, tri-level deck.

Brian Chilson
Cypress Social

The menu is Southern-inspired, that includes objects such because the Blackened Redfish Pontchartrain, Shrimp and Grit Desserts and Delta-style Tamales. Cypress Social received the 2021 Arkansas Instances Readers Alternative award for Greatest New Restaurant in Little Rock/North Little Rock.

Rock N Roll Sushi

Jason Alley and Chris Kramolis opened Rock N Roll Sushi in West Little Rock at 12800 Chenal Parkway on Could 29, throughout the Part I response to the pandemic. Co-owner Alley stated that regardless of solely with the ability to open up at 33% capability, it went nicely as a result of there was a variety of pleasure and buildup to it.

Brian Chilson
The Candy House Alabama Roll.

Alley and Kramolis opened their second location in SoMa at 1224 Principal St. on Saturday, Aug. 15, within the house previously occupied by Atlas Bar, which closed on July 1, 2020, because of the pandemic. Rock N Roll Sushi provides a wide range of rock ’n’ roll-themed sushi rolls, a hibachi menu, a number of appetizers and catering providers.

Charlee’s Good Time Drinkery

Charlee’s opened throughout Part II of the restaurant reopening amid the coronavirus to 60% capability in August of 2020, within the floor ground of the Prospect Constructing on North College. It acquired the late-night personal membership license from Native Union, allowing it to remain open till 5 a.m. (it was mandated together with different bars within the state to shut at 11 p.m. for greater than two months.) The menu largely consists of elevated bar meals like wings and pulled pork smoked in-house, a chopped cheeseburger, a Cuban sandwich and a pot roast sandwich.

Charlee’s chopped cheese.

At press time, Charlee’s was amid a transfer to the River Market District within the house previously occupied by Damgoode Pies at 500 President Clinton Ave. Proprietor Rodge Arnold stated late final yr the goal date for the reopening was Dec. 20.

Depraved Taco Manufacturing unit

Situated downtown within the Pyramid Constructing at 221 W. Second St., Depraved Taco Manufacturing unit opened in September of 2020. Proprietor Melanie Aquino stated she postponed the opening for a number of months as a result of downtown staff have been largely working from house. Depraved Taco is an extension of Aquino’s taco truck Grills on Wheels, which she operated for years in entrance of Frances Flower Store on West Capitol Avenue.

Brian Chilson
Carne asada fries at Depraved Taco Manufacturing unit.

Licensed Pies 

Husband and spouse Kreg and Samantha Stewart and head chef Harlem Wilson opened Licensed Pies at 9813 W. Markham St. within the first week of October 2020, turning into the one Black-owned pizza enterprise in Little Rock. Working out of Arkitchens, a 5,000-square-foot shared industrial kitchen house, Licensed Pies constructed a fast following regardless of being restricted to supply and curbside service. The Licensed Reality Wings are a must-order, my favourite wing expertise of 2021. Stewart stated the objective is to finally open a brick-and-mortar.

Brian Chilson
GET CERTIFIED: Chef Harlem Wilson preps pies for pickup.

Black Angus 

Mere hours earlier than 2020 started, Black Angus proprietor Karla Creasey discovered she needed to vacate the restaurant’s 28-year-old Rodney Parham location. “They gave me 30 days to vacate. Agreeing to not sue gave me 90 days, in order that’s what I did,” Creasey stated. So whereas most eating places have been attempting to determine function amid the eating shutdown in mid-March, Creasey was scouting new places. Morris Harper, son of the late Oliver Harper, who opened Black Angus on the nook of Markham and Van Buren streets in 1962, nonetheless owns the lot the place Subway and Chi’s Too have been situated. Harper contacted Creasey and provided her the prospect to place Black Angus again on the lot the place it first opened. “He stated when he will get to heaven he desires to have the ability to inform his daddy he put [Black Angus] again,” Creasey stated. Often called the spot for charcoal-grilled burgers and hand-cut steaks, Black Angus opened again up in October of 2020.



Vegan bakery Cinnaholic opened Dec. 11, 2020, at 12800 Chenal Parkway, specializing in cinnamon rolls which can be freed from dairy, lactose, eggs and ldl cholesterol. The enlargement of the franchise started after the unique house owners’ profitable look on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Native proprietor Troy Hayes had his first Cinnaholic cinnamon roll over a recreation of Join 4 in Las Vegas. He turned in his franchise utility three months later.

Cheesecake on Level

In Could of 2021, Matcha Norwood opened a brick-and-mortar location for Cheesecake on Level at 9809 W. Markham, within the buying heart that homes Andy’s Restaurant and Fuller & Sons {Hardware}. Cheesecake on Level debuted as a meals truck on the Principal Road Meals Truck Competition in 2019, promoting cheesecake on a stick and a wide range of flavors of cheesecake cupcakes. Along with complete cheesecakes, private 4-inch cheesecakes can be found, in addition to 6-packs or 12-packs of cheesecake cupcakes. Norwood accepts customized cheesecake orders in 6-inch and 9-inch varieties 5 days prematurely.


Press Waffle Co. 

The pandemic delayed Press Waffle Co.’s opening a few yr, co-owner Rosemary Compton instructed us. However individuals have been clearly able to strive Press Waffle’s genuine Belgian Liége waffles, as a result of when it opened in SoMa at 1424 Principal St. the primary weekend of September, lengthy traces stretched outdoors the constructing and the restaurant offered out of dough. “There’s no approach we might’ve predicted it, which is a superb drawback to have,” Compton stated. “Little Rock confirmed us a lot love and help.”

Rhett Brinkley
The Cristo waffle.

Camp Taco

Yellow Rock Idea’s latest idea, a small-batch brewery with tacos and playful cocktails in a classic camp setting with decor that feels such as you’ve walked into 1980-something, opened to a lot anticipation in October of this yr and possibly turned probably the most Instagram-storied restaurant in Little Rock in 2021. There’s an previous pink telephone in one of many bogs that beckons the lavatory selfie.

Camp Taco provides a number of taco varieties (together with vegan choices), birria ramen, house-made popsicles and enjoyable cocktails, corresponding to a pina colada served in a frozen pineapple. Much like each restaurant we’ve lined throughout the pandemic, Camp Taco’s opening was delayed. “We thought we’d be open in March, however the world had different concepts,” co-owner John Beachboard stated.


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