Greatest Cafe lives as much as title
I’m paid to jot down about meals and restaurant information. So you possibly can think about the humiliation I felt when it was reported in March, each nationally and by Max Brantley at Arkansas Occasions, that celeb couple Aaron Rodgers (Inexperienced Bay Packers quarterback, “Jeopardy” visitor host) and Shailene Woodley (“Massive Little Lies” actress, environmental activist) loved a pleasant breakfast at Greatest Cafe and Bar in Scorching Springs, a brunch spot I didn’t know existed. I consider my failures when it comes to headlines now: “Scorching new celeb couple involves city and informs native meals author on the place to eat.”
Seems Rodgers and Woodley had been on the vanguard of Greatest Cafe fandom. The restaurant had simply opened once they visited. As typical I’m six months behind. Greatest Cafe is a part of Greatest Courtroom, a motor courtroom that opened in 1933 and was revitalized in 2017. The nook suite, No. 11, the place Rodgers and Woodley stayed, as soon as hosted Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, in keeping with resort lore.
Rick Williams and Mark and Rhonda McMurry co-own the resort and cafe. The McMurrys oversee the cafe and just lately restored the historic W.C. Brown Home mansion at 2330 Central Ave. and turned it into The Reserve at Scorching Springs, a luxurious boutique resort. They introduced in chef Joshua Garland to be the manager chef there and at Greatest Cafe. A Little Rock native, Garland attended culinary faculty in Las Vegas after graduating from highschool at Arkansas Baptist (now Baptist Preparatory College).
“I’ve been touring just about for the final 10 years,” Garland stated. After cooking stints in Alaska, Idaho, Singapore and Martha’s Winery, Garland spent the final two years in Florida, most just lately working at Windsor Nation Membership in Vero Seashore.
The McMurrys knew Garland as a result of he went to highschool with their son.
“That’s the place the connection got here,” Garland stated. “They knew I used to be a chef, they usually flew me out and did a tasting and that was just about it. I made a decision to return residence.”
Greatest Cafe opened on March 1, and regardless of the celeb plug and the mouthwatering, stylish meals photos on its social media pages, it nonetheless looks like a hidden gem.
We visited on a current Saturday morning anticipating a protracted wait. The restaurant is small and quaint; in reality it appears like a cottage itself from the skin. The mid-century inside — black and white checkered flooring, cream-colored partitions and retro chairs — pairs properly with the outdated images of the motor courtroom. The comfy bar space charms with a white bar high, quilted maroon leather-based on the underside and inexperienced high-back bar stools. As inviting as the within was, we had been decided to take a seat on the adjoining patio as a result of we’re avoiding indoor eating proper now because of the delta variant. To our shock we solely needed to wait about quarter-hour for an out of doors desk. Shade from massive umbrellas meant that the warmth wasn’t too insufferable. My eating companion ordered a pleasant “Cheek to Cheek” mimosa ($9) with St. Germain, prosecco and orange juice. Different mimosa taste choices: blood orange, pink guava, pomegranate hibiscus or inexperienced apple. Flights can be found for any mixture of 4 for $16.
I made the error of ordering a cup of scorching, black espresso regardless of the 90 degree-plus temperatures. I used to be just lately impressed by one thing my editor stated about a super decadent weekend breakfast needing to be paired with “robust, black espresso.” Our server had each purpose to query what I used to be pondering, consuming piping scorching espresso exterior on a brutal summer time day (barely hungover, even). However I didn’t make a mistake ordering the Creme Brulee French Toast ($13).
The only slice of French toast occupied nearly all the circumference of the dinner plate. My response after the server set the dish down: “Oh, wow.” I’m certain there have been many comparable reactions. It was the most important slice of French toast I’d ever seen, served with a beneficiant scoop of salted molasses butter on high together with macerated berries and granulated sugar. The feel was wonderful, smooth inside with a pleasant crunch on the skin from the bruleed sugar. The berries supplied a refreshingly candy end.
Garland informed me that French toast was his favourite breakfast as a toddler and one of many first issues he discovered to prepare dinner. “I used to be like, if I’m going to open a breakfast spot, I wish to have French toast and it needs to be one thing totally different. Creme brulee is certainly one of my favourite desserts. French toast is certainly one of my favourite breakfasts, so let’s mix them.”
The brioche bread is made in-house. “We make it massive,” he stated. “It’s not your typical bread loaf.” It’s soaked in creme brulee batter for 5 to 10 minutes then grilled on either side. Uncooked sugar is sprinkled excessive after which it’s bruleed with a torch.
I consumed all the piece after confidently saying that I wouldn’t. I ordered it with house-made breakfast sausage that wasn’t greasy like typical breakfast sausage and had an nearly clear style with good notes of fennel. It was actually my favourite of all of the breakfast sausages I’ve ever had.
My companion ordered the Greatest Cafe Eggs Benny ($14) served with breakfast potatoes and a grilled tomato. The beneficiant portion of shaved smoked ham atop the grilled English muffin was scrumptious and the hollandaise and poached eggs had been good.
I visited once more just lately to strive the burger on the lunch menu as a result of I needed to know what a $21 burger in Arkansas tasted like. As soon as once more, the presentation was spectacular. Served on an rectangular platter with house-made chips, the burger seemed able to be shot for an advert. The brioche bun was house-made and topped with a half-pound burger with bacon, a roasted poblano pepper, smoky tomato jam and a thick slice of pepper jack cheese with a pickle toothpick-speared to the highest of the bun. It wasn’t a standard burger, however the flavors fused collectively palatably. Would I get pleasure from the identical burger extra if it had been as an alternative topped with American cheese, tomato, lettuce, onion and mayonnaise? Possibly. But it surely was impressively put collectively and enormous sufficient for 2 servings. Garland stated when the restaurant first opened it obtained some flak concerning the worth of the burger from locals and Fb foodie pages, however that as individuals have are available in and tried the burger, “it was by no means an issue once more after that.”
Garland’s advice for individuals visiting the restaurant for the primary time: the “Confit Duck Hash” ($19).
“It’s one thing you’d by no means actually see on a menu,” he stated. “It has a whole lot of flavors.” These flavors embody five-spice duck, smoked corn puree, candy potato, onion soubise, poached eggs and togarashi, a Japanese spice combination.
When requested how troublesome it’s to handle two areas, Garland credited his workforce that he recruited from “throughout the nation.” He introduced in a chef from Colorado, a good friend from culinary faculty and a chef from Pennsylvania, and his front-of-house supervisor is a lady he labored with at his former resort in Florida. “[They’re] used to working at high-level resorts,” he stated.
Garland stated his objective was to convey a novel breakfast to Scorching Springs.
“To not say that there aren’t any nice breakfast locations right here on the town,” he stated. “I simply needed to do one thing totally different, put a little bit twist on it. And it’s a really enjoyable surroundings, an old-school-diner-feel with extra trendy plating. So yeah, I simply needed to attempt to make a mark on this group and attempt to assist out as a lot as I can.”