Little Rock’s latest restaurant set to open!

I’ve spent a ton of time in the SoMa district during my first year in Little Rock. I love everything about SoMa. I love the vibe. I love the festivals. I love the farmers markets. I love the corner stores.

Just one thing has been lacking…an upscale, yet affordable restaurant which offers both a lunch and dinner service–an establishment befitting of a neighborhood on the rise. That will soon change with the addition of South on Main.

Chef Matt Bell recently invited me and my crony Daniel Walker of Eat Arkansas to check out the restaurant and sample some of his latest culinary creations set to hit the menu.

As you walk through the door, the space will strike you as sophisticated, yet unpretentious. The food will strike you the same way. The spacious setting, equipped with a performance stage and beautiful bar, is classically cool and hip, but not hipster. Black booths, a white-tiled ceiling, brown hardwood flooring, and exposed original brick walls, all help create a tranquil and inviting setting.

This place IS SoMa.

And while the surroundings may captivate, the food is what will surely get people talking. The theme here is “southern comfort,” with a straightforward menu that boasts such entrees as veggies and dumplins, catfish Hoppin John, grilled ribeye cap, as well as snacks, soups, sandwiches, salads, and desserts.

Chicken Thighs with Summer Vegetable Pot

Chicken Thighs with Summer Vegetable Pot

Our tasting kicked off with a sampler of pickled green beans and tomatoes, slices of toasted Boulevard bread, a jar of chicken liver mousse, pickles, and a house made fig mustard. Individually, each component was superb, but together they were a force. I slathered some mousse and mustard on the bread and topped it with a thinly-sliced pickle. If you’re not a huge fan of that earthy liver taste, you’ll appreciate the sweetness and tartness of the other components.

The sampler was followed by a salad, comprised of slightly charred, then chopped (and dressed) romaine lettuce, red onions, pork belly, and a soft boiled egg. This was my first time cracking an egg yolk over lettuce, but with South on Main’s “Put an Egg on It” option, it certainly won’t be my last.

We then moved to the entrée portion of the tasting. Two dishes came out. One was a sautéed catfish with fresh corn, peppers and marinated chunks of avocado, and tarragon. This was followed by a dish of two Falling Sky chicken thighs, resting alongside a smallish red pot of broth-laden root vegetables. The execution on both dishes was absolutely perfect. I’m now a fan of catfish, and if that chicken thigh entrée doesn’t become a top-seller, I’ll eat my hat.

The meal concluded with what can only be described as complete gluttony. Pastry chef Matthew Lowman created his version of a Snickers bar, only it was about twice the size and three times the calories. I had three bites and gave the rest to Walker. Dan polished off his and took mine for the ride back to work.

(L to R) Sous Chef Phillip Schaaf, Pastry Chef Matthew Lowman, and Executive Chef Matt Bell

(L to R) Sous Chef Phillip Schaaf, Pastry Chef Matthew Lowman, and Executive Chef Matt Bell

Will South on Main be able to turn over a consistent product with top notch service on a nightly basis? I hope so, but obviously can’t speak to that quite yet. What I can tell you is that on this day, Chef Matt Bell and his crew of sous chef Phillip Schaaf and pastry chef Matthew Lowman, created one of the best meals I’ve had in Little Rock. South on Main has the potential to be a real game-changer for this town.

And that’s something to get excited about.

According to South on Main’s FB…stay tuned for an opening date announcement on Monday (7/29).  Also, for more photos, please click on The Mighty Rib FB page. Finally, please check out Dan’s article on Eat Arkansas.

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Ashli Ahrens July 26, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I.cannot.wait. CANNOT.WAIT. Have you heard a target opening date?

Last night was my first time inside South on Main. I attended and imbibed at the Arkansas Arts Center’s gathering for their Contemporaries group (very smart positioning for both the restaurant and the arts center). I’m totally smitten.

I think South on Main will be another star in a solid string of successes in SoMa. (Sally sells seashells … whew!)

Kudos to Warwick for landing the Oxford American’s mother ship in SoMa and for encouraging/allowing/cultivating Matt and Amy to work their southern magic at its companion restaurant. The original Juanita’s kept the walls jammin’ and tummies full there for decades; I sincerely hope the decades ahead are just as successful for these new tenants.

(Sidebar: I too LOVE, LOVE, LOVE SoMa. With all my heart. I’m so proud to be a downtown resident and to have SoMa within walking distance. I adore Argenta too, and I am excited about what the central downtown / arts district / Main Street core is turning into. It’s a fabulous time to be a downtownie. Come on in; the water’s fine.)

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