A few weeks ago, I posed this question to readers: “How would you describe your local food scene in a couple words?” Personally, for Little Rock, I chose “getting there.”

For many restauranteurs, “getting there” generally takes about twice as long as originally anticipated–things go wrong, problems arise, inspections fail…and so on.

But there’s another side to a city’s food scene “getting there.” It’s about finding your identity, creating new and exciting dishes, and challenging the diners to step outside the proverbial box. To me, Little Rock’s future restaurant identity will lie in the farm-to-table concept, and how many more chefs decide to put their creative spin on these locally-sourced ingredients.

We’re surrounded by great farms, run by wonderful farmers–many of whom I’ve met in some form or fashion this year. We have amazing local ingredients at our fingertips and a segment of the population who is beginning to seek out these items. Don’t believe me? Just check out the crowded farmers markets on weekends.

Make no mistake, the Little Rock food scene is “getting there,” but it takes time, and for now…we’re left to ponder what the future may hold.

South on Main, a restaurant which could potentially change the entire landscape of Little Rock’s downtown food scene, as well as the SoMa neighborhood, is still not open. That could change, very soon, but as to when…your guess is as good as mine.

Creative young chefs and bakers search for elusive brick and mortar spots, yet still find their success at small farmer market stands and mobile food trucks. That could soon change, but as to when…your guess is as good as mine.

Two of our “top” chefs, Lee Richardson and Donnie Ferneau, currently do not reside in restaurant kitchens. Who knows if that could change, and if or when…your guess is as good as mine.

One definite is that we will continue to see the infiltration of mega-chains like Mellow Mushroom, Chuy’s, and Twin Peaks, especially in areas like West Little Rock, where large plots of land around Chenal Parkway remain undeveloped.

For better or worse, Little Rock’s food scene is going to look a lot different one year from now. With local talent, along with a growing foodie fan base, the potential is limitless. I have hopes that by next year, my words to describe the Little Rock food scene will be “progressive” and “innovative.”

We’ll get there…one of these days.

Tags: , ,

1 Comment

Christie July 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Agree. Farm to table could have been big here for a few years now. Argenta Market, for example, was founded on that principle, and the original chef got so disillusioned with trying to work things out with farmers that he left. I think the farmer supply side is working out better now, but there are still chinks in the supply chain that make menu planning a little more difficult than many chefs are comfortable with.

I was really encouraged at a recent farmers’ market trip to see Scott McGehee running from booth to booth, buying up the best of each. He told me these would become specials, which is chef-speak for “there’s not enough to sustain the whole menu.” But it’s a start.

I believe the answer is on the supply side, and folks like Little Rock Urban Farming and the burgeoning farmers’ market systems will be a big part of that growth.

Comments are closed.