One of the most well-publicized spots in the Little Rock food scene is about to undergo a significant change in leadership. Coby Smith announced yesterday that he has left the Arkansas Heart Hospital.
The Heart Hospital made an unexpected splash in the food scene when they rolled out a ramen bar about two and a half years ago led by Smith. It went under the radar for a short time before being written about first here. After the story, the lines frequently wrapped down the hallway for ramen, and they often sold out before the end of lunch.
Smith was sent to Japan by the hospital’s president, Dr. Bruce Murphy, to learn as much as he could about traditional ramen making and recreate the dish that Murphy loved. Smith executed it perfectly and was easily the best ramen available in the state. That coupled with Dr. Murphy’s desire to keep the prices extremely low made the location a hot spot on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday when ramen was served.
Earlier this year the Heart Hospital decided to take the ramen (and other dishes) on the road with their Food From the Heart food truck. The truck has fared well at all the locations they have set up, even introducing related dishes like poké.
Smith made the announcement in an Instagram/facebook post saying “I’m no longer @ the Heart (hospital). It Is something that was built together. It was always a Labor of love for me. Making people happy.”
Smith says he is working on a few plans for the future and will have something to announce before long. It was a planned and voluntary departure for Smith, but not on the timeline expected so he is not quite ready to share what is in the works. Coby has a long history of culinary work before the Heart Hospital and is a very talented chef beyond ramen. So the options are wide open for a future concept.
As for the Heart Hospital, they will continue to operate the ramen bar on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays as before with the existing staff for now from what we are told. There is no reason to believe that or the food truck will change. The name of the Heart Hospital cafe where the ramen bar operates is named after Smith, called Coby Cafe. We have reached out to the Heart Hospital for any comment on renaming the space or any future plans for changes to operations. We will update this story once we receive word back.