More than two and a half years after it closed, the restaurant space that once was home to The Afterthought has a new tenant. The Valadez family is opening El Mezcal, a new Mexican-themed restaurant, in the Hillcrest neighborhood. The Valadez family is the owners of the four Cantina Cinco de Mayo locations in Little Rock and Bryant. We stopped in to talk with the group as they were cleaning out the restaurant space, and while there is no timetable yet for El Mezcal to open, the rebuilding is already underway.
Ramiro Valadez will run El Mezcal, which he says will feature a cocktail menu that borrows heavily from the restaurant’s namesake. Mezcal is the family of agave spirits that tequila comes from, and while it is not nearly as common as tequila, it is slowly gaining popularity. Valadez tells me the cocktails will come from a long bar at the back of the restaurant with seating for about 30. The restaurant overall will seat more than 100 people.
That’s possible because the wall that once separated The Afterthought’s bar from its restaurant area is now gone, opening up the dining room considerably. It’s safe to say El Mezcal likely will not serve as the late-night music venue that drew big crowds to its predecessor.
We only got to speak to Valadez for a few minutes before he went back to work, so there is still a lot of information we don’t know. Whether the menu will be identical to Cantina Cinco de Mayo or whether Valadez will introduce some new ideas for the Hillcrest location remains a mystery. There is also the matter of how a restaurant model that relies heavily on fast service and turning tables will fare in a neighborhood that lacks ample parking. And we will have to see how it competes with the upcoming burger concept that will be opening across the street in 2019.
For now, though, it is good to see a prime restaurant space that sat open for so long finally have a definite future. We will be watching El Mezcal’s progress and will keep you posted regarding any new information.