Little Rock has seen several of its top food trucks make the jump to a permanent location. The Southern Gourmasian and kBird are two of the prime examples, each opening at a physical address after years of success out of the truck. But the latest business is different. BASH Burger Co. opened its food truck in Saline County just one year ago. Success came quickly for the truck, as soon BASH expanded to a second truck that briefly toured the Little Rock area. However, all that gave way to plans to open a brick-and-mortar space in West Little Rock.
I stopped by BASH’s new location yesterday in the old Bruno’s Italian Bistro on Bowman Road. There are still elements of the old restaurant in there, including the canopied bar area and some turquoise wall accents. But the changes are far more striking than the similarities. Owner Ryan Ashcraft and his team have built an impressive reclaimed wood wall made out of more than 70 used pallets from around the Little Rock area. Tin paneling and untreated timber beams line the room’s concrete floor, and some hip light fixtures with Edison bulbs create a pleasant atmosphere. Ashcraft is only working in half the dining room; the other portion has been walled off and will be a private party room in the future. Still, the space seats close to 60 people and should be a good draw for diners.
The dining room was somewhat unfinished when I visited, which is the big reason why BASH isn’t yet open. However, Ashcraft is ready to start cooking right now. BASH’s burger lineup is one that started off well and just got stronger, and I’m happy to report that Ashcraft hasn’t lost anything in the kitchen while preparing the new space. I got a taste of the Standard Man burger, a two-patty tower topped with bacon, queso and fresh jalapeño slices. The patties are still as crisp and well-seasoned as ever, and the hand-cut fries haven’t suffered, either. I also sampled the new R-and-R sandwich, featuring two brined chicken thighs topped with bacon and slaw and doused in a housemade Diamond Bear barbecue sauce. Chicken thighs don’t get nearly enough love in my book, and I was very pleased to see them treated so well here. If BASH has any trademark, it’s in making good food in impressive portion sizes, and I predict more than one diner will have their jaw drop when some of these sandwiches arrive at the table.
In addition to burgers and sandwiches, BASH will bring back its outstanding chicken wings from the truck and add a few new sauces to the lineup, including a jalapeño-lime sauce. Ashcraft tells me he will have a few salads on the menu as well as hand-breaded chicken tenders, potato chips and a rotation of specials. The homemade cheesecakes will be back, too. And new for the restaurant, Ashcraft has started baking his own buns fresh each morning. I was surprised when he told me, because the buns on both sandwiches I tried were made very well.
As for the opening day, Ashcraft tells me he hopes to be open by next week. There is still some work in the dining room to do and a few items that need to be ironed out with the state, but the staff has been hired and the kitchen is ready to go. Once it does open, BASH is poised to make some new fans with its spectacular burgers and solid menu. We’ll let you know as soon as the official opening day is announced.