First Look: Live Life Chill Brings a Beachside Retreat to the River Market

Spots in the Rivermarket come up so infrequent that it was no surprise when Rumba Revolution on the corner of Clinton Ave and La Harpe closed earlier this year it was snatched up immediately. Just four months later the spot is ready to open as a new concept called Live Life Chill.

The name is certainly strange for a restaurant. The owners looked to build more of a lifestyle brand and atmosphere than simply another restaurant. The concept is meant to envoke a place you go after a stressful day of work or an escape from busy life while visiting Little Rock. The concept is reflected in everything from the atmosphere, to the menu items, to the bar. It is very un-Little Rock to say the least, and feels more like something you would find in a beachside destination. It could be a perfect fit in a tourist-heavy area like the Rivermarket.

Despite the very rapid remodel, the interior is almost unrecognizable from the previous tenant. You can certainly feel the beachside vibes from the place with strong wood accents throughout, paddles, life preservers, fish decor (albeit catfish), license plates, and outdoor string lights. In the main dining area is dark and more modern, while still feeling very casual. It has a good mix of seating styles to break up the flow, and TVs adorn every available spot to make it a perfect place to relax. The bar on this side has a much more sophisticated feel, with the former Showbiz Pizza neon being the main focal point.

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It is just a short hop to the river and the whole restaurant overlooks the riverfront park, you could easily forget you are in a landlocked state based on the atmosphere. The patio is easily a prime focus of the area, and it easily becomes one of the best patios in Little Rock. It feels secluded due to facing the riverside, with nothing but grass, trees, bike trails and park separating you from the water. The large garage-style doors will be opened at night and when the weather is nice to give that half of the restaurant the feeling of being a large patio space. The double-sided bar and the contrasting theme from the main restaurant give this half a noticeably different feel, looking more like a beachside walkup bar than the dark and sophisticated look of the other side.

Drinks wise, it is certainly a bit more playful and light than most craft cocktail places in Little Rock. Veteran bartender Dillon Garcia, previously at the Pizzeria, is running the bar program in addition to being a partner in the restaurant.

“We wanted something fun and playful. The atmosphere lends itself to light and fruity beach and tiki-style drinks,” Garcia says. “Most of what we have is very drinkable, while still maintaining strong craft cocktail elements. Even our traditional craft cocktails like a negroni or old fashion are a much lighter take than usual.”

The cocktail menu is very rum-heavy, which is a good thing IMO. Most of the drinks are very light and fruity and very eye-catching as advertised. The Chillaxer is destined to be the equivalent of the Play-de-do of this location, complete with a keep the glass option. It is bright blue thanks to Blue Curaçao with rum, pineapple juice, and a refreshing splash of coconut water. The unfortunately named Purple Panty Peeler is another that will hit this same crowd, the deep purple drink is every so slightly like grape Kool-Aid spiked with a bit of rum. The cardamon mai tai is a must for any Tiki fan, it has a blend of quality rums and gains the white foam, not from egg whites, but from garbanzo beans, so even the vegans can love it. Everything can be enhanced and modified with a strong selection of Pink House Alchemy syrups, so you can easily make your mule spicy.

Food is run by executive chef Stephen Burrow (Forty Two, Daly’s) and is centered around things on sticks, buns, tacos, and bones. It is very small-plate oriented, so you are not going to find a lot of side dishes here. However, the apps are great to order with a group of people. The smoked catfish fish dip will quickly be popular. As will the grilled watermelon salad, which is one of the more fascinating salads I’ve had. The grilled watermelon takes most of the moisture out of the fruit, and you are left with a meaty slice that looks like rare meat. The texture, once reduced, is a lot like meat as well, so much so it plays with your mind. The spicy finish to the salad is a great mix of sweet from the watermelon and spice from the dressing.

On the stick side, they have a number of options from Korean BBQ, fried carnitas (not the prettiest, but tasty), beef tri-tip, and chicken about every way imaginable. A lot of the same options exist on the tacos, with the addition of some fish and shrimp options. Bar food brings burgers and nachos to the table, something that fits the atmosphere heavily. There is a wide assortment of chicken wings, deep fried ribs, and duck wings if you like your food bone-in. They are also flying in fresh oysters 3 times a week.

Starting this week Live Life Chill is open for lunch and dinner. Lunch service starts at 11 and dinner service runs from 4 on. In the first few weeks, they plan to call closing time based on the crowd, closing will be somewhere between 10 and 1 a.m. however. Early on they will experiment a bit and work out any kinks, so they are still calling this a public soft opening period. The grand opening is set for September 27th.

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First Look: Live Life Chill Brings a Beachside Retreat to the River Market