Ever wonder what makes some of Little Rock’s food personalities tick? Rock City Eat’s latest series, Food Insider, takes a look at individuals who are helping change the landscape of our city’s culinary scene. Whether they’re in the kitchen, managing a storefront, farming land or running a food truck … we’ll delve into both the professional and personal side of these dynamite people. This week, we have Julie Brearley, co-owner and general managaer of Scallions.
How long have you co-owned Scallions?
I came on board July 1, 2013 and took over managing on February 14, 2014 …for the “love” of it all!
When and where did you get your start in the restaurant business?
My first job, and actually my first job deserving of a W-2, was at the Little Rock Racquet Club Snack Bar when I was 14 years old. (I’m showing my age!) Looking back, there were several restaurants I worked with and caterers that influenced me. Specifically, Jo Ann Moody and Susan Overton Huey Sutton from A Very Special Tea Room and Brenda Majors of Brenda Majors Catering, all of which I consider mentors. Prior to this life, my “real jobs” were in the telecom and pharmaceutical industries. In hindsight, my first job out of college was in the market research department at TCBY (REALLY showing my age!). Maybe I was destined for this crazy life. Regardless, I always knew I loved entertaining, serving people and making happy, satisfied bellies.
Could you briefly describe Scallions to someone who has never been?
Scallions is a casual cafe/bistro in the Heights neighborhood that is un-pretentious, often considered a “chick” place, but very “dude” friendly! Everything is made from scratch and delivered to one’s satisfaction. We are probably best known for our outdoor courtyard and patio, which sits below street level under the canopy of a huge oak tree. However, the quality of food and atmosphere transposes into the interior with local artwork and quaint seating when weather does not permit outdoor dining.
What would you say is the restaurant’s signature dish?
Breakfast is still launching. Get back to me on that! But if I had to tag our signature dishes, it would definitely be our chicken salad, cheese soup and crab bisque (served Friday, Saturday and Monday). However, our tuna salad takes a close second and flies right under the radar…just sayin’.
How long have you been serving breakfast? Any popular items?
We started serving breakfast May 1st, slowly but surely. Most popular items have been “The Bubba”, our version of biscuits and sausage gravy, the “French Connection”, a bacon, egg and Swiss croissant sandwich, and the “Brandi,” a sausage egg quesadilla with lots of other good stuff. My personal favorite is “The Family Jules,” for obvious reasons, but you can’t leave without trying NaNa’s jalapeno cheese grits, or she will SLAP you down!
Owning and running a restaurant is no easy business. What has been your key(s) to success?
Vodka?! In all honesty, I have a great customer base and a phenomenal staff, some that are new and others that have been here for the long haul through the good, bad and ugly. At the end of the day, regardless of the day, we are all thankful for each other and the work each puts forth for the good of Scallions and the customers we have served for over 27 years. Obviously, great recipes that have stood the test of time these past years, help. Change is good, but maintaining consistency in the plates you serve is key. Believe it or not, I have two employees, Kelly Shelton and Otis Smith, that have been with Scallions for 27 years. That is commitment!! And what makes us successful and overwhelmingly thankful.
Do you have a good base of regular customers?
YES! I would not be in business if it weren’t for the gracious following of our loyal customers. And I truly respect and appreciate every single one of them. What is so humbling is they would never want to be identified or acknowledged. And more so, we have acquired a new base of breakfast customers, as well (mostly gentlemen), which goes without saying!
What have been some of your favorite memories at the restaurant?
Every one of the Scallions employees would tell you it was the day I hired or met them. For some, that is true, some not! (And those that will be the death of me!) I am blessed with favorite memories every day when I’m told “this soup is awesome” or “this tastes just like it used to,” which gives me reason to stand up tall and be proud of what I’m doing. Probably most validating is when a customer from out of state, or any customer for that matter, says “this is the best breakfast I’ve ever had.” I embrace breakfast because I created and own the menu and it resonates with me more than anything. It helps make the 4:00 a.m. alarm not so blaring. I’m also touched by all the children who say “Scallions is my new favorite restaurant,” regardless if it’s lunch or breakfast. We have always prided ourselves on the number of children we’ve raised on our cheese soup. However, I’m on a mission to raise more on our cheese grits!
In regards to the future, any news or will it be business as usual?
We have so many “Visions of Grandeur.” No promises, but Sunday brunch is on the drawing board. Also, dinner service might be an option come Spring…stay tuned!
Let’s get to the less serious questions…
Where’s your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere on the water … river, lake, hot tub … a beach and ocean would be a plus.
What the best meal you’ve eaten outside of Little Rock?
Hard to say. I’ve had a lot of good meals in Little Rock that compete with the best. However, it’s hard to beat the chargrilled oysters at Drago’s in New Orleans.
Who serves the best pizza in town?
I’m a big fan of Pizzeria at Terry’s. However, ZaZa’s has a nice offering. Truth be told, Damgoode Pies is a frequent go-to, as it’s practically in my backyard. Let the record stand, I am a pizza whore and you will probably find pizza in my refrigerator on almost any given day.
If you could change one thing about Little Rock, what would it be?
Honestly, I would not change a thing. I’ve lived here since I was seven. I’ve lived in several different places along the way as an adult but kept coming back to Little Rock. Maybe it was family, or friends or a sense of familiarity. Who knows? I will say, however, the people in Little Rock, and Arkansas for that matter, are some of the most amazing people. I think Little Rock is one of the best kept secrets around. Or maybe, it’s just home.