Top New Restaurants We Are Looking Forward to in 2014

This year is shaping up to be another great year for new locally owned restaurants in Little Rock. We have already seen a solid opening at Mylo Coffee Co., and the places announced so far seem to be even better. Now that we were released to tell you a bit (we still have more details) about Heights Taco and Tamale  Company, we are now up to date on all new launches that we have confirmed for the year.

Here is a quick look at the new spots coming that we are most interested in.

The Pantry Crest 

The Pantry is quite possibly our favorite go-to restaurant in the city. The food is consistent and solid every time and the price to quality ratio is miles ahead of any other restaurant. The part we don’t like? Having to fight to cross 430 on a week night to grab a 6 p.m. dinner.

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So when owner Tomas told us back in August that he was looking into the Hillcrest location that was previously occupied by The House we got very excited. The location is a wreck, so a total restoration effort is much-needed. However in prime condition this will be a very popular spot (shown above).

The overall renewal of Hillcrest into the food core of Little Rock should be complete with The Pantry. Especially now that Frank Fletcher and his restaurant killing ability is gone.

Expect a launch very late this year.

Heights Taco & Tamale Company

The restaurant now known as Height’s Taco and Tamale (HT&T) has been a bit of an urban legend for quite a while. We first heard initial rumblings about this mythical place last June while the Yellow Rocket group was launching Big Orange Midtown. In the early stages there was the desire to possibly put a new location for Local Lime somewhere in the midtown area, or a new property with a more tex-mex concept.

Fast Forward 10 months and the idea is fully realized and moving into the old Brownings spot on Kavanaugh. HT&T will be a very carefully crafted restaurant focusing on casual tex-mex. Where Local Lime is upscale Latin America restaurant, HT&T will have a casual Austin flare. If you have ever been to Iron Cactus on 6th street in Austin you should be able to picture what this place will become.

We cannot say much about the menu yet, but know that it is at least 8 months in the making. If you know much about Scott McGehee and his group, you should know that given that much time they will knock it out of the park.

Expect a launch sometime mid fall.

Baja Grill

It was no secret that Baja Grill was looking to relocate to Little Rock for some time. Baja started in a truck in Benton. We were a little skeptical that any place in Saline County could make much of an impact in the food world, but Baja started turning out some amazing food.

When we heard the final plans for their location became the old Satellite Cafe spot on the corner of Kavanaugh and University we thought it was unfortunate because we knew HT&T was already negotiating for the Brownings spot just a block down the road.

Coming from Saline County they have an underdog status. They will compete directly with HT&T, and they do not have the success, experience, execution, and money that Yellow Rocket can pour into a new restaurant. But do not sleep on Baja grill. They produce some top-notch food that will attract some fans due to the early launch over HT&T, and the overflow from people wanting mexican but are not willing to wait in what will be a 2 hour line for HT&T after open.

Soft launch is expected May 15th

*Correction, we initially called this tex-mex. The food is much more of a Southern Cal/Mex style.

Lost 40

When I first heard about Lost 40 I thought the Yellow Rocket Concepts Group (Again Big Orange, Local Lime, ZAZA, and HT&T) had lost their minds trying to open up two large locations in one year.

Lost 40, while technically a brewery, may be the most well thought out of all the locations. Amber Brewer is the best restaurant designer in the state. Period. Do not debate me there. Talking with her about the theme, flow, and style of the place I believe this will be her best yet.

The location will offer a variety of meats and bar style food along with their house brewed beers.

Launch probably will be late summer.

Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Next in the list of food trucks-turned-brick-and-mortar is Pizzeria Santa Lucia. Previously they hauled their pizza oven around on a trailer and made some of the most fantastic pizzas we have had in town.

Pizzeria Santa Lucia is moving inside Terry’s Finer Foods in the Heights. This should allow Santa Lucia to remain nimble and continue to push out high quality, short run pizzas that will grow their brand. Expect this to be a hidden gem in the Heights.

Opening should be within the next couple of months.

Wildcard – Southern Gourmasian 

This is the one that we do not know about. Justin Patterson may well be the best chef in the city right now, and we have a lot of good ones. We know he is actively looking for a brick and mortar location to expand on his already amazing food truck.

If Justin is able to find a location soon we could see what could very well be the most exciting new restaurant of all. Justin handles his food with careful precision, seeking the perfect balances. If his ownership style is anything like his cooking style this one will slip in to 2015 as he attempts to balance the style and quality the truck is known for with a dining area that enhances the experience.

What places are you looking forward to this year? Drop us a note in the comments or on Facebook and we will add additions to the list.

*Photo via Pantry Crest facebook page

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Top New Restaurants We Are Looking Forward to in 2014