One of Little Rock’s most iconic restaurant locations will be shutting their doors. Afterthought Bistro and Bar, located on the corner of Kavanaugh and Beechwood will operate their last service next Wednesday (May 18th).
We heard rumors of the potential closing last night at their weekly open mic night, that some of us frequently attend. A call to the restaurant this afternoon confirms the closing next week.
The Afterthought bar has been around since 1978, accompanied by restaurants of various names. The long-term success of the space was no doubt aided by being on one of the most popular street corners in Little Rock.
(Update thanks to reader Shawn Porter) The Afterthought was originally opened by John Smithers as an “Afterthought” to his opening “That Little Restaurant” which was the original restaurant in a long line of eateries in that space. The Afterthought opened about 1978.
The restaurant portion later became known as La Scala and then Beechwood Grill before transitioning to New Orleans themed Vieux Carre in 2006. In 2013 the previous owners, the Bennett Family, sold both spots to first time restaurant owner Joe Gillespie.
Gillespie initially kept the separate branding for about a year before transitioning to calling the entire space Afterthought Bistro and Bar. Around the same time as the transition chef Greg Wallis left to open nearby Kemuri and the restaurant side of business never seemed to find an audience. Frequent menu changes and a very slow transition from New Orleans inspired food to a more Americana cuisine caused a lack of identity in the menu.
The bar portion of the space continued to thrive however, often finding itself at capacity. Gillespie at one point even debated on doing away with the restaurant space and making it one large bar and live music venue.
Late last year warning signs about the state of the restaurant started to show when Gillespie left the restaurant and moved to Florida. Manager Richard Muse took over and attempted to keep things going through changes to the menu and the increasingly dated aesthetic of the building, which was mostly a holdover from the Vieux Carre days.
With the location of the restaurant we do not expect this to stay vacant for long at all. We have already heard possible names for new tenants, even before the closing announcement. With any luck someone can once again capture the magic if this iconic location.