After five memorable years in business, Hillcrest Artisan Meats will close at the end of 2016. Brandon Brown and Tara Portiva-Brown have sold the space to Tomas Bohm of The Pantry and The Pantry Crest, who plans to open a deli-style restaurant at the Hillcrest location. For Brown, it’s a bittersweet end to a noteworthy run that eventually took its toll.
“I’m just tired, that’s all it comes down to,” says Brown. “Our family is more important than our business. We work 60 hours per week, it’s been wear-and-tear on us physically and mentally.”
Brandon and Tara will keep HAM open through the end of the year, planning a special blowout celebration on their last day of business. For a restaurant has ingrained in the neighborhood as HAM is, it’s sure to be well-attended.
“It’s bittersweet to be shutting down,” says Brown. “It’s heartbreaking, but we just can’t do it anymore. I think we’ve done a good service to this community, and they’ve received us so well. I’m honestly not sure if we’re as good as how people have treated us.”
Brandon and Tara opened Hillcrest Artisan Meats in 2011 and became a mainstay in Hillcrest for a couple of years. HAM really erupted on the Little Rock food scene in 2013, when it won the La Quercia Ham Independence contest and received a Berkshire Acorn Prosciutto leg as a prize. Instead of selling it or using it themselves, HAM served small slices for free to anybody who came in the building.
While that was the moment the city took notice, the food community long celebrated HAM for its robust selection of cured and fresh meats, house-made bacon and sausages, and the borderline legendary “Burger Friday,” which still has people coming in for lunch at 10:30 a.m. to get one of 30 burgers Brown and his crew make.
The Brown family will stay in Little Rock through the school year, at which point they will make a decision as to their future. However, Brown says leaving HAM and Little Rock behind won’t be easy.
“We really appreciate everything everyone has done for us,” says Brown. “It’s been a pretty successful business venture, especially for our first business to own. It isn’t an easy decision at all, part of me doesn’t know if I’m making the right decision. Little Rock has been really good to us.”
As for Bohm’s plans for the space, we will keep you posted on his upcoming deli, which has not yet been named.