After more than a year of speculation and rumors about the vacant business space at 2712 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Hillcrest, we finally know what will be happening there. Local business owner Daniel Bryant will be developing the former Helmich’s Auto Service and the property behind it into a casual restaurant featuring burgers, shakes and a full bar. Bryant’s plans also include a semi-public park and green space attached to the restaurant, which still has yet to be named. Bryant, who owns a number of Little Rock businesses including The Fountain and the upcoming Sauce(d) restaurant, hopes his newest business will add to Hillcrest’s family-friendly dining choices.
“In that genre in Hillcrest, we have Canon Grill and U.S. Pizza and Damgoode Pies,” said Bryant. “Great restaurants, but when you live somewhere for ten years, three just isn’t enough. What we’re trying to do is fill the gap in dinnertime options there where people have another casual option.”
Bryant’s plan includes new construction in the current Helmich’s parking lot that will result in a restaurant that runs along the sidewalk on Kavanaugh. The primary entrance will be on the east side of the building, near U.S. Pizza, and will open to a burger bar on one side and soda fountain on the other that will be open for lunch and dinner (Bryant says he doesn’t want to compete against local late-night businesses). The initial vision for the restaurant is based on the popular chain Shake Shack, though Bryant says final plans for the menu will be left to others.
But it’s the property behind Helmich’s that has garnered the most public attention. Plans call for the fourplex house to be torn down to make way for a new park. Bryant has faced some backlash for the move, but hopes that his design will ultimately lead to a space that the entire neighborhood can use. The park will still belong to Bryant’s restaurant, but will be open to members of the public to enjoy, whether they’re paying customers or not. Bryant says he wants the park to feel like it’s been there for years from day one.
“The feeling people get when they’re on this piece of property is really the most important things to us,” says Bryant. “We’ll be planting full trees, not saplings. We’re really trying to make it feel like you’re in a pocket park in an urban environment.”
The park will be enclosed so that it can be covered by the restaurant’s liquor permit, meaning diners will be able to enjoy beer, wine and mixed drinks outdoors. In addition, Bryant plans for a large entrance to the park on Beechwood St., where a food truck could park and take advantage of weekend traffic or Hillcrest’s monthly first Thursday “Shop and Sip” event.
Bryant hopes to begin construction in the coming weeks. If all goes well, the restaurant could be open later this year. That will depend on construction going smoothly and all necessary permitting being handled in a timely fashion.
Disclosure: Steve Shuler is the chair of Hillcrest HarvestFest, a committee of the Hillcrest Merchants Association, of which Daniel Bryant is a member.