Fans of The Southern Gourmasian, the brilliant fusion food-truck-turned-restaurant that closed earlier this year, have a new reason for happiness today. Gourmasian owner Justin Patterson and manager CC Key have signed the lease on their new venture called TAE. The Southern-themed restaurant and lounge will occupy the restaurant space of Hotel Frederica on Capitol Avenue in downtown Little Rock. Patterson and Key just signed the lease, and now the work begins in getting TAE ready to open.
“I’ve been searching for a way to build, you know, what is Little Rock’s food identity,” said Key. “I asked Justin what he thought it was, and I did my research. But when the hotel (Frederica) came around, I was like, ‘This is perfect.’ I think the history of the hotel is perfect for what we were trying to do.”
Patterson and Key closed The Southern Gourmasian after struggling with the building on Capitol Avenue, just a few blocks away from the new location. Patterson wanted to simply move Gourmasian at first, but was unable to find a suitable spot to keep his Southern-Asian menu going. Rather than forcing the concept to fit in an awkward location, Patterson and Key decided to create a new restaurant altogether.
Enter TAE. Both “eat” spelled backward and an acronym for “True Arkansas Eatery,” Key says she wants TAE to celebrate both the heritage and future of Southern food. That means doing what she and Patterson have proven so accomplished at performing: expressing classic dishes and themes in fresh, innovative ways.
“I want to have Southern classics with that same Southern Gourmasian feel, sort of infused and modern and clean,” said Key. “I also want to do a bit of catering to people and their dietary needs and what they’re doing. I want you to be able to come and get a gluten-free or a vegan meal, but I still want your friend who loves chopped pork to be able to come with you.”
TAE will feature a full-service restaurant and bar, complete with a unique cocktail menu that Key has been working on. She envisions TAE as a lounge in some respects, with a relaxed environment and long hours to allow diners a quality, late-night meal without having to deal with a raucous scene. Oh, and Gourmasian fans will surely be happy to find out that some of the techniques and dishes they love will be making an appearance at TAE. No spicy chicken and dumplings, but expect the unique styles of cornbread, greens and fried chicken to make a comeback.
As for a timeline, that’s up in the air at this point. Key says the dining room and bar area are largely turnkey, but the kitchen will need some updating. Hotel Frederica is one of the oldest hotels in the state, and some work needs to be done to bring the cooking area up to modern standards. So while there’s no timetable yet to open up, Key and Patterson will be working hard to get the space, new staff and menu ready. We will keep you posted on TAE’s status in the coming weeks.