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Oh, these tacos?

Theyre
only $1.50 a pop.
p. 32

how to eat
on the cheap
WHERE TO FIND UNDER-THE-
RADAR (AND UNDER-BUDGET)
february 2016 $4.95 TACOS, BURGERS & MORE

+
ARCHITECT CHARLES
EAMES IN HELENA
www.arkansaslife.com
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE i
features

28 44
Check, please Modern Genesis
Always go to the same quick-Chinese spot? Is Papa John your Long before Charles Eames achieved world renown for his
emergency contact? Same here. That is, until we spent two design work (the molded plastic Eames chairs may ring a
weeks sleuthing out the best cheap eats across the state, bell), he received, in 1934, his first major architectural com-
queueing up at under-the-radar spots in search of such deli- mission from a ver y determined Thomas J. Mar tin of Helena.
cacies as fried-cauliflower curr y, grape-jelly-topped burgers The church he designed would have an immeasurable impact
and one heckuva pozole not only on his career but also on the people of Helenafor
decades and decades to come
By Katie Bridges, Syd Hayman, Jordan P. Hickey, Nicholas Hunt &
Mariam Makatsaria By Katherine Stewart
Photography by Arshia Khan Photography by Rett Peek

ON THE COVER
P H O T O G R A P H BY A R S H I A K H A N

2 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 3
4 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 5
DEPARTMENTS
Front Porch By Mariam Makatsaria
13 Culturalist Photography by
Arshia Khan
sketchbook
16 Steve Adair 66 Truffle Time
Four recipes from Hillcrests
Favorite Things Izard Chocolate just in time for
18 David Longinotti Valentines Day
Oaklawns director of racing on Photography by
his 10-year tenure Arshia Khan
By Mariam Makatsaria
Photography by 67 Good Tasting
Arshia Khan Photography by
Arshia Khan
Hometown
20 Conway Weekender
By Heather Steadham 68 Mile-High Life
Photography by Discovering Denver
Arshia Khan By Jordan P. Hickey
Photography by
One on One Rebecca Stumpf
24 Crystal C. Mercer
For the founder of Columbus Outdoorsman
Creative Arts + Activism, it 74 Backcountry Color
runs in the family Plein-air painter Pat Matthews
By Syd Hayman is at home in the woods
Photography by By Nicholas Hunt
Arshia Khan
Last Word
Good Taste 80 Natural Wonder
61 Skylark Cafe How to raise an Arkansan
A little bit of everything in By Katie Bridges
Leslie

Know
real estate, mortgage
or insurance agents
who deserve recognition?
Nominate your favorites
in Arkansas Lifes
Top Agents Contest.

CAST YOUR VOTE: pAGE 68


arkansaslife.com/agents Arkansas Life, Volume 8, Number 6 (ISSN 2374-0868, print) (ISSN 2374-0892,
Look for the results in the May issue of Arkansas Life. online) (USPS PE 12922) is published monthly by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Inc., 121 East Capitol Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201. Periodical postage
The entry deadline is Feb. 28, 2016. paid at Little Rock, Arkansas, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send
address changes to Arkansas Life, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR, 72203-2221.
6 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 7
EDITORS LETTER
ARKANSASLIFE
121 East Capitol Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72201
www.arkansaslife.com
volume 8 number 6

Niche Publications Director


STACI MILLER FRANKLIN
Retail Advertising Director ashley frazier
N iche Sales Director Sloane mares Grelen
Circulation Manager John Burnett
Promotions Director AMANDA COPLEY

EDITORIAL
Editor KATIE BRIDGES
Creative Director KELLEY LANE
Senior Editor JORDAN P. HICKEY
Associate Editor NICHOLAS HUNT
Assistant Editor MARIAM MAKATSARIA
Photographer ARSHIA KHAN
Designers
MARK BUFFALO
SETH MASSENGILL
JOSEPH STOUT
Copy Editors
SYD HAYMAN
KAREN LASKEY
Contributing Writers
HEATHER STEADHAM
When youre taking in Helena-West Helenas St. Marys Catholic Church from
KATHERINE STEWART
the sidewalk on Columbia Street, theres not much about the exterior that screams
Contributing Photographers
landmark. Unadorned red-brick walls. Slivers of stained glass. Its not grandiose,
rett peek
flourishyone might even use the word austere. And thats precisely what its architect
REBECCA STUMPF
had in mind.
Contributing Artist
Ironically, its the architect himselfone Charles Eamesthat makes the place
STEVE ADAIR
extraordinary. Take a tour (or just find unofficial church spokesperson Jo Turner) and
youll learn that St. Marys was one of Eames first major commissions. Youll also see,
ADVERTISING
once inside, the underpinnings of the aesthetic that would go on to earn the architect
Special Sections Manager WENDY MILLER
international acclaimand would ruffle the feathers of more than a few traditional
Advertorial Writers
parishioners. Its all there, as youll read in Leap of Faith (page 44). You just might
LINDA GARNER-BUNCH
have never noticed.
JENNIFER ELLIS
That hidden-in-plain-view theme extends to our Cheap Eats feature (page 28),
CODY GRAVES
as well. Initially, we thought we knew em allthe best burgers, the top tacos, etc. But
Advertorial Designer LEANNE HUNTER
we decidedyou know, for journalismto cast our nets a bit wider. As a result, we
Advertising Designer WESS DANIELS
spent two weeks filling our bellies (and our significant others, too, it should be noted)
Advertising Account Executive TWEEDIE MAYS
with dive-bar deliciousness. We found fragrant pho in former gas stations and vibrant
Moroccan flavors in cookie-cutter strip malls. We dug deep into Arkansas grease-
caked greasy spoons and found the world to be a better place. We even found what is Arkansas Life is published 12 times yearly
arguably The Universes Best Banh Miwhich can be yours for the low, low price of by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.
$3.50in a place called Mikes Cafe. No kidding.
The takeaway here: If youre willing to do a little legwork, this state is teeming with Publisher WALTER E. HUSSMAN JR.
hidden gems. All it takes is a closer look. President/General Manager LYNN HAMILTON
V.P./Advertising SCOTT STINE
And speaking of legwork, Ill just leave this right here: We did some rudimentary
V.P./Circulation LARRY GRAHAM
calculations and determined that our staff would have to jog (relay style, passing the Digital Director VERONICA OXENDINE
baton) all the way to Kansas City to burn off the calories we collectively consumed
while putting together this issue. (Sorry, pants.) Editorial Information 501.918.4505
Advertising Information 501.244.4334
Cheers, Circulation Information 501.918.4555

8 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


FEEDBACK

This months poll Januarys Poll: Whether the night was relaxing
What is your favorite genre of cheap eats? or rambunctious, how did you ring in 2016?
A) Cheese! I mean, American.
B) Latin American. Tacos are life. 46%

Watching Carson Daly ring in the New


Year (but secretly wishing he was Dick
C) Asian. Pho sho.

A kid-friendly family get-together with


In the comfort of my bed. Lights off.

toasting at midnight. Clink, clink.


D) Time is circular, and so are pizzas.

A rowdy pub crawl downtown,


E) Gimme that Southern-fried goodness.

silly hats and good food.


on the web 17% 17% 17%
Our February cover story, Sweat

Eyes closed.a
Equity, profiled five local startup

Clark).
founders. Heres what readers had to
say on Twitter:
@arkansaslife great stories and pics,
behind the scenes but I would have loved to see some
Our Cheap Eats feature in numbers: women in the mix @bangupbetty
This story on @RickWest01 is Feedback? Write to us at Editors,
Miles driven: 1,449 fantastic! Kudos, @arkansaslife Arkansas Life, 121 E. Capitol
Photos taken: 1,183 @NWArkCouncil Ave., Little Rock, AR, 72201, or drop us
Tacos devoured: 34
Cool to see @jordancarlisle & a line at katie@arkansaslife.com. Letters
Cover versions drafted: 52
Shortest trip (in pursuit of noodles): 6 blocks @_davidhudson in @arkansaslife. addressed to Arkansas Life become its property,
Longest trip (in pursuit of gyros): 380 miles Awesome people doing awesome and may be edited for clarity and length.
Calories consumed: 41,721* work. #aridea @ChadWilliamson
Miles wed need to run to burn off said calories: 428
(P.S.: We didnt.)
Being Social #myarkansaslife
(*A gross approximation. Were afraid to be too precise.) @ArkansasLife Arkansaslife.tumblr.com Arkansas Life Arkansas Life ArkansasLife

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 9


CONTRIBUTORS

Rebecca Stumpf
Boulder, Colorado-based editorial photographer
(and self-described foodie, ar t-enthusiast and all-
around culture-lover) Rebecca Stumpf was in
her happy place photographing Denvers hot
spots for this months Weekender (page 68)
especially the restaurants. Having grown up with
two amazing parents, shes been an epicurean
since her early days, when shed bake pretend
souffls while playing kitchen with her siblings.
Her love of the foodie culture grew alongside a
love of travel and exploration, which naturally
led to an affinity for ar t. She never turns down a
visit to a citys local ar t museum, always with her
camera in tow.

Katherine Stewart
A former editor of Arkansas Life, Katherine Stew-
art is a travel writer for the Arkansas Depar tment
of Parks & Tourisma remarkably similar gig, in that
her days still consist primarily of scoping out and
telling fantastic stories of Arkansas. As the writer for
the states central region, she doesnt usually get to
spend so much time in the Delta, and she made
the most of it visiting with the parishioners of St.
Marys Catholic Church in Helena-West Helena for
this months Leap of Faith (page 44). Katherine
could sit for hours listening to their stories, and she
hopes to be invited back to visit with them (and to
savor the bygone delights of the Pillow-Thompson
House!) again soon.

Heather Steadham
Good things seem to come in twos for Heath-
er Steadham. The mother of two boys (and
a girl), she has two bachelors degrees (one in
psychology, one in English), has worked in cre-
ative writing at two graduate schools (Southern
New Hampshire University and the University
of Central Arkansas) and writes steadily for two
Arkansas magazines (Arkansas Life and Do South).
If it werent for her perpetual luck with the num-
ber two, this months Hometown feature may
have turned out drastically different. A resident
of Conway, Heather was able to take a second
glance at her stomping grounds, gaining a fresh
perspective on both the town and her life. Much
to her chagrin, however, her story is not on page
22. Youll have to turn to page 20 instead.

10 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com





SUNDAYFEBRUARY
SUNDAYFEBRUARY
OAKLAWNBOWL

WEDNESDAYFEBRUARY
BOURBONSTREETBASH
BOURBONSTREETBAS

MONDAY FEBRUARY
MONDAYFEBRUARY
PRESIDENTSDAYGIVEAWAY
PRESI
GAMBLINGPROBLEM?CALL---

LIVE RACING PENNY GAMES VIDEO POKER BLACKJACK MORE!

One of the premiere race meets in North America is now in full swing and there is no beer way
GOODFORNEWMEMBERSONLYON
to spend a day than watching the heart pounding action of Thoroughbred racing. The countrys INITIALSIGN-UPVALIDIDREQUIRED
MUSTBEEXPIRES//
ARLIFE
top horses, jockeys and trainers have all come to Hot Springs to compete for record purses as
we make our way towards the rich Racing Festival of the South in April. And, of course, Oaklawn
Gaming oers hundreds of new games, live blackjack, live poker, roulee, craps and a high limits
area! For more fun and fewer miles, come play at Oaklawn Gaming in Hot Springs National Park.

For Hot Springs lodging, dining, and shopping information, visit HotSprings.org.
OAKLAWNCOM

ARKANSASFAVORITEPLACETOPLAYANDONLYMINUTESAWAY
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 11
12 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
FRONT PORCH

the culturalist
A months worth of Politicos, Phantom of the Opera
and porcelain blades of grass

BALLETBOYZ | Feb. 4
FAYETTEVILLE | These ballerinos show us that the ballet world is not just about tutus and pointe shoesbecause, lets
face it, thats typically what comes to mind when we hear the word ballet. This troupe of dancers is a particular breed of
superhuman with its brilliant coordination, supernatural muscularity and strength. (Were talking lifts, falls, windmilling arms,
athletic jumps, etc.) See them at the Walton Arts Center this month. (waltonartscenter.org)
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 13
DOROTHEA
LANGES
AMERICA
Feb. 26 - May 8
LITTLE ROCK | Flor-
ence Owen Thomp-
son would have
almost certainly re-
mained in obscurity
had it not been for
Dorothea Lange, a
photographer who
captured Thomp-
son in Nipomo, Cal-
ifornia, during the
height of the Great
Depression in a se-
ries of now-iconic
photographs. In-
stead, Thompsons
photo, titled Migrant
Mother, is an im-
age thats come to
define a significant
chapter in our col-
lective history. In the
gritty and raw photo,
Thompsons weary
eyes stare into the
distance, her chil-
dren cowering be-
hind her, their faces
buried in her neck.
This month, that and
other stirring im-
ages shot by Lange
and her colleagues
go on display at the
Arkansas Arts Cen-
ter. (arkarts.com)

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother. Nipomo, California, 1936. Gelatin silver


print. Private collection, Dorothea Lange/Oakland Museum of California.

ASO POPS! Live: BROADWAY ROCKS! | Feb. 13-14 LITTLE ROCK | One or two perky songs from Hairspray? Sounds great. But
all 10? Not so much. Broadway Rocks! is a celebration of the most popular Broadway musicalsa collection of our favorites in small doses.
With an ensemble of Broadway-veteran vocalists accompanied by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the show brings hits from Wicked,
The Phantom of the Opera, The Wiz and more to the stage of the Connor Performing Arts Center. (arkansassymphony.org)

14 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


Ari Fleischer and David Axelrod at
the
University of Arkansas | feb. 25
FAYETTEVILLE | Ari Fleischer and David Axelrod have more than just brushed shoulders
calendar
with D.C. politicostheyve done major handiwork for and alongside the two most re- Feb. 2: Arkansas Symphony
cent commanders in chief. Fleischer, former President George W. Bushs White House Orchestra Chamber Music: Mozart
press secretary, and Axelrod, who was chief strategist for President Barack Obamas & Mendelssohn at the Clinton
2008 campaign, visit the University of Arkansas to talk all things politics just in time Presidential Center in Little Rock
for Arkansas presidential primary March 1. (uark.edu)
Feb. 5: Paula Poundstone at the
Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
Feb. 5: Pianist Thollem McDonas
at Crystal Bridges Museum of
American Art in Bentonville
Feb. 6: Little Rock School
Desegregation: From Then to
Now at the Mosaic Templars
Cultural Center in Little Rock
Feb. 6: Symphony of Northwest
Arkansas presents Valentines
Pop: American Songbook at the
Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville
Feb. 7: Arkadelphia Chamber
Players at Henderson State
Universitys Russell Fine Arts
Center in Arkadelphia
Photo courtesy of Dawn Holder

Feb. 9: Def Leppard at Verizon


Arena in North Little Rock
Feb. 12: An Evening with Sinbad at
the University of Central Arkansas
Reynolds Performance Hall in
Conway
Feb. 12 - apr. 17: 46th Annual Mid-
DAWN HOLDER EXHIBITION | Feb. 11 - Apr. 21 PINE BLUFF | Nature and lifestyle col- Southern Watercolorists Juried
lide in ceramicist Dawn Holders meticulously constructed work. Seventy-five thousand Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts
celery-stalklike porcelain blades of grass depict fixation with lawn care. Copper-stemmed Center in Little Rock
sprouts bud from light switch plates in a portrayal on electricitys relationship with the Feb. 15 & 17: Mamma Mia! at UCAs
home. Its this kind of expression that landed her work in the Washington, D.C.-based Reynolds Performance Hall in
National Museum of Women in the Arts biennial exhibition, Women to Watch, last year. Conway
Expect nothing less when Holder presents A Flowers Shadea site-specific, sculptural
installation using discarded items such as branches and weedsbeginning this month at Feb. 18: Nora Jane Struthers & the
the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. (asc701.org) Party Line at South on Main in
Little Rock
Feb. 18: Wellington International
Ukulele Orchestra at Rev Room in
Little Rock
Feb. 19: Bla Fleck and Abigail
Washburn at the Walton Arts
Center in Fayetteville
Feb. 19 - 21: Cirque du Soleil
presents Toruk at Verizon Arena
in North Little Rock
Feb. 25: Little Rock Wind
FAULT | Feb. 4-28 FAYETTEVILLE | A government-issued quarantine in the wake
Symphony presents Darth Vader
of an Arkansas River Valley nuclear catastrophe just isnt the same without former
and Trombones at Second
Razorback Gabe resisting orders to head back to the family farm. Naturally, a scientist
Presbyterian Church in Little Rock
named Molly is captivated by this rebellionand it turns out she has her own reasons
for being in the off-limits area. Sound unbelievable? Visit the Walton Arts Center, where Feb. 26 - 29: Oliver at The Forum
such things happen in this world premiere thriller penned by TheatreSquared artistic Theatre in Jonesboro
director Robert Ford. (waltonartscenter.org)
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 15
FRONT PORCH

Arkansas Sketchbook

leaf forms

Steve Adair
Mixed media, wood panel, hardware
2015-6

Maybe it was in the basement, looking through and theyre still collected and fixed as installations on broad
a ground-level window out onto his grandparents yard white walls, theres something in the leaves evolution that
swallowed by the untended, encroaching floraor maybe has altered their course. Theyre no longer just something
it was earlier. Maybe it was seeing Bob Ross beamed into his done of the moment, drawn largely from impulse and the
home and watching as he swirled dollops of paint into whorls materials at hand. Instead of cutting old paintings into
and made them into bushes. Maybe it was any number of pieces, hes moved on to painting them individually and
thingsinfluences during the formal education Steve Adair specifically for the shows. And on a broader scale, there now
got as a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at Arkansas State seems to be more direction in terms of the ways the leaves
University; the informal education of time spent exploring are placed. Whereas his early projects seemed to be almost
buildings slowly reclaimed by nature. But thats really not amorphous, shapes without movement or momentum, his
what matters. What matters is that one day, he took an old more recent work, such as the current installation at the
painting and put it on the platform of a table saw. He turned Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale, recalls swarms
on the saw, and pieces of canvas and color fell to the floor and vortexes youd find in nature, in the movement of birds
of his grandparents garage, and the thing that emerged and fish.
was a leaf. And to consider where the work has been and what its
In the past three years, some things have changed, and become, it seems fair to say theres been a shift. But its all
others have remained the same. While theyre still leaves, happened organicallyits all still natural. jph

16 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


QUEEN WILHELMINA STATE PARK LODGE MATHER LODGE, PETIT JEAN STATE PARK

THE LODGE AT MOUNT MAGAZINE STATE PARK

DEGRAY LAKE RESORT STATE PARK LODGE DRY CREEK, OZARK FOLK CENTER STATE PARK

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 17


FRONT PORCH 1
Davids
Picks
favorite things

On the Right Track 1. My favorite racing mov-


ieIll start with thatis
Seabiscuit. I love The Godfa-
Oaklawns David Longinotti ther and The Godfather: Part
on his time at the races II. I think theyre the best
movies ever made. The third
one wasnt that great.

2. My wife tells me that


Ill never get out of the
2 1980s and 1990s because
all I listen to is classic rock.
Im trying to broaden that.
I love Stevie Ray Vaughan
and U2in my mind, thats
progressive.
3
3. Obviously, I read the
Daily Racing Form, he says,
photo by arshia khan

laughing. I read all sorts


of local newspapers. I read
every page of Hot Springs
The Sentinel Record every
day. My day is not complete
until I go through a newspa-
per. I always start with the
sports. Im guilty of that.
In 1979, a chestnut-coated thoroughbred
named Alydararguably one of the fastest horses 4. Well, I am a big barbecue
fan, so I live in the right area.
and greatest sires in history, whose death would spur 4 We got McClards here,
decades-long controversygalloped to the finish line which is very good. Smokin
at Oaklawn Park, only to be defeated by a nose. And in Style and Stubbys are
16-year-old David Longinotti was there to see it. also very good.
Davids father, a racing fanatic, had taken the day 5 5. Im a Razorback fan
off work and let his son skip school for a morning of everyone in Arkansas has to
racing. Back then, it didnt even cross Davids mind be, I think. I do like college
that hed someday come back to work at the racetrack, football better than the
meet the worlds most talented riders and come to NFL, but I watch the NFL,
as well. Unfortunately, my
know another ferocious, record-breaking horse favorite NFL team is the
American Pharoah (who he describes as affable and Chicago Bears and has been
doglike). ever since I was a kid. They
As Oaklawns director of racing, David keeps havent had the best of
busy, overseeing a racing staff of 40 and some 100 6 years recently.
individual trainers (with about 1,500 horses); acting 6. I love to fly-fish. [I go to]
as a conduit of communication between Oaklawn and the Little Red River and the
the Arkansas Racing Commission; and managing the Little Missouri River. Those
video-production aspect of the racing program. And are my favorite places to
fly-fish in Arkansas, anyway.
during his 10-year tenure, Oaklawn has been doing
well, to say the least. In 2014, Oaklawn introduced 7. There are a couple of
Arkansas first-ever advanced deposit wagering horses that I have my eye
service, and just last year, because of American on, but the one that I think
Pharoahs win, Oaklawn was able to raise its Rebel could turn into a pretty de-
cent horse is owned by Pin
Stakes (the first race American Pharoah won in 2015) Oak stable, which is owned
to $900,000. by Josephine Abercrom-
7
American Pharoah had a great impact, David bie. She is a very special
says. We had gone a very long time without a Triple lady; she breeds all of her
own horses and has for a
Crown winnersince 1978. The fact that we finally number of years. His trainer
had one was great. The fact that we had one who is Donnie K. Von Hemel,
had placed in Oaklawn was even better. It sends a who has been a good friend
very strong messagethat our 3-year-old [stakes] of mine for a long time.
program is one of the strongest in the country and He was my go-to trainer
whenever I had a question
that you can win a Triple Crown by coming to Hot when I was still learning. The
Springs first. mm horses name is Synchrony.
18 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
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FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 19
FRONT PORCH

h ometo w n

con way
Finding home at home

by Heather Steadham | Photography by arshia khan

have to say, I consider myself a fairly cosmopolitan person. are some exotic patternI cant decide if theyre a tame leopard or a
After all, I grew up in the second-largest city in Arkansas. I daring tortoise shell.
graduated from university (a few times). Ive lived in Italy Beth, I say with a smile, putting my cellphone away. Im going to
and seen the Whirling Dervish dancers of Turkey and pretend to be new today, OK? Like Ive never been here before. So what
walked through the cerulean doors of Tunisia in Africa. would you recommend for lunch?
So when I returned to my home state after all my world I usually just get a salad, she shrugs. Whats the local ingredient
travels, I had to wonder: How much more was there for me today? she asks the girl behind the salad bar without missing a beat. I
to see? But writing a number of these Hometown features has caused notice a piece of paper announcing todays special, The Lemmy, which
me to humble myself and confess I havent seen nearly enough of my Im sure is a tribute to the Motrhead frontman who recently died:
beautiful native land as I should have. a pizza with housemade sausage, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh
Today, though, will be an interesting exercise, because my assignment mozzarella, goat-horn peppers, fontina, crushed red pepper, a drizzle
is to explore my own newly adopted hometown: Conway. How on earth of Arkansas honey, fresh basil and Parmesan. My mouth is watering. I
will anyone be able to show me the sights of a city Ive already lived in dont even pay attention to what Beth orders.
for over a year and a half? A place where I buy groceries and pay bills Between bites of delicious Asian ginger chicken saladnext time,
and take my kids to school every day of the week? Can anyone possibly pizza, next timeI learn that Beth grew up just 20 minutes up the
show me my own town in a way that makes it new in my eyes? road in Greenbrier, but shes lived in Conwayexcept for three years
of grad schoolsince 2002. Inhabiting
my nonresident role for the day, I ask her
1:57 p.m. my standard nonresident question: So
When Beth Wilson Norwood, art history what is it, exactly, that makes Conway
professor at Hendrix College and my guide Conway?
for the day, suggested a few days ago that The people, she says instantly, her
we meet at Zaza Fine Salad & Wood Oven infectious smile brightening her face.
Pizza Co. in Hendrix Village for lunch, I And I like that its growing and edging
wasnt mad at her. Its one of my favorites. toward becoming a more urban environ-
But this time, Im determined: Im going to ment, but you still bump into people you
look at the restaurant through fresh eyes. know at the grocery store.
So I examine the exterior of the restaurant Whats making it more urban? I ask,
instead of just walking in quickly to grab thinking about the chain stores and res-
a seat. The stacks of wood out front fore- taurants out on U.S. 64 (the humongous
tell the smoky scents inside. And what is T.J. Maxx/HomeGoods being my favor-
this taped to the glass on the door? A flier ite in the entire state).
proclaiming that Zaza participates in The Our effort to make downtown more
Locals Food Hub, an effort to support lo- vibrant and interesting, she replies, tak-
cal businesses. Ask about local dishes, it ing me off guard. Making the places
instructs me. Ive never noticed this before. spreading out from downtown more
I snap a photo with my iPhone, and thats walkable. More things to do. More en-
when my guide sneaks up on me. tertainment. Also, there are a lot of op-
Heather? she questions, and I turn portunities to get involved. For example,
around. Im chair of Conway ArtsFest. Our or-
Beths outfit is simpleblack combat- ganization is one of those pretty open
like boots, black leggings, a gray sweater organizations that if you want to help, we
tunic and a black shrug. Her brown hair greet you open with arms. There arent a
is shaped into a pixie cut, her earrings are lot of barriers to getting involved.
delicate dangles of silver, and her glasses Turns out that this year marks the

20 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


10th anniversary of ArtsFest, a week-long drix College Wellness and Athletics Center to commitment, but they make moving around
celebration of the arts. Put on by the Conway the main campus. And when Beth mentioned town much easier.
Alliance for the Arts, ArtsFest is held every art, I just figured Id find a mural slapped on When I first moved here summer before last
autumn and features programs ranging from one of the walls. But this art installation is from Europe, I was actually really glad to see
Tales from the South to the family-centered no mural. those roundabouts. They made my transition
activities of the final Saturdays Art in the Park. Called Harmonic Fugue and designed by from overseas so much easier.
I furrow my brow. Im a writer. Im even artist-composer-architect Christopher Janney, A year and a half later, Id totally forgotten
getting my MFA in creative writing at Univer- this interactive sound-and-light environment about them.
sity of Central Arkansas. I totally fit into the uses touch sensors, audio speakers and colored
category of Conway artist. Why havent I LED lights to create an immersive art experi-
whove lived in town for two different cycles of ence unlike anything Ive seen before. When 3:42 p.m.
ArtsFest nowbeen to it yet? I think to myself. I first stand at the end of the tunnel, I simply Beth drives me through one of my favorite
In fact, we have art everywhere in Conway, enjoy the musical score of enchanting sounds areas of Conwaywhat she calls Old Town
she says. Do you feel up for a walk? Id like to that Janneys website describes as being com- (and what the city calls the Old Conway De-
take you to see some. posed of a palette of melodic instruments and sign Overlay District). Its a large section of
Its blue skies and 60 degrees in January! environmental sounds indigenous to Arkansas this City of Colleges, stretching from north
I exclaim. Lets walk. including the song of a Mockingbird and the of Hendrix College to south of Central Baptist
We pass the center greenjust an open Honeybee. When I walk through the tunnel College and even occupying some of UCAs
lawnin Hendrix Village, and I have some and the lights change and the pitches undulate, campus.
vague recollection of a play being produced I cant help but break out into a smile. This is As long as I can remember, Ive wanted an
there. Yeah, she confirms. It was during just too delightful. And totally unexpected. old home here, Beth tells me as she drives
Arkansas Shakespeare Theatres festival. Out- I love this, I tell Beth. me past her new home, a quaint Craftsman
door theater? In Conway? Sure enough. And Im glad, she responds, her smile match- cottage thats almost a hundred years old now.
in June of this yearthe 10th seasonitll ing mine. We idle on the corner of Donaghey Avenue
be producing A Midsummer Nights Dream, We head back to her car. On the way, we run and Simms Street, where Gene Hatfield, a for-
Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story and Twelfth into someone she knows. Fitting. That is what mer UCA art professor, has transformed his
Night (with the majority of the shows being she likes about Conway, after all. yard into an outdoor art exhibition, featuring
at the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall Its Jim Wiltgen, executive vice president repurposed junk and recycled objects. Then
on UCAs campus). Shakespeare in Conway. of student affairs and dean of students at we talk about the mixed masonry houses that
Whodve thunk it? Hendrix College and fellow Conway Alliance Silas Owens Sr. built during the Depression.
And then, just two short blocks later, we for the Arts board member. When I ask him Since Owens was born in Faulkner County,
arrive at our destination. In our previous con- what makes Conway Conway, he says, Its big Conway is lucky enough to have several of
versations, Beth had called it the Hendrix tun- enough of a town to have the resources of a these beautiful homes that, as the Arkansas
nel. Ive seen this tunnel before in the course bigger city, but its small enough to be personal. Historic Preservation Program describes, in-
of my everyday life; Id always assumed it was A good example of that is the roundabouts. Im corporate Craftsman, English Revival, Medi-
there simply to usher students from the Hen- not sure other cities would have made such a terranean and ranch architectural elements,

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 21


Beth Wilson Norwood and Sandra Leyva

and are easily recognizable by their intricate Street to get a quick drink. Its happy hour, and It is about the cutest thing Ive ever seen. Its
and locally sourced stonework. If you like to Im told this is the Cheers of Conway. Inside, also genius. Both the Food Hub and the trike
look at interesting homes, it would seem Con- theres a raised stage with professional lighting are a USDA grant-funded project through the
ways your town. and extra seating in a second-story balcony. Local Food Promotion Program.
But interesting homes arent the only thing I could totally see myself coming here both But wait, theres more. Next, Sandra takes
going on in the district. Downtown Conway after work for a quick drink at the bar or on me to see the Faulkner County Urban Farm
is located smack dab in the middle of it all. a Friday night to hear some local bands. But Project, just behind the Faulkner County Pub-
Beth shows me City Hall there on the corner before I can get too comfortable, a friend of lic Library on Tyler Street. Its not even a mile
of Oak and Front streets, with Morton Browns Beths comes along: Sandra Leyva. Sandra is and a half from my house, and I didnt realize
beautiful Aurora Risingthe citys first com- the little bit country to Beths little bit rock n it was here. I mean, sure, Id seen signs about
munity muralpainted on the Simon Park roll: her short-cropped hair is wavy, her black the gardening club, or something like that, but
side of the building. We walk south down Front sweater has a brightly colored cross-stitched Id never taken the time to really read them.
Street past the New Orleans-inspired Mikes neckline, and her quilted cross-body bag hangs But sure enough, just behind the library, there
Place (where Ive grabbed the tastiest zucchini over khaki pants and Converse. are gardening sheds filled with shovels and soil
fries) before turning at the post office on Main Are you ready to go? she asks almost im- and little hoop houses with plastic protecting
Street, where some local citizen has thought- mediately. We dont want to lose the light. I crops from colder days and plots of garden
fully clothed the bronze sculpture of a little dont know where were headed or why we need a good city-block wide. This garden has two
girl for the winter with a knit hat. When we the light, but, much like Beths, Sandras smile annual festivals, a childrens garden club, a
get to Main and Chestnut streets, Beth shows is compelling. How can I resist? seed library and an annual seed swap (on Val-
me a sculpture by Alice Guffey Miller in the Beth, however, does resist, deciding instead entines Day this year). It donates the food it
fountain in Metro Square that used to be on to finish her drink and continue her conversa- produces to St. Peters Episcopal Churchs food
display in Laurel Park during EcoFest. EcoFest? tion with the three or four friends shes dis- pantry and, with the Arkansas GardenCorps,
Just how many festivals does Conway host? Is covered who also chose to stumble into Kings its been able to host a full-time service mem-
there ever not something going on here? today. I thank Beth profusely for her time and ber to care for the garden, do both adult and
Finally, Beth and I complete the walking promise her well meet again. How can we not, childrens programming in the library, and
loop by heading north on Chestnut back to living in this town? provide outreach in the community. Sandra
Oak Street, where we spy another mural whose Sandra and I hoof it a block farther down explains how the hoop houses have quintupled
lead artist was UCA graduate Jordan Karpe. Front Street to a tiny turquoise shed. Here it the output of the garden, how the elevated
It features things that make Conway, well, is! Sandra says, her hands flourishing like a beds are accessible to folks who cant reach the
Conway: students studying, a Silas Owens Sr. The Price Is Right models. Admittedly, I am ground and how the 5,000-gallon rainwater
house, a leaping toad (for Toad Suck Daze in underwhelmed, but its only because I dont barrel was crowdfunded a few years ago.
May, yet another festival), a roundabout road understand what is standing before me. This Its a pretty cool place in the winter, but I
sign, local high school mascots, the dogtrot little buildingthe sign identifies it as The bet its dazzling in the spring.
cabin at the Faulkner County Museum and Locals Food Hub, and I realize that this is what
more. And, I think, this pretty much sums it the flier at Zaza was talking aboutis actually
all up. My re-visioning is complete. My work a giant refrigerator, where, after restaurants 5:20 p.m.
here is done. place orders for local products, farmers drop Our last stop is at St. Peters Episcopal Church.
I could not be more wrong. off and store their goods. Then representatives Ive admired the brick building with its stained-
of The Locals (like Sandra) organize and de- glass windows and ivory clapboard steeple for
liver to the restaurants onwait for ittheir a while, but Ive not yet been inside. Sandra
4:55 p.m. turquoise modified street trike, which can also and I enter an open room with a Gothically
Beth and I stop in Kings Live Music on Front serve as a pop-up market. arched ceilingIm guessing what used to be

22 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


a sanctuary but is now a fellowship hallthat is lined with folding
tables stacked with fresh vegetables, egg cartons, newly baked bread.
The man at the first table has a shaved head and a close-cropped beard.
Glasses frame his mischievous eyes, and his well-worn red shirt has the
outline of Arkansas framing the phrase Buy Local. Its Steve Lunk,
director of Conway Locally Grown, and Sandra has brought me to what
Steve tells me is Conways only year-round online farmers market,
which enables Conwegians to order food products grown within 150
miles online from Sunday to Tuesday. Then, on Friday evenings, they
come out to St. Peters from 4 - 6 p.m. to pick up their goods. Besides
superior products and supporting local businesses, are there any other
benefits to this system? I wonder.
I read somewhere that 17 times more conversations take place at
a farmers market than at a grocery store, Steve tells me. And believe
me, with Steve, thats a bonus. Go ahead, ask him what makes Conway
Conway.
Have you been to the Kum & Go? he jokes. The hot dogs have
their own fixins section! But he soon sings a familiar tune. Its big
enough to have everything you need but small enough to be comfort-
able. And its growing. Not too quickly, I think.
I ask him what one place he would have me see before I left Con-
way (if I didnt live here, of course). He doesnt hesitate: Beaver Fork
Lake. Its got a beach, a park, a playground the Conway Symphony
plays out there sometimes. And guess whats right there on your way
home? A Kum & Go.
Sandra laughs. Conway is its people and the community. We see
Conway as a place with the potential to be vibrant and unique, and
we hope to make it so special that people from other places will want
to come here and stay here.
Sandra bids me adieu, and I promise to be in touch with her, as well.
Its been such a good day, and she and Beth have really lit such a fire in
me to join my community that I decide that tonight, I will do something
different. Tonight, I will venture out into my hometown on my own.

7:27 p.m.
I am sitting in my car in front of The Lantern Theatre. Its a converted
storefront on Van Ronkle Street near downtown, its faade covered in
stone, not unlike the Silas Owens Sr. houses. For a year and a half, a
colleague of mine has been involved in plays down here. In a former
life, I acted in a community theater and even directed a childrens the-
ater of my own, but not once have I shown support for my friend here.
This year alone, The Lantern Theatre is putting on 10 shows. Ten
shows in 12 months! And I know theyre excellent shows: Last year, The
Lantern was one of 12 finalistsout of 1,200 member theatersthat
made it to the National Festival of the American Association of Com-
munity Theatre. They won both the state festival in Pine Bluff and the
regional festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to get therethe only
theater in Arkansas to ever do this.
Tonight, my friend is starring as C.S. Lewis in a play titled Freuds
Last Session, an imagined meeting of two polar opposites at the on-
slaught of World War II.
After having neglected too many opportunities to cheer on my
friend, to contribute to the local economy, to join my own commu-
nity, Im almost too ashamed to go in. I think about going back to my
house. And then I think about the difference between the meanings of
house (where you live) and home (where you belong). I remember
part of what Sandra told me earlier: The way you keep people is to
have a community. It has to feel like a place youre a part of. We want
to see Conway be more of a place you can be involved in. Its all about
bringing people together.
I take my key out of the ignition. Walking across the side street just
off downtown Conway, hearing laughter coming from the lobby of the
theatre, I cant wait to join the crowd, and I know Im home.
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 23
FRONT PORCH

Kindred Spirits
With a trio of community eventsincluding this months
African Folklore Film Festivalin the works in her hometown
of Little Rock, Crystal C . Mercer is committed to keeping her
fathers astounding legacy alive and well
By syd hayman | Photography by Arshia Khan

We are twins in spirit, says Crystal C. Mercer. a framed event program he gifted to her years ago after speaking
Shes perched on a sunken couch in her temporary place blocks away at the University of Arkansas about school desegregation. In 1949,
from the Governors Mansion in Little Rock, and yet her posture after all, Christopher C. Mercer Jr. became the third black student
is straight, effortlessly balanced with her head held high, as she to integrate UAs law school and had plenty to say. Somebody
speaks about the father she calls her soul mate. Often, her criss- who wants a book so bad that theyll be called a nigger every day,
crossed hands resting in her lap expose the From Dad inked on that theyll live miles away from the school and walk to school and
the inside of her wrist in the style of his tiny script, borrowed from have to leave campus by sundown every day so they can get a law

24 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


degree? Crystal says. That is gangsta. My dad is certified gangsta. needed a voice, so he would be their representation. So I just knew,
When looking around this memento-filled room, its hard to miss If Im a storyteller, and I have a voice, and I found it here, then social
another keepsake: a framed ticket to a 2010 New York showing of justice stories are the stories I had to tell.
One Ninth, the one-woman production in which Crystal starred
as Minnijean Brown-Trickey, one of the nine black students who What inspired you to later produce your own work?
integrated Little Rock Central High School (Crystals alma mater)
in 1957 under the mentorship of Daisy L. Gatson Bates. During the I started [college] at the University of Central Arkansas. It was one
Central High crisis, Christopherwho, 10 years later, would become of those things where I was always fighting against the racism of it
the first black person to be named deputy prosecuting attorney in a all because sometimes the university education is very Eurocentric.
Southern stateheld the title of field secretary for the local NAACP Its very white, blue-eyed, thin, in terms of who gets the lead. I had a
chapter, advised Bates and the Little Rock Nine, and even provided professorhe still teaches there; he was a visiting professor my first
rides to school for several of the members. year of schooland we were doing scenes from Proof. I still havent
Even after One Ninths final performance, and even after Crystal watched the movie because of this trauma I experienced in college.
returned home from a drama-teaching stint in Maryland a couple of But we were doing scenes from Proof, and each girl was playing the
years later, the sentiment that drove her to star in the show lingered. lead: the daughter of this man who they thought was crazy, but really,
That same spiritthe desire to preserve a legacy through the stage he was this brilliant mathematician. And this professor was like, That
led Crystal to found Columbus Creative Arts + Activism in 2012, was wonderful. Thats probably the best scene Ive seen in this class.
Christophers 10th and final year of living But the truth is, because youre black,
with cancer. Since then, the consulting youre never going to be cast in that role.
servicewhose title borrows from Chris- Of course, when the movie came out,
tophers middle namehas established And I feel like this is Gwyneth Paltrow was cast as the lead,
programming that blends Crystals artistic [and] it reinforced what he said. That
what happens when is the truth about the theater world. If
background with her fathers humanitar-
ian spirit and civil-rights efforts. you pay your dues: You its not a black show, its hard to be cast
One of the first larger-scale manifesta- in a role unless they just need you, un-
tions of this fusion is the first-ever African
get your degree; you less you know somebody, unless youre
Folklore Film Festival (AF3)born out work; you do some that good and nobody else came out,
of a partnership with Columbus Creative and they can use you. So then that also
and the Film Society of Little Rocka
SHOWS. and THEN you becomes part of, OK, well, if Im not go-
ing to be cast in your show, then I need
celebration of rituals, dance, kinship and c an step in a room to start doing my own shit because how
magic set for Feb. 17 at The Studio Theatre
in Little Rock. And to get the Attorney with Bob Hupp and be else am I going to get a part if you think
Im brilliant, if you think Im the best, and
Christopher C. Mercer Jr. Legacy Founda- like, I want to partner you wouldnt cast me because Im black?
tion off the ground, Crystal launched The
Blax: Motion Picture Screening + Players with youand he says, And then I boycotted the theater de-
partment. I didnt take any theater class-
Ball, a showing of blaxploitation films set Yes. es. I didnt go to any theater functions. I
for this spring, to financially support the
foundations filing for 501(c)(3) status. didnt participate in any of those things
Her business also forged a partnership because that semester, this professor was
with the Arkansas Repertory Theatrewhere she got her start stitch- hired to be in the department. And Im
ing in the wardrobe department in 2006 and eventually graced its like, If this is the person responsible for my education for the next three
stageto present the C.C. Playwright Festival, a workshop for five years, Im not going to live that life. It was a disadvantage for me even
selected one-act plays, sometime this August. Its the least she could though I was making a pointand for my soul, it felt betterbut
do for the father who shaped her ambitions. for my college career, I was like, I need to get out of school. What the
Hes in the ground now, she says, and he worked all his life hell am I going to do? So I left UCA.
for something to happen that hasnt quite manifested in the way he
envisioned it. Thats why you leave the work with your seeds, the
What helped you realize the power of your reach?
people that you invest in, the people that you till and develop and
grow: your children. [In 2012], I wrote this play called The Auction Block. It derived
from a poem that I wrote about Harriet Tubman thats 11 pages
because black folks werent folksthey were three-fifths of a
When did you realize activism was the driving force behind your person. They were sold among the cattle, any type of livestock,
artistic expression? corn, cotton, millet, whatever you were selling. They were on the
It was probably right from the beginning because I found that voice auction block. And I just wanted to pay respect to my ancestors
at Central High School, which was the battleground for school inte- and when I did this play, I shut down a part of Park Street right
gration. My father, he played an active role in the crisis here. He was by the [Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site].
an advisor to the Nine and their families and Daisy Bates, and its in The national Underground Railroad association was having their
my blood to care about these things. I dont know how my parents conference in Little Rock. And so we did an exclusive viewing
did it, but I can recall just being [at museums], and my dad used to for them. I hung people from treesit was a lot going on, in the
say, If you stand in a place where something [happened], youll never context of history. It just felt good. It feels good to talk about black
forget it. Myself, my brother, we always cared about that, and we saw people. It feels good to let people know what happened, how we
our dad fighting for people, even when they couldnt pay him as an feel, how we survive. Im not hanging from a tree right now; some
attorney. He would still represent them because he felt like people things metaphorically feel like that. I have a power now that most

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 25


We say things that we want to speak into ex-
istence. Its not necessarily like hocus-pocus,
but some type of mysticism that can define
that spark and suspension of disbelief. Can I
capture your attention? Can I hold you in this
place? Thats really more of what Im looking
for. That mystic thing.
I know some more juicy things are coming.
If I had my way, there would be a djembe in
every film or head wraps, some yams or giant
squash, or something very central to the con-
tinent of Africa. Im just fascinated with her
beauty. And what people see as poorits rich.

What other programs fall under the umbrel-


la of Columbus Creative Arts + Activism?
My favorite, favorite, favorite of all time is
Columbus Creative Presents: An Evening
With. Its just a platform for artists in dif-
ferent types of art forms. I have six of those
under my belt, with the likes of Bijoux, whos
a phenomenal singer; [musician] Joshua As-
ante of Amasa Hines; [poet] A.p.o.l.l.o.; [jazz
trumpeter] Rodney Block, who is everywhere;
[opera singer] Nisheedah Golden, who is a
good friend of mine; [and myself]. I had my
furniture arranged auditorium style, prosce-
nium style, so the furniture was set up in rows
in the living room. And then the dining room
area was the stage. I had mics; I had amps. I
mean it was a show in my house. Candles, red
light bulbsI mean, just everything. And it
would be the most phenomenal two-hour
experience ever.
I definitely want to find a small venue to
keep it going. We have talent in this city that
has international appeal: Rodney Blocks been
to Brazil, Amsterdam. Joshuas been all over
the United States. Nisheedah did an opera in
Shanghai, China, for two months. Ive per-
formed in Canterbury, [England]. We have
experience. This is just where were from or
where we call home.

What was the process like for securing


a partnership for the C.C. Playwright
women just a generation ago in my family didnt have. Festival? What do you envision for the festival?
I just wanted a festival that could speak to the legacy of my father be-
cause Im here in Little Rock. So I reached out to Bob Hupp, whos the
How have the submissions for AF3 fit into your vision of what the producing artistic director at the Arkansas Rep. We have a relationship
event should showcase? from back in 2006. I explained to Bob [that] I tried to host this festival
Ive had [submissions] already from Pakistan, India, South Carolina [before]. It fell apart. I explained to him: I need a village, and The Rep has
there are a couple of other places because African is relative. I feel been so much of that experience for me. And Bob was so excited about
like Tre from Boyz n the Hood: Everybody from Africaall of yall. the concept of honoring my father, these short plays, the company of
I want the leads [in the films] to be people of color, strong leads and actors that can be in all the plays. And he was like, You were probably
not stereotypical, but about the human story, the human spirit. But I thinking about this second stage over herebecause they have rehearsal
definitely want to tell the Crayola story of the world. I want every color space on the second floor. Hes like, I got something better. You know we
in the box to be represented. There are a couple of films that Ive seen built the annex across the street. You wanna see it?
about war; these have been particularly in [the region of Pakistan]. He gave me a tour of the space. It just blew my mind because its such
There have been some films about kinship, like that magic, that bond a beautiful space. And I feel like this is what happens when you pay your
between a relative, particularly elders. Thats been something interest- dues: You get your degree; you work; you do some shows. And then you
ing. And magic is relative. Were all magic. We cast spells every day. can step in a room with Bob Hupp and be like, I want to partner with
26 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
youand he says, Yes. I think its just very
fitting because that was also a place that
pulled me out of my funk after my father
FOLLOW US
passed away when I worked on Treasure
Island. Its fitting in a lot of ways.
I definitely want the playwrights to be
a part of the process. They can workshop
their work, we coil it down, we get it to a
format that is fluid, that is poignant. What
are you trying to say? What is your objective?
Once the plays are selected and the com-
pany of actors is chosen, they learn these
playsand theyre short plays, so they can
play many roles. Its a tight-knit, intimate
ARKANSASLIFE
community. So I dont need 50 people to
be in five plays, I need about seven to 10
people that can play all of these parts.

What is holding Little Rock back? Why


pour this passion into Little Rock?
Well, racism is keeping a lot of cities
from becoming their full greatness. Its
just the truth, and our racism is not bel-
ligerent, in your face. I think it is a lack
of understanding because people dont
want to talk about things that happened
in the past. I, however, want to talk
about everything that happened in the
past because I feel like I cant go forward
until some of these things are resolved or
at least understood. So our major thing:
Nobody wanted to talk about Central
until years after it happened. The 30th
anniversary was a disaster; 40 years later
was better; 50 years later was a little
better, but people still are like, Why are
we talking about the Little Rock Nine?
Because you dont know the Little Rock
Nine. You dont know what their parents
had endured. You dont know what their
siblings struggled through. You dont
know what people in the community
sacrificed and lost. I want to talk about
Ninth Street.
Theres so much potential here. Theres
so much greatness here. Theres so many
beautiful places here. Thats whats holding
us back: not talking about [Interstate] 630.
I mean, [west Little Rock is] totally differ-
ent from the areas that are south of 630,
and not that theyre lacking, its just like,
What can we do to build a more cohesive
Little Rock? Well, west Little Rock can be
posh, and you can shop at the Promenade,
and you can go to the Imax. Where down-
town can be hip; you can have lunch on the
river; you can go see live music. You know
where these places are but that youre not
afraid to go there. Because people have
this sense of domain when this belongs
to everybody the way my dad belonged to
everybody. The way I see Little Rock, Little
Rock belongs to everybody.
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 27
cheap
eats Sometimes, youre just not
feeling fancy. Sometimesand
weve been there, trust usyou
want a dive-bar burger. A bowl
of Bolognese. A fiery Indian
curry. A basket of catfish with
all the fixins. And tacosoh,
the tacos. For those times,
there are these 65 restaurants.

(Youre welcome.)

photography by arshia khan

28 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


tacos
Noodles
Pho
mmmm, pizza cafe.
Catfish
Burgers
Barbecue
Pizza
Curry
Dumplings
B y K at i e B r i d g e s , S y d H ay m a n , J o r d a n P. H i c k e y, N i c h o l a s H u n t a n d M a r i a m M a k at s a r i a

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 29


how to eat

america
b e s t va l u e

Bensons Grill
2515 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith; (479) 782-8181

With fantastic sweet-potato pancakes, classic breakfast fare (eggs


any-way-you-want-them! Cheese-covered hash browns!) and a
reputation for some of the best burgers around, we can see why
some people never want to leave this Fort Smith staple. Good thing
its one of the states few 24/7 operations.
Youre getting: The Big Mama. And maybe a fork and extra napkins. (When
faced with a heap of Swiss cheese, tomatoes, sauted and fresh onions, mushrooms
and bacon on top of a half-pound patty, youll need em.)

Cothams Mercantile
and Cothams in the City
5301 Arkansas 161, Scott; (501) 961-9284
1401 W. Third St., Little Rock; (501) 370-9177

Though the original Cothams Mercantile in Scott is just a year


shy of its 100th birthday, its only been serving food for a paltry 32
years. What is the crowning achievement of three decades worth
of country cooking? The Hubcap Burger, which features as many
1-pound, 8-inch patties as you dare to order. (It doesnt take an
etymologist to see how the beast got its name.)
Youre getting: A side of Cothams famous double-dipped onion rings for
the tableor yourself. (This is a judgment-free list.)

Gails Diner
250 E. Military Drive, North Little Rock; (501) 747-2193

The menu may be smalljust two pages of breakfast and lunch


items that include overstuffed omelets, biscuits and gravy, and a
burger topped with grape jelly, jalapeos and a fried eggbut the
dishes at this North Little Rock diner are as delicious as they are
colossal. And about the grape jelly on that burger, trust us: You
wont regret it.
Youre getting: Dont trust us? The Train Wreck omelet is stuffed with peppers,
onions, garlic, spinach, ham and sausage. And its served all day.

Georges Restaurant
2120 Grand Ave., Fort Smith; (479) 785-1199

You know the diner from Seinfeld? Had the seminal show been
set in Fort Smith instead of NYC (long shot, we know), Jerry and

30 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


Eat this photo

an
Cheeseburger (with side
salad) at the root cafe: $ 8 . 5 0

the gang would have almost certainly spent their pasta. Its the delis modestly priced, imaginative
days hanging out at Georges, fighting their way sandwiches, however, that keep us coming back.
through the piles of hand-cut fries that tower
Youre getting: A hoagie stuffed with spicy roast beef,
over every burger and sandwich at this much- grilled mushrooms, jalapeos, onions, lettuce and tomatoes
adored dive. and done up with special sauce.
Youre getting: Pie. And if you dont think you can
s ta f f fav o r i t e
stomach dessert after one of Georges award-winning burgers

= cash only
and that mountain of fries, forget the burger and head straight Terri-Lynns Bar-B-Q
for the sweet stuff. & Delicatessen
10102 Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock; (501) 227-6371

Hugos With its housemade tamales and wonderfully tangy


25 1/2 N. Block Ave., Fayetteville; (479) 521-7585 barbecue sandwiches, this beloved west Little Rock
Top No list of Arkansas dives would be complete with-
out Hugos, which, thanks to nearly 40 years and
hole in the wall could have easily scored a spot on
our list of best down-home joints. But since it has

Five untold generations of U of A students and faculty,


probably has the biggest following of any restaurant
deli concoctions like The Sharonfresh smoked
turkey, pepper jack cheese and coleslaw topped

Burgers in the state. But its not nostalgia that keeps em


coming to this basement off the Fayetteville Square.
with mayo and horseradish mustard on an onion
rollthat really put this former local grocery on
the map, our reviewer tackling this section was
Its the mix of classic bar food and original takes
Midtown more than happy it ended up in his queue.
on crpes, quiche and more.
Burger Youre getting: The Sharon. But if that doesnt sound like
Youre getting: The Dereks Special, because this stack
Midtown Billiards, your thing, dont be afraid to build your own sandwich from the
of marinated chicken, Swiss, bacon and honey mustard is
Little Rock restaurants selection of house-smoked deli meats.
flawless (and not just because its my editors college favorite).

Jumbo The Root Cafe


Jimmys Serious Sandwiches
cheeseburger 1500 S. Main St., Little Rock; (501) 414-0423
5116 W. Markham St., Little Rock; (501) 666-3354
Winks Malt
Locavores, rejoice! Just because you want a
Stand, North Little Forget that other Jimmy. For more than 30 years,
juicy, drip-through-your-fingers burger doesnt
Rock this fast-casual sandwich shop on Markham
mean you have to sacrifice fresh, locally sourced
Street in Little Rock has been serving some
ingredients at this Little Rock brunch-and-lunch
of the countrys best sandwiches, and Jimmys
icon. And vegetarians, if youve managed to make
Cheeseburger has the hardware to prove it. The Gardena
it this far down the list without turning the page
Cothams gloriously tasty combination of spinach pt,
for greener pastures, heres your reward: The Roots
Mercantile, Scott / sunflower seeds, Swiss, cheddar, provolone and
vegetarian and vegan options, such as its spicy tofu
Cothams in the sauted mushroomswon the National Sand-
banh mi and shiitake mushroom eggs Benedict,
City, Little Rock wich Idea Contest in 1979 and has been the
could convert a carnivore.
restaurants best-seller ever since. Meat-lovers
need not fret, however; the menu is packed with Youre getting: Whatevers on special, because seeing
Third-pound carnivorous creations. chef Jack Sundells innovative limited editions head to someone
elses table might tempt you into grand-theft brunch.
burger Youre getting: Um, The Garden? Did you not read that
C-Js Butcher its a freakin national champion?
Boy Burgers,
Walkers Wings and Things
Russellville
136 Silver St., Hot Springs; (501) 282-0538
Milford Track
10809 Executive Center Drive, Plaza 2, Little Rock; Though created in the spirit of Arkansas
Double burger (501) 223-2257 historic dairy bars, this walk-up and cash-only
Feltner Brothers, neighborhood joint in Hot Springs opened in
The first time we tried to find this fresh-
Fayetteville 2014. And while, yes, the wings are some of the
ingredients-focused deli and grill, we ended up
walking around a nondescript west Little Rock best around, its the thingsjuicy burgers,
office building for the better part of half an hour. perfectly fried catfish, succulent pork chopsthat
(Pro tip: The P in the elevator stands for plaza, really make Walkers shine.
not parking. Press it.) But our perseverance was Youre getting: Three pieces of fish, two wings, fries,
rewarded with a hearty bowl of lemon-pepper coleslaw and hush puppiesaka The Combo Special.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 31


how to eat

latin
= cash only

El Camino Real
815 S. School Ave., Fayetteville; (479) 521-6268

Hey there, reader: Weve got a confession. When it comes to


Tex-Mexbottomlessly plated fare where cheese plays a leading
role in virtually every dish across the menuwe largely tend to
turn a blind eye and tongue, opting instead for our taco trucks
and Spanish-language menus. Butyes, butwe know a damn-
good meal when we see one. And at Camino Real, where tacos
are made with care (our server asked that we please eat the
pork taco first, as its really best right out of the kitchen) and
a vegetarian menu some 11 items strong well, its good. And
its likely youll see us making the drive.
Youre getting: The chicken enchiladas, because with their freshly
made tortillas and well-seasoned chicken, these are much more than just
vehicles for cheese.

s ta f f
fav o r i t e Eliella Ristorante
7700 Baseline Road, Suite 800, Little Rock; (501) 539-5355

As is so often the case with holes in the wall, the sparse dcor at
Eliellathe concrete floors and cardboard pallets of unpacked
drinks of a place just starting outrelates inversely to the
quality of the food. Because holy god, this food. Specifically,
the pozole. Youve never had pork until youve fished a piece
from the spicy, unctuous red broth and let it melt on your
tongue. Seriously. No chewing required.
Youre getting: Pozole. Because at $5.25 for a half order (not
listed on the menu), there have got to be few better deals in the city. Also:
Please, please get the tacos de cabeza. Were not sure weve had better.
Especially for $1.25.

El Pollo Rico Grill


1008 W. Sunset Ave., Springdale; (479) 927-6363

So look: When someone like Jason Paul, mastermind of Rogers


objectively excellent Heirloom, describes a places grilled chicken
(aka pollo asado a la parrilla) as legit, delicious and killer,
dang it, you listen. And then upon eating the combo plate (ideally
sided with charro beans) and walking out for, like, five bucks, you
wonder if maybe itd be better to keep it to yourself and Mr. Paul.
Youre getting: A darn-good deal on grilled chicken, especially on
Tuesdays, when a two-piece leg-and-thigh combo with two sides, tortillas, chips
and salsa goes for $5. Yep.

32 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


Top best
va l u e

Five La Huazteca
3140 Central Ave., Hot Springs; (501) 609-9988
is no coincidence because these are, indeed, legit.)

tacos Really, its kind of an odd place. Its faade is painted


Youre getting: Um, pupusasspecifically, pork and
cheese, or bean and cheese. And heck, seeing as theyre
under $1.50, eat your filland then get more to share.
Creamsicle orange. Halos played on the television.
Taco arriero Light bulbs and fancily beaded and bedazzled wallets
Taqueria El are sold alongside Western wear and dried pinto beans.
Rosalinda Restaurante Hondureo
Palenque, But none of that matters because from the creamy,
literally good-on-anything tomatillo salsa to the 900 W. 35th St., North Little Rock; (501) 771-5559
Little Rock
ridiculous chile relleno topped with what our server You see how each of these blurbs has a youre get-
would only deign call salsa de tomate, all that matters ting just below it? Well, thats not gonna work here
Taco de is the food. because with a veritable laundry list of Honduran
alambre Youre getting: The chile relleno meal (with rice and beans), dishessome 82 numbered items strongranging
Taqueria which at $6 is a steal. from carne asada to albondigas (meatballsno joke)
Guanajuato, to mouthwatering chicharrn (bite-sized pieces of
Springdale succulent pork) plated with yucca and plantains,
the folks at Rosalindas have made that task near
La Regional impossible. And for that, were eternally grateful.
Taco de lengua 7414 Baseline Road, Little Rock; (501) 565-4440
Youre getting: Everything mentioned above, plus the fried
Taqueria
Really, this southwest Little Rock taqueria-slash-full- plantains. And the pupusas con queso de loroco. And a glass of
Guadalajara, ice water, so as not to bust your belt.
blown-grocery could have capped the list of our favor-
North Little Rock
ite tacosand, full disclosure, it does. Indisputably. Sin
duda. But seeing as this favorite among favorites is not
only home to some of the finest tacos around, but also Taqueria Karina Cafe
Taco de cabeza
remains the only market we know of to score Lizano, 5309 W. 65th St., Little Rock; (501) 562-3951
Eliella Ristorante,
aka our Sriracha-caliber Costa Rican sauce obsession,
Little Rock FYI: Theres a lot. Although Karinas has long been a
we thought yall would like to know.
personal favorite, weve yet to visit when the menu
Youre getting: Tacos (specifically, the lengua ones), a failed to overwhelm. But, mind you, it can be managed.
Taco de lengua bottle of Lizanoand another for us, please and thank you. Start with the tortas (specifically, the carnitas or
Taqueria lengua), jump to the lunch specials on the back page,
Samantha II, Little and just work your way down (paying special attention
Lulus Latin Rotisserie & Grill to the chilaquiles). Also, on the very outside chance
Rock
315 N. Bowman Road, Little Rock; (501) 228-5564 your appetites gone unsatedor in anticipation of
After leaving Bolivia a few years ago, I bid what I future cravingsthere are corn tortillas at Brendas
thought would be a final farewell to one of my fond- next door that go 5 pounds for $3.50. And theyre fresh.
est friends, South American-style rotisserie chicken. Youre getting: Everything. But especially that torta ($7.25
And then earlier this year, I had Lulus chicken, and for the massive sandwich and fries).
everything was beautiful again. A few notes: 1. Get
the empanadasand all of the sauces. 2. Youre
really, really going to want the white meat. Really. Taqueria Samantha II
Youre getting: A whole chicken. Yes, really, because at 7521 Geyer Springs Road, Little Rock; (501) 744-0680
$18.50 for the bird and two sides, why the heck would you not? On the surface, it might seem like a place of last
resortan elongated white truck with hand-painted
lettering that has been parked, seemingly, for all of
Pupuseria La Salvadorea
eternity in the lot of a Mexican sweets shop. But, and
416 S. Knoxville Ave., Russellville; (479) 747-7936 youll have to trust us on this, with mind-bending
Yes, its a little rough on the eyesin the words of a tacos (try the lengua and al pastor for starters, before
co-worker, ugly both inside and out. But in keep- ordering the rest of the menu), this place has every
ing with the well-worn truism, you cannot, in fact, right to be a destination.
judge a book by its cover, particularly once you scarf Youre getting: Tacos. All of the tacos. (Although you
down one of the eponymous pupusas, a traditional may also want to take a cue from The Roots Jack Sundell
Salvadoran dish. (The Salvadorea in the name on page 37.)

Eat this photo p u p u s a s at R o s a l i n d a


R e s ta u r a n t e H o n d u r e o : $ 2 a p o p

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 33


how to eat

= cash only asian Banana Leaf

Sometimes, when, say, youre putting togeth-


er a feature on the states 50 best low-budget
eateries, you just cant eat out anymore. And
s ta f f fav o r i t e

425 W. Capitol Ave., Little Rock; (501) 227-0860


with a machete. In other words: Hes hellbent
on making the dishes he cooks up in his Hill-
crest kitchen as close to the real thing as pos-
sible. And it shows.
Youre getting: Green papaya salad. Tom kha gai,
a creamy chicken-and-coconut soup. Pad Thai. Pork skew-
then you forget your Tupperwared home- ers. Oh, heckjust order one of everything off Glasgows
made sandwich and are therefore forced to hand-scrawled white-board menu.
pop into this Indian eatery in the lobby of
downtown Little Rocks Simmons Tower Khana Indian Grill
for lunch, and you have an epiphany: Some
2101 N. College Ave., Fayetteville; (479) 287-4736
places are just so goodlike, so goodthat
it tastes like youre not eating out at all. And
that Tupperware might just be, um, forgot- Top Its not so often that a cheap eats restau-
rant offers cocktails. Or craft beers. Or live-
ten again tomorrow. And then forever.
Youre getting: The comboveg or nonveg
Five edge wood tables. Or imported punched-tin
pendant lamps. But while theres ambiance
so you can sample two or three (a third is just 50
cents extra) of the dishes on the days menu. And if
that menu includes fried cauliflower or spicy chicken
Curries aplenty at Fayettevilles new-ish Khana Indian
Grill, its the foodmade with seasonal, lo-
cal ingredients whenever possiblethats the
vindaloo, by all means.
Chicken
real star. Light and bright, this is Indian food
vindaloo
modernized. (And, yes, thats a custom rick-
Chang Thai and Asian Cuisine Banana Leaf,
shaw parked out front, hand-painted by street
Little Rock
artists in India.)
9830 Arkansas 107, Sherwood; (501) 835-4488
Youre getting: The bhel puria tangle of puffed
There are peopleyou know who you are rice, peanuts, cucumber, radish, chickpeas, green chilies
who say, Theres no good Thai food in Little and tamarind chutney.
Panang curry
Rock. Those people have not been to Chang
Chang Thai,
Thai. Sure, its in Sherwood, which, you
Sherwood Mr. Chens Authentic
know, isnt technically Little Rock proper
but wed be willing to drive miles and miles Chinese Cooking
and miles for a spoonful of that panang 3901 S. University Ave., Little Rock; (501) 562-7900
Pad prik king
curry. And often do. Word of warning: Mr. Chen is a prolific cook
kBird, Little Rock
Youre getting: An order of meing kham, for and offers up a (somewhat overwhelming)
starters: ginger, toasted coconut, cashew, fried shallot, laundry list of Chinese dishes at his South
lime and tamarind-coconut sauce, all wrapped up in
Gaeng University Avenue dining room. But while the
a grass-green betel leaf.
massaman usual suspects are all very much present
Thep Thai, Kung Pao shrimp, lo mein, General Tsosits
kBird Fayetteville dishes like his Taiwanese-style braised pork,
600 N. Tyler St., Little Rock; (501) 352-3549
pan-fried turnip cakes and steamed buns that
separate Chens food from the rest. Added bo-
It might not come as a surprise that a man Tikka masala nus: If youre inspired by whats on your table,
with a name like Richard Glasgow isnt Khana you can purchase imported ingredients in the
Thai. (Nor is he Scottish.) But he spent Indian Grill, adjoining grocery.
New Years in Thailand. And he speaks Thai Fayetteville Youre getting: That braised pork dish, an order of
(kind of ). And he hacks open the papayas
the sweet-and-sour roast duck and a cache of broth-oozing
he uses for his ohmygod-good papaya salad steamed buns for the table.

34 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


Pho Vietnam
2214 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith; (479) 782-3227
Eat this photo P h o ta i ( $ 7 . 5 0 ) ,
Youll come across it several times in this feature,
chicken and shrimp vermicelli that whole dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover thing.
But seriously: Dont. Especially if said book is
($8), and spring rolls (two gas-station-turned-Vietnamese-restaurant Pho
f o r $ 3 ) at M i k e s C a f e Vietnam in Fort Smith. Because if you were to pass
on the place based on its questionable aesthetic
choicesnotably, the mishmash of barnyard figu-
rines and aquariums, or the cardboard boxes of sup-
plies haphazardly stacked around the roomyoud
be missing out on a beefy, brothy bowl of goodness
well worthy of a jaunt up Interstate 40. (Word to the
wise: Bring cash.)
Youre getting: The combination phoa slurpable bowl
brimming with beef tenderloin, brisket and meatballs.

Southern Gourmasian
219 W. Capitol Ave., Little Rock; (501) 313-5645

We, like legions of our fellow Little Rockers, cried


happy tears when it was announced back in 2014 that
this beloved Asian-Southern-fusion food truck was
putting down brick-and-mortar roots downtown.
But we were happier than most because the West
Capitol Avenue location meant wed be a mere two-
block stroll from those sticky, savory buns we hold
so dear. And the shrimp and grits. And that spicy-
but-oh-so-delightful chicken-and-dumplings bowl.
Youre getting: Balinese chicken buns with cilantro-honey
vinaigrette or one of those clever Asian spins on Southern
favorites, like the Grilled Kimcheese.

Three Fold Noodles & Dumpling Co.


215 Center St., Little Rock; (501) 372-1739

Minimalist. Were going with minimalist. We


thought about calling this Chinese eaterys menu
small, but really, its just well-edited. Because when
a restaurants noodles, steamed buns and dumplings
those are your three choices, topped or filled with
your choice of chicken, pork or tofuare this good,
who needs options? (And just in case you do, theres
a rotating seasonal dish, too.)
Youre getting: Whatevers labeled on the chalkboard as
seasonalon a recent visit, that meant a warming noodle soup
with braised beef shank. Oh, and an order of sesame balls to go.

best
va l u e
Mikes Cafe Thep Thai Restaurant
5501 Asher Ave., Little Rock; (501) 562-1515 1525 S. School Ave., Fayetteville; (479) 443-0029

With palm-tree murals, a disco ball and the Biebs on repeat, its safe to say Those Kaffir lime leaves in your green curry? If its
southwest Little Rocks Mikes Cafe is a bright, cheerful kind of place. Which spring or summer, chances are they were plucked
is only fitting, given that the Vietnamese flavors coming out of its kitchen are, from the koi-pond-dotted garden surrounding this
well, exceedingly bright and cheerful. Mint-studded spring rolls; an easy-to- south Fayetteville Thai spot. But garden-fresh herbs
love pho; rice vermicelli perked up by fish sauce, lime and chiliesthis is a and vegetables arent the only thing separating this
light take on comfort food youll be craving on the regular. from the other Thai options nearby: Thep also offers
Youre getting: Bun thit nuong: luscious, lacquered pork on rice vermicelli with all the fixings.
a lovely covered patio and a killer beer menu to boot.
And the banh miat $3.50, Mikes stellar version of the French-Vietnamese mash-up has to be Youre getting: Fresh Thai basil rolls and a bowl of tom kha
one of the best values in the state. OR THE WORLD. gai brimming with lemongrass, lime leaves and tomatoesin
order to make the most of the owners green thumbs.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 35


how chefs eat
Where do Little Rock toques head when theyre after something
cheap and cheerful? We were curious, too

M a r k A b e r n at h y
Loca Luna and Red Door

Whole Hog in North Little Rock

Pulled-pork sandwich with Shack sauce


Personally, I prefer the North Little Rock Whole Hog, even though the locations are all similar. They also offer a
sauce that is close to the original Shack sauce that I grew up with. Its my favorite sauce for barbecue pork.
36 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
Ben Brainard
Local Lime and Heights

Jack Sundell Taco & Tamale Co.


Capi Peck
The Root Cafe Lulus Latin Trios

Taqueria Rotisserie Taqueria El


Samantha II and Grill Palenque

The family pack: a whole Ta c o s a l pa s t o r ,


Chorizo quesadilla,
rotisserie chicken with three ta c o s a r r i a g a a n d
straight up, add
sides. all of the sauces. guacamole
an egg
I cant stop myself from getting We eat out a lot. With our I love so many things at this
the same thing every time. Its schedules and the kids activities, little gemits fresh, fast, friendly
hugeit could easily feed two theres rarely enough time. service and so close to both work
peoplebut its so delicious you Thankfully, theres Lulusits and home. I used to have to drive to
wont want to share. And its a delicious food made by a couple of southwest Little Rock to get this kind
glorious mess. It comes with a whole folks that really know what theyre of Mexican food. For a long time, I
grilled jalapeo and green salsa, doing. Get the yucca fries, the black was one of the few gringas eating
and by the end, chorizo grease will beans and rice, and the plantains. there, but now lots of people have
be dripping down your arms as you All four of us eat for about $6.75 discovered El Palenque!
cry spicy tears of joy. a person. Give them a try, um,
immediately.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 37


how to eat

mediter
best
va l u e
Al Seraj Mediterranean Restaurant
11400 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock; (501) 954-2026

Aside from belly-dancing music and the savory aroma wafting from the verti-
cal broiler, theres another thing the folks at Al Seraj get right: They can whip
up a mighty fine shawarma sandwich. Well be honest: Its a messy affaira
sauce-dripping-down-elbow, mouth-hovering-close-to-plate kind of situation.
But if its between making a good impression on a first date or eating Al Serajs
pita sandwiches uninhibited, well always pick the latter.
Youre getting: Plan all you want, but the truth is that youll change your mind once youre
there. Cant decide? Nibble on a bit of everything during the lunch buffet, offered 11 a.m. to
3 p.m for just $10.

Anthonys Italian Restaurant


3115 Cavanaugh Road, Fort Smith; (479) 222-6808

Served in an Olive Garden atmosphere without the high school memories and
pricey menus (but very much with the same guilt induced by a death-by-carb-
type situation), Anthonys portions are generous, the waiters are friendly, and
the food is reliably delicious. And although its quite a challenge to get toone
of those I-can-see-it-but-I-cant-reach-it situationsits well worth a couple of
loops around the block.
Youre getting: Spaghetti smothered in rich meat sauce. Or order the special, and get $2
off a bottle of wine. (Thatll likely bump the cap above $20. But booze.)

Morinas Italian Restaurant


2006 S. Pine St., Cabot; (501) 941-7000

Set against a brown-and-beige-hued backdrop decorated with framed Da Vinci


prints and photographs of Italys tourist attractions, Morinas serves the kind
of no-frills Italian comfort food that wed want on a Friday night. Sure, its a
bit of drive from Little Rock. But that basket of glistening bread rolls ushered
in upon arrival (and, to our diets dismay, periodically refilled)? Totally worth
the pilgrimage. (If youre looking to stay a little closer to Little Rock, theres
always Morinas sister restaurant, Romas, in Jacksonville.)
Youre getting: The Diavolo, a chicken breast sauted with garlic and shallots on a bed of
spaghettia little spicy, a little creamy and all around delicious.

Petra Cafe
31 E. Center St., Suite 101, Fayetteville; (479) 443-3090

What this teensy cafelike, three-tables teensyoff the Fayetteville Square


lacks in size, it more than makes up for in big, fresh flavors. Owner Saleh Faur
makes the kind of food that not only tasted good back in your hungover college
days (think: herb-studded tabbouleh, zippy tahini sauce and plump falafel),
but also still holds up years later.
38 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
Eat this photo Mexican and Mediterranean
p i z z a s at P i z z a C a f e : $ 1 3 - $ 1 8

rranean
Youre getting: The Petra Platterfalafel (think Medi-
terranean hush puppy here, says the menu), tabbouleh
and baba ghanoushwhen its on special. Oh, heck.
Even when its not.

Leos Greek Castle


Top Five
pizzas
Spicy Vegetable/
Oh, and lentil soup. (Youll have no choice in the matter, nor should
you. The soup is delicious, free and served in an ornate, antique-y
silver bowlvery Instagram-worthy.)

Laylas Gyro
b e s t va l u e

Multiple locations; laylasgyro.com


2925 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock; (501) 666-7414 Chicken Pizza
Brick Oven Pizza Co., Theres nothing special about the ambiance at Lay-
Dump your heat-and-eat, cardboard-scented
Russellville las, but everything special about the calzones. These
frozen falafels, and try some authentic offer-
pizzas-with-a-roof are hearty offerings, the kind that
ings. Because heres the deal: Theyre practically
make you consider forgoing your dinner-and-a-movie
the same price at Leos Greek Castleand with
Clean the Floor plans and just heading home to bed. But theres always
this Hillcrest institutions cozy atmosphere and
Irianas Pizza, Little Rock some Turkish coffee, served in an ibrik (aka cool-
75-cent PBRs, youll feel right at home.
looking copper pot), to perk you up long enough to
Youre getting: Anything enveloped in that warm end the evening on a sweet note (aka Laylas baklava).
flatbreadbe it falafel or generous hunks of gyro meat
Judys Favorite Youre getting: The gyro calzone. Duh. Stuffed with gooey
topped with cool, creamy tzatziki.
U.S. Pizza Co., Multiple cheese and gyro meat, the piping-hot pocket of goodness is the
locations most popular item on the menu.
Pizza Cafe
1517 Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock; (501) 664-6133
Vinos Special Tangiers Mediterranean Food & Cafe
14710 Cantrell Road, Little Rock; (501) 868-2600
Vinos Brewpub, 2800 N. College Ave., Fayetteville; (479) 301-2211
Its true: Theres a lot of good pizza in Arkansas
Little Rock
some of which is on our Top Five list above; Nestled in a stucco-facaded strip mall that hardly
some of which didnt quite make the cheap-eats suggests the vibrancy of Moroccan cuisine is some
cut. So why this place? For starters, that crust killer food worthy of a name like Tangiers. Take the
Artichoke Chicken
so good that Pizza Cafe offers up honey on the chicken curry kebab gyro, for instancea trip to the
Pizza Cafe,
side so you can make the most of every last bite. Mediterranean with a pit stop in South Asia. Or the
Little Rock
And then theres the super-fresh, chock-full-of- desserts scribbled above sold out on the chalkboard
veggies saladsnot an iota of iceberg in sight. menu, like ladyfingers and baklava prepared by the
And then theres the clever specialty pizzas experienced hands of a Moroccan baker.
you get the gist. Youre getting: That chicken curry kebab or a kefta gyro with soft pita and
juicy meat. And the fries oh, the fries.
Youre getting: One of the specialty pizzas (thats the Mediterranean
and the Mexican in the photo at left) and a Freaks & Geeks salad with house
vinaigrette to share.
Venezias Pizza & Pasta
1321 E. Main St., Russellville; (479) 968-2588
Salt & Pepper Middle Eastern Restaurant
A gem thats by no means hidden, Venezias screams Italian with
9700 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock;
its boldly striped red, green and white roof. But youll quickly
(501) 246-5002
forget about all that when you dig into dishes that seem to tran-
When we first popped into Salt & Pepper, casting a sidelong glance scend the tacky exteriorand perhaps even justify it. (Youll also
at Cupids Lingeries scantily clad mannequins next door, the foul ignore the wide-eyed gondolier judgmentally staring from the
that fava bean dip often considered Egypts national dishwas a wall mural as you wolf down two baskets of house-baked, fresh-
no-brainer. Also a no-brainer: scooping it up and shoveling it down from-the-oven rolls before the waitress even takes your order.)
with the eaterys medium-pizza-sized, hot-to-the-touch special
Youre getting: Cannelloni stuffed with creamy ricotta, beef and spinach
Iraqi bread (so special we had to order seconds and thirds). tucked under a blanket of melty Parmesan and a hearty eggplant Parmigiana,
Youre getting: The aforementioned dip and bread. And the chicken tikka. both served with a side salad during lunch. Yums the word.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 39


DOING THE MATH

Simple, fresh
toppingscilantro,
radishes, white
onionsare all these
tacos need.

Heres how we figured out if a local


restaurant qualified as a cheap eat:
Could two people eat a complete
meal there for under $20? At some
places, like Eliella Ristorante
on Baseline Road in Little Rock, our
Jackson went pretttttty darn far.

40 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


Never had nopales? Neither
had we. Our take? Delish.

HOW
WE SPENT
OUR $20
1 al pastor taco:
$1.50

1 chorizo taco:
$1.50

1 lengua taco:
$1.50

1 taco de cabeza:
$1.50

1 tripa taco:
$1.99

1 tostada de ceviche:
$3.50

1 order of nopales:
$1.99

1 order of chips:
$1.49

1 side of guacamole:
$1.25

1 side of fruit:
$2

1 flan (not
Make sure to squeeze those picturedStart with
limes over the ceviche. (Theyre dessert, right?): $2
there for a reason, after all.)

Total:
$20.22
(Eh. Whats 22
cents?)

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 41


how to eat

SOUTH-
ERN
= cash only

Bellwood Diner
3815 MacArthur Drive, North Little Rock; (501) 753-1012

You probably wouldnt expect a meat-and-three order thats $6.50 to


be this hefty. But it is. A massive fried chicken breast served with
country-style mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw
or any of the other daily menu offerings is sure to fill even the
Just dont tell mom this stuff comes close to hers.
emptiest of stomachs. But dont just consider this place for lunch:
No item on the highly raved-about breakfast menu is over $6. Youre getting: Chicken spaghetti with macaroni and cheese and per-
Pro tip: Bring cash, or else take a stroll to the ATM next door. fectly crisp fried okra.

Youre getting: Fried chickenand wishing youd made it in time for a


full stack of pancakes. Eat My Catfish
2125 Harkrider St., Conway; (501) 588-1867
best 1205 Military Road, Benton; (501) 909-2323
va l u e Jerkys Spicy Chicken and More
521 Center St., Little Rock; (501) 246-3096
Listen, just consider the name an imperativebut dont stop there.
This Conway and Benton eatery, which got its start as a Benton
Sure, the flavors from this jerk-chicken joint borrow from an area food truck, offers more than just filling catfish fillets, crawfish, crab,
so Southern that it reaches beyond the United Statesbut still, its shrimp and poboys (though you shouldnt hesitate to try them, too.)
techniques are presented in a way thats both familiar and excit- Whatever you do, dont miss a taste of that signature tartar sauce.
ing to the American tongue (a fusion the restaurant has dubbed
Youre getting: The two-piece catfish dinner, though we wouldnt judge
Jamerican). Were talking sauce with the perfect blend of tang
you for upsizing.
and spice atop some of the most succulent ribs and chicken around.
Youre getting: The two-piece chicken snack, and youre debating the
jerk-chicken tacos. Do it. Feastros
4200 E. Kiehl Ave., Sherwood; (501) 864-7860

DownHome Restaurant & Catering Youll face mouthwatering options here. Lots of them. This buffet-
9219 Stagecoach Road, Little Rock; (501) 821-3344 style Sherwood barbecue spot allows you to stay the more traditional
route with ribs, baked beans and potato salad. But why not throw in
Looking around at DownHome Restaurants vintage dcor feels
pasta and enchiladas for the heck of it? Drop in on a chance Seafood
like coming homethank goodness it tastes like it, too. Heaping
Saturday, and you might just walk out with a stomachful of crab legs.
servings of meatloaf, hamburger steak and lasagna take you back
to weeknights at the dinner table oreven betterSunday dinner. Youre getting: Rib tipslots of rib tips.

42 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


STAFF FAVORITE

-
C e c i s C h i c k e n & Wa f f l e s
324 E. 13th St., North Little Rock; (501) 372-1121

Chances are the folks at Cecis Chicken & Waffles


will be able to tell if its your first time at this easy-
to-miss North Little Rock establishment. After all,
that expression youll have in the presence of a
fluffy waffle piled with fried chicken, powdered
sugar, strawberries and whipped creamor pe-
cans and caramelis just about guaranteed to
give you away. And with more traditional eats
such as pork chops, greens and yams, too, were
sure that first visit wont be your last.
Youre getting: A lovely sugar rush and sticky fingers.

Top
Five
catfish
Small catfish Nicks Bar-B-Q
dinner and Catfish
Nicks Bar-B-Q
1012 Bobby L. Glover Highway, Carlisle;
and Catfish, (870) 552-3887
Carlisle
Nicks Bar-B-Q is pretty fond of pigs,
as evidenced by the adorable, homey
Homers Restaurant knickknacks around the restaurant.
Four-piece
2001 E. Roosevelt Road, Little Rock; (501) 374-1400;
catfish dinner
But those curly-tailed figurines are
9700 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock; (501) 224-6637 sure to be forgotten on the quick once
Lindseys
In its own words, Homers specializes in good eats. Hospitality House
the real thingjuicy, tender meat in
And with said offerings vibrantly written on the wall- and Bar-B-Que,
rib or pulled formreaches the table.
sized chalkboard, you wont miss what it has to offer. North Little Rock
This Carlisle mainstay serves the finest
Country-fried steak served daily. A catfish special in of other meats, too, including beef,
the middle of the week. Another catfish deal on Friday. chicken, shrimp, catfish and sausage.

Eat this Rolls the size of a breakfast muffinplus the tried-and


true-sides of pickled okra and pinto beans.
Two-piece
catfish dinner
Youre getting: The smoked sausage
dinner and onion rings the size of an

photo Youre getting: Cajun fried catfish on Wednesday, but youll Eat My Catfish,
Conway
oversized bracelet.

probably be back for more come Friday.


Caramel-
The Oyster Bar
pecan 3003 W. Markham St., Little Rock; (501)
Lindseys Hospitality House American
chicken and Bar-B-Que catfish fillet
666-7100

Loves Fish You cant quite experience a taste of


and 207 Curtis Sykes Drive, North Little Rock; (501) 374-5707
Market, Little the South without a mouthful or two
wa f f l e With the cashier sporting a welcoming grin while kindly of seafood. (And no, not just the cat-
Rock
referring to you as Miss or Sir, youre paying for more fish you can order anywhere in the
at C e c i s than just good barbecue at Lindseys Hospitality House state.) For a quick-and-easy bite of
though that certainly is the draw here. Bishop Donne
Chicken & Small fish New Orleans famous sea-based sand-
Lee Lindsey Sr.s North Little Rock barbecue-legacy- wich, The Oyster Bar offers a variety
dinner
Wa f f l e s : slash-banquet-hall uses its signature cookin to bring
Kitchen Express, of poboys under $10.
you aroundand its specialty sauce to bring you back.
$8.99 Little Rock Youre getting: A poboy stuffed with
Youre getting: The smoked-chicken dinner (assuming you shrimp. Or fried oysters. Or fried clams. Or
need a break from all things fried). fried crawfish tails.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 43


The profound connection between beauty and the liturgy
at the service of the celebration. Certainly an important
should highlight the unity of the furnishings of the
the ambo and the celebrants chair. Here it is important
to offer the Church a fitting space for the celebration

44 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
Leap of Faith
Before there were chairs, there was a church. In the mid-1930s, a priest in
Helena took a chance on a trio of young designersmost notably, a young
architect by the name of Charles Eamesto design a new place of worship for
his town. What resulted is a structure of considerable historical import that even
today attracts Eames pilgrims from all across the nation. For the parishioners,
however, both then and now, theres so much more to the stor y

by katherine stewart

should make us attentive to every work of art placed


element of sacred art is church architecture, which
sanctuary, such as the altar, the crucifix, the tabernacle,
to remember that the purpose of sacred architecture is
of the mysteries of faith, especially the Eucharist.
Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI, Feb. 22, 2007
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 45
The hush new church, focused on paying down the
churchs debt and making plans for a new
Demetrios says. They just happened to be
broke. And what he learned from that was
that descends upon church to be built. His parishioners, loyal that you could live on just about nothing.
and willing supporters, helped raise the So therefore, he had to stop using making
entering St. Marys $65,000 the new church would require money as an excuse for doing things that
Catholic Church (this was in 1934; it would be nearly $1.2
million in todays dollars). Inspired perhaps
he really didnt believe in. It really changed
his practice.
in Helena-West Helena is not unlike the by the tremendous need and sacrifice of Though theres scant documentation as
one felt stepping into many other places the Great Depression, Martin envisioned to how Martin connected with Eames in
of worship: Your breath catches, you a church that would provide an unfettered St. Louis, Demetrios speculates that at the
become aware of your smallness, and the experience of communion with God, time, St. Louis is where anyone in Arkansas
whispered words be still settle over your one without the distractions of elaborate in need of an architect for a special project
heart like a lump in your throat. It is unlike ornamentation and beautiful paintings. would have gone. As the largest city in
the staggering awe engendered by many And in Eames, he found an architect who the area, its likely that the Missouri city
of the worlds better-known churches, understood, perhaps better than anyone would have had the highest concentration
where complex architecture and intricate else could at the time, exactly what he was of talented professionals. And once there,
ornamentation render us wide-eyed and trying to accomplish. its likely that many people Martin queried
mute with their insistence that it is not the Its one of the first structures Charles did would have told him to go to Eames, who
devil in the details, but his opposite. But it is after he had a kind of epiphany, when already had a reputation for doing original
the former kind of hush, the humbler hush, he was in Mexico during the Depression, and innovative work. In retrospect, that
that the architect had in mind when he first says Eames Demetrios, Eames grandson, Martins passion project should have
began, in 1934, to conceive the structure a filmmaker and the director of the landed in the hands of an architect who
that sits on Columbia Street, just a few Eames Office in Chicago. After finding had recently committed himself to doing
blocks from the banks of the Mississippi. architectural work scarce in St. Louis, where nothing but passion projects seems almost
That architect was internationally acclaimed in 1930 he had established an office with preordained.
designer Charles Eames, and that church fellow architect Robert Walsh, Eames went I think one of the reasons its so successful
his first major commission, one of two hed to Mexico in 1933 and for eight months as a place, Demetrios says, is its what
complete in the stateessentially opened made a living as a painter of portraits, I would call a very honest church, a very
the door to Eames becoming Eames. barnswhatever he could find in exchange honest building; its very simple. Austere
The story of Catholics in Helena is for a meal or a place to stay. The people in its design, simultaneously modern and
in some ways the story of Catholics in he was with had rich emotional lives, rich primitive, it has what Demetrios refers to as
Arkansas, as it was the Helena area, by cultural lives, and rich spiritual lives, a middle European feeling. He once said
way of the Mississippi River, where that the role of the designer is basically
Catholics first set foot in territory

Its what I
that of a good host anticipating the
that would eventually be part of the needs of the guest. So thats something
state; Helena-West Helena today thats not necessarily about the look; its
has monuments to both the Spanish about how it actually works in peoples
explorer Hernando De Soto, who lives, Demetrios says. (During those

would call a
came ashore with a group of priests years, the form follows function
in 1541 (and reportedly celebrated era of modernist design was gaining
the states first Catholic Mass), and momentum; Eames had studied
the Jesuit missionary Pre Marquette, one of the philosophys champions,

very honest
whose 1673 expedition led to the Walter Gropius, in Europe.) Charles
French establishing colonies along was always focused on the big idea.
the Mississippi that helped spread You know, What are we trying to
Catholicism in the area. A little more accomplish here?
than two centuries later, an influx of

church, a
When it was finally unveiled in
Italian Catholic immigrants, driven 1936, the parishioners may have
to the United States by poverty and wanted to ask the same question,
political unrest, settled in and around as the church that Eames, Walsh
Helena and began to flourish as and Martin conceived represented a

very honest
merchants, peddlers and tradesmen. dramatic break from what St. Marys
It is their ancestors who are St. Marys parishioners were accustomed to
parishioners today. (and probably also from what they
When Fr. Thomas J. Martin was expected)particularly in the

building; its
appointed to St. Marys in 1925, he interior. The unadorned brick walls,
inherited a church with significant debt broad and interrupted by a handful of
and a building sorely in need of repairs. narrow stained-glass windows, were
The existing church had been built painted a warm, dusty rose in a nod to
in 1888 in a conventional style, with

very simple.
early Christians, who would have had
soaring vaulted ceilings under high only earth pigments to work with. The
Gothic arches. Martin, determined ceilings, in dark wood overlaid with
that his parishioners should have a beams, are sturdy, rather than airy and

46 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com photography by rett peek | historic photos from ETK archives
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 47
Left: The simple, bare-bones
faade of St. Marys. Above:
One of the six pendants Eames
designed for the sanctuary.
Right: The church as a work in
progress circa 1936.

graceful; simple stations of the cross, carved


in dark wood to match the ceiling beams
so: When Martin passed away in 1939,
parishioners insisted that he be buried
Im standing in the
and the pews, ring the nave. Behind the beside the church that he loved so much, south-side aisle
altar was a simple mural depicting God pleading with his family in Massachusetts of the church, near the east end of the
presenting his son on the cross, flanked by to make it so. But within a couple of years, building, opposite the altar, with Jo Turner,
angels and protected by prophets, painted they had hidden the mural behind a wall- a parishioner since the 70s and an unofficial
in a style more modernist and abstract spanning blue velvet curtain and replaced spokesperson and booster for the church.
than representational. The parishioners the coordinating stations of the cross with Early Christian churches are built on a
response to the new church might best more customary designs, each with a plaque Latin cross, always facing east, she says,
be described as mixed, albeit respectfully identifying the donor affixed below. practically tripping over her words in her

48 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


excitement to talk about her church. This dusty rose is exemplary jewel-toned and overwhelmingly blue. Also jewel-toned and
of early Christian churches, she continues. Its meant to be dull; its overwhelmingly blue is the mural, which Turner and I have now
meant to be reverent. The dark wooden beams are also exemplary. reached in our clockwise exploration of the church. Stark, stylized,
Eames was very he loved symbolism, and he loved detail. Theres lacking perspective, the mural, done in a spare Byzantine style by
Latin on these beams here and five red marks on either side for Charles Quest, another St. Louis acquaintance of Eames, is the
Jesus five wounds. complete opposite of what Turner refers to as the happy, fluffy
Gazing up at the beams, our eyes land on one of the churchs Renaissance lookwhich its worth noting would be utterly,
least primitive and most indisputably beautiful features: the light comically incongruous herethat people favored at the time the
fixtures. Giant frosted-glass orbs, half-encased in bronze punctuated church was built. The mural was a controversy, Turner says.
with stars, they are oriented so that upon entering the church, [Eames] didnt want anything that was pretty, that just glittered.
only the dark side is visible, symbolizing the world. When taking And its not pretty at all but its gorgeous in its own historical way.
communion, drawn by the stars through the dark night of the As easy as that may be to say from todays vantage point, what
soul, you reach the altar, and, after receiving the Eucharist, you the parishioners of 1936 saw was more hunchback than Notre
turn around and see the light. You are bathed in light. Everything Dame, and so, around 1940, the curtain went up. And it stayed
is illuminated. Its hard to believe anyone had ever before or has there until 1970. According to a 2006 article from the Arkansas
ever since put as much thought into a hanging lamp as Eames must Catholic, the official publication of the Diocese of Little Rock, when
have into these; they are such a sublime expression of his aesthetic the curtain came down (predicated by what is anyones guess),
philosophy that its hard to look away from them. parishioner Annetta Beauchamp, was so transfixed that she could
When you do look away, its best to sit down, as Turner urges barely follow Mass. She hurriedly invited an art history professor
me to do, peeling back a faded maroon pew cushion and insisting from a local college to St. Marys to look at the mural. And that was
that I settle against the bare wood. Lumbar support, she says, when the third piece of the St. Marys trinity was discovered: that
marveling. This is probably a precursor to his I mean, he knew the mural was painted by Quest, who in the years since his work
how to design. Indeed, this is the only truly comfortable pew I in Helena had also become famous, having done murals in public

We just grew up with it.


We didnt think nothing of it.
have ever sat on. The cushion is practically superfluous. Demetrios buildings, schools, and churches in St. Louis and elsewhere in the
would refer to this sensibility as being a good hostanticipating United States. Armed with this newfound historical significance,
the needs of the guest, who, in this case, would be expected to sit Beauchamp fought to prevent the muraladditionally blighted by
for long periods of time. Given that some of the Eameses most years of water damage that had been taking place unseen behind the
enduring designs would be chairs, yes, it is safe to say that the pews curtainfrom being painted over and prevailed in a 2-1 parish-wide
were probably a precursor. vote. She then began the work of the murals restoration, a process
Turners tour of the church continues with the stained-glass that would continue in fits and starts for 35 years, ultimately to be
windows, for each of which she can recite the symbols and completed, in 2006, by conservators Wendel and Elizabeth Norton
depictions. Facts and assessments come rushing out as if trying of Norton Arts Inc., a fine-arts restoration company that was at the
to escape the heat of Turners enthusiasm. She is moving from time based in Little Rock. Beauchamp passed away in 2011, taking
window to window, pointing out different elements like a child in many fine points of the churchs history with her.
a toy store who wants one of everything she sees. Eames designed
everything. Everything in here has his name on it. He influenced
Emil Frei, who did the glass. And he became famous because of the While it would seem that the
Vatican tapping on his abilities. All the symbolism in these walls,
he made up some of it. Emil Frei loved that jewel tone, the reds and beleaguered mural might
blues. The first two are beatitudes . Frei came from a family of
well-known stained-glass artisans in St. Louis; the family business,
finally be getting its due,
founded in 1898, is still in operation today in Missouri. The Frei there are still people who are vocally opposed to it. After spending
studio was responsible for the windows of many of this countrys the morning touring the church, Turner and I join a group of women
finest and most noteworthy churches; among them is St. Francis from the parish for a monthly luncheon at the Pillow-Thompson
Xavier College Church in St. Louis. While it may seem unlikely that House. The soup has barely been served when one of them pipes
not one but two artisans involved in the Helena project would both up. I can tell you something about that Byzantine art on the back
go on to achieve international acclaim, a young architect keeping wall, she says (that I will not be naming names seems implicit as
an eye on local talent would likely have landed on Frei, much in the a precursor to this confession, though I suspect these opinions
way Martin probably landed on Eames. have been shared publicly before). When I was growing up, it
The windowstall, gracefully slim panels depicting Jesus with had a beautiful blue velvet curtain covering it up. And the nuns
figures from both the Old and New Testamentsare indeed told us not to look back there because it was evil. Later, I was

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 49


told that I am supposed to say, I am not that some parishioners have struggled to laid over wooden anchors set in poured
fond of Byzantine art, but I always said, accept, or at the very least accepted with concrete, and that the ceilings wooden
I hate that wall, because it was ugly. But I calm indifference. If this were an Onion beams conceal a steel framework. They
wasnt supposed to say that. Even Turner article, the headline might read: Artisans remember their father taking a level to
can admit that shes never really liked it but of Local Church Achieve World Acclaim; the church wall to demonstrate that it was
is compelled to appreciate it by its history. Townspeople Say Meh. But its not that plum. Both brothers grew up to be builders,
Which sentiment may place her in one they dont care. Its that the fact that its carrying on the family line, so it seems
of two broad camps of response to the architect eventually became famous is fitting that their reflections on the church
church: Those for whom the history has incidental. Karen Davidson, one of the would be structural rather than aesthetic.
impacted their appreciation and those for ladies at the Pillow-Thompson House When I ask them if they remember learning
whom it hasnt. But to suggest any natural lunch, put it this way: Im proud of the of the churchs significance, they echo
sorting among the parishioners would be history. But I accept it for my church, not Davidson and one another. We just grew
pure speculation. Turner didnt grow up for being all this famous stuff. I hate to up with it, says Jimmy. We didnt think
in the churchshe was married there just make this comparison, but people who live nothing of it, adds Vensil.
after the curtain came downso perhaps in Los Angeles, with Disney right there For the rest of the parishioners, many
the revelation that not one, not two, but they dont go there. Its not personal; this only one generation removed from
three of the churchs creators had gone on to is personal. immigrants who arrived in Helena by boat
achieve such acclaim was more influential When parishioners share their memories and had little more with which to build
than it might have been had she not spent of St. Marys, almost nobody speaks of the a community than their shared faith and
her whole life experiencing the church in churchs physical features (though the blue country of origin, the church was simply
a less glamorous way. On the other hand, curtain does make regular appearances where everything happened. They went to
Beauchamp did grow up in the church, and as a marker of time, particularly when it church before school every morning and
she had the same response. comes to dating weddings). That is, with the stopped in the parish hall on the way to
Whats interesting is that the things exception of Jimmy and Vensil Kesl, whose class for a 10-cent breakfast of hot chocolate
that riverboat touristsnational and even father and grandfather were the contractors and buttered toast. There was the annual
internationalcome to look at first, after on the church, builders who came from Christmas bazaar. There were the nuns
they disembark in Helena and look up to a line of builders in Czechoslovakia that with the clickers theyd use to orchestrate
see St. Marys straight ahead at the end stretches back to the 10th century. They childrens movements during Mass. There
of the street, are some of the same things remember that the hardwood floors were were dances, weddings, funerals. There
Continued on page 77
50 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
Above: Eames designed the pews with comfort in mind, rendering
cushions almost superfluous. Right: One of the original, Eames-
designed Stations of the Cross, which have been replaced.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 51


52 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
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GOOD TASTE

F i r s t Ta s t e

skylark cafe
In small-town Leslie, the, um, skys the limit

by mariam makatsaria
Photography by Arshia khan
FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 61
he road to Leslie is strung along the kind of landscape tables are the same; no two patterned fabrics are similar. An exposed-
that would be the perfect backdrop brick fireplace radiates heat.
for a high-speed car chasesteep, Booth or a table? the waitress asks us with
hilly and beautiful, but unsettling. an affable smile. Were booth people. And were
Its starting to snow, and through lucky because all but one of the padded, plastic-
the flakes, we can see the stretch of Skylark Cafe covered cocoons are available.
mountainous vistas broken by weathered houses 401 High St.
The menu is as much of a hodgepodge as its
and derelict barns. Leslie | (870) 447-2354 surroundings. There are tacos, but theres also
Twenty minutes and a right turn later, a hand- facebook.com/skylarkcafeleslie baked brie. Theres hummus, but theres also pasta
painted sign enthusiastically welcomes us to Les- tossed in rich and creamy Alfredo. I cant quite
Best dishes
lie. Weve arrived in the townit just takes us Regular menu: brisket-and-brie
figure it out. That is, until I go up to the counter
a minute to realize it. On this wintry Saturday sliders, green chile pork tacos, the and meet the husband-and-wife duo behind this
afternoon, with abandoned-looking century-old Cuban, the Jumping Chuy. Friday endeavor. Chef Denver Ellis is rinsing his hands
storefronts and bare streets, the place looks for- dinner menu: shrimp skewers, by the sink in front of a large chalkboard menu,
garden pasta, seared pork chop
gotten. Maybe its the weather, I think to myself. and as soon as he asks me how my food was, his
But as I step into the mint-green Skylark Cafe, kid friendly? wife, Joy, pops out from behind a beaded string
I feel at easethat sense of relief you get when Absolutely. We have yet to see a curtain.
you slip into the warmth of your home from the table without a child or two When people ask me about our cuisine, I dont
outside cold. Its that familiarity. Its that comfort. price range know what to tell them, she says, stretching her
And its that prospect of sitting down to a plate $7-9 for lunch entrees; $10-16 dark-gray cardigan and wrapping it around her
of something delicious. for Friday-night dinner entrees pregnant belly, one side over the other. Its a little
May all who enter leave as friends, reads the bit of everything. Its food that we love.
RESERVATIONS
sign above the door. Surely thats possible, for Accepted for parties of six or
It all makes sense now. The tacos? Drawn from
theres a lot here to stir a conversation. Pastoral more. Otherwise, not necessary many evenings spent feasting (excessively, Joy
paintings and still lifes of sunflowers and daffodils adds) on them in Austin, Texas. The baked brie?
hang everywhere on the green walls. Shelves are hours Inspired by the French bakery where she worked
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday
lined with antique plates, and knickknacks dot through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8
in Austin. The barbecue pork in the quesadillas?
every nook and cranny of the restaurant. No two p.m. Friday through Saturday A nod to Denvers days operating a food truck

62 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 63
in Oklahoma. The Cuban? Well, theyre not sure where that came aspirations as a teenager, when she first bought the house, spent
fromjust something Denver has always loved. seven months renovating it with her family and eventually launched
Its a little confusing because were not, like, any style, Joy tells the restaurant in 2009, a year after meeting Denver (who was then
us after shes accompanied me back to our table. On Facebook, enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school) in Austin. The couple
people were asking me what style of food we are, and I was like, kept in touch, and in 2014, they tied the knot and decided to the make
Were not any of these. the move to Austin, where it all started. She sold her restaurant
Its what we like to eat, Denver chimes in over his shoulder, clad to her sister, whose paintings take up the majority of wall space.
in a black chef jacket, his hair tucked under a purple bandana. They Everybody was like, Why would you marry a chef and then sell
do this a lotcomplete each others sentences as they enthuse about your restaurant? she laughs.
their food, their farm-to-table approach, their future plans, how they Turns out Austin wasnt quite for them, she says. Joys sister
want to do this and then that, and perhaps something else if they was overwhelmed by running a business. Not to mention, Joy felt
have the funds, or if they win the next Powerball. drawn to her hometown. It seemed like Skylark might not make
And as we sit in an adjacent dining area, with wooden booths and it without us, and that was hard to accept, Denver says. People
strings of lights running along the ceiling, Skylark seems set in its love it. Its a part of this town. And so the two moved back to
ways, as if its been like this forever. Which, in fact, is far from the Leslie and put roots down. (Like, literallytheir garden out back
truth. This room at the rear of the building? They just opened it up spans three and a half city blocks.) Although Joy always kept a
for customers this past September, along with a second bathroom small garden at Skylark, it was merely as a hobby, and it was only
and some space for refrigeration. The warm air seeping through in Austinmore specifically, while working at the now-shuttered
the vent? They just installed their central heating system a couple Bess Bistrothat she felt inspired to duplicate the restaurants
of weeks ago. (Theyd previously relied on radiators.) The kitchen? 1-acre garden back home. If a metropolitan city like Austin could
All decked out with new equipment the couple recently funded do it, so could she.
through Kickstarterseven years after Joy first opened the cafe as For the past couple of springs, Joy has planted a variety of veg-
19-year-old. etables, and those that she doesnt plant she buys from the local farm-
Originally from Leslie, Joy fondly recalls pursuing her business ers market or her friends local farms. But now that the chilly bite of

64 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


winter has marked the end of fresh fruits and vegetables, Joy can only chicken or shrimp. A thick slice of crispy garlic bread rests on the side.
harvest kale and cabbage. My broccoli isnt doing so well, she says. Friday nights are the busiest, they say. At dinnertime, Joy and
But really, everything tastes so fresh that youd never suspect as Denver are usually hard at work in the kitchen. New customers
much. My Jumping Chuy sandwich arrives on a Fiestaware plate pour in every 15 minutes or sofamilies, to be more precise. On
with chunks of grilled chicken crowned by rings of red onion, slices Friday nights, you can hear their chatter, the clatter of silverware,
of tomato and lettuce jutting out like a tutu, and a green chile sauce the squeak of the wooden floorboards as waitresses rush in and
filling the gaps. I push down its height, like I would an overstuffed out of the kitchen.
suitcase before zipping it up. Struggle as it is, its worth it. But this afternoon, its quiet. And despite that fact (perhaps even
Then theres the Cuban. A crowd favorite, the waitress tells us with because of it), its easy to kick back and relax with a cup of tea and
a nudge. Think pulled pork and thin-cut slices of grilled ham sand- dessert. The waitress sweeps the strawberry pie from inside the glass
wiched between pressed French bread. (Better yet, imagine smoked case and walks it to our table, the tall heap of whipped cream doing
pork and thin-cut slices of grilled ham sandwiched between pressed a little hula dance atop the crust. Chopped strawberries bound by
French bread.) One bite into it, and you know why its specialthin a syrupy nectar sit on a bed of graham-cracker crust so soft that it
strands of gooey cheese stretch out into a lips-to-crust rope bridge, the crumbles, seemingly, before the tines of our forks even hit it. Its far
mustard adds a much-needed zing, and Skylarks homemade pickles from cloyingly sweet and very close to perfection, and were already
elevate it with a sweet tang. silently judging ourselves for eating so much of it (and so quickly)
These are some of the couples favorites off their everyday lunch when we had so little room.
menu, which carries over to dinner on Saturdays. Fridays, however, We were right about the booths because, frankly, we need all the
boast a different menuone that the couple implemented when they space to stretch our limbs in every which way. We lean our heads
moved back. The focus of this special menu is Denvers handmade against the wall. Although the place is still empty and the snow is
pasta, which requires a lot of prep on Denvers part, as he whips up and still falling, our stomachs are full to the brim. And its clear why were
cuts the silky-smooth fettuccine by hand. The fresh garden pasta, for putting off going home. Forget the chilly, short walk to our car. Forget
example, features basil from their or their friends gardens. Whole-leaf the long drive home. We still want to linger here in the comfort of
spinach is mixed in with mushrooms, tomatoes and your choice of this placeperhaps with another slice of pie.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 65


GOOD TASTE

THE TRUFFLE SHUFFLE


Because four over-the-top-delicious confections from local chocolate guru
Nathaniel Izard are better than one
Photography by Arshia Khan

Theres nothing simple about the bean-to-bar chocolate operation taking place at any given time inside Hillcrests
Izard Chocolate. Canvas bags of cacao beans are arriving from exotic localesBelize, the Dominican Republic, Costa
Rica. Roasters are roasting. Grinders are grinding. Temperers are you see where were going here. Its a complex
process, to say the least. But chocolate truffles? Head chocolatier Nathaniel Izard says theres nothing simplermere
truffle, one might say. Its just chocolate and heavy cream, he says with a shrug. Here, he offers his basic ganache
recipe with tips for experimentation. Just be sure to use really high-quality ingredients, he says. After that? Easy.

BASIC GANACHE Heat heavy cream and corn syrup over low heat. Once
205 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped boiling, pour cream over chopped chocolate in a bowl; allow
100 grams heavy cream mixture to sit for 1 minute to melt chocolate. Using a whisk,
30 grams corn syrup emulsify until smooth. Stir in butter, and then stream in
20 grams cognac or other liqueur cognac. Pour onto parchment paper, cover in plastic wrap,
5 grams room-temperature butter, cubed and let cool until ganache reaches a plasticky consistency, 30
Cocoa powder for dusting minutes to an hour. Roll into balls and coat in cocoa powder.

BASIC WHISKEY CHAI TEA MINT

Izard likes to use a single- Double the amount of Add a bag of chai tea This ones simplejust
origin chocolate in his booze, and ease up on (or the loose-leaf tea add a handful of mint
basic ganache, allowing the heavy creamso 80 equivalentIzard likes leaves to 120 grams of
the chocolates subtleties grams of heavy cream, Bollywood Chai from heavy cream (youre not
to stand on their own. 40 grams of whiskey. The Reluctant Trading going to use cognac in
For instance, Izards Izard uses Rock Town Experiment) to 120 grams this one). Once boiling,
Dominican Republic Distillerys bourbon of heavy cream. Once strain over chocolate.
bars have notes of tart whiskey. boiling, remove tea bag
raspberry; the Belize bars (or use a strainer if using
offer up hints of cherry. loose tea) and pour cream
over chocolate. Forego the
cognac, and increase the
butter by 5 grams.

Not up for playing Willy Wonka? Boxes of truffles will be available in time for Valentines Day at Izard Chocolates storefront at
623 Beechwood St. in Little Rock. (izardchocolate.com)
66 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
Good Tasting What were eating & sipping
this month
Beer Flight
Flyway Brewing, North
Little Rock
With beers like the Mi-
grate pale ale, Night Owl
black coffee IPA and Old
Decoy oaked old ale,
central Arkansas newest
micro-brewery, located
in North Little Rocks
Argenta neighborhood,
is for the birds. And with
all this winged wordplay,
we couldnt help but order
a flight. (314 Maple St.,
North Little Rock; face-
book.com/flywaybrewing-
company)

Southern
Most Pasta
Pasta Grill, Conway and
Russellville
Though it may be the best
Italian spot in town, Pasta
Grill knows a thing or two
about Southern cooking
especially when it comes
to the humble mud bug.
In dishes like this mlange
of crawfish tails, shrimp,
mushrooms and Cajun
cream sauce served over
fettuccine, our local crus-
tacean is elevated to higher
ground. (Locations in
Conway and Russellville;
pastagrillrestaurant.com)

Double-cut Pork
Chop
Central Park Fusion Cuisine,
Hot Springs
Though its known for its
Australian wagyu beef, this
Hot Springs Asian-fusion
icons new menu has a
carnivorous concoction
tempting our taste buds:
the double-cut pork chop.
Smoked for an hour and
a half, cooked sous vide,
grilled, and topped with
bourbon barbecue sauce
and spiced apple compote,
this chop has us thinking
we might just be done with
red meat. (200 Park Ave.,
Hot Springs; centralparkfu-
sion.com)

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 67


Weekender

ROCKY ROAD
Although Denvers development has often been something of an uphill
battle, the Colorado c apitals peak is nowhere in sight

by Jordan P. Hickey | photography by Rebecc a stumpf

68 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


ut of the dark, theres neon. Welcome Back looping in rebirth parceled out across the city. The truth is, youre talking about
white neon script. INDUSTRY in white-and-yellow Denver.
block letters, all caps. Its curious to see, this sign and its And to spend a few days hoofing it on foot around the city (which
optimism, made all the more so by the incongruity of the Id highly advise againstUbers so saturate the city that theres never
setting. Because to see such a thing on this stretch of Brighton Boule- a time when a driver is farther than a few blocks away), you start to
vard, a place just a few minutes north of downtown Denver, where the see those effects rippled out across town. For example, if you walk
husks of warehouses and construction sites are boxy shadows in the through the RiNo Districtwhich also just so happens to be home
dark, immediately prompts a passer-by to wonder whether industrys to The Sourceon one of its First Fridays, youll find storefront after
invitation mightve been lost in the mail (if it was ever sent at all). storefront in those aforementioned industrial shells. Youll find people.
Because its not a place that looks like Denver. Its a place that lacks Like, lots of people. Unremarkable as that might seem, the presence of
the wash of time-obliterating-and-defying light pooling from the strip art loversmuch less a store devoted to chocolate cravings or a bazaar
of boutiques, restaurants and bars of the 16th Street Mall. Practically on of crpe- and pierogi-selling food truckswould have been all but
a different planet from Union Station (despite the fact that its scarcely unheard of when the district first started to take shape a decade ago.
2 miles up the road), which has been reborn as an upscale hotel with But.
restaurants and shops to match. Ultimately, the stretch of road between All of that being said, for as nice as it is to see so much invested in the
the railroad and river is a place that seems more Pottersville than Bed- city proper, its also rather nice to put the urban sprawl behind you for
ford Falls. And though there are some indications to the contrarysay, a time. Because while theres plenty of good in those old things made
a glimpse of mustachioed, red-plaid-clad techies playing pingpong in newthe refurbished and rehabbed structures and neighborhoods
a startup workspaceyou have to wonder if this is the place youve revivedthere are other places where the old is still old and has been
heard so much about, where the shells of industrial buildings have been maintained. Theres something particularly endearing, for that reason,
repurposed and made new. when you head west on U.S. 70the country-spanning road that, hav-
And then heading east through the dark, you find it at The Source. ing stretched its way through Kansas and eastern Colorado, succeeds
You see it from the street. The windows out front glow something in bunching up into tangles through the mountainsand find smaller
amazing and, stretching nearly the height of the 19th century foundry, mining towns where everythings largely the same as its always been.
make it seem as though the building, anthropomorphically wide-eyed, is Walking through the downtown of a place like the historic mining
surprised to see you walking through the parking lot clogged with cars. town of Georgetown (or, to a lesser extent, a place like Idaho Springs, just
When you push through the doors, you find an artisan marketplace. a few exits east) is basically a breath of fresh air. Its a place to stop. To
Twenty-six thousand square feet with 60-foot ceilings and everything settle. A place where theres no ongoing chatter of construction and any
exposedthe whale-belly ceilings mention of cranes is almost certainly
and metal ductwork, the graffiti from in reference to the bird. Where a walk
the buildings previous lives still vi- among the 200-plus historic 19th
brantly colored and spiked over century buildings that comprise the
the exposed red brick. And to walk townpausing to browse through,
through such a placepast one of say, battered tomes about the history
the finest restaurants in the country of mining and issues of Life dating
(Acorn), past a traditional French back to when Churchill diedis to
bakery (Babettes Artisan Bread), feel as though youve inadvertently
past a floral shop (Beet & Yarrow) gotten snagged on the threshold of a
knowing what its like just outside time warp. Where the preservation
the door, where there are so many that Denver seems so keen on captur-
buildings where there is no light, its ing a few thousand feet below seems
all a little surreal. like its been done almost effortlessly.
Because for a long time, there However, in reading through the
werent many lights on. Not here. guidebook (which is totally worth
Not much of anywhere in the area. the 10 bucks youll pay at the wel-
A few years ago, to mark the open- come center), you learn that its taken
ing of a $54 million revitalization time and no small amount of effort
of Union Station, The Denver Post to make sure that these buildings
published what was essentially a continue to stand as they have for
sprawling retrospective on develop- more than a hundred years. In fact,
ment in the downtown area (Den- it was 50 years ago this year that the
vers renovated Union Station has National Park Service established
been a 30-year barn-raising). For Georgetown as a National Landmark
those looking to visit the city, its not Historic District. In a sense, as you
just a crucial bit of readingone that drive away from Georgetown, leaving
details just how far the city has come behind the small mining town for the
since the 1980s, when the city was bustle of the city, you cant help but
choking on a brown cloud of pollu- marvel at everything its succeeded in
tion and struggling with a decaying doinghow the efforts of a commu-
downtown and a sputtering econo- nity have brought the place together
mybut a sobering reminder that and kept it standing.
if youre talking about places brought And then you see the lights and
back from the brink, youre not just think Denver doesnt seem all that
Historic georgetown
talking about individual pockets of far behind.

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 69


Summit dis, summit dat
Going the distance in the Mile-High City

//STAY fried bread. Or bone marrow with golden and why youve been supplied with a large
raisin jam and Calabrian chili. (As far as were bottle of honey for dunking the fluffy moun-
The Brown Palace Hotel
concerned, that just leaves more wood-oven, tain pie crusts (which you really, really need to
and Spa
rotating-menu goodness for us.) (3350 Brighton try)its really better if you just, um, roll with it.
The fact that there are tours ought to give
Blvd.; denveracorn.com) (P.S.: Same goes for the two Denver locations.)
you inkling enough as to what the place is
(1517 Miner St., Idaho Springs; beaujos.com)
like (also: palace). Theres a general history
Pinche Tacos
tour. An architecture tour. A ghost tour (hard
We really need to talk about these tacos. City, O City
pass). But whats most telling? The presidential
Though tucked into an often less-than-lovely Though choosing eateries in a city like Denver
tourbecause, with the lone exception of
stretch of East Colfax Avenue (or at the other can feel a bit overwhelming for a moon-eyed,
Coolidge (psh), every president has stayed at
location in the northwest part of the city), this jaw-perpetually-ajar visitor, sometimes, you get
this 241-room luxury hotel since it was opened
must-hit culinary staple serves tacos that need a sign that youve found the right place. In some
in 1892. (321 17th St.; brownpalace.com)
considerable words. Like, delicious. Like, curl- cases, that sign comes when, upon walking
your-toes delicious. Although the pork belly through the door, you see a wall-spanning mu-
The Crawford Hotel
agridulce and asada varieties are standouts, ral done by Little Rock artist Katherine Rutter,
Look, itd be one thing if The Crawfords ap-
dont be afraid to go simplethe queso a la and then, after just one bite of something like,
peal were linked solely to nostalgia for the
plancha (griddled Cotija cheese, avocado and say, this veggie-centric spots Saisonaka a
locomotive era. But seeing as the hotels got
roasted tomatillo salsa) is also pretty pinche sandwich with grilled tomato, fresno-pepper
some 112 uniquely designed luxury accommo-
amazing. (1514 York St.; 3300 W. 32nd Avenue; jam and Gruyreyou know youre absolutely
dations (notably, the luxury sleeper-car-inspired
tacostequilawhiskey.com) in the right place. (206 E. 13th Ave.; cityocity-
Pullman Rooms) just upstairs from some of the
denver.com)
citys finest restaurants and boutiques (that $54
Beau Jos
million renovation that The Denver Post dubbed
Its a strange place to find pizza, some 7,500 Old Major
a 30-year barn-raising really did wonders
feet above sea level. And although youre al- On the offhand chance that youve just been
for the old Union Station), it seems fair to
most certain to have questionssay, how ex- brunching at the previous entry (and seriously,
say theres something for everyone. (1701
actly it got its hand-rolled crust to rise so well even if youre not vegetarian, were pretty sure
Wynkoop St.; thecrawfordhotel.com)
youll love City, O City), odds are you
Capitol Hill Mansion Bed probably want some meat. And for this,
and Breakfast Inn friends, youll want to hit up Old Ma-
With recent offerings thatve included jor, an everything-done-in-house-type
the likes of rosemary chicken with place up in the presently booming
a goat cheese souffl, and pumpkin Highlands neighborhood. Specifically,
creme brle French toast with apples, the nose-to-tail plate that covers ev-
its really, really tough not to focus exclu- erything from, um, the nose to tail. P.S.: If
sively on the daily gourmet breakfast at its anytime past noonor even if it isnt
this Capitol Hill neighborhood B&B. But (its got brunch on weekends)youre
with eight unique, gorgeously designed going to want a Modern Savage from
rooms tucked within this turreted ruby the bar. (3316 Tejon St.; oldmajordenver.
sandstone exterior (each named for a com)
Colorado wildflower), breakfast is al-
most an afterthought. Almost. (1207
//DO
Pennsylvania St.; capitolhillmansion.com)
Crooked Stave Artisan
Beer Project
//EAT A word of warning: Some of these
Acorn pours are different. Some are pal-
If you werent already persuaded by the ate-benders exceptional in just about
series of accolades Acorn has racked every way. Some tend to pucker your
upspecifically, by the likes of Bon entire face (they are sours, after all).
Appetit and local magazine 5280 as But with 3-ounce tasters for modest
among the finest restaurants around prices (starting at $2), there are plenty
theres not much else to say, especially of reasons to sample the offerings of
if you dont care for the idea of, say, this award-winning brewery tucked in
sublime hamachi crudo with avocado, the back of The Source. For those feel-
salsa verde and pickled ramps atop ing a little less adventurous, Great
acorn

70 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


Terminal bar, union station acorn

city, ocity old major


FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 71
old major

Divide Brewing Co.s standout taproom is just sites (a standout guide procured from the Town set. Trust us on that one.) (281 Centennial St.,
a short walk down the road. (3350 Brighton Hall provides write-ups on 84 of them)not Glenwood Springs; ironmountainhotsprings.com)
Blvd.; crookedstave.com) to mention driving the 22-mile Guanella Pass
Scenic Byway. But theres still reason enough
Denver Art Museum to visit. One reason: Google Ice Racing on //SHOP
To answer your first question:Yes, that is indeed Georgetown Lake. (Take note: There are a First Fridays in the RiNo (River
a 35-foot-tall broom and dustpan in front of few sitesincluding the gorgeously appoint- North) Art District
the museum. To answer your second question: ed, 5,000-item-strong Museum de Paristhat Yknow, it was somewhere between sampling
Yes, its acceptable to gawk at the exterior of only do private group tours during the winter.) the taster of Dark Chocolate Almond Zen at
the Daniel Libeskind-designed museum be- (georgetown-colorado.org) the Chocolate Crisis Center and seeing a live
cause it is, in fact, pretty gorgeous. And finally: glass-blowing demonstration at Blake Street
Yes, thanks to a world-renowned exhibition Iron Mountain Hot Springs Glass Studio a few blocks away that epiphany
of American Indian art, and rotating exhibi- Odds are your brows pretty well furrowed at struck: With 180-some membersup from
tions that include the likes of Andrew Wyeth the mention of Glenwood Springs (and youve eight when RiNo was first established back in
and cubism (open through Feb. 7 and March likely already keyed the name into Google 2005theres really something for everyone in
20, respectively), its just as impressive within Maps or hollered out to your significant other). this industrial-turned-arts-focused district. (P.P.S.
as from without. And nope, you wont have And well, seeing as its a considerable hikeall Once youre through, head down to the Friday
enough timebut thats just all the more rea- of three hours, reallyyoud have plenty of Night Bazaar for a similarly eclectic gathering
son for a return visit. (100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway; reasons for skepticism. However, seeing as the of food trucks.) (rivernorthart.com)
denverartmuseum.org) aforementioned drive wends its way through
the Rockies (one of the most gorgeous drives Tattered Cover Book Store
weve taken) and the destination has 16 brand- Full disclosure: We have a fairly unapologetic
Historic Georgetown
spanking-new mineral hot-springs pools that tendency to totally nerd out over bookstores
Theres little doubt the chill this time of year
range from 99 to 108 degrees, wed say its (and may have spent more time at Tattered
can put a particularly strong damper on the
worth it. (P.S. If you can, get there around sun- Cover and the adjacent Twist & Shout record
idea of touring this mountain towns historic
72 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com
store than was really needed). But in the
case of this sprawling location of the storied,
locally owned Colorado bookstore chain
(think: 45 years of free-speech advocacy and
hundreds of live speakersmany of whom
look out from black-and-white portraits
along the stairs leading to the ground floor),
wed say the time was totally warranted
and will make no apologies. (2526 E. Colfax
Ave.; tatteredcover.com)

Shops on South Broadway


Maybe you need bakers twine and a ceramic
berry bowl. Or shelves of knitted wool stuff
and mustache wax. Or even, for reasons that
you might not yet understand, a gently used
brown woolen coat with rainbow stripes,
a stuffed rattlesnake posed to strike and a
cup of warm cider. There are places to find
these (Hazel & Dewey, Decade and Buffalo
Outfitters, respectively). Regardless, if you
need itwhatever it might beodds are
youll find it at the shops on South Broad- Like
way (specifically, heading south from First Us

Avenue and Broadway).

FEBRUARY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 73


outdoorsman

In Plein View
From the Rockies to the Delta, painter Pat Matthews seeks the wild light
By nicholas hunt

Racing the sun, Pat Matthews takes a brush in each hand and extra fuel in case of emergencies. Because when Pat Matthews paints
attacks the canvas with green oil paint. Not only does this double his en plein air, when he races the light, more often than not, he heads for
speed, helping him quickly capture the western light as it washes over the backcountry.
the brown stone building, the evergreen trees and the cold, plunging If youre out west and you dont have any fuel, youre spending the
water, but it also changes the character of his strokes. night on the highway, he says, nodding at the Jerry cans as he loads the
Where many artists he knows only use small knots of paintabout covered bed of his truck.
the size of a nickel and certainly no larger than a quarterPat squeezes Its a big vehicle, but when he heads out into the Ozarks or the Arkan-
his paint out of a plumbers caulking gun into massive fists of color on sas Delta to paint, hell use every bit of it, hauling easels and canvases,
the folding table to his side. That paint makes it onto the canvas in gobs hunting gear and camping equipment. And when he travels to Colorado
from his brushes and thick slathers from his pallet knife, giving his or Idaho or New Mexico, hell hitch a trailer. Hell meet up with friends
painting of The Old Mill in North Little Rock the rich texture he prefers. hes made out there, and theyll load their ATVs with painting boxes
Its a peaceful winter afternoon, warm enough that a few couples full of supplies and head for the mountains, or set up shop in an aspen
wander around the property hand in hand or snack on picnic lunches, grove and just paint as long as theres light.
and it seems only natural that a painter should be here to capture this Well knock out a ton of little paintings, he explains. Some of those
bucolic scene; it would be a shame for it to go to waste. But Pat himself are so good, and some are not good at all, but it is the repetition that
seems out of place. Maybe its the cowboy hat he sports or the heavy is really important in painting. People say all the time, I want to be an
ranchers coat hes tossed aside. Maybe its that when he goes to pack up artist; I want to be an artist. Well, just paint. It is like anything else;
his kit, he heads for a black beast of a pickupthe one with the diesel I just paint more than a bunch of people.
engine and all-terrain tires, the winch and two 5-gallon Jerry cans for While that may be selling himself somewhat shortwhen he was

74 ARKANSAS LIFE www.arkansaslife.com


top Left: matthews set up his easel out at Wye
Mountain several times last Spring.

Bottom left: the artist painted this arkansas


Cypress Swamp from his boat.

bottom right: FOR YEARS, matthews has painted


the aspens in the mountains of Colorado.

studying to become an architect at the University of Arizona, he was But Arkansas has its own opportunities, its own inspirations, he says.
nicknamed Mr. Perspective for his ability to render architectural plans Once, when he was deer hunting, he brought his paints alonglike he
hes not wrong. He is a prolific painter, often finishing a painting a day. always doesbut forgot his brushes. He ended up sitting in his deer
He had his first show just months after closing his Little Rock archi- stand using a pocket knife as a pallet knife. People loved it so much
tecture firm to paint full time 15 years ago. He sold all 48 paintings in that he wants to do a whole series of them and give the knives away as
one night. He moved west to Santa Fe not long after that show to be in keepsakes. His worlds collide in his new studio-gallery on North Street
a bigger art market where he could make a name for himself nationally, just off the river in Little Rock, where cypress trees share gallery space
and soon his diligence paid off. His work started appearing not only with aspens, and canvases of cotton fields and sun-bleached barns hang
in some of that citys best galleries, but also in galleries in Aspen and next to Santa Fe sunsets.
Beaver Creek, Colorado. But whether its those wild Western landscapes or Arkansas wide-
He liked it out there in Santa Feand careerwise, things couldnt open skies, when Pats in the backcountry, he seems to disappear into
have been much betterbut he missed Arkansas. He missed being what he is painting. Moose will poke their heads out from behind
close to family and friends. He missed deer hunting and fishing on the trees, curious but unafraid, and turkeys will wander dangerously close,
Little Red River. So in 2008, he said, To heck with it. Im moving back. unaware of the painter with a shotgun propped against his easel. And
It was a risky move, leaving behind one of the countrys top art in the timbered bayous of the Arkansas Deltain many ways the most
markets, but its proven successful. He still sells incredibly well at the remote place hes ever paintedonce hes tied up to a tree and dropped
galleries in New Mexico and Colorado, and he makes frequent trips anchor, snakes and beavers and catfish will swim right on by as he paints.
west to paint and keep himself tapped into those artist communities. To them, he doesnt seem out of place at all.

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LEAP OF FAITH
Continued from page 51

are competing versions of events,


as is usually case when a group of
people reach back through the de-
cades to retrieve an experience they
shared but internalized individually;
two people proudly claimed that a
relative had been the first to marry in
the church, and half-dozen reasons
were given for Elviss ejection from
the property after an early-career
performance at the parish hall, which
for such purposes was known as the
Catholic Club: Hed been caught
signing girls thighs; hed been caught
with a girl wrapped up in a rug, the
nuns ran him out, the local boys ran
him out, Keller ran him out.
Father Martin was a visionary,
Turner says. He was a risk-taker.
He took a major risk building this
church in this style in the first place.
He gambled on those three guys.
They never did another commission
together again. Turner holds one
of the original stations of the cross,
hauled out of storage, up to the wall.
See the difference it makes? she
says. It just goes. What shes feel-
ing, according to Demetrios, is what
the Eameses would have referred to
as way-it-should-be-nessall ele-
ments in their right place, working
in a harmony so complete that the
individual components are almost
rendered invisible against the whole.
But when Turner has suggested to
the Rev. Benoit Mukamba, the lead
pastor at St. Marys, who has been
there since 2010, that the original
stations should be restored, he has
countered with his own version of
way-it-should-be-ness, reminding
her that the current stations are not
only what the parishioners want,
they were purchased in the name
of families whose relatives are still
active in the church. Turner under-
stands this, even as she is resigned to
it. Its like Father Ben says: Jo, this
is not a museum.
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LAST WORD

Baby Steps
By katie bridges

There was a bit of chill in the airJanuary in Arkan- am I going to raise an Arkansas baby if she cant WALK IN THE GRASS?
sas and allso we grabbed the mittens and her fleece hat with the And then it hit me: This is my fault. I mean, I was the Girl Scout who
teddy-bear ears on top, the one that, when Velcroed snugly beneath brought a curling iron to camp. But shell be different, Id been telling
her pudgy chin, turns her into a powder-pink Ewok. Into the diaper myself. She has her PopPopher fathers fatherin her, after all, and
bag went a snacka Tupperware tub of those mystery-food stars hes the guy who hunts deer and bass-fishes in his very own bass-fishing
known to mothers everywhere as puffsand a sippy cup of milk. pond and plants purple-hull peas and built a scarecrow and knows how
Into the front pocket, as always, went the iPhone. My husband calls to cook blackberry cobbler in a Dutch oven over a fire. (Seriously. Like,
me Paparazzi. No moment is too insignificant to document when over smouldering coals.)
youve got a 1-year-old. Driving home from the park, watching her mud-free shoes bob
Shes our first child, if you cant tell. And Im somewhat of a nervous around in her car seat, I thought of everything shed be missing out
first-time mother, an overre- on, cursed as she was with
actor of the first degree. Poor this outdoors phobia that Id
thing hadnt even been on inadvertently instilled within
the planet for 72 hours when her. I mean, how would she
I first started the Googling. go to overnight camp? Would
She cant so much as ker-choo! she ever know what its like to
without my heart dropping to sleep under the stars? Jump in
my knees. a lake? Fall out of a canoe? Id
These past 15 months, failed her. I felt it, and it was
though, Ive learned that with heavy.
the first-time-mom anxiety Shes doomed, I thought.
and that stuff is real, folks A few weeks later, after
comes something else: the more rain and more cold and
wonder of watching your baby even more cold rain, the sun
make her first unsteady for- came out again. I knew what
ays into the big wide open. Its was coming. After lunch, my
damn near indescribable, how husband gathered the mittens
it feels to watch your little one and the fleece hat. He sat our
grow and change and adapt dirt-fearing daughter on his
and soak up every little thing lap and fastened the tiny Vel-
around her. Its life-changing. Life-affirming, even. And its why theres cro straps on her impossibly tiny Converse sneakers. I grabbed the puffs
absolutely nothing else youd rather do on winters first sunny Sunday and the milk, but I left the iPhone behind. Id lowered my expectations.
than bundle up your baby like a burrito and introduce her to the won- We pulled into the same spot at the same park, and my husband
ders that areand the wilderness that isAllsopp Park. lowered our little girl onto the same patch of grass that had zombified
It was the first time in months that wed been able to play outside. her just weeks before. My heart caught in my chest as she immediately
It had either been too cold or too wet. Her nose had been too runny. took a few clumsy stepsShes doing it! She likes it! Its all going to be
Her gigantic puffer coat hadnt been quite warm enough. Today was OK! And then, as quickly as she took off, she caught a toe on an ev-
different, though. I couldnt wait to hold her little mittened hand as ergreens gnarly roots, sending her crashing to her knees, her delicate
we walked along the trail, or to watch her as she watched our wheaten hands smooshing deep down into the loamy sand.
terrier muck through the creek. Would she throw pebbles into the I steeled myself, preparing for the inevitable meltdown. Wheres the
water? Would she watch, mouth ajar, as the swaying branches threw paci? THE WIPES?! But she didnt cry. Instead, she turned over her
spindly shadows across the gravel? palms and stared in wonder. She rubbed her hands together, relishing
Once at the park, I double-checked her hats strap and pulled the the feel of the grit between her fingers, marveling at the brown flecks
mittens over her hands. Snug as a bug in a rug, I said to her, then of dirt on her otherwise porcelain skin. She looked up and smiled into
helped her down to the ground. My husband and I walked a few feet the winter sun. She stoodone tiny Converse, then the otherand
ahead, toward the creek. But she didnt follow. I got down on one knee threw her head back, giggling that little giggle Ill try my darnedest
and opened my arms wide, urging her forward. She didnt budge. Her to hear forever. Without casting a green-eyed glance in our direction,
lower lip quivered, and her brow furrowed. Her dad tried, too, using she ran full speed toward the playground, her hats pink teddy-bear
a pine cone to entice her. No luck. And then came the tears. ears flopping in the breeze.
We tried everythingthe trail, the playground, the creek, the con-
crete path, the parking lot. No matter. As soon as her feet touched the Katie Bridges, editor of this magazine, became a mother in 2014
ground, she froze. An overstuffed baby statuette. I started to panic: How and for that, shes eternally grateful.
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