The Capital Hotel Thursday night unveiled its new restaurant One Eleven at the Capital, which today takes over for the long-time Arkansas mainstay Ashley’s. To make way for One Eleven, the hotel shuttered Ashley’s in late April and began a massive three-month overhaul on the space. Crews stripped the dining room of its carpet and laid down rich, brown hardwood flooring. The center divider is now gone, as are the heavy curtains, giving the space a much more open, lighter feel.
Capital Hotel Chief Operating Officer Michael Chaffin talks to the media at One Eleven.
While staff wouldn’t say how much the renovation cost, it’s apparent very few expenses were spared. One Eleven contracted with Little Rock agency Thoma Thoma to handle the new logo and branding. The dining room has been augmented with a new 16-seat zinc bar that stretches through the space where the former host stand once stood. A new WineEmotion dispenser system, worth well over $10,000, allows bar staff to preserve the most premium wines for weeks after opening, meaning several of One Eleven’s most expensive bottles are now also available by the glass. A fully redone kitchen allows chef Joël Antunes and his staff to serve more customers more effectively. And Warren Stephens himself donated artwork from his personal collection to adorn the walls.
Chef Joël Antunes and staff at One Eleven.
Of course, the food is going to be the deciding factor in how well the public receives One Eleven. Most of the dishes will be familiar to regulars of Ashley’s, though nearly all of the dishes have been updated for the new restaurant. Highlights of the media tasting event Thursday included the Maine Oysters Rockefeller, a rich, vibrant preparation with baked cheese and lemon; the Crab Cake with Coleslaw, which was heavy on crab and light on filler; Organic Belle Evans Farm Chicken, which was fork tender and infused with rosemary; and a Raspberry Cheesecake. Also, watch out for One Eleven’s new donuts, which could become a fan favorite.
Management at One Eleven says their goal is to make the new restaurant more accessible than Ashley’s. That’s why the staff and menu are largely unchanged, while the space itself got most of the work. Managers we spoke with said many people avoided Ashley’s for everyday occasions, such as business lunches and regular date nights. They believe the new space will be more inviting and more accessible for Little Rock residents and not just out-of-town guests. We’ll find out soon enough. One Eleven at the Capital is open for dinner tonight and Saturday, and will begin weekday lunch service on Wednesday. The restaurant will also serve breakfast on Saturdays beginning this weekend, and breakfast and brunch on Sundays beginning next weekend.