In a restaurant industry where change is constant and failure is far too common, three Little Rock institutions — The Faded Rose, Trio’s and Brave New Restaurant — have managed to maintain success for years. And while the food obviously plays a huge role, so too do the individuals responsible for serving it up.
Brave New Restaurant | Peter Brave
The youngest of the three restaurants, Brave New opened in 1991. But 24 years is a long run by any stretch of the imagination, and the man behind it all, chef/owner Peter Brave, prides himself in still being in the thick of things. “I like the creative side of it, as well as the tactile aspect. I truly enjoy literally keeping my hands in the operation, and so you’ll often find me on a Saturday morning, all by myself, chopping vegetables to prep for that evening’s meals. Yes, I have qualified kitchen staff that can handle that quite adeptly, but I need to stay connected at even the most basic level, which I’ve done from day one,” says Brave.
Delicious, fine dining quality food served in a casual atmosphere is what has helped sustain Brave New’s success. According to Peter Brave, it doesn’t stop there. “You have to do what you do, and people will find you. We’re not looking for the lowest common denominator or chasing the chains by knee-jerking to the latest food fad. New competition will come and go, and our customers make a point of experimenting with every possible new venue. The fortunate thing for Brave New Restaurant is that, despite the ever-expanding eclectic mix of quality dining venues that are really putting Little Rock on the national food map, we have a loyal following that ultimately comes back to us for food they can count on,” says Brave.
For Brave, knowing that the restaurant would still be successful this far down the road is still difficult to imagine. “It became successful so fast that it took on a life of its own. It became busy so quickly that looking 24 years down the road wasn’t even in my mind. It most definitely morphed into a longer-term project than I could have originally envisioned, which in this case, is a good thing,” he says.
It sure is.
What to Order: broiled walleye, pinenut-encrusted salmon, chocolate crème brûlée, goat cheese mousse, mixed grill, duck with duck
Info: 2300 Cottondale Lane, Suite 105, 663-2677
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday and 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday
The Faded Rose | The David Family
Since 1982, The Faded Rose has been serving traditional Creole and Cajun dishes, along with burgers and steak dinners, to a loyal fan base of locals. But back then, owner Ed David couldn’t have known he’d still be doing it almost 33 years later.
“I had no idea, but that was my goal. Like the restaurants in New Orleans, I have always hoped that The Rose would be around for 100 years. We have been lucky to have our son join us in the business after he returned from college in Chicago. We believe him coming back has added new life to the restaurant with a new and younger outlook, but at the same time keeping the traditional New Orleans cuisine and feel,” David says.
The restaurant prides itself in serving quality food in a downhome atmosphere where customers feel like part of The Faded Rose family. And whether you walk into the restaurant at noon on a Wednesday or when things are bustling on a Friday night, that close, tight-knit feeling is almost palpable. It’s part of what gives Ed David the greatest joy.
“Seeing the smile on a new customer’s face when they take their first bite — that and the satisfaction in knowing that a lot of kids have made it through college by working at The Rose. Also, the fact that we have some employees that have been with us for 20 to 30 years. One in particular started with us when he was 16 years old. He has raised his family working in our kitchen and now he has grandchildren,” says David.
According to David, the key to the restaurant’s longevity is consistent, quality food and service, day in and day out. Here’s hoping The Faded Rose is still around in 100 years. “There’s never a dull moment,” he says.
What to Order: Rose’s famous french fries, red beans and rice, Rose’s Louisiana crab cakes, blackened-blue burger, shrimp & grits, rib-eye steak a la Rosa, blackened chicken salad
Info: 1619 Rebsamen Park Road, 663-9734
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Trio’s | Capi Peck
Trio’s wasn’t always the traditional restaurant setting it is today. When its doors opened in 1986, it was a gourmet deli and retail store, where everything from cookbooks, coffee, knives, pots and pans, jams, olive oil, and imported meats and cheeses were sold. The food service was counter-style, and Trio’s quickly became a popular place for salads, desserts, soups and sandwiches.
“Within the first couple of years, we saw that our draw was our food, not the tchotchkes we displayed. We soon dispensed with retail, added wait staff, developed our dinner menu and branched out into the world of catering,” says co-owner Capi Peck.
According to Peck, early support for her endeavor was tough to come by. “My grandmother and father, both veterans of the hospitality business, tried to talk me out of opening Trio’s. They advised me that the most difficult part of the hotel business was food service. Well, I didn’t heed their advice, and I am glad that I didn’t.”
During the early years, it wasn’t always smooth sailing at the restaurant. “I didn’t think we would survive around year five. We were really struggling then, but I got some wise advice from one of my mentors, a real mensch, Hillel Sloan. He orchestrated the buy-out of two of my partners, and after that point, Brent Peterson, my ex-husband and business partner and I became sole owners,” says Peck.
Like any restaurant, a variety of factors have played key roles in Trio’s — and for that matter, Peck — becoming staples in Little Rock’s dining scene. “Being successful in this industry is much more than being a great cook or an accomplished chef. It is also more than just having a good head for business. It’s about listening and responding and delivering, whether it is with your customers or staff. I believe that the No. 1 most important reason I have been successful is that I am flexible. If something doesn’t work, change it. Have an open mind,” says Peck.
What to Order: Peck’s special salad, spicy spinach dip & pita crisps, Trio’s chicken salad, Duke of Windsor sandwich, Thai shrimp curry, strawberry shortcake, raspberry cream pie
Info: 8201 Cantrell Road, 221-3330
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 5:30 p.m.-close Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday brunch