- PUB GRUB: In big digs.
There has been some restaurant drama on the 300 block of Main Street in North Little Rock’s Argenta district.
Cornerstone Deli and Pub opened in 2004 in a cozy old space at 312 Main, and it quickly earned a loyal following. Back then we headlined our review, “Best bar food bar none,” for the quality and diversity of its menu offerings. It was packed for lunch and was usually a happening place at night, with live music, a great jukebox and a pool table.
But a dispute among the owners a few months ago closed the Cornerstone. It’s complicated, but the father of one of the original partners, Louis France, evicted Cornerstone from the 312 Main location. The other two partners, brothers Chris and Mike Kent, bought out France’s stake and signed a lease at 314 Main. Their other brother Brian moved back home from California and has joined them in the business.
Part of the original Cornerstone’s appeal was its warm pub atmosphere, housed in an old building with a dark wood interior. The new spot didn’t suggest the same advantages when the Kents announced they were relocating there.
So, it was a pleasant surprise when we visited the new incarnation of the Cornerstone — now a “pub and grill” — on the first Friday eve-ning after it opened. It is a larger and more open space, but it has the same kind of classic pub ambiance as the old version.
That’s because it is a historic building, too. Constructed in 1904, it was the Twin City Hotel before becoming a billiards hall from 1915-1930. After a series of department stores occupied the space for several decades, KMJX-FM “Magic 105” radio bought 314 Main in 1983 and operated there until the Kents signed their lease.
The last few months were spent removing drop ceilings, stripping away layers of sheet rock and restoring the interior to its early-20th-century condition. Now the original floors, tin ceilings and pine walls are visible, which gives the restaurant its character and charm.
A large and well-stocked bar still dominates the main ground-floor space, with ample table seating available for diners. There is a stage in the back of the room, and live music begins there on Feb. 10 with a performance by Runaway Planet. And a big open staircase takes you up-stairs to an area that is already proving popular for private parties and receptions.
Then there is the food. It’s basically the same menu as the old Cornerstone, and it’s still as good as before. You’ll find their satisfying yellow cheese dip, as well as a white variety (that we didn’t find overly peppery), the hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, the specialty sandwiches and pitas (all of which come with their fantastic homemade potato chips), and a selection of pizzas soon to come. They also have the muffaletta in various sizes, from the plenty-large-enough quarter ($5.95) to a full-size ($15), along with homemade potato chips. One of the distinctive features of the Cornerstone muffaletta, as was true at the next-door locale, is the olive spread they use, rather than the olive-and-oil dressing style you find soaking the typical muffaletta. We like that it’s not messy, but we can promise it’s ample.
Chris Kent says they expanded the wine list beyond what was offered previously, but besides that, old Cornerstone patrons will feel right at home.
Which is a good thing, because when we visited there for lunch and dinner it was crowded with people who clearly have been craving some Cornerstone and didn’t waste any time rushing back there as soon as they could.
We were most taken aback by the spaciousness of the new locale, and the great work the owners have done with the walls. It’s comfortable, maybe more so than their previous digs. And that’s saying something.
Cornerstone Pub and Grill
314 Main St.
Great casual food in a historic pub atmosphere.
11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
Inexpensive. Credit cards accepted. Full bar.