When Terry's Finer Foods added a restaurant, we were quick to grace the door. As Francophiles, we loved everything about it — from the classic French bistro menu to the same tables and chairs we'd settled into so many times in cafes across France. We volunteered to review the restaurant for the Arkansas Times when it opened in 2010, again when it added lunch in 2011 and yet again as a refresher in 2013.
So we were sad as concepts came and went and even sadder still when the grocery that opened in the 1940s — and therefore the restaurant — closed this February. And glad when Lou Ann and Eric Herget reopened it as Heights Corner Market just a month or so later. We knew a restaurant was in the works, and once it was up and running we arrived on a Friday night — again to do a Times review — and learned there was a special deal going: $25 for live music and appetizers. We told the hostess we'd come back for Saturday brunch, but she told us they'd decided to switch from brunch to dinner on Saturdays. OK, we'll be back for dinner, we announced. Well, we're actually going to be closed all day tomorrow, we were told.
Not the best first experiences, and we told our editor maybe a review was not meant to be. A couple of months passed, we heard good things about friends' experiences at The Restaurant at the Market, and we re-volunteered. Kind editor that ours is, he gave us the thumbs-up. And we're so glad!
This time around our Friday night experience was flawless. We started with a remarkable butternut squash soup ($6) — sweet, rich in flavor, chunky to the point of chowder. Some candied pecan pieces floating atop the gloriously thick soup added a nice touch. "Sweet" is also the first adjective that struck us when we bit into our goat cheese pastry puffs ($11) — light, almost airy, goat cheese in flaky puff pastry shells, drizzled with honey and accompanied by roasted grapes (also sweet) and almonds.
The Restaurant's menu is fairly small — four starters and eight entrees — but we had no trouble finding plenty of things that appealed. We chose the beef tenderloin ($28), a very flavorful filet, probably six or seven ounces, seared nicely and then finished in the oven until just a hint shy of medium. Our friendly waiter told us that the topping veal demiglace is what elevates the dish. The accompanying rosemary mashed potatoes were a bit chunky with plenty of butter but not as much cream as we add to ours. The meandering juice from the beef helped.
Our shrimp and grits ($18) included six medium, cooked-just-right, not heavily spiced, tail-on shrimp atop a bounteous pile of rough-cut grits that were billed as "cheese grits" but weren't too cheesy. What they were was "rich." And when chef Amanda Denys stopped by to check on it we figured out why. "Cooked in pork stock?" we asked. "No, but I use plenty of butter and heavy cream," she replied. Hell, yeah! (The flecks of caramelized bacon spread across them didn't hurt, either.)
The three cheesecake offerings aren't made in house but are made by a local chef, we were told. And we've truly never had better — the lemon blueberry cheese cake was luscious, tall and rich with lemon white chocolate shavings on top, a blueberry compote on the side and a buttery graham cracker crust that brought it all together.
The Restaurant at the Market is a light and bright space. The white walls, ceiling and tablecloths are warmed by wood floors and metal-and-wood cafe chairs. We really like the cool accessories such as lamps, flameless candles and books with quotes by famous people on the spines. Black-and-white Herget family photos are a nice touch. There are four seats at the small bar, and a high-top farm table by the bar seats at least four. The two bar TVs were not on but presumably come to life when there's sports worth watching. We enjoyed the soothing background music and decided that by all measures this is a great place for a date night or a quiet, delicious dinner.
Restaurant at the Market
Heights Corner Market
5018 Kavanaugh Blvd.