Coffee Chats with Kelley Lane
Meet Kelley, this girl knows her stuff. Not only is she an Exploress at heart, but she is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary creative director and designer currently working as the Creative Director for Arkansas Life magazine. Kelley is a world traveler - having studied abroad in London, spent time in Nepal, she even took the Peak to Peak scenic byway to explore Colorado. But alas, Arkansas is her home and today we explore the great city (and capital) that is Little Rock.
First thing anyone visiting should know about Little Rock
Don't underestimate it. Little Rock’s charm is in the details. It’s a unique fusion of a bustling capital city and a serene Southern town. There are always some amazing things to do — from catching a big name in a small venue, to taking some incredible romps through nature — all within the city. And, you’ll be sure to get a dose of Southern hospitality, whether you’re prepared for it or not!
Describe Little Rock in three words?
Little Rock is the kind of place where your doors will be opened, your chair will be pulled, and your bags will be carried. Oh, and expect to be invited over for dinner.
Chances are, if you’re interested in doing something — anything — around town then you’ll be able to. Want to see a Broadway actor? Check the lineup at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Want to sample a dish prepared by a Michelin Star- and James Beard award-winning chef? Get a taste of Chef Joël Antunes’s cooking at One Eleven at the Capital (insider’s secret: you can usually grab a table without making a reservation). How about taking a walk along the Arkansas River? It’s easily accessible from numerous points in the city. My favorite is near the Clinton Presidential Center. Speaking of which, if you time your visit right you may see former President Bill Clinton — or as my father calls him, Uncle Bill — make a surprise visit to the Clinton Museum Store while you shop for a souvenir.
Flavor. Where do I begin? I plan my days around where I want to eat. Gourmet sandwiches from Hillcrest Artisan Meats or Boulevard Bread Company are always high on my list. If you are interested in fresh food, we boast a host of farmer’s markets around town, not to mention we have a number of restaurants making a conscious effort to use local food.
Favorite place to eat, drink, and indulge?
You think a margarita is simple? The owner of Little Rock’s Local Lime spent six months perfecting their recipe. It shows. Pair a frozen margarita with the chorizo street-style tacos for a one-two-punch that is hard to top.
If you want an artisan cocktail, my personal favorite is the Blackberry Bramble from South on Main (P.S.: If it’s good enough for actors Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, who have a stake in the Southern eatery, it’s good enough for you, too.)
For a good Italian meal, head to Bruno’s Little Italy, located downtown. If the name didn’t already suggest it, the Sicilian Bruno brothers are doing it up deliciously right. Top off your meal by heading south on Main Street to get some locally made Loblolly Ice Cream. A fair warning: Store-bought ice cream will forever be second rate!
You have 24 hours to lounge around and do anything, how would you spend your time?
If you haven’t noticed, I like to eat and drink. So, I’d start the morning at farm-to-table restaurant The Root Cafe. They have a mean brunch menu with tons of veggie options — as in, they have a whole separate veg menu. Then, in keeping with the “fresh” trend, I’d hit up one of the farmer’s markets around town. I usually end up at the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market, always with the intention of making my way over to Mylo Coffee Co. for a pastry or a pour-over. Then, I’ll want to work up an appetite before I really indulge. So, I start with a leisurely walk (or cycle) along the award-winning River Trail.
There are plenty of tasty places to eat near the River Trail’s Big Dam Bridge, including my favorite, Maddie’s Place. I usually order the fried chicken with a side of mac n’ cheese. Seriously, you should consider getting this. If I’m feeling crazy, I’ll finish my meal with the bourbon bread pudding.
Next, I would go to the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (aka The Rep) to see whatever production is playing as a matinee. The donor-funded, locally produced theatre never disappoints. Since I’m already downtown, I’d take a stroll along President Clinton Avenue, window shopping and people watching before indulging in a midday cocktail — we are pretending to be on vacay, right? My top drinking patios: the Capital Hotel or Cache Restaurant.
If I’m feeling a little more casual, and I usually am, I’d head over to the back porch of the Pantry Crest in Hillcrest. Hillcrest’s Kavanagh Street is undeniably the best street for local shopping in the city. In fact, I would go ahead and follow the street all the way up to the Heights neighborhood. A new local eatery has quickly risen to be my favorite spot: The Pizzeria at Terry’s. The shotgun space is quaint and worth the wait. With their wood-burning oven shipped in from Italy, their pizza is bar none. A personal favorite is The Pop, aptly named after the owner’s father who, as a side note, I happened to meet my first time eating there. I’ll warn you: this place stays open until 2 a.m., so I’d probably wrap up my night here.
You can’t come to Little Rock without seeing the Clinton Presidential Center. With a permanent collection as well as three rotating exhibits, there is always something new to uncover. Plus, don’t miss the incredible speaker series put on by the Clinton School of Public Service. I have seen some remarkable names – from Vogue’s Anna Wintour to MSNBC star Rachel Maddow to Tom’s Shoe founder Blake Mycoskie – come through.
Nature. The vantage points from Pinnacle Mountain, Two Rivers Park, and Knoop Park really make you appreciate the nature nestled among the city streets. The abundance of trees and parks scattered all around town will ensure you don’t forget that you are in The Natural State.
It’s also worth seeing a bit of history while in town. Central High is nationally known as the first site of desegregation, and is famous for the Little Rock Nine. On site is a museum as well as the still-thriving high school.
Just for kicks, London or Tokyo?
As much as I like to travel to new places — and I’ve never been to Tokyo — I’d have to say London. I studied abroad there during undergrad and loved every minute! I could tell you more, but that would have to be another write-up!
Anything else you'd like to share?
I have friends scattered all across the country, so I love hopping on a plane for a spur-of-the-moment trip to visit them. My next stop? Fort Collins, Colorado to surprise one of my best friends on the night of her engagement! Shh!