Bump into a Central Arkansas native of a certain age, and chances are he or she will have a Cajun’s story or two to share.
Cajun’s Wharf was an iconic Little Rock spot for decades, tucked between the Junior Deputy ballfields and the river in a different kind of retail/industrial development vaguely reminiscent of Eraserhead.
Cajun’s was restaurant, bar and entertainment venue but above all, a place to see and be seen.
Though very much a Central Arkansas thing, its name was recognizable throughout the state. The restaurant closed for good in 2019, but its spirit lives on through sibling restaurants, Capers in west Little Rock and Copper Grill downtown.
(The drive to and from work runs right by Cajun’s. Almost every trip, I’m reminded of the time years ago, passing by with the kids, when our older son asked out of the blue, “What’s cuh-JUNS?”)
Cajun’s (pick your pronunciation of choice) is the subject of the March installment of Katie Zakrzewski’s The Digs of the Deal series, which has become one of my favorite features in this publication. She visited with former owners Mary Beth Ringgold and Dan Novach about how Cajun’s became a favorite political hangout and that legacy transferred over to Copper Grill.
They shared some great anecdotes, one of which is saved for this space. From Dan:
“One night, well before I was a partner, when I was the general manager, Sam Walton and Bob Hope came in together. Just walked right through the front door, no reservation. There was a Walmart shareholder’s convention in Little Rock, and Bob Hope was entertaining at one of the events. I will never forget that night. I was so excited to tell my parents about it.
“I remember Bob Hope picked up the tab with what appeared to be a very well-used, original Visa card. Not that many people paid with credit cards back in those days. Later, I remember thinking, ‘I should have picked up their tab.’”
For you whippersnappers, Bob Hope (and of course, Mr. Walton) was a big deal. One of the biggest.
Gracie the black Lab, aka The Mess, once consumed a box of World’s Finest chocolate bars. You know, the fundraising candy bars. She probably consumed at least a dozen — wrappers, apparently, and all. A tiger shark on four legs. Watching The Mess recently sniff out from under the snow and then consume a pile of her own poop made me contemplate, among other big picture things, her gargantuan gullet. Her magnificent, yes, maw — our word of the month for March.
Not much historical backstory here — maw is old English (with German and Dutch origins) for the jaws or throat of a voracious animal or any kind of receptacle (think stomach) to which food is transported. Informally, it’s also come to be used for the figurative gullet of a greedy person — “The politician stuffed illegal campaign donations down his maw” — or a gaping chasm into which things descend — “The explorers descended into the maw of the pitch-black cavern.”
(My literal maw was on display reading about Deluca’s and At The Corner, still cranking out great food, in this month’s issue.)
On a more abstract level, common sense these days seems to have descended into a gaping maw of what can only be described as self-destructive self-absorption. Every time I catch a headline that could’ve been pulled from Orwell reporting yet another scratch-your-head moment — oftentimes, the scratch-your-head moment relates to how it’s reported, but I digress — I’m reminded of the great humorist Dave Barry’s favorite catchphrase: I’m not making this stuff up.
Those candy bars never came back up from Gracie’s maw, somehow. But my sources confirm that she does continue to recycle poop.
And finally, some breaking news you may have missed, courtesy of that citadel of satire (or is it….?), The Babylon Bee:
Congressional Republicans Make Deal: Democrats Get Everything They Want, But Mr. Potato Head Will Stay Male
Now that’s the kind of (satirical?) headline we need more often. As always, thank you for reading. Hit me up anytime, good or bad, at [email protected].