Daniel Bryant and his brother Tim are truly passionate soccer fans – so much so that they opened their Hill Station restaurant in the Heights at 4 a.m. throughout the World Cup so they could show all the games featuring the 32 countries in competition. They also hung flags of every nation on the front of the building.
But the most impressive feat was getting permission from the Little Rock Mayor’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to shut down part of Kavanaugh Boulevard to allow a 150-foot soccer pitch (field) with two full-size goals so that attendees and their kids could play on the day after Thanksgiving.
And then there was the contest they held, with one lucky winner winning a trip to a World Cup game when the competition is held in 2026.
“We made these passports that look identical to a real passport, without breaking the law, of course, and we put all 32 countries in it,” Daniel Bryant said. “Whenever you came in to watch a match, we would stamp those countries. If you got all 32 countries, you went into a drawing and we drew one hour after the final. A Little Rock firefighter named Mason Shuffield won.”
The World Cup festivities also celebrated Hill Station’s amazing comeback from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bryant brothers opened the restaurant in 2019, just months before the lockdowns began.
“You just work so long a couple of years and then it all goes down, but you can’t complain because it hit everybody hard if you’re in the restaurant business, and things like the travel industry, where travel agencies closed for a while,” Bryant noted. “You just dealt with it the best you could. We’re just lucky that we are some of the ones that are able to reopen, and that’s not a line. That is honest truth. There are a lot of people who just flat out went under and we’re blessed that wasn’t us.”
Hill Station has the unusual feature of having the building of a long-closed vintage gas station called Helmich’s attached to the building, which even before that, served as Fire Station #7. The restaurant is built around the structure of the gas station designed by preeminent preservationist architect Tommy Jameson, giving it a historical vibe, as well as the feel of a friendly neighborhood eatery.
The restaurant serves several entrees – from ribeye steak frites ($26) to hog and cake ($21), which features breaded, hand-fried pork medallions with conservo mushroom cream, fried goat cheese grit cake and seasonal vegetables. But the most popular items on the menu are its inventive burgers and sandwiches, priced in the $11-$15 range. There is a full-service soda fountain with an impressive array of ice cream treats.
Another important part of the operation is the butcher shop, H.A.M. (Hillcrest Area Market), which the brothers own and operate just down the street. The shop serves as Hill Station’s prep kitchen in addition to serving up gourmet sandwiches daily.
“Every restaurant has a prep kitchen, and nine times out of ten, they’re in the same building,” Bryant explained. “But in Europe, or cities with really expensive real estate, they’ll have a separate area where they do prep and that’s what we do. That’s because Hill Station is primarily an outdoor venue and we wanted the building footprint to stay as small as possible so the outside could be as big as possible.”
Daniel Bryant first and foremost sees Hill Station as a neighborhood gathering place for any occasion. He cares about the neighbors so much because he himself is one of them.
“I live ¾ of a mile from the restaurant and drop by 10 times a day,” he said, noting that he also does drop-ins on other restaurants he owns. “We run it like a neighborhood restaurant. It’s not necessarily about the top line sales. We’re as busy as we can be, but it’s really just being able to work and serve in the neighborhood that makes it special.
Hill Station is located at 2712 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Little Rock. Call (501)747-2230 or visit www.hillstationhillcrest.com. H.A.M. is located at 2807 Kavanaugh Blvd. Ste. B in Little Rock. Call (501) 671-6328. It’s also featured on Hill Station’s website.