Today is Mr. Dunderbak's soft opening, and this weekend marks the grand opening of the McCain Mall stalwart.
After retiring from the Air Force in 1973, Richard Davidson decided to open a restaurant in the style of the European sausage shops he'd frequented overseas. He named his shop after the German legend of Dunderbak the Butcher, who puts all the naughty boys and girls into the sausage machine — right up until the day that his wife puts Dunderbak in the sausage machine. If you make it out to Mr. Dunderbak's this weekend, the legend will be expounded in song, courtesy of a live polka band.
In it's first incarnation, Mr. Dunderbak's was well-loved for it's sausages, soft pretzels and cheese spreads. Davidson, 79, sold the restaurant in 1990, because he wanted to retire to Hot Springs Village and play golf. A decade later, the new owners closed shop, and everyone assumed that was the end of Mr. Dunderbak's. But in March 2009, North Little Rock native Scott Kauffman began a Facebook page for people who miss Mr. Dunderbak's. That page and its nearly 2,000 friends was the catalyst Davidson needed. His daughter, Laura Stanley, a UAMS researcher, begin to pressure him to reopen Mr. Dunderbak's.
But Stanley is vegetarian, so per her revisions, the new Mr. Dunderbak's, in addition to the cheese, pretzels and sausages for which it's known, will feature an astounding number of veggie and vegan options, including four veggie sausage sandwiches and an entire deli with all-veg sandwich "meat." Sausage buns will be custom-made by Little Rock's Silvek's European Bakery, with a gluten-free option from Dempsey Bakery.
Other additions will be a specialty coffee bar which will eventually offer wi-fi and a juice bar stocked with orangeade, limeade and lemonade. There'll be bottled beer, too.
Early on, there was a huge roadblock, when Davidson and his renovation plans met up with an unsavory contractor, who swindled over $30,000 and left little to show for it. The Attorney General's office has unsuccessfully tried to locate the contractor, and Davidson nearly second-guessed his plans. "It was very discouraging to lose that amount of money, but interest was increasing on Facebook, and my daughter was still interested," he said. Ultimately, his daughter plans to run Mr. Dunderbak's when she retires from UAMS, but that retirement is still years away.