Just by virtue of longevity alone, The Faded Rose
in Riverdale has become a Little Rock institution. New Orleans native Ed David
has been operating the eatery since 1982, along with his wife Laurie
and their son Zac
. During those decades of operation, the David family has served up their particular brand of south Louisiana classics, with items like po' boys and soaked salads pleasing diners across the generations. We sat down recently with the David family to talk about their history in Little Rock and what it means to be part of a culinary scene that has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.
One of the biggest issues that the Davids faced with their restaurant is balancing family with business. When the restaurant first opened, Ed was gone a lot due to work, which led to an exchange between Laurie and then-three-year-old Zac. As Laurie tells it, she asked her son, “Do you know who loves you?”
The toddler replied “Yeah, you and that man at the Faded Rose.”
“After that, we made a point of having an early dinner with him every day,” Laurie says. But soon, Zac became a part of the restaurant, too, first through spending time there as a child with cooks preparing his favorite meals and customers playing games with him. This continued through the 1992 Presidential Election, when Arkansas native Bill Clinton surprised everyone by defeating then-incumbent president George H.W. Bush. “George Stephanopoulos used to ‘close’ the restaurant. The staff would pick up all the chairs and he would still be working,” Ed says.
As for Zac, he "started working at the restaurant “as soon as we could get him to work,” Ed says. After graduating from Little Rock’s Central High School in 2000, he attended the University of Chicago, receiving a degree in communications. But the Faded Rose was in the young man's blood, and he soon returned with a desire to work at the family business.
Given Zac’s degree, his parents were surprised when their son announced that he wanted to return to the restaurant. The second-generation David now serves as operations manager. “He’s done a lot with the bar—and with craft beers,” says Laurie. “We’ve had the grandkids of our older clientele coming in, and it's nice to have someone younger running it.”
In a world where chain restaurants are more popular than ever and new ones seem to open every week, it's nice to know that there are still family businesses going strong in the city. As Ed David puts it, "it takes everyone in our family understanding the business to make it work," and 33 years after the first meal was served at the Faded Rose, the constant stream of people still heading to Riverdale for the David family's cooking shows that this family understand their city, their food and their customers quite well.