Tomas Bohm's restaurant The Pantry on Rodney Parham, this year's readers' choice for the best restaurant in Central Arkansas, has been a huge hit from the get-go, which was in 2009. There the native of the Czech Republic serves a distinctive menu of German and Czech dishes, like goulash beef stew and Wiener Schnitzel and a board that combines pork belly, bratwurst, country terrine and cured ham.
After working at EZ's, 1620 and So, opening his own restaurant was "a dream come true," Bohm says, one made possible by longtime restaurateur Denis Seyer, who helped Bohm get his start. Just as Seyer did with Le Casse Croute, Bohm has made an impression on the hungry and thirsty of West Little Rock.
Now, Bohm has his sights set on midtown, in the drafty Hillcrest charmer (as opinion writer John Brummett liked to say) once occupied by The House and Sufficient Grounds, just off Kavanaugh on Palm Street. He's calling it The Pantry Crest and knows he'll finally lure all those Heights and Hillcrestian types who don't much travel, as they say, west of the Mississippi, to drink and dine.
The Pantry Crest will serve the same old world menu that Bohm grew up eating before moving to Eureka Springs 18 years ago to be near close friends. There may be a few offerings not found at The Pantry, but the menu will basically be the same (best to be consistent, Bohm said) if smaller (best to start small and grow than the other way round, he added), with favorites like homemade sausages, lasagna and "fish and frites."
Midtown beer lovers will be thrilled to hear that The Pantry Crest will have an extensive beer menu that will include beers on draft, large-bottle beers and "vintage beers" — brews that Bohm is aging before serving. The full bar will include "seasonal cocktails" as well, Bohm said.
A summer cocktail sounds mighty good right now in the midst of our endless winter, especially served on the Pantry's deck, which Bohm plans to redo with a roof.
Bohm had hoped to open in April, but the condition of the one-time two-story residence (as anyone in the neighborhood could have told him from experience with their own drafty charmers) turned out to have more structural problems than he expected. In fact, it needed a new foundation and substantial repairs. "I'm not a patch-and-go type of guy," Bohm said, adding, "It's an expense, but I'm really happy [the house] is going to be there for another 200 years." Bohm will serve food on both the first and second floors but the first will have "more of a kind of bar energy." When The Pantry Crest opens — perhaps in August — it will be for dinner only (The Pantry is open for lunch Monday through Friday). Lunch will come later.
Out west, "we have an amazing crowd," Bohm said, a community that helped him build his business. He expects The Pantry Crest will draw a new, equally happy, clientele.