Sterling Market, which opens today, sits in a category all of its own in the Little Rock food scene. It is part restaurant, part bakery, part butcher shop, part bar, and part grocery, but the sum of all the parts doesn’t quite add up to the potential it has to fill in the local scene.
We have tried to define the “market”, which is the latests from owner Fidel Samour’s Remolinos Group, it is something you have experience to fully comprehend. The best way I have to describe the space at 515 Shall Ave in East Village is something similar to the Eataly concept of a market hall with many different options. Sterling Marking is much more concise than that, but it does fill a similar role.
Walking up to the space previously occupied by Cathead’s Diner and situated directly across from their sister coffee shop, Fidel & Co, it is easy to see the attention to outdoor space. A large wrap around patio takes up most of the front framed around a passthrough bar. The in progress outdoor patio on the right side will be one of the best outdoor spaces in the city once complete. It immediately speaks to how people will likely interact with Sterling Market by casually hanging with friends on spring afternoons and migrating around the space.
Once you step inside the beautiful renovation of the building, you can see that concept a little more. The large bar is prominent in the space, surrounded by various stations handling the different concepts in one. There is a salad station, butcher shop, pizzeria, bakery, along with grab and go options. In addition to the individual offerings they have a set menu you can order from that brings many of these concepts together for each item curated by head chef John Burt. All food items are available from any station, so if you are picking up some steaks to take home, you can easily order a pizza and a bagel from one spot.
Each individual area, though, is thoughtfully executed. You are not going to find a ton of options at any individual place, rather carefully thought through options. Their pizza, for instance, is made using house cured pepperoni and ground sausage on well made dough. The butcher shop is focusing on house aged and cured products that are a premium quality hard to find in the immediate area.
Then there is the bakery.
It might be the best high end bakery around thanks to Paige Russell-Burt’s talent heading up the baking program. Paige has been with Fidel for several years now, heading up the bakery program at Fidel & Co and previous to that working with Mylo and their previously great bakery program. In the bakery case you will find a wide selection of pastries with some favorites from Fidel like their bagels, some fresh new takes on old Mylo favorites like the Kouign Amann, and some brand new offerings to the space like some of the best donuts you will ever eat. What has caught my eye in the fine attention to detail and craft with every single bakery item, it is the level of quality that is hard to find but Paige has managed to do everywhere she goes.
As mentioned previously, the menu really shines when elements come together. When the fresh baked croissants, and house cured bacon make an excellent breakfast sandwich. When house ground beef, fresh veggies from the salad department, and fresh baked rolls create an amazing burger.
Finally, the bar program is top notch with Jordan Cacici (previously at Raduno) leading the way. It is a solid mix of approachable cocktails and selections for more sophisticated drinkers alike. The spirits are all well curated with plenty of bottles that has our resident cocktail geek Joel DiPippa excited.
Sterling Market plans to ease into their operating hours as they are getting started by going 7am-9pm Wednesday – Friday and 9am – 9pm on Saturday. Eventually they will add in Tuesdays and Sundays to the mix as well. The plan is to re-evaluate that as they continue to staff up, possibly adding in options like more sandwiches and breakfast pizzas.