LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - It's a Little Rock landmark you've probably seen over and over driving along Cantrell Road near downtown. And now the Packet House, dating back to 1869, is getting a makeover and hoping to "wine and dine" patrons from all over central Arkansas.
Folks who've lived around here for awhile know that this isn't the first time a restaurant has been part of the Packet House; it was one back in the early 1980's. But after sitting vacant for more than a decade now, there is a new sign out front for the Packet House Grill. They're hoping to open next month.
Thousands of cars drive by it every day in Little Rock, an architectural gem known as the Packet House. Dating back to 1869, it's been home to prominent Arkansas families, a restaurant and offices. But these days, about 15 years since there was last anything here, there's another restaurant in the works.
"It's a historical landmark and to see something like that kind of go down, there is just that will to renovate it and get it right back up to where it used to be," chef and owner Wes Ellis said.
Ellis showed us around the future Packet House Grill Monday.
"This is going to be our bar lounge, you do everything here from have cocktails before seating to appetizers," Ellis says on our tour.
The main dining room, with an original marble fire place, is also on the first floor. Plus, a pocket room for more restaurant patrons overlooking Cantrell Road.
The building's original stair case leads to private rooms upstairs for special events. There is an outdoor patio too and the restaurant is planning to clear brush for river views.
"I'm very eager to start turning out some good steaks, some pork chops, some fried green tomatoes," Ellis said in the kitchen.
He's itching to get cooking on what Ellis calls a Southern Fusion menu with some new twists on desert.
"Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, well let's turn that into a cheesecake. Or your s'mores, let's turn that into a cheesecake," Ellis said.
It's something sweet to think about as this sweet piece of Arkansas history opens up once again.
Ellis says the entire place can seat around 200 people. He's praying to be open by the first Arkansas football game at War Memorial next month.
He also says this restaurant will be somewhere you can bring anyone to; from your kids, to your grandparents, and also feature locally grown foods.
Ellis says he's already getting calls and emails from folks inquiring about opening day. He's even received some wedding party requests.
Again, the landmark location dates back to 1869. According to UALR archives, Alexander McDonald built the home. He was one of the city's most famous carpetbaggers and one of the wealthiest men in the state at the time. The home was one of five structures built in the area known as "Carpetbaggers Row."
You can also view photos of the renovation on My Town. You can follow Max on Twitter @kthvmax.