Cathi Payton is a very patient person. For a couple of years now all she and her husband, Phil, have wanted to do was open the Pasta Grill restaurant on Main Street in Van Buren.
But opening a brand new restaurant in the former location of the old Cottage Cafe has proven to be more than just a simple renovation. It’s been a rebuild on a grand scale, a rebuild that’s tested a lot more than her patience.
“It’s tested my patience, my faith, my sanity … but it’s going to be worth the wait,” she said. “This is my passion and there’s going to be nothing else like it.”
The Paytons anticipate having the restaurant open for business in late May. All the necessary inspections have been passed, construction has been completed, new employees are being trained and on Tuesday concrete was to be poured to finish the deck at the back of the building.
Plus, a sprinkler system has been installed, making Pasta Grill the only downtown restaurant with such a system.
“There’s nothing in the area even comparable in my eyes,” said Cathi. “It’s your ‘date night’ kind of place. But of course everyone is welcome. It’s casual fine dining. We’ll have lunch specials. It’s not overly pricing, it’s mid range and affordable for everyone.”
Pasta Grill will also feature a private dining area for groups and meetings as well as a deck for outdoor dining.
The construction process has been a grind, she said, causing everyone — herself and her husband, especially — to wonder if opening night would ever come.
“People don’t say ‘hi’ to me anymore, it’s ‘When are you opening,’” Cathi laughed. “I’m beginning to think that’s my name.”
Making the construction process an even lengthier ordeal was the fact the previous building had to basically be gutted before the new work could begin.
“During the construction, when it was taking so long, things basically had to be torn down before they could be rebuilt,” Cathi said. “I actually have only started building back up since July of last year, but they’ve done very well in that time frame. It just seems like it’s been forever because things were coming down in the beginning.”
While the months of construction might have chased some owners to other easier locations, the Paytons never swayed from their goal of building this restaurant in Van Buren.
“During that time people would ask us, ‘Well why don’t you just go to Fort Smith and do something there?’ Cathi said. “Well this is mine and Phil’s passion. We love Van Buren and weren’t about to do it anywhere else. This is where we wanted to be. If we couldn’t be here we weren’t going to do it.”
She also liked the idea of being in Historic Downtown Van Buren.
“I love history and I’m passionate about Van Buren,” she said.
In fact, part of the restaurant’s decor will feature historic black and white artwork on the walls of the restaurant with some pieces the size of a full-size bed.
“You haven’t seen anything like it,” she assured. “There’s nothing like it in the area.”
And that’s not just the decor. The restaurant will feature hand-cut steaks and other fresh offerings.
We have very little dry storage space in the whole restaurant because most of our stuff is fresh,” she said. “The vegetables are fresh, we make our sauces fresh, our desserts are all handmade – so our walk-in cooler is the biggest storage space we have.”
This restaurant is part of a chain of sorts in Arkansas. Wes and Susanne Hall started Pasta Grill in 1994 and there are two other locations in Conway and Russellville.
The Hall’s own one of those locations and are part owners in the other with another couple.
While Wes Hall has helped in the startup of this location, the Paytons are the owners.