Raising a Glass to Cheers in the Heights’ Chic Patio
Some places have a lightness to them. All patios, by definition, are breezy and laid back, but there’s a distinct comfort at restaurants that can pull off casual, laid-back elegance without breaking a sweat.
Cheers in the Heights is one of those Little Rock restaurants that balances effortless coolness with a refined chic vibe. It’s a place where you could order fresh, grilled Ora King salmon with an Aperol Spritz and chocolate crème brûlée, or just a cream cheese and olive sandwich (an old favorite) with a glass of cold sweet tea. Put another way, it’s the sort of restaurant where the staff wear tees, but those tees come with a Virginia Woolf quote on the back: “One cannot Think well, Love well, Sleep well, if one has not Dined well.” Smart lady.
Perhaps because it’s in the name, but Cheers in the Heights (most just call it Cheers, like the bar in the classic sitcom), feels synonymous with its upscale, old-school Little Rock neighborhood full of quaint locally owned eateries, retailers and other draws. As a kid, the Heights was the place my grandmother, Nana, most often took me for shopping or out for a bite when I visited, or sometimes even to a Disney movie at the old Heights theater. Cheers wasn’t around then, but if it had been, we’d definitely have gone. It’s the kind of a place she would have loved. Charming, but sophisticated. Elegant, but relaxed.
The appeal starts with the patio, the first place you see as you approach the restaurant, and the reason Cheers was a no-brainer to include on AY’s June Patio Bucket List. It’s got a couple of main seating areas, plus some additional tables in the side parking lot as a pandemic holdover.
Ceiling fans are standard on Arkansas patios, but I appreciate how Cheers’ patio adds interest with lovely Moravian star lanterns. Unless you’re avoiding the weather, or the patio is full, it’s entirely possible, even likely, you never make it inside the restaurant. On our most recent visit, we didn’t. Inside, Cheers is cozy. Outside, it feels expansive. Both have a welcoming ambiance.
Our visit on a recent weeknight started with rosé and an order of chips and Cheers’ completely addictive creamy tomatillo salsa. We ordered the Cobb salad (another menu item with many years of popularity), a cup of the soup du jour and the ‘Pasta Orleans’ with grilled shrimp.
The green salsa alone– full of flavor, but without an overpowering kick– is worth a visit. I could eat it with a spoon if that wouldn’t be weird. The chips are light, hot, fresh and colorful, and don’t fall apart when dipped. The day’s soup was an interesting shrimp and dill soup that is a recurring special. I haven’t had a huge variety of shrimp soups, chowders or bisques, but rarely have I had one so full of shrimp. They were de-shelled and cut into bite-sized, juicy morsels, at least one piece filling each spoonful.
And dill soups are rare, but the flavor profile with the shrimp is an intriguing one. It’s probably not for everybody (you really should love both shrimp and dill pickles and be up for trying those combined flavors), but it works for me. My Cobb salad was full of fresh ingredients in good proportions. The key flavors of turkey, bacon and eggs are balanced with tomatoes, Romaine and crunchy, dried sweet corn for a contrasting texture. The bacon was extra crispy and still warm, the true test of a good Cobb salad. And while Cobbs typically are made with bleu cheese, Cheers’ tops theirs with shredded mozzarella. You can’t go wrong with any of Cheers’ salad dressings, but I had a hankering for their creamy bell pepper dressing, something I’ve found nowhere else.
Perhaps my favorite dish on this visit was my husband’s Pasta Orleans. Cheers’ Creole cream sauce over the al dente penne was spiced, but cheesy with melty, fresh Parmesan. The lightly blackened gulf shrimp atop it was amazing. Even the bread, a deliciously chewy-crusted slice
of light and airy French, was a sensory delight. Order extra.
I highly recommend you make at least one stop to Cheers this month. Sit on the patio, enjoy the people-watching, the fans and the breeze, a cold drink and some tasty eats. Get gussied up, or relax in shorts and tennies. It’s all good.