Rhett Brinkley

If you wanna know where all the cool Arkansas lawmakers adjourn for lunch to discuss the cruel legislation making its way through the General Assembly, look no further than 500 Grill, located on the lower level of the Capitol Building.

Today was an exciting day to meet my friend there for lunch. It was almost too exciting to be honest. There were kids everywhere, blowing off class to witness Gov. Sarah Sanders sign the Arkansas LEARNS bill, the biggest, baddest, boldest education reform bill in the land. They look thrilled.


The 500 Grill was a beehive of legislative activity. I spotted Sen. Greg Leding, fresh off his futile effort to dissuade lawmakers from voting for Mary Bentley’s mean-spirited bathroom bill that would require transgender students to either use single-person bathrooms or bathrooms that correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth.


Rep. Tippi McCullough was there. So was Rep. Nicole Clowney. None of the lawmakers I saw were actually eating, though. They seemed way too busy. There were tables full of students, cops and area workers. It was startlingly packed and fast paced. I calmed myself by thinking about the Diet Coke I was about to consume. The Southern-style cafeteria has new wooden floors and tables, wall-facing bar seating and stand up bars built around columns with outlets for people on the go. There’s a daily special every weekday, or you can order menu items like burgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken strips and chili cheese fries. Every Wednesday is fried fish and shrimp day. I ordered farm-raised catfish with a baked potato salad, okra and hush puppies and found a table where I had a really nice view of a wall-mounted television tuned in to Fox Business.

Photo: 500 Grill (Facebook)


The catfish was great. The three thin, piping hot strips were well seasoned and not as salty as my friend made them out to be. He works in the area, but I had no idea he was such a regular until today.

“I’ve come here pretty much every Wednesday for the last year,” he told me. “The fish is really good today, though,” he said. “They also have 75 cent pancake Wednesday.”

The baked potato salad was a mound of cold baked potato with bacon and cheddar. Texturally it was a little weird at first, like something you’d eat out of the fridge because you’re too lazy to heat it up, and the bite ends up better than you expected, so you just eat it cold and keep it like a secret.

The oblong-shaped hush puppies had a good flavor but were dried out and overcooked. We shamefully dipped them in a side of ranch that my friend seemingly pulled out of thin air.


If I worked near the 500 Grill I’d probably stop in once a month to grab something to go, or I’d regretfully go once a week citing convenience.

The elevator back up to the ground floor was cartoonishly full. I saw that someone wearing a crown was standing front and center that turned out to be Miss Arkansas Ebony Mitchell. She kindly invited the group ahead of us to squeeze in, but there was no way we could’ve made it. Dejected, we took the stairs and were unable to enter the adjoining hallway until a seemingly endless class of high school-age students filed past to witness the beginning of a new era of education in Arkansas that opposing Central High students tried to speak on days earlier at a Senate Education Committee hearing but were repeatedly silenced and dismissed  before they could give their full testimonies.