BIG BAD BREAKFAST: The Creole Omelette. Lindsey Millar

Little Rock’s breakfast game is about to get bigger and badder. Big Bad Breakfast — founded in Oxford in 2008 by chef and author John Currence, a New Orleans native and James Beard award winner — has become a staple in Oxford and beyond, known for its high-end, decadent breakfast fare. Arkansas Times editor Lindsey Millar visited the Oxford location on a road trip with his wife this past summer and considered his breakfast there the highlight of the trip. Millar ordered the Creole omelette, which he said was “impossibly fluffy and filled with ‘all of the chef’s favorite ingredients’: shrimp, andouille sausage, onions, tomatoes and cheddar and topped with tomato gravy and green onions.” The ingredients and execution, he said, “were just about flawless.”

The name Big Bad Breakfast was inspired by “Big Bad Love,” the late Larry Brown’s 1990 book of short stories. Brown was a resident of Oxford and good friends with Currence, according to the Big Bad Breakfast website. Currence also owns Oxford restaurants City Grocery and Oxford Bouré. In 2016 he published “Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day.” It was nominated for a James Beard award.

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The new Little Rock location, in the former Arvest Bank building on S. Bowman Road by David’s Burgers, will be majority-owned and operated by Ben Brainard, formerly of Yellow Rocket Concepts. Jim, Tommy and Jake Keet of JTJ Restaurants LLC, will be minority owners, Brainard said. Fresh Hospitality, a Nashville-based restaurant investment group with whom the Keets have partnered on brands including Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe and Waldo’s Chicken & Beer, partnered with Currence to bring a Big Bad Breakfast to Birmingham, Alabama, in 2012. Now Big Bad Breakfast has since expanded to several locations, including Nashville, Tennessee, Charleston, South Carolina, and Memphis. Brainard has control of the Arkansas market, and is planning to open a second Little Rock location and expand to Northwest Arkansas as well.

Brainard said what attracted him the most to the concept of Big Bad Breakfast is the universal appeal.

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“Breakfast appeals to most everybody, but this food is all real food, we’re not opening bags and pouring it into microwaves. Every morning we’re in it at 4:30 or 5 a.m. chopping vegetables, cracking eggs, making pancakes, waffle batter … it’s real cooking. But even with all that labor and using really responsibly sourced ingredients, we still keep the price point super agreeable for everybody,” Brainard said.

Brainard and Currence know one another from their involvement with No Kid Hungry, Brainard said, and when Currence asked him if he had any interest in coming aboard, he initially said no.

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“Let me be very clear, I was way more aware of him than he was of me,” Brainard said. “It was a tremendous honor for him to reach out to me when he found out I left Yellow Rocket.” Brainard said his original plan was to open his own bistro in Little Rock, but due to all of the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, he and his wife decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, and a much safer one. Also, after years of working nights, mornings have more appeal. And there’s the food.

“The shrimp and grits are absolutely insane,” he said. “Eggs are good on everything, but you put a couple over-medium eggs on John Currence’s shrimp and grits — I haven’t had many things that are better than that in my life.”