H.O.M.E. Vegan Restaurant — formerly known as The House of Mental Eatery — Elnora Wesley’s vegan “grandma-style” soul food restaurant, is moving from its modest digs in the back of the small building at The Food Truck Stop @ Station 801 on South Chester Street to Arkansas Baptist College’s First Security Community Union building at 1523 MLK Dr.
ReMix Ideas, Benito Lubazibwa’s organization committed to finding entrepreneurship opportunities for Black-owned businesses, partnered with Fitz Hill, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist College Foundation, to bring three food concepts to the union’s first floor food court.
ReMix announced on Facebook last week that The Grind Coffee Bistro — Heaven McKinney’s coffee business that bounced back after both its current location in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center and its former location in downtown’s Pettaway neighborhood were set on fire by an arsonist on the same night in 2022 — will also be coming to the center.
Hill said a traditional soul food concept is expected to open in the union building in March.
The move is a significant upgrade for Wesley, who began operating her restaurant about six years ago out of the space at Station 801, which was limited due to its small size, with just a few booths inside the restaurant and a couple outside.
Wesley said she’s been studying African-centered culture since she was a kid, and that’s how she learned about the benefits of eating a vegan diet. She was 15 when she stopped eating meat. Wesley’s become known for her cauliflower wings, Southern greens, mac-no-cheese, and yams oshun, which in this writer’s opinion, are some of the best in town.
Her new space in the college union will offer her more room, seating and a fully equipped kitchen. “And I’ll have an air conditioner,” Wesley said.
Wesley said the name change is partly a result of the restaurant becoming known as the acronym of House of Mental Eatery over the years. “We’re corny but we tell people ‘welcome home’ when they come in,” Wesley said. “And then we have little name badges like ‘Angry Auntie Andrea’ so if she looks at you a little weird, it’s OK, she is the angry auntie. She’s gonna give you good service, though.”
The restaurants in the center will also offer internship opportunities for students of the historically Black college. Wesley said H.O.M.E. will teach Southern hospitality and business management. “The Angry Auntie Andrea will teach the restaurant basics and we will allow them to create a dish of their own to feature as a special and take with them when they leave,” Wesley said.
The new spot will give Wesley the opportunity to feed students of the college and the public as well.
“We’re in a food desert,” Hill said. “That was the reason we were able to get assistance funding when I was president of Arkansas Baptist College. So if we can come in and bring in greater food opportunities, healthy eating and help our students learn the business model and meet the needs of the community, it’s a home run for everybody involved.”
Wesley said she’s excited for the opportunity to open in the historic Little Rock Central High District and that she hopes to become a staple in the community alongside other Black-owned restaurants in the area like K. Hall & Sons Produce and Uncle T’s Food Mart.
H.O.M.E.’s slogan is “Let Food Be Your Medicine.” Wesley said the restaurant is “also a village hub for healing, education and cooperative cultural enrichment.”
Wesley’s doing a pre-game pop up today if you want to check out the new spot and throw some support her way.
The grand opening is set for noon on Saturday, Feb. 17. Wesley said the restaurant’s hours will be from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue.-Fri. “with weekend pop-ups and a plan to expand hours as we grow.” For more on Wesley, check out this interview she did with Little Rock rapper Big Piph on the Arkansas PBS show “The Glow with Big Piph.”