Brian Chilson
Shaniya Abrams

If you want to know where to eat, drink or brunch around town, your best sources are your local bartenders, baristas and servers. Newspaper writers and food bloggers are fine, but we’re on the outside looking in. Service industry people are the restaurant scene. They know what’s up.

Shaniya Abrams of Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom — winner of Best Server in the 2024 Arkansas Times Readers Choice poll — might be the best person to ask. In addition to waiting tables and studying to be a nurse, she runs the Instagram page @savouringshaniya, which takes an in-depth look at the local food scene offerings with valuable guides — like where to eat on a Monday or drink on Sunday, or where to find the best evening patio vibes. When she parlayed that expertise into her first “Savouring SoMa” guided tapas tour in January, it sold out within 24 hours.

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How did your Instagram project come about? 

Obviously, I’m a waitress, and one of my favorite things to do is to be on the opposite side of the table — just to share the love with other servers around town and to experience other restaurants outside of my own. Plus, I just love to eat. So I would always be posting on my personal page where I was going or what I was doing, and a lot of people would be like, “You should dedicate a page to this” and I was like, “I’m not mad at that.” It’s only been a little over a year now since I started it and the response is so beautiful. I just can’t even believe it.

Has working as a server at Raduno made you more curious about the overall dining scene? 

Definitely. I’ve been at Raduno for six years now, so it’s clearly a place I love. That was my first real, committed waitressing job. At first, I did it in college, just for a side gig. And once I got to Raduno, I got passionate about it because, you know, there’s a chef and you have these customers who are in the neighborhood and you actually build relationships with them and grow to know what they like. It was totally different than me just walking up to a table at my previous jobs before, just being like, “What can I get you?” It was actually steps of service, creating these relationships and caring about the food. It definitely opened my eyes more, expanded my palate, opened me up to newer things.

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What’s your favorite thing about working in the Little Rock food scene? 

Interacting with people and curating that dining experience. I really love knowing I can turn someone’s day around just from them coming in, having a drink, having something to eat. … I just like making people feel good and have a good time. That’s really something I’ve always enjoyed the most.

If you were moving away from Little Rock, what would dinner be the night before you left town?  

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OK, I have to be honest, it would be sushi — edamame to start from Mt. Fuji, miso soup, my new favorite roll is the Full Moon roll. That would be my last meal in Little Rock if I’m thinking beyond Raduno [laughs]. So anything Mt. Fuji. I’m obsessed.

What’s your favorite spot you wish more people knew about?

I really like Al Seraj. It’s a Middle Eastern lunch buffet and a little market. … Another place I wish more people went to would be La Terraza. I feel like that’s a really great place that a lot of people don’t really pay much attention to unless like spring or summer for the patio mojitos, but they also really have great food. It’s the same owner of Graffiti’s and they’re all under one roof now.

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Shaniya Abrams
AL FRESCO FAVE: The Camarones al Ajillo at La Terraza.

Where to go on a Monday? 

One place I go often on a Monday is Wasabi. Another good place is The Pantry or Ciao Baci. Oooh, El Sur, they have service industry Mondays and I go there all the time.

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Shaniya Abrams
SERVICE INDUSTRY MONDAY: The Pollo Chuco from El Sur.

Favorite way to unwind after a shift? 

Usually at the end of the bar at Raduno having an Italian Galgo, or maybe I’ll go to Four Quarter and have a cider, a shot of tequila and a burger.

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What’s the most important quality for a restaurant server? 

A positive attitude and actually enjoying what you do, because that matters.

Rhett Brinkley