An exciting new edition to the central Arkansas dining scene, Café Neph(r)esh, recently opened Conway, and it’s serving up a nice helping of social awareness alongside some fantastic food. Aside from serving a from-scratch menu, the cafe’s owners have made it a personal mission to raise awareness about adoption through foster care. “Nephesh” means soul in Hebrew, and the added “r” stands for restoration, redemption, renewal, and remedy—each symbolic of the café’s mission.
The space benefits from its proximity to floral shop Tipton & Hurst, with greenery spilling over visually, creating a peaceful oasis. The café is also larger than the exterior would indicate, making it a perfect spot to drop in for lunch, even if it’s busy. The tables are topped with fresh flowers that brighten the already sun-filled space. And unlike many lunch spots in Conway, you can also get your Neph(r)esh fix for dinner, since they’re open until 8 p.m.
A focused menu (available at the counter in the back) indicates the owners know what they’re about and aim to do it well. The café offers a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as a selection of desserts that changes every week. Even better, they have a couple of gluten-free and vegan options.
On a recent visit, I decided to pretend it wasn’t Arkansas July and ordered the loaded potato soup and a Reuben sandwich. Once our meal was ready, the friendly staff brought it to our table. The soup was a work of art, with savory hints of chive and sour cream coating chunks of potato. It was, in fact, nearly perfect—even on a hot summer day. I can’t wait to order a bowl once fall hits.
The Reuben was solidly in the “will order again” category. The beef was full-flavored, with an excellent balance of spices. The sauerkraut was rich and well-proportioned, making eating a less-than-messy affair. The house-made Russian dressing had the barest hint of heat and paired well with the Swiss cheese. Of course, no sandwich is complete without a bread that can stand on its own merits, and that too was present in the mouth-watering rye.
My dining companion ordered the (GF) tomato bisque and a quiche (crust on). The tomato bisque had exactly the right amount of salt to bring out the flavor in what were apparently exemplary tomatoes. I sampled her quiche and thought it everything I ever wanted—the right amount of salt, warm, fresh eggs, and a textured crust that added a layer of complexity to an otherwise simple dish.
Overall, the menu, atmosphere, and service make Café Neph(r)esh well worth the visit. And hey, if you see one of their yard signs around town and return it to them, they’ll even give you a free chips and salsa.