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Time to Check Out Kasper’s in Clarksville

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Kasper’s in Clarksville. Just kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? The restaurant is located across the street from University of the Ozarks, as I recently found out after a lunch pop-in on my way back from Oklahoma City. Truth be told, I had no idea of what to expect from the restaurant, but one step inside the renovated building piqued my interest. Wood-lined walls adorned with various rustic items gave the restaurant a cozy, homey feel.

I liked Kasper’s, and that was even before trying the food. After polishing off the chicken fried steak, green beans, and mashed potatoes special, I darn near loved the place. Then I wandered. The restaurant is huge, with one room leading to another. A massive, glass cabinet filled with model John Deere tractors resides in the main hall. Heck, the restrooms even have hand-carved wood bowls for sinks.

Smart enough to know there was a story here, I reached out to co-owner Angela Kasper for some more info after I got back home to Little Rock. She wasn’t shy about sharing details, but before you learn more about the building, it’s important to know her backstory.

“My husband Shane and I owned Pasta Grill in Clarksville. Shane went to school with Wes and Suzanne Hall, who own and operate the Pasta Grill in Conway and Russellville, formerly Italian Gardens. Shane made the pasta for Italian Gardens and worked with Wes and Suzanne to open all the Pasta Grill restaurants,” says Angela Kasper. She continues, “The Halls ran Clarksville for a year and then sold it to Shane because they felt like it was time he owned one.

My husband farmed chickens for Tyson during the day, but managed Pasta Grill in the evenings. I worked in health care finance and helped in the restaurant at night. We operated the restaurant for nine years, but our lease ran out. We closed in July 2017 to relocate, thinking we would reopen in six months, after finding a new spot.”

Kasper's Restaurant in Clarksville

But that location fell through, and it was only after community help, along with assistance from the Clarksville Chamber of Commerce, that a new spot was found in July 2018. However, the building needed work – a lot of work.

“The Chamber called me and said that the University of the Ozarks has a building—The Vorhees Building–that they are not using, but it was about to go on the list to be demolished. The building was dark, very institutional, with a dropped false ceiling, industrial carpet everywhere, and due to lack of use, smelled very musty,” says Kasper. “It had one toilet in the entire building and was cut up into offices and classrooms. It was ugly, to be blunt, but it had the best parking situation in town, a lot of square footage, and a ton of potential.”

The rest, as they say, was history. After a ton of hard work and renovations, a new restaurant with a new name was born.

Kasper’s opened in early 2019.

Kasper's Restaurant in Clarksville

Angela Kasper got to work, using her culinary training from cooks Machelle Glover and Nancy Johnson at Pasta Grill, Chef Barry at Sysco, Chef Brooks at Tankersley Food Service, and YouTube to bring the folks of Clarksville and surrounding areas only the best. That includes items like hand-cut steaks, roasted pork loin sandwiches, and prime rib on the weekends.

“In the summer, it’s important to me to support the local community, so I visit the farmer’s market and shop for special ingredients. This led me to a fan favorite, the heirloom tomato sandwich on rosemary focaccia with fresh basil, mozzarella, and an herb aioli.”

Guests love to come for dessert as well. According to Angela, the crème brûlée has a cult-like following.

“I don’t know how many times I answer the question. ‘What’s the crème brûlée flavor this week?’ My favorite is the chamomile and honey, which is provided from my dad’s hives.”

Kasper's Restaurant in Clarksville

Unfortunately, I missed dessert, instead filling up on that chicken fried steak, along with tastes of my tablemates’ orders of chicken tenders, grilled salmon salad and chicken Alfredo. In the end, I love everything about Kasper’s, and from the sound of it, so does Clarksville.

“This community has been so very good to us. I had the opportunity to open in Russellville, rather than Clarksville. I live an hour from Clarksville, so the commute to Russellville was appealing. But I could not get comfortable in Russellville. I walked into a leased space every day, moved things around, brought things in, and could not get the space functional for our restaurant,” says Kasper.

But Clarksville stepped up. “With all of the community reaching out to us so often, with new space options, and the Chamber working so hard on our behalf, I just could not let go of being here. I had laid off a staff of people I loved, and I needed to get back here to give them a place to call home again.  They had all taken jobs in other restaurants. After 17 months, they left those jobs to be a part of Kasper’s. Together, we have provided Clarksville and surrounding cities and counties with a place to come in, sit down, and spend some quality time at the table with family or friends. Every guest is made to feel special, not out of effort or training, simply because that is who my people are. I am fortunate to have a staff of people who share my passion for this restaurant, and a community of people who support and encourage us. I am beyond proud of what we have done, as a family.”

It’s time to find out for yourself by making a visit to Kasper’s.

Kasper’s
501 N Johnson St (Clarksville)
Phone: 479-647-4332
Hours: Tuesday & Wednesday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. & 5 p.m.-8 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. & 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Sunday & Monday

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Kevin Shalin is a food writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Sara, and two daughters, Natalie (12) and Sydney (7). He started his own blog, The Mighty Rib, seven years ago while living in Houston. Six months later, he began writing for Eating Our Words, a Houston Press food blog. After a year in Boston, he moved to Little Rock, where he’s been for almost five years. During that time, he’s written for Little Rock Soiree, Rock City Eats, Treatsie, and Bourbon and Boots.

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