I wasn’t around to experience Jacques and Suzanne back in the day, but if Little Rock restaurant time travel were a cheap, easily accessible thing, it would probably make every foodie’s top five places to travel back to for dinner. A restaurant at the top of Little Rock’s tallest (at the time) building, with a kitchen full of European chefs and a coat and tie policy. In Little Rock!?

“Elevated: How Jacques & Suzanne Lifted Little Rock Cuisine” directed by Chris Cranford and produced by Drake Mann and Tony Poe, gives an oral history of the restaurant through its former chefs and maitre d’s, who were largely recruited from Europe. Executive Chef Paul Bash and Louis Petit and several other chefs wax nostalgic about their 10 years in the high rise restaurant, which was located  on the 30th floor of the First National Building (later the First Commercial Building, now the Regions Center).

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Still from "Elevated: How Jacques and Suzanne lifted Little Rock Cuisine"
From left: Paul Bash, Jacques Tritten, Suzanne Tritten and Henri Monod.

The restaurant was opened in 1975 by Swiss husband-wife restaurateurs Jacques and Suzanne Tritten and featured formally attired waiters and two cut-glass chandeliers commissioned and built in Italy. For many Little Rock diners it was their introduction to French cooking and dishes like escargot and caviar. For local liquor distributors, a new market was created for fine wine.

Jacques and Suzanne won best overall restaurant in the very first edition of the Arkansas Times Readers Poll in 1981. It won the same award in 1982, 1984, 1985 and 1986. The restaurant’s staff went on to open other Little Rock restaurants that have spawned more restaurants. Here’s a small handful: 1620, Cafe Prego, Pickles, Purple Cow, Alouette’s, Ciao Baci, Cafe St. Moritz, Ciao’s Italian and Graffiti’s. The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame counted at least 20 Little Rock restaurants that had ties to Jacques & Suzanne, which closed in 1986 after the  development of West Little Rock subdivisions like Pleasant Valley and the reluctance of diners to commute back to downtown after work for dinner.

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The film features images from Arkansas Gazette articles written about some of those restaurant offshoots by Arkansas Times Senior Editor Max Brantley and Director of Development Wythe Walker.

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Give it a watch here.

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