Lo­cal Fla­vor: KJ’s Grill

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Story by Katie Brown

In­ever wear this jacket,” chef Eli Tapia said and laughed in his pris­tine, white chef ’s jacket. “It’s re­ally hot back there.” Just six months in, Eli Tapia, a grad­u­ate of Le Cor­don Bleu Culi­nary School in Dal­las, and the new owner, Cindy Kel­logg, have been work­ing tire­lessly to put their stamp on the Hot Springs neigh­bor­hood bar and grill. Their in­gre­di­ents? Fresh food and laugh­ter. Cindy Kel­logg, who is also the owner of Luna Bella, and her hus­band, Dick Kel­logg, de­cided to make an of­fer and ac­quired the restau­rant in Jan­uary of this year af­ter fall­ing in love with the food and at­mos­phere.

Fresher in­gre­di­ents, a new wine menu and home­made dress­ings and desserts are just a few of the ad­di­tions that have helped to im­prove the al­ready wel­com­ing and fa­mil­iar en­vi­ron­ment of KJ’s.

“The soups are made fresh each day,” Kel­logg said. “We are

bring­ing in a lot of fresh seafood as well.”

Comfy coun­try food with a twist of so­phis­ti­ca­tion is their goal with new orig­i­nal menu items in­clud­ing Eli’s per­sonal fa­vorite, ahi tuna — rare-to-medium-rare tuna lightly seared with Ca­jun sea­son­ing and served with fresh salad or veg­eta­bles.

“We’re known for our prime rib, but when we serve a spe­cial of ahi tuna they just come through the door in droves.” Cindy Kel­logg said. “We’re adding it to the reg­u­lar menu.”

Cindy and Eli hope that the food draws in the cus­tomers and their friend­li­ness keeps them com­ing back.

“I even babysat last night,” Cindy beamed as she de­scribed hold­ing a young fam­ily’s 10-month-old girl while they ate din­ner. Al­though Cindy added that she did not want to of­fer babysit­ting ser­vices, Cindy and her staff en­joy see­ing fam­i­lies in KJ’s.

“We just like people,” Cindy said. “I think that’s what people look for when they come in.”

In Au­gust, KJ’s will have an open house an­nounc­ing who they are to the city and in the mean­time Eli will build Hot Springs’ trust with new and in­no­va­tive recipes.

“We want it to be that com­fort place,” Cindy said. “As our sign says, ‘Good Food, Good Friends.’”

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