For Heart Health: Ramen in Little Rock, Arkansas

by Joanne Galko
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Little Rock Arkansas ramen

When you think of food in Little Rock, Arkansas, ramen soup probably isn’t what comes to mind. Undoubtedly not authentic ramen based on age-old Japanese recipes. But there you would be wrong.

Visitors to Little Rock seeking an unusual foodie experience should head to the hospital. Yes, you heard that right. As most Little Rockians already know, go to the Arkansas Heart Hospital Cafe for lunch on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, or visit the hospital’s Food From the Heart food truck for ramen in Little Rock. At either of these locations, you can indulge in a bona fide Japanese delicacy.

Little Rock Arkansas Heart Hospital ramen soup

Arkansas Heart Hospital (AHH) (Photo by Joanne Galko)

Heart Healthy Ramen Soup

A piping hot pork broth glistens a dark brown and provides the base for a small mountain of fresh, firm, textured noodles crowned with a collage of crimson, green, and purple veggies, slightly spicy andouille sausage and delicate crawfish.

A bowl of ramen soup Arkansas Heart Hospital

A bowl of ramen soup from Murphy’s Cafe at the Arkansas Heart Hospital (Photo Joanne Galko)

“That’s our current selection,” explains Gabriel, one of the lunch servers. The ramen menu changes every one or two months.

ramen lne up at

Ramen line-up at Murphy’s Cafe (Photo by Joanne Galko)

A Doctor, a Chef, and Murphy’s Cafe

It all began when the, now, owner of the hospital, Dr. Bruce Murphy, revealed his love of ramen to Executive Chef Coby Smith, during renovations that occurred in 2016. Coby then embarked on a ramen-tasting tour through Tokyo, learning everything he could about preparation and returned with a long list of menu ideas.

Dr. Murphy is a legend in his own right when he assembled investors in 2011 to save the hospital from being sold to an out-of-state entity and had to step down from practicing medicine to accomplish it.

Murphy's Cafe

Murphy’s Cafe at the Arkansas Heart Hospital (Photo by Joanne Galko)

The tiny cafeteria, named Murphy’s Cafe, resembles any other starchy-white hospital eating area except for its exceptional ramen, served from 11 a.m. until it runs out for only $6. Ramen “rules” state: 1) only four bowls allowed per person, 2) no additions, 3) no substitutions, 4) extra broth is available for a fee. Grab a bowl and head for a table or a tall stool to enjoy this steamy sensation.

It has become quite the go-to place for those in the know. A short 10-15-minute drive from downtown, hang a left upon entering through the hospital’s main doors at 1701 S. Shackleford Road, in Little Rock’s west side. The front desk will happily point you in the right direction.


Visit the William J. Clinton Library while in Little Rock (Photo Joanne Galko)

Focusing on “Food From the Heart”

The café works with local farmers and gardeners in obtaining their produce. Success has extended into the creation of the “Food from the Heart” food truck, which offers heart-healthy food options, including the infamous ramen. Found at food truck hot spots around town, Food from the Heart is currently enjoying residence in The Rail Yard Little Rock. (Check their website for current location and hours.)

The Heart Hospital’s No. 1 focus is, of course, their patient’s health. Because the ramen brings in many people, it has helped to raise awareness of the excellent work of the hospital and its staff. Programs assist recovering patients with making wise eating choices and developing good meal plans.

With the visionary Dr. Murphy at the helm, the hospital reaches into the community, as well by promoting healthy choices and lifestyles. The Heart Hospital sponsors the yearly Cardiac Classic; a cycling event held the third week in April.

Little Rock's Junction Bridge

Little Rock’s Junction Bridge (Photo Joanne Galko)

Chef Coby Smith’s  Heart-Healthy Menus

Coby Smith is continuing to work his magic in new directions. Having recently joined Little Rock’s CARTI Cancer Center, located between the Heart Hospital and downtown, Chef Coby is hard at work, creating a menu for the new on-site restaurant, The Hope Bistro. The goal is to not only devise meal recommendations for cancer patients but to combine ingredients known to prevent cancer into fresh dishes that taste great and inspire healthy living. Look out, swanky restaurants. There might be a new trend developing here.

Central high School Little Rock

Little Rock’s Central High School. The school was opened in 1927 and was was the site of integration demonstrations and the story of the Little Rock Nine (Photo Joanne Galko)

Do Your Heart a Favor in Little Rock

So, the next time you find yourself in Little Rock, do your heart a favor and check out the Arkansas Heart Hospital Café or the Food from the Heart food truck for a bubbling bowl of Asian cuisine; ramen in Little Rock.

AHH sigh

A stop at the Arkansas Heart Hospital for a bowl of ramen in Little Rock will make a great story back once you return home (Photo by Joanne Galko)

For More:

-All photos by Joanne Galko.

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