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BA: A Food-Driven Experience
by Cody Moore, photo by Kayla Broadway

Its eclectic atmosphere, friendly staff and bold flavors have made BA a Jonesboro favorite over the years. In recent months, owners Dr. Dan Johnson and Bill Blakely revamped the popular eatery by giving the interior a new look and more space, while also expanding the menu.

Johnson, a native of California, and Blakely, a native of Northwest Arkansas, both have several years of working in the food industry under their belts.

Upon moving to Jonesboro in 1996, Blakely began working for Chef Omar Barry at 501 Steakhouse. Johnson, who has lived in Jonesboro off-and-on throughout his life, gained his experience while working at several restaurants in Chicago and New Orleans.

“When I came to Jonesboro following my time in New Orleans, I was full of potential food service ideas that I was ready to explore,” said Johnson. “I opened Brickhouse Grill in Downtown Jonesboro in March 2007, and BA opened shortly after.”

Johnson and Blakely met a year prior and came up with the idea of a Tex-Mex, build-your-own bar kind of establishment, since it seemed to be the latest trend in food businesses at the time.

“Twelve years ago, national build-your-own type of food brands like Moe’s Southwest Grill and Chipotle Mexican Grill were gaining attention and establishing a healthy market share,” said Johnson. “Bill and I decided that there was no reason why we couldn’t create our own local version, customized to Northeast Arkansas.”

Upon opening its doors in April 2007 under the name BA Burrito, the locally-grown business quickly became a Jonesboro hot spot. As time went on and the food options began to expand, both Johnson and Blakely decided to change the name of the business to BA Eats. Now, several years later, the establishment is solely known as BA after its recent re-branding.

“Our goal at BA has always been to create a customized, local dining experience using the freshest quality of food and original hand-crafted seasonings,” said Blakely.

“And the food is always served with a smile by a friendly, cheerful employee whose sole focus is to make customers happy,” added Johnson. “Our food simply tastes great, and nobody has a better, more cheerful, service-oriented staff than BA.”

After its renovation, customers walking into BA will be greeted by the new and improved food bar located inside. At the bar, guests can customize their burritos, tacos, nachos, salads, quesadillas and more with an array of freshly-made ingredients. Guests can choose from several types of proteins, toppings and sauces to add to their meals, creating their own unique flavors.

“I almost always suggest that first-time customers try the nachos,” said Blakely. “Our cheese dip is also a phenomenal addition to any meal. BA is also a great spot for gluten-free and vegetarian dining.”

Two fan-favorite BA items that have been secretly served for the past several years have finally made their way to the new menu.
“We have been cooking BA burgers and chicken sandwiches here for nine years, but we just now put them on the menu,” said Blakely. “They were sort of a local secret item, but word of mouth has made them not so secret.”

The biggest change at BA began in March of last year when interior renovations got under way. These renovations will now allow the business to have both a take-out side and a dine-in side.

“We needed more seating area to accommodate the size of our lunch and dinner crowds,” said Johnson. “We also wanted to have a second ordering line to expedite the ordering process, cutting down on wait time. This also allows us to have a lot more kitchen and prep space, enabling us to handle our growing BA catering.”

“Our patrons have really embraced renovation,” said Blakely. “I believe they were even more excited than the staff to have a fresh look and expanded facilities.”

In addition to the re-branding and renovation, BA has also adopted a new slogan: “Food-Driven Experience.”

“Our ‘Food-Driven Experience’ mantra means that we are more than just great food,” said Blakely. “BA has been open for 12 years now, and it’s all because of the support from the community and our staff’s experiences with our patrons.”

“I am extremely proud to be locally created, owned and operated here in Northeast Arkansas,” added Johnson. “It’s local businesses that help shape a community and make it unique. I smile ear to ear when someone stops me to say they brought a friend in from out of town and they had a great experience at BA.”

As for the future of BA, both Johnson and Blakely have high hopes for their locally-grown business.

Blakely says they would like to expand BA, including new menu items, better serving the community and even expanding its footprint.
“BA’s future is extremely bright,” said Johnson. “We certainly have our eye on expanding locations within Northeast Arkansas and regionally.

“To be successful in the food industry and stand the test of time for 12 years is a huge accomplishment. I’m extremely grateful to my staff, partner and customer base. I’m excited to see what we accomplish in the next 12 years.”

BA is located at 405 Southwest Drive and is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. To stay current on weekly specials and to see the latest updates, call (870) 336-7325 or find BA on Facebook.