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TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published April 4, 2013 at 2:36 a.m.

Capital Hotel pastry chef Tandra Watkins is up for another award, this one from Food & Wine magazine.

Frank Holmes Cox III and Thomas Dale Alford III took over Leo’s Greek Castle, 2925 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, on Monday. “My partner and I are in it 50-50,” Cox says. “We bought it from Hector Parodi, who had been the owner for 20 years.” While Parodi is aging, Cox says, “we’re both 24 years old and this is a young man’s game.” Though the restaurant has continued to be profitable, it “hasn’t really changed with the times,” Cox adds. Plans are to keep the place “the Leo’s that everybody has always loved, but the food quality and service are going to go up.”

They’re also going to spruce up the interior, and are looking down the road at a possible physical expansion of some kind. Hours for the time being will remain 7 a.m .-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, “but we’re working on a beer and wine license; when that goes through we’d likely stay open til 10 at least, and Friday and Saturday we’d want to keep it open as late as possible,” given legal restrictions, of course. The phone number will remain (501) 666-7414.

Pizza Cafe West, the first full-service offshoot of Riverdale’s Pizza Cafe, opened Monday at 14710 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, in what had most recently been Bruster’s Real Ice Cream and Nathan’s Hot Dogs. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (501) 868-2600.

You will recall we reported in December that Brian Lane and wife Maureen Martin, the new owners of Cafe Prego, 5510 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, planned to expand the menu and wine list. The latter they have already accomplished; Lane says the new menu will debut Friday - mostly additional salads and light appetizers - in conjunction for the restaurant’s semi-official grand opening. Hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 663-5355.

Mugg’s Cafe, 515 Main St., North Little Rock, will hold an open house 4-7 p.m. today - “just drop in,” says proprietor Michael Carpenter.The space is still under construction, he says, “but people will be able to tell what it’ll be like.” He’ll be pouring coffee and some samples of menu items (check out the menu and other details at muggscafe.org). Target date to open is still sometime in July; hours will probably be something along the lines of 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m., “probably later on the weekends, because we’ll be doing live music, things like that,” Carpenter says.

The Lone Star Steakhouse, 10901 Rodney Parham Road at Shackleford Road, Little Rock, closed between lunch and dinner on Monday. There appears to be no connection with the opening of the Long Horn Steakhouse, 2628 S. Shackleford Road. An employee we spoke to during Monday’s lunch confirmed the closing and referred us to corporate headquarters in Dallas; a marketing representative did not return calls before deadline.

Speaking of sharp-eyed correspondents, we are told that Church’s Fried Chicken is taking over the former Back Yard Burger kiosk on McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock, while a new building at John F. Kennedy and North Hills boulevards will be a Little Caesars.

Sometimes even a television intervention isn’t enough to keep a restaurant alive. Chef Robert Irvine brought his Restaurant Impossible team in July to rescue Linda Todd’s Whistle Stop & Bread Shop, 2608 Albert Pike, Hot Springs. In two days and with a budget of $10,000, the crew redesigned the restaurant interior, repositioning the buffet, building a wall so diners couldn’t see into the kitchen and giving the place a new paint job.

A call to the listed telephone number, (501) 760-6700, produces the equivalent of a disconnect notice (the phone company kindly offers to find you a similar business); reports are that a pizzeria whose name we have not yet been able to discover is going in. We’ll keep you posted.

Another honor for Tandra Watkins, pastry chef at Little Rock’s Capital Hotel. You will recall she made the semifinals for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.Now comes news that she is the only Arkansas chef among Food & Wine magazine’s finalists for The People’s Best New Pastry Chef. She’s one of 50 chefs in three regions, all relative newcomers who have run their own restaurant pastry kitchens for up to five years. You can cast your vote through Monday at foodandwine.com/the-peoples-pastry-central. Watkins is an Arkansas native who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, became an accomplished pastry chef, and in 2007 returned to Little Rock, where, according to a news release, her desserts reflect the modern science of molecular gastronomy while taking inspiration from classic Southern favorites.

And last but certainly least, “to help make April 15 a little less taxing, Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. is offering its free signature curly fries and, for the first time ever, potato cakes, as part of [its] third consecutive Tax Day Curly Fry Giveaway.” Find the special coupon at arbys.com/taxdaygiveaway starting Tuesday. They’re also offering the chance to win one of 10 $500 tax relief payouts.

Has a restaurant opened - or closed - near you in the last week or so? Does your favorite eatery have a new menu? Is there a new chef in charge? Drop us a line. Call (501) 399-3667 or (501) 378-3513, or send a note to Restaurants, Weekend Section, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 121 E. Capitol Ave., Little Rock, Ark. 72201. Send e-mail to:

eharrison@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 38 on 04/04/2013

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