Joel Antunes, hired last fall as the new executive chef at the Capital Hotel, West Markham and Louisiana streets, Little Rock, was expecting it to take about three months to settle in and put everything together, especially a new menu, at Ashley’s at the Capital, the hotel’s premiere restaurant. It has been twice that long, however, and things are still in transition. However, there are some signs of progress: The hotel put out a promotional video (vimeo.com/67656517) “introducing” Antunes, his French accent, his background and his cooking philosophy. And we’ve gotten word that at the end of May, Antunes hired his former colleague, Marc Guizol, as executive sous chef. Guizol, formerly a chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Naples, Fla., and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, for the last dozen years has been operating a restaurant with his wife, Caroline, in Bigfork, Mont. (the name last summer changed from La Provence to Mosaic, and the menu changed from French to a more eclectic mix of international cuisine).
Owner-chef Matt Bell says slow progress continues on his South on Main, in the headquarters of The Oxford American at 1300 Main St., Little Rock (the original home of Juanita’s), but he’s not yet ready to establish a target opening date. “We still have a couple of items to work on in the kitchen,” he explains, and he’s still in the process of getting permits in place. The idea, he says, is for customers to remember “not when we opened, but how we opened.”
The restaurant, as you may recall, will be in the space that formerly housed Juanita’s bar and performance space; among the renovations, Bell says, is a completely rebuilt air conditioning system. He’s still planning a menu that will reflect his take on the entire spectrum of Southern cooking, from South Carolina’s Smoky Mountains on the east to Arkansas and Texas on the west, using locally produced produce and products whenever possible.
In the process, Bell says, he might help define something unique about Arkansas cuisine, the way restaurant and cuisine booms in Nashville and Atlanta have helped define standards for their respective areas. He cited the work of former Capital Hotel colleague Matt McClure at his Hive restaurant at the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville and others who are exploring just that issue in suggesting that eventually “Arkansas will find its voice” in the choir of cuisines.
Restaurant hours will likely be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday for lunch, 5-9 p.m. for dinner Tuesday-Saturday, though Bell says closing time will be something they’ll be feeling out as they go. Eventually he might expand to Monday dinner and Saturday lunch, or possibly explore some kind of late-night menu.
Somewhere along the line we missed the news that So Restaurant Bar, 3610 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, has quit serving Sunday brunch. The restaurant’s Sunday hours are now 2-11 p.m. to go along with 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday operations. The phone number is (501) 663-1464.
It didn’t take very long for another pizzeria to replace the U.S. Pizza outlet at 402 Louisiana St., Little Rock, which closed in April. The new occupant is called Pizza Hole and it offers three sizes of pies, five sandwiches, three salads, a $7.89 lunch salad-pasta-pizza buffet and pizza by the slice from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays. Owner is Eric Tinner, who also owns the Sports Page on the same block and Sufficient Grounds across the street. The phone number is (501) 244-9609.
And speaking of the 400 block of Louisiana Street, Cotijas Mexican Grill, 406 S Louisiana St., Little Rock, will be opening a second location - the target is on or about July 1 - in Legacy Hotel, 625 W. Capitol Ave., Little Rock. We couldn’t turn up exact hours but the restaurant will be open for lunch, dinner and maybe happy hour (something the lunchtime-only Louisiana Street location doesn’t offer), and will have a full bar (ditto). The friendly folks who run Cotijas are an offshoot of the Alvarez family, which operates various locations of La Hacienda and also west Little Rock’s La Casa Real. The Louisiana street location’s phone number: (501) 244-0733.
The land has been cleared for the pending Eleven Two Eleven Center on Cantrell Road just west of Interstate 430, where a street-side sign has for some months proclaimed the approach of a second Sushi Cafe.
The restaurant building under construction on the street-side “pad” next to the Boomerang car wash, near the Wal-Mart, in the Shackleford Crossings shopping center, 2600 block of South Shackleford Road, Little Rock, is apparently going to be an Arby’s outlet. Other chain places apparently still in the works for that shopping center: California-based BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (for which we’re told, a plumbing permit was recently issued) and Chuck E. Cheese’s. Area real estate and development folks tell us, however, that apparently not going into that shopping center (despite various earlier reports to the contrary) are Zaxby’s, Ruby Tuesday or Golden Corral.
You may recall our reporting back in April that Chuy’s Tex-Mex, 16001 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, had picked Camp Aldersgate as its charity partner, something each restaurant in the Austin, Texas-based chain does. Now comes word that the restaurant raised $6,512.10 for the nonprofit, which offers camps for youngsters with a number of debilitating and/or deadly conditions, at four pre-opening events, May 3-6.
And speaking of restaurants-and-charity pairings, Arkansas Heat, which sponsors AAU boys’ and girls’ teen basketball teams, will host a Flapjack Fundraiser, 8-10 a.m. Saturday at the Applebee’s at 6 Mabelvale Plaza Lane, Little Rock. All proceeds will go to helping the sponsor travel to out-of-state tournaments. Breakfast includes a short stack of pancakes, sausage, milk, juice and coffee. Tickets are $7. Call (501) 952-3422. You, too, can arrange a Flapjack Fundraiser to benefit your nonprofit via AGGrestaurants.com.
One of our sharp-eyed observers in Hot Springs directs our attention to Due Figlie Ristorante Italiano, 2900 Central Ave., formerly the venerable Facci’s and very briefly, Blanche’s Soul Food. (The name means “Two Daughters” in Italian; the two co-owners, we’re told, both have 4-year-old daughters.) Hours are 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday for lunch, 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday for dinner. The phone number is (501) 318-9776. There’s no website, but you can find information about specials at a Facebook page, facebook.com/DueFiglieItalianRistorante.
Chains, they’ve got us wrapped up in chains:
The first Little Rock outlet of Atlanta-based pizza and-craft-beer chain Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, 16103 Chenal Parkway, did in fact open Monday. The restaurant is at the east end of the building that also houses a Kroger Marketplace. The menu offers pizzas, hoagies, salads, calzones and appetizers, and there are provisions for “vegetarians, vegans, kids and gluten-free options.” Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 379-9157; visit mellowmushroom.com/westlittlerock or the Facebook page, facebook.com/MellowMushroomLittleRock.
And Little Rock’s Scot Davis, CEO of Arkansas Urology, is opening a Newk’s Eatery, part of a Mississippi-based chain-franchise operation, 3410 E. Johnson Ave. (U.S. 49 North), Jonesboro, in a building that used to house Bassett Furniture, with partners Wes Williams and Wade Quinn III, whom a news release calls “serial entrepreneurs.” A September opening is on the slate. There’s a Newk’s behind McCain Mall in North Little Rock and supposedly one in the works in west Little Rock. Check out newkscafe.com.
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: email@example.com
Weekend, Pages 40 on 06/20/2013
Print Headline: TRANSITIONS