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Top Picks - Capture Arkansas

TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published June 27, 2013 at 3:01 a.m.

Joe Gillespie, who took over Vieux Carre and The Afterthought, 2721 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, from the Bennett family this spring, has found a new name for his establishment: He’s consolidating the restaurant and the next-door club, after a fashion, to create Afterthought Bistro & Bar. The name change takes effect over the next couple of weeks as Gillespie changes signs, logos and other marketing devices.

He has also started serving “casual Saturday brunch,” 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with a menu, similar to the newly revised one for Sunday brunch, but without most of the egg dishes (including the five benedicts). Gone are the sweet and the savory crepes from that Sunday brunch menu, and in their place are a couple of big, hotshot breakfast-y items, including the Full Monty (a pile that includes biscuit and gravy, fried egg, hash browns and cheddar cheese); the Big Boi (Canadian bacon, fried egg, cheddar, tomato, spinach and Hollandaise on an English muffin); and Salmon Enchiladas (smoked salmon - the current kitchen has followed the lead of former owner/chef David Bennett, who smoked his own - with scrambled egg, spinach and red onions, topped with a sour cream-dill sauce). Plus a quiche of the day and a cinnamon roll.

The phone number of the new establishment will remain (501) 663-1196. And a new website is in the works: afterthoughtbistroandbar.com should be up and running by Monday.

Brothers Vince and Gio Bruno confirm mid- to late August is the target to open the latest incarnation of Bruno’s Little Italy, on the ground floor of the new Mann on Main office-lofts-retail complex at 310 Main St. in downtown Little Rock. You will recall that the restaurant, then in its fourth location in the Colonnade Shopping Center, 315 N. Bowman Road, closed in October 2011. Vince Bruno, youngest son of late founder Jimmy Bruno, who was the chef and last remaining Bruno on the premises when the restaurant closed, is returning as chef-owner; Gio will be his business partner.

Gio Bruno says the 3,000-square-foot restaurant, in the three-story Mann Annex Building (part of the former Blass Department Store), will have just under 100 seats, most of them inside but about a third on a street-cafe-type patio. Vince Bruno says the menu, with very few changes, will be essentially the same as it was on Bowman Road, with Neapolitan-style pizza, handmade pasta dishes and a selection of chicken, veal and seafood entrees, all based on nearly seven-decade-old family recipes. The lunch menu will feature several of the Italian sandwiches that once upon a time Bruno’s served on Roosevelt Road and Old Forge Drive; he says he has been in discussion with the owners of Dempsey Bakery for a gluten-free French bread on which he’ll be able to make gluten-free French bread pizzas.

And speaking of new lives for area Italian restaurants, Vesuvio Bistro, which is moving from inside the Best Western Premier Governors Suites, 1501 Merrill Drive, Little Rock, to 1315 Breckenridge Drive, the former west Little Rock El Chico location, has a target opening date of mid- to late July, says co-owner Bill Criswell. Game plan is for the restaurant to open first for dinner, along the lines of its current evening hours, 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and subsequently open for lunch. The phone number is, and will likely remain, (501) 225-0500.

Owner Nancy Tesmer reports the reopening of Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some in the Market Place Shopping Center, 11121 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock, adding, via the restaurant’s Facebook page, “Prices are lower, great food faster with the new counter service. Lunch on the table in 7 minutes.” The previously next door B-Side survives in an 8 a.m.-2 p.m.Saturday-Sunday menu in the Lilly’s space. The phone number is (501) 716-2700.

The Pizza Cafe Take & Bake, 102B Markham Park Drive, Little Rock, has closed, its phone number - (501) 217-3885 - has been disconnected and there’s a “restaurant for sale” sign out front.

Although developer Rees Commercial’s website for Chenal Curve shopping center, 16900 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock still lists La Hacienda as well as a Slim Chickens outlet as part of the center’s “tenant mix,” La Hacienda owner and paterfamilias Ignacio Alvarez insists he will not be opening a restaurant in that center and doesn’t know where the developer got that idea.

Dallas-based Twin Peaks, now slated for a late July opening of its first Arkansas outlet at 10 Shackleford Drive, Little Rock, once the site of Cozymel’s, is hiring wait staff, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the headline on a recent news release: “Twin Peaks On the Hunt for Talent … Ultimate man-cave recruits ‘Lumber-Jills’ for first outpost in Arkansas.” The chain brands itself as a “mountain-lodge themed sports restaurant,” and it’s “holding auditions for more than 125 outgoing ladies to join the team as Twin Peaks Girls.”

The benefits of being among the restaurant’s “signature assets”? “Becoming a West Little Rock Twin Peaks Girl comes with perks such as flexible scheduling for school, tanning and fitness packages, a fun work environment with great tips and contests to win shopping sprees and vacations,” according to the release. “Twin Peaks Girls also wear the pro-cheerleader-inspired ‘Lumber-Jill’ costumes and have the chance to star in national modeling opportunities.”

They will also be required somewhere in between all of that to serve “home-made comfort food and 29-degree draft beer” in the midst of more than 8,500 square feet that includes 40 HD flat-screen TVs “and an oversized patio and fire pit.” Stop by the restaurant 9 a.m-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday; “no previous restaurant experience is required” but, the release suggests, “prospective applicants should arrive dressed to impress, as positions are in high demand.” And if you don’t think you quite have what it’ll take to be a Twin Peaks Girl, the restaurant is still filling another 35 or so kitchen and staff positions. Call (501) 425-7442.

And speaking of help-wanted ads, Arthur’s Prime Steakhouse, 27 Rahling Circle, Little Rock (off Rahling Road, just off Chenal Parkway), recently posted this one on its Facebook page: “Due to seasonal staffing needs, we are looking for experienced professional servers. Must be able and willing to work all days of the week, mostly dinner service.Fine-dining experience a plus as well as wine knowledge or tableside service experience. Apply in person.”

The Larry’s Pizza outlet at 5933 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock, has added music via “Acoustic Music Mondays,” 6-8 p.m. Cliff Prowse and Michael Shaw, comprising the Larry’s “house band,” will play a variety of musical styles; there’s no cover charge. The restaurant also offers a Monday Night Meal Deal - pizzas, sandwiches, salads and wings, along with $1.50 draft beers. Call (501) 812-5353.

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 06/27/2013

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