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By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published April 3, 2014 at 2:54 a.m.

All of a sudden, area top chefs who have been at “liberty” have been landing on their feet. Last week we reported on Donnie Ferneau Jr.’s new project; this week brings the news that Lee Richardson, the former executive chef at the Capital Hotel, has taken over as owner and executive chef of Packet House Grill, 1406 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, replacing previous owner-chef Wes Ellis. The New Orleans native, who left the hotel sort of suddenly in 2012, told Arkansas Business that he’s excited to take over a “well known and well-respected restaurant” and that he’ll be making gradual changes. The restaurant phone number is (501) 372-1578.

That’s not the only Richardson sighting this week. This showed up Monday on Best Chefs America’s “State Plate” blog ( lh9ygp3), with the headline “State Plate: Chef Lee Richardson Makes the Case for Arkansas Cuisine.” Richardson describes Arkansas as “reasonably the South’s most overlooked and under-appreciated contributor … befitting of the next big thing.” Arkansas cuisine, he explains, “is one of staples, not extremes,” adding to American Indian heritage significant influences from African, English, Scots-Irish and German traditions: “I find the cuisine, by most points of view, best described as essential country cooking with all of the African elements of soul and thrifty nuance of preservation techniques such as pickling, canning and fermentation.”

Richardson notes that a rapidly growing farmers-market community is offering a range of produce, and that the state boasts a wine-growing region and “an old-fashioned stone mill, War Eagle Mill, in the northwest corner of the state, where I get fresh buckwheat flour to make pancakes for the paddlefish caviar I get from the Delta in DeWitt. I am told that, apart from citrus, just about everything that can be grown in the United States can be grown in Arkansas.”

Refinery 29, which bills itself as the largest independent fashion and style website in the United States, has included the Lobby Bar at the Arlington Hotel, 239 Central Ave., Hot Springs, among its choices for the top 15 hotel bars in the world. “This is quite a distinction since only five bars in the U.S. made the list,” saith a hotel spokesman. What you’ll find if you check out best-hotel-bars, in addition to a complete list: “Although it may seem like a random location for a killer bar scene, the town of Hot Springs was once the favorite neutral zone for Chicago mobsters like Al Capone. And, the space hasn’t changed too much since those days. In fact, it’s this bar’s sense of random that put it on our list. You’ll see everything here: college guys drinking beers at the pub tables, ladies dressed in derby dresses and hats sipping craft cocktails in the center pavilion, or couples struggling to jitterbug to the live big-band music played amidst walls of jungle murals and dulled, yellow paint.”

Friday a fire at Catfish City & BBQ Grill, 1817 S. University Ave., Little Rock, did only minor damage to some neon at one end of the building; the place was closed less than 90 minutes while the fire department did its job, says a manager. The phone number, if you need further reassurance: (501) 663-7224.

Keith Holland, who owns the building at 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, that most recently housed Mamacita’s Mexican Bar & Grill, says Craig and Melissa Roe will be turning their Benton-based Baja Grill food truck into a brick-and-mortar business there. But Craig Roe says wait one minute, everything’s at a standstill and nothing is definite. And that’s apparently how things stood as of our deadline. We will certainly keep you posted.

Mylo Coffee Co. opened on schedule Tuesday at 2715 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock. General manager Aaron Matey says they’ll post their menu daily to Facebook (, but among the common items you’ll find there regularly: oatmeal cookies; brownies; fresh croissants; quiche; Scotch eggs; sweet and savory pastries; and kouign amann, a Middle Eastern pastry that, along with Mylo’s coffee, was a big hit for several years at the Hillcrest Farmers Market. Lunch will feature soup, salad and sandwiches of the day. They’ll also be selling Loblolly Creamery ice cream and small-brewery beers.Adjusted hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (501) 747-1880.

Hot Springs hip-hop musician Nikki Nelson, who goes by the stage name of Ms. Phat Kat, will host a free barbecue to raise money and awareness for Spa City homelessness, noon-4 p.m. Saturday at Wade Park, 351 Wade St., Hot Springs. DJ Cea will spin music and the food is free; Nelson will be collecting donations and proceeds will go to area charities that assist the homeless. An 8 p.m. “Help the Homeless Benefit Concert” and party at Low Key Arts Building, 118 Arbor St., Hot Springs, will feature radio DJs and regional rap and R&B performers. Admission is by $10 donation. Call (501) 655-4064.

Margie Michell, owner-chef of Victorian Garden Bistro, 4801 North Hills Blvd., North Little Rock, sent out a message “to my valued customers” last week, announcing that after more than 21 years, “I am ready to semi-retire to spend more time with my out-of-state children and grandchildren, plus pursue some other interests.” She’s looking to the restaurant’s “loyal clientele” as a source of “knowledge and input” in finding somebody to take the place over. Interested in at least discussing the opportunity? Email Michell at or call (501) 690-3902.

The American Culinary Federation named Todd Gold, dean at Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute in Little Rock, as its Central Region Chef Educator of the Year at the federation’s Central Regional Conference, March 16-19 in St. Louis. Gold, who proudly tells folks he started out as a dishwasher at Bruno’s Little Italy in the ’80s, is a former corporate executive chef at Acxiom and former president of The Purple Cow.

And the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas will hold its annual Preservation Crustaceans crawfish and shrimp boil benefit at 6 p.m. May 1 at the Argenta Plaza, 520 Main St., North Little Rock, to raise funds and awareness for places of historic and cultural significance throughout the state. A VIP Party begins at 5:30. Regular tickets - $45, with a $5 early-bird discount if you sign up before April 24, include all you-can-eat crawfish, shrimp, sausage and the “fixin’s” and adult and kid-friendly beverages. Kids 9-17 get in for $10; kids 8 and under get in free. VIP tickets are $70 with a $10 early-bird discount. There’s also a $10 discount to alliance members. Call (501) 372-4757 or visit

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, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203. Send email to:

Weekend, Pages 36 on 04/03/2014

Print Headline: TRANSITIONS


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