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Sunday, September 21, 2014, 11:37 p.m.
Top Picks - Capture Arkansas

TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published August 14, 2014 at 1:54 a.m.

The new “Zinc Bar” at One Eleven at the Capital, formerly Ashley’s, will be open while the restaurant is serving.

Here's an update, based on an invitation-only, preopening visit, on One Eleven at the Capital, which has replaced Ashley's as the higher-end restaurant at Little Rock's Capital Hotel, 111 W. Markham St. (See what they did there? The name also reflects the first address for the hotel's owners, the Stephens family, which was 111 Main St.)

The redesign of the dining room has fulfilled what Chuck Magill, the hotel's marketing director, described in May: more "convivial" but still classy. There's a lot of glass and stone and plenty of external light; seating is at tables and banquettes that will have white tablecloths at dinner and custom-made place mats at lunch. Enhancing the decor is a series of eight abstract but tasteful collages and hand-screened prints by internationally prominent New York artist Joel Shapiro.

The entrance is now controlled by a pair of long sliding doors that when open reveal what was originally billed as a lobby bar, and now goes by the unofficial, or possibly semiofficial name of "The Zinc Bar," because it's topped with a single sheet of zinc. Behind the bar, in addition to the usual spread of liquors and liqueurs, is a vast area of wine storage, and a fancy temperature controlled wine server that allows the bar to pour, by the glass, some fairly expensive vintages it would otherwise be selling for several hundred dollars a bottle.

The kitchen makeover and substantial expansion have made life a lot easier for the folks who work back there, and allowed Chef Joel Antunes to add approximately 25 items to the menu across all three meals. That includes three steaks for which the kitchen previously lacked a proper grill ($32-$44) -- and prime Beef Rossini with seared foie gras ($37). Another new menu offering, which will fill what the hotel has reported as a demand from diners: a grilled Maine lobster with ginger spring onion butter ($34).

The lunch menu includes some new combinations -- "3 Cocottes" (small plates of organic beetroot salad with burrata cheese, asparagus soup and diver scallops, $14) and a $16 Chef's Daily Selection Express Lunch (soup, appetizer, main course, cheese, bread and dessert). Antunes served up some tapas-size portions of some of the new menu items, including a fabulous baba ghanoush, house-smoked salmon, an edamame hummus, caponata and the beetroot salad. You can check out the new menus at oneelevenatthecapital.com; call (501) 370-7011.

Look for an Aug. 21 opening for dinner service for Kemuri, Jerry Barakat's new Japanese-American restaurant in the Ice House Center space, 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, that most recently held Rocket 21 (previously Ferneau and more than a dozen other restaurants over the last three decades). Hours will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. daily. And the restaurant has a working phone number: (501) 660-4100.

Up the street a ways, Leo's Greek Castle, 2925 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, has recently extended its hours. It's now open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (501) 666-7414.

The Pizza Joint, 6100 Stones Road just off Cantrell Road, Little Rock, has closed and its telephone number, (501) 868-9108, has been disconnected.

And speaking of pizza, the "original Larry's Pizza family," which operates outlets in downtown Little Rock, North Little Rock and Bryant, has bought the recently opened franchise store at 2797 Southfork Drive, Cabot. Apparently the Cabot store was doing something with its pizzas the family didn't approve: "Besides ongoing updates to the restaurant, the pizzas are now the same as those that has made the Arkansas mini-chain that has been a household name since 1992," says Larry Carter, part of the ownership team that includes his wife, Tina Hilton Carter, and founders Larry and Deneen White. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (501) 843-7992.

And still speaking of pizza, the Atlanta-based Mellow Mushroom chain, celebrating its 40th anniversary this month, will roll back prices on Wednesday to reflect some of the original menu items and prices from 1974: a small cheese pizza for $2.50; Pabst Blue Ribbon, Michelob and Budweiser, 75 cents; and Coca-Cola products, 30 cents. They're also offering up a contest for customers to win a trip to Amsterdam for two that involves taking a photo with a Mellow backdrop and posting either to Instagram or at the website, 40yearsbaked.com. The Little Rock outlet (there are also restaurants in Fayetteville and Rogers) is at 16103 Chenal Parkway, and its phone number is (501) 379-9157.

More than a dozen area restaurants and caterers will participate in the Arkansas Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Merrill Lynch Taste of the Finest fundraiser, 7-10 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Metroplex, 10800 Colonel Glenn Road, Little Rock. Cache and Arthur's Prime Steakhouse will supply the food for the VIP happy hour reception at 6 p.m., which will also feature a signature cocktail provided by Glazer's distributors and a performance by Tragikly White. Craig O'Neill will emcee. The other participating restaurants and providers: BJ's Brewhouse, Copeland's, Cotham's, Cupcakes on Kavanaugh, David's Burgers, Flying Saucer, Golden Corral, Loblolly Creamery, Panera Bread, RSVP Catering, Star of India and Tropical Smoothie. Tickets are $75. The event raises critical funds for research, education and care programs for cystic fibrosis, a fatal genetic disease; this year, the chapter seeks to raise more than $95,000. Call (501) 371-0233 or visit arkansas.cff.org.

Bentonville is hosting the second annual Bacon Bowl, 9 a.m.-noon Sept. 13 at the Lawrence Plaza Ice Rink & Splash Park (yes, they'll turn the water off), 213-299 N.E. A St., Bentonville. Teams of chefs and amateur cooks will compete in Entree and Dessert divisions, creating innovative bacon dishes featuring Petit Jean Meats bacon, which the company is donating for the occasion. Attendees (tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the gate, which includes music, Petit Jean Meats sampling and other foods and beverages; visit BaconBowl.net and/or the Bacon Bowl Facebook page) get to vote for their favorites in each division as well as the overall People's Champion. Local and nationally known bacon enthusiasts, food writers and bloggers will choose which team will head to the Bacon Division of the 2014 World Food Championships in Las Vegas, where a prize of up to $60,000 awaits. Sign up before Sept. 5 at BaconBowl.net. Space is limited. Call (501) 993-7502 or email thebaconbowl@gmail.com.

And oh, says event coordinator John McClure, if that were not enough, "the world-famous World Championship Squirrel Cook-off will be going on in downtown Bentonville" too.

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:

eharrison@arkansasonline.com

Weekend on 08/14/2014

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