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TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published February 27, 2014 at 2:43 a.m.

Tuesday was the grand opening of The Main Cheese, in the Pinnacle Station Shopping Center, 14524 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, previously the last home of Sai Gon Cuisine and before that Gina’s Sushi Bar. The “entirely unique-to-Little Rock experience,” according to its website, themaincheese.com, includes a menu full of gourmet grilled cheese and grillled-cheese-plus sandwiches, mostly on sourdough (the title sandwich features muenster, fontina and cheddar; other moderately fancy options include the “Ouachibella” with portobello mushrooms; “Float’n the Buffalo,” a roasted chicken breast, “buffalo” sauce, bleu cheese, Havarti and fontina; and “Ham & Brie in Harmony”). Also, homemade soups and fresh salad. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 367-8082.

In case you missed the news when it came out last week, Executive Chef Matthew McClure at The Hive in the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is Arkansas’ only semifinalist in the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards, one of 20 competing in the “Best Chef: South” category. The awards are considered one of the highest honors for culinary professionals.

McClure, you will recall, is a Little Rock native who studied in Boston and then went to work for Lee Richardson at the Capital Hotel. His competition in the category are six chefs from New Orleans and two from Tampa, Fla., as well as chefs from Miami, Miami Beach, DeLand, Winter Park, Cress, New Smyrna Beach and Sarasota, Fla.; Oxford and Jackson, Miss.; Lafayette, La.; Alexander City, Ala.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The foundation puts out an open call for nominees in mid-October, from which its Restaurant and Chef Committee produces a nominating ballot listing semifinalists in each of the 20 awards categories. An independent volunteer panel of more than 600 leading regional restaurant critics, food and wine editors, culinary educators and past winners winnows each category down to five finalists, to be announced March 18, and then votes to select the winners, who will receive their awards at a dinner May 5 in New York. A complete list and lots more information are available at jamesbeard.org/awards.

We now have a target opening date - March 24 - and a phone number - (501) 404-2000 - for central Arkansas’ first outlet of BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse in the Shackleford Crossings shopping center, 2624 S. Shackleford Road, Little Rock. And the Huntington Beach, Calif.-based company has finally listed this location on its website, bjsbrewhouse.com). We’ll keep you posted.

An update on the status of Mamacita’s Mexican Bar & Grill, 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, which has been closed for a couple of months for “renovations.” The phone number, (501) 916-2421, which used to ring until it connected to a fax machine, and then rang without being connected to a fax machine, now does not ring at all, but returns the message “Your call cannot be completed at this time.” Not exactly a disconnect notice, but not a good sign that the restaurant will reopen, with or without the “renovations” the sign on the door promises.

Meanwhile, you will probably not be surprised to learn that the Conway Mamacita’s that we reported about this time last year that would be “coming soon” to the former Los Amigos, 2850 Prince St., never actually came. The next door Kobe Japanese Steakhouse (same street address) opened in early January, serving teppanyaki and sushi, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 205-0623. And from one of our sharp-eyed, Conway-based observers comes the tip that neighboring Casa Mariachi, 2225 Prince St., has closed and its phone number, (501) 764-1122, has been disconnected.

A couple of our sharp-eyed observers reported the closure of the Burger King, 4447 N. Arkansas 7, Hot Springs Village, and the disconnection of its phone number, (501) 984-6360. And speaking of fast food, Taco Bell sent out this tweet from its national headquarters on Monday: “It’s true. Beginning March 27th we are bringing breakfast to America.” News and-opinion aggregator site The Wire (tinyurl.com/kjcqsmd) reports that the highlights of Bell’s breakfast menu will be a Waffle Taco (egg, cheese and sausage rolled into a taco-shaped waffle), which had a limited debut in a few markets last year, and the A.M.Crunchwrap, a tortilla wrapping eggs, cheese, meat and hash browns. We’re not sure just what time any area Taco Bell restaurants will open in the morning, but they’ll reportedly continue selling breakfast until 11 a.m. That could, The Wire reports, spur competitor McDonald’s to extend its morning-meal hours past 10:30. We’ll see.

Solfoodcatering and the Market Street Cinema, 1521 Merrill Drive, Little Rock, having produced a successful Valentine’s Day “D.A.M. Night Out” (that’s “Dinner & A Movie”), will take another shot at it, with the former serving up a five-course Irish-themed vegetarian meal in conjunction with a 7 p.m. screening of the 1991 romantic Irish comedy-drama The Commitments, about a group of working-class Dubliners who form a soul band. The menu, linked, of course, to St. Patrick’s Day, will feature “Cauliflower Fysh and Grits, black-eyed peas and cornbread, collard greens, mac n’ cheeze, sweet potato pie and shamrock sweet tea.” A $5 cash bar will offer an “enhanced” version of the Irish sweet tea made with Rock Town Distillery’s Arkansas Lightning. If it follows the Valentine’s Day pattern, you’ll need to make reservations, and the caterer required at least 30 bookings to make it happen. Tickets: $25 per person, $45 per couple, via tinyurl.com/khbq7ut. Visit solfoodcatering.com.

And this reminder: Tuesday is Fat Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday, but it is also National Pancake Day, IHOP restaurants around the country will be serving free short stacks of buttermilk pancakes, 7 a.m.-10 p.m., in exchange for voluntary contributions to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals (including Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock). Visit ihoppancakeday.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 email to: eharrison@arkansasonline.com

Weekend, Pages 38 on 02/27/2014

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