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Saturday, December 20, 2014, 5:37 a.m.
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TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published January 16, 2014 at 3:00 a.m.

Jan. 5 was the last operating day for the Johnny Carino’s, aka Carino’s Italian Grill, in the western spur of the Pleasant Ridge Town Center, 11610 Pleasant Ridge Drive, off Cantrell Road, Little Rock. The telephone number - (501) 225-3434 - apparently hasn’t been disconnected, but it has been putting out a constant busy signal for more than a week.

Ryan Bearden, vice president of marketing for the Austin, Texas-based Fired Up Restaurant Concepts, the parent company of Johnny Carino’s, confirmed the closing, citing a “long analysis of financial performance of this particular location” and “increased competition in the restaurant industry as a whole” as factors in the closing. “It’s been a long struggle, and we’ve enjoyed our experience in the community,” he says.

The chain’s other area location, 4221 Warden Road, North Little Rock, has continued to be “a great location for us,” he says, and all the employees of the west Little Rock restaurant have been given the opportunity to transfer up there. The phone number there, by the way, is (501) 758-8226.

You’ll remember we reported last week the closure of Rocky’s Pub, in the Indian Hills Shopping Center, 6929 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock. Just after that appeared, we started getting word from various sources that owners Kristine and Patrick Dunlap were planning to reopen the restaurant in the La Quinta Inn & Suites Downtown Conference Center, 617 S. Broadway, Little Rock. But apparently that isn’t yet a done deal. We couldn’t reach the Dunlaps, but Russell Hayes, the hotel’s general manager, says he and his staff are weighing “several restaurant proposals” for the hotel’s long-vacant first-floor restaurant space, “and Rocky’s Pub is one of them.” He says they will settle on a restaurant “within the next 90 days.” We’ll keep you posted.

Several reports on the Hot Springs scene have poured in over the last couple of weeks:

Due Figlie Ristorante Italiano, 2900 Central Ave., across from Oaklawn Park in the building that once housed Facci’s, has closed and the phone number, (501) 318-9776, has been disconnected.

Brick House Grill founders Mike and Kelly Loy have sold KJ’s Grill, 1834 Airport Road, to Dick and Cindy Kellogg, who reportedly took over Jan. 2. Nothing has changed except the ownership and the hours, which are now 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number remains (501) 767-0063.

We’ve gotten a tip that Joe Gargano, co-owner of Belle Arti and Porterhouse on Central Avenue, has sold the bar between them, Lucky’s, 711 Central Ave., although we’re not sure yet exactly to whom. A young woman who answered the restaurants’ joint reservation line said the bar is in the process of a total remodel and is currently closed; nobody answered calls to Lucky’s phone number, (501) 622-2570.

We’ll keep you posted.

The building under construction at 2340 Central Ave. will house a Dunkin Donuts and a Little Caesars.

As of Jan. 9, what used to be The Boathouse, 4904 Central Ave., is now Barefoots Lakeside Grill, after what was supposed to be a two- to three-week remodeling actually took just over two months. Yes, the body of water it’s beside is Lake Hamilton, and yes, that’s also the former Hot Springs Doe’s location. We only got a voice mail response at (501) 525-8585, but the restaurant’s Facebook page says the hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

And an ad in the Jan. 5 edition of the Hot Springs Sentinel Record proclaims that the Ohio Club, 336 Central Ave., is now nonsmoking.

Forbes Travel Guide Blog (tinyurl.com/n5l89rn) listed Little Rock among its “Five Secret Foodie Cities” - alongside Minneapolis; Columbus, Ohio; Asheville, N.C.; and Boulder, Colo. - in a Jan. 7 posting by “Correspondent Claire Gibson”: “Once a land dominated by chain restaurants and barbecue joints, the capital of The Natural State has thoroughly expanded its palate. For high-end fare, the Joel Antunes-helmed Ashley’s at [the] Forbes Travel Guide four-star Capital Hotel sets the standard with its collection of Southern cuisine done with an international flair. For small plates inspired by European traditions (see: ham and brie crostini), venture to the Hillcrest district for Ciao Baci, or if you’re looking for a more relaxed meal of organic, local ingredients, don’t miss Za-Za’s Fine Salad & Wood-Oven Pizza Co. - the prosciutto-arugula pizza pairs well with just about every fresh salad on the menu. But if you’re still hoping for that traditional smoked barbecue during your Little Rock visit, don’t worry - the award-winning Whole Hog Cafe’s four-bone rib plate will certainly hit the spot.” 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 40 on 01/16/2014

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