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TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published January 23, 2014 at 2:42 a.m.

mamacitas-mexican-bar-grill-kavanaugh-boulevard-and-university-avenue-in-the-heights-has-closed-for-renovations

Mamacita’s Mexican Bar & Grill, Kavanaugh Boulevard and University Avenue in the Heights, has closed for renovations.

ZaZa Fine Salad & Wood Oven Pizza Co. co-owner Scott McGehee says the Heights location, 5600 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, is shutting down Sunday after lunch for “an 11-day, Restaurant Impossible-style full renovation” (a reference to the TV show where a celebrity chef completely remakes an eatery that has been on the skids). “We are updating branding, color scheme, lighting, flooring, kitchen, etc.,” McGehee says, and “we are also focusing even more on locally grown and high quality new options for the salad line. In addition we will feature three new pizzas, three new salads and our pastry chef, Autumn Hall, who works for all five locations of our restaurants [including the ZaZa in Conway, the two Little Rock locations of Big Orange and the one Local Lime, will be baking exciting new desserts for ZaZa. We plan to update the Conway location in many of the same ways in the near future.”

McGehee also reported last week with partners John Beachboard and Russ McDonough that Yellow Rocket Concepts, the parent company of ZaZa, Big Orange and Local Lime, is planning to open Lost 40 Brewing Co., a craft brewer, in late summer or early fall in the 20,000-squarefoot former Candy Bouquet building, in the warehouse district east of Interstate 30. “Through our five restaurants in central Arkansas, we sell a large volume of quality craft beer,” McGehee says in a news release. The resulting brews will be available in the restaurants in Little Rock and Conway and also in other restaurants, liquor stores and grocery stores across the state. The brewery will offer tours and an on-site tap room for sampling. Omar Castrellon, master brewer at Thr3e Wise Men Brewery in Indianapolis, whose credits include being the brewmaster at Chit’s, a short-lived predecessor to Boscos in the River Market, is moving back to Little Rock to be Lost 40’s master brewer.

McGehee is also promising over this and next year “other exciting new restaurant concepts in the works, as well as new locations planned for our existing concepts.” We’ll keep you posted.

A delay in the delivery of the flooring has pushed back the opening of Rocket Twenty-One, which has moved from 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood into a new building extension on the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel, 2 Riverfront Drive (Maple Street and Washington Avenue) on the North Little Rock riverfront. The new target for the grand opening is Jan. 31. No phone number yet.

Meanwhile, another sharp-eyed observer spotted a sign on the old Kavanaugh Boulevard space indicating a new restaurant will be opening there. Feb. 15. We don’t know what yet; owner Frank Fletcher promised, in a Facebook posting earlier this month, “We have a new concept and exciting new business we can’t tell you about yet. There is nothing like it in the community and we will gladly announce our new plans as soon as we can get our new name registered and all the details finalized.Look for details about Feb. 1.”

And speaking of closing for renovations, several sharp-eyed observers have reported that Mamacita’s Mexican Bar & Grill, 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, has been, well, idle; one of those observers observed a “closed for renovations” sign on the door, but no activity has been observed either inside or outside the restaurant. We’re not saying this is actually the case, because the phone number - (501) 916-2421 - has not been disconnected (it’s currently hooked up to a fax machine), but “closed for renovations” all too frequently means “we’re closed, period.” Especially suspicious: The restaurant just opened in June, after a lengthy … renovation. We’ll keep you posted.

“Opening in March,” shouts (in boldfaced type) a help-wanted ad in Sunday’s paper offering employment at the first central Arkansas outlet of Huntington Beach, Calif.-based BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse in the Shackleford Crossings shopping center, 2624 S. Shackleford Road, Little Rock. Servers, service assistants, line and prep cooks, dishwashers, hosts, bartenders and take-out personnel can, according to the ad, apply online at peopleanswers.com. And speaking of websites, as of our deadline, the company’s (bjsbrewhouse.com) still didn’t list this location - closest one to Little Rock is still Tyler, Texas.

That same section carried a classified ad for a “Korean specialty chef” at Crazy Hibachi in Lakewood Village, 2907 Lakewood Village Drive, North Little Rock. Does that indicate that the restaurant is planning to veer its menu in a more Korean direction? We couldn’t raise anybody at the restaurant’s listed phone number, (501) 812-9888, by deadline, but we’ll keep you posted.

And speaking of finds in the paper, it’s front-page news in Hot Springs, where McClard’s Bar-B-Q, 505 Albert Pike Road, is holy ground for barbecue fans. We know this because the front page of the Jan. 17 Hot Springs Sentinel Record featured a story by Alison B. Harbour that the restaurant, as of Jan. 14, is now accepting credit cards for the first time for lunch and dinner since it opened in 1928. (They have been taking cards for online orders for sauces, apparel and seasonings, but to eat there has heretofore required cash or checks.) Congratulate the family by calling (501) 623-9665.

And in that same paper was a display ad for Salty Oyster Grill, formerly Grandpa’s Catfish, 1020 Airport Road, Hot Springs. New menu items include crab legs, rainbow trout, oysters, fried calamari “and more.” Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; the phone number is (501) 767-2299.

He won’t be serving groundhog, but Executive Chef Matt McClure has created a “blast from the past” Groundhog Day menu for Feb. 2 at The Hive, in the 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville. On it will be items from the restaurant’s opening day menu, including McClure’s Pickled Egg Salad, the Original Hive Pork Chop and Stick Toffee Pudding Cake. You can order ’em a la carte or as a $39 prix-fixe. Call (479) 286-6575 or visit thehivebentonville.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 36 on 01/23/2014

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