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By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published March 20, 2014 at 2:39 a.m.

Co-owner Robert Tju confirms that Cafe 5501, 5501 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, formerly RJ Tao Restaurant & Ultra Lounge, closed last week for yet another round of renovations and another new concept; what that will be awaits a decision from materfamilias Lulu Chi. “The market is not ready for 5501,” Tju says a little sadly, in much the same way, apparently, as it wasn’t yet ready for RJ Tao. Tju says the place was doing “all right” for brunch and on weekends, “but not weekdays and lunch.” He says the restaurant, whatever it turns into, will reopen in two months.

Tju, also the co-owner of nearby Sushi Cafe, 5823 Kavanaugh, says that restaurant continues to do well after some small modifications to the menu, and that construction continues on a second location in the Eleven Two Eleven Center, 11211 Cantrell Road, just west of Interstate 430, Little Rock; no target opening date yet.

The Which Wich Superior Sandwiches outlet in the Chenal Creek Shopping Center, 12800 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, finally opened Monday. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday; the phone number is (501) 312-9424. Owner/franchisee Ty Mayhan also has a location at 2607 A McCain Blvd., North Little Rock.

The almost $17 million renovation at the Marriott Hotel, West Markham and Louisiana streets, Little Rock, that the hotel announced last week will definitely include the hotel’s dining spaces:

Work on Pancetta Regional Kitchen & Wine Bar is scheduled to start June 1. “We will reinvent our restaurant with a new and exciting concept with renovations starting early June with a completion date in August,” General Manager Bill Fontes says in a message to guests. “During that time, we will continue to provide excellent restaurant service at a location to be announced.”

Work has apparently begun on the lobby, the Lobby Bar and the Velvet Humidor Cigar Lounge. The latter space is being turned into a new nonsmoking space for “Platinum and Gold Marriott Rewards” guests via special room key access. The Lobby Bar is in the process of conversion to something called the Great Room concept, and in the interim the foyer immediately above the restaurant will become a lobby. Access to the restaurant, meanwhile, will be from the doors near the lobby fountain. And the restaurant’s private dining room will become the bar while construction progresses. The Cafe, a Starbucks outlet, will remain open and accessible. The entire renovation is expected to wrap up by sometime in August. Progress updates will be available at

Cameron Luth, who took over ownership Jan. 1, 2012, at Bunker’s Sports Bar & Grill at the Greens at North Hills, 7404 Arkansas 107, Sherwood, has sold the establishment to Josh and Alissa Pretty (who also run Pretty Sweet Bake Shop, a commercial bakery in Sherwood). The transfer took place March 1. Hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 392-6127; the website,

We were only dimly aware that it had opened in the first place, and apparently it wasn’t open long, but 521 Southern Cafe, 521 Center St., reopened Monday under new management. Hours are 7 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. (for happy hour) weekdays; the phone number is (501) 258-2355.

Last week we reported on the closing of the Sbarro outlets in the mall food courts of North Little Rock’s McCain Mall and Little Rock’s Park Plaza. Somehow we missed that the Frulatti’s in Park Plaza food court has also closed … a couple of weeks ago.

We got a call last week from Rodney Cummings, who had operated All-American Wings, first in downtown Little Rock (215 W. Capitol Ave.) and subsequently at 9201 Maumelle Blvd., North Little Rock, that he has reopened the establishment at 4605 Lynch Drive, North Little Rock. Unfortunately, he didn’t leave a phone number or any other details. We’ll update you if we can track him down.

Blue Cake Company is moving, within the next couple of weeks, eastward on Little Rock’s Cantrell Road, from 14710 to 6800, next door to Casa Manana in a building that used to house a clothing store called Evolve. Hours will remain 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, and the phone number will remain (501) 868-7771.

Marley’s Pizza has moved from 11106 MacArthur Drive in North Little Rock to the former Little Caesar’s space in the Apple Valley Shopping Center, 8000 Arkansas 107, Sherwood, where its neighbors include the Chinese Pavilion Hunan Restaurant. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (501) 835-3300.

And this tiny update on Cilantros Grill, taking over the Lakewood Village storefront, 2629 Lakewood Village Place, North Little Rock, that had most recently housed Taste of India and before that a Chinese buffet: The listed phone number, (501) 812-0040, has now for two days straight returned a busy signal; before that, all it did was ring.

We’ll keep you posted.

Mid-April is the somewhat indefinite target for the opening of the second Little Rock-area outlet of the Jackson, Miss.-based Newk’s Eatery minichain, in the Park Avenue development, 314 S. University Ave., Little Rock. The restaurant will seat up to 160 indoors and out, and they’re expecting to hire up to 70 for positions “including management, culinary staff, guest services and other front- and back-of-house teams,” according to a news release. (Visit Hours will be 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. We have a listed phone number, (501) 663-6395, courtesy of the restaurant’s Facebook page, Newk’s also has central Arkansas outlets in North Little Rock and Hot Springs.

And one of our sharp-eyed observers in Hot Springs reports that the former sports bar at 5431 Central Ave. has a sign out front that says: “Coming soon: Crazy Samurai, Premium Japanese Cuisine.” We’ll keep you posted.

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

Weekend, Pages 40 on 03/20/2014

Print Headline: TRANSITIONS


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