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Thursday, August 28, 2014, 12:18 a.m.
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TRANSITIONS

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published May 15, 2014 at 1:56 a.m.

Scott McGehee confirms that Heights Taco & Tamale Co., opening in late summer or early fall in what has been Browning’s Mexican Grill, 5805 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, will indeed not be the second coming of his blockbuster Local Lime, but a true Tex-Mex place.

McGehee and his Yellow Rocket Concepts partners are buying Browning’s, which will continue to operate until sometime in June.

“This will be apples and oranges compared to Local Lime,” McGehee says, not intending the pun. “This will be the absolute opposite.”

Instead of Local Lime’s more authentic Mexican menu, “we’re trying to develop something really special: Tex-Mex, hip, San Antonio/ Austin style,” something some Browning’s customers thought they were going to get when BMG Group LLC reopened the venerable venue in 2011.

“We thought it would be a little bit sacrilegious to make that Browning’s classic building anything other than classic Tex-Mex,” explains McGehee, who goes by the title executive chef for the proprietary group of restaurants that operates ZaZa Fine Salad & Wood-Oven Pizza Co., Big Orange, Local Lime and the pending Lost 40 Brewing, which he expects will open in November.

“It’s really important that because that building was the epicenter of Tex-Mex for 50 years — well, probably Ark-Mex, a little more cheese dip-centric than your average Tex-Mex.

“Working with tamales in our test kitchen last fall inspired me to revisit the recipes my father [Frank McGehee] created during his days as co-owner and co-creator [with Mark Abernathy] of Blue Mesa Grill and Juanita’s.”

The menu will feature house-made tamales, burritos, nachos and churros “with a modern flair,” according to a Yellow Rocket news release, with tortillas handmade on the premises, as well as “some surprises, some things you may not expect.” What won’t be a surprise, however: the Taco Kid cheese-dip recipe, which McGehee recently bought, along with some others, from former Bruno’s Little Italy owner Scott Wallace.

Yellow Rocket beverage director Lee Edwards, who deserves most of the credit for the success of the bar at Local Lime, “is going to go crazy with the bar and knock it out of the park,” McGehee says, with a full lineup of original margarita recipes, local craft beers on draft and by the bottle and house-made sodas and infusions.

Yellow Rocket’s Amber Brewer, who handled the recent redesign of the original Heights location of ZaZa, will be designing the interior, for which McGehee holds great hopes as a gathering place — the one Yellow Rocket establishment “where you can go with friends and watch the Razorback game; we don’t have TVs in most of our restaurants.”

And speaking of new Mexican restaurants in the Heights, Baja Grill is set to open today at 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd. (previously, among other eateries, the short-lived Mamacita’s Mexican Bar & Grill and long-lived Satellite Cafe). Craig Roe and co-owner/wife Melissa have moved their Benton-based food truck operation into a new brick-and-mortar location. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 722-8920; check out the menu at eatbajagrill.com.

E’s Bistro, 3812 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock, has its wine and beer license, putting it among the first eateries on Park Hill to offer beer and wine in the wake of a recent vote to turn the previously dry area wet. You may have to wait to sample the alcoholic beverage menu, however: The restaurant will close for vacation Saturday, reopening May 27. The phone number: (501) 771-6900.

Eric Greer, the new owner-chef at Victorian Garden Bistro, 4801 North Hills Blvd., North Little Rock, says he has completely revised the restaurant’s menu, offering breakfast classics, including eggs Benedict, pancakes and French toast, and a lunch menu that focuses on plate lunches, sandwiches, salads and soup-and-salad combos. The chef, an import from Las Vegas, is also offering the gourmet, local-ingredient hummus he has been selling at the Argenta Farmers Market at the restaurant, although it’s not yet on the menu (he says he is offering samples of various flavors with fresh chips). Hours are 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. The phone number is (501) 758-4299.

The Veg, offering vegan soul food, opened Tuesday in the River Market Ottenheimer Market Hall, 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, in the southwest corner space that Jay’s Pizza vacated when it moved across the hall a couple of months ago. We’re told it will be the area’s first fully vegan restaurant, and will also be gluten-free. The menu, according to the website (leveglr.blogspot.com), includes 8- and 12-inch pizzas; vegan burgers (made with lentils, black beans, chickpeas and/ or portobello mushrooms); sandwiches and wraps with hummus, spinach, veggies, artichoke, mushrooms and eggplant; salads; black-eyed pea cornbread; vegan lasagna; and vegan cookies. Hours, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, will eventually expand in a few weeks when the Market Hall is expected to extend its closing time. The phone number is (501) 838-3634; check out the Facebook page, facebook.com/theveglr/info.

The second annual Beyond Hunger: Feast in the Field, 6 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of Heifer Village, Heifer Headquarters, 1 World Ave, Little Rock, will raise money to help small farmers in Arkansas and Haiti via a family-style dinner featuring local foods prepared by chefs from the Capital Hotel, with speakers, Heifer project participants and a “special musical guest.” Dress in all-white, “dressy-casual attire.” Tickets are $150. Visit donations.heifer.org/ feast-in-the-field-2014.

The 58th annual Pink Tomato Festival in Warren this year will include Arkansas’ first Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwich Competition, the inaugural so-called “BLT Bowl,” 1-4 p.m. June 14. Teams will put their own twists on the three basic ingredients — bacon (donated by Petit Jean Meats), lettuce and their choice of the Bradley County tomato they think works best with their recipe. A panel of celebrities and food writers will determine the Overall Best BLT Sandwich; the champion wins a trip to Bentonville for the second annual Bacon Bowl Sept. 13. Festival attendees will sample and vote for a People’s Choice winner. Registration is open through June 6 at BaconBowl.net.

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

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