Donnie Ferneau Jr., who was hired with great fanfare in January 2016 to be the executive chef at the private 1836 Club, in what used to be the Packet House on Cantrell Road in Riverdale, is leaving in the very near future to open a new establishment of some sort in Little Rock's Pulaski Heights, possibly a high-end breakfast place. Details are still lacking -- Ferneau is reluctant to discuss the project until the ink dries on the agreements he's signing -- but we expect the news could break as early as Friday.
And speaking of Ferneau, chef Mary Beth Ringgold of Capers, Copper Grill and Cajun's Wharf became the first female champion in the 10-year history of the Diamond Chef competition April 13 at the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Institute. She defeated chef Jimmy Carter of the Pine Bluff Country Club and Ferneau, the 2016 defending champion, in the final round of the Iron Chef-style competition, for which the "secret" ingredient was largemouth bass. Ringgold described the victorious dish in a news release as "freshwater bass served over a melange of wild mushrooms and spinach, nested over roasted vegetable couscous on a single leaf of Swiss chard, ladled with a reduction of fish stock, white wine and parmesan and dotted with white truffle oil, garnished with crispy, sweet potato spirals and a shaving of fresh truffle."
District Fare will open on Monday at 2807 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, as a high-end deli, with sandwiches, charcuterie and baked goods. Collaborations with The Pantry and The Pantry Crest, also owned by Tomas Bohm, for take-home dinners and other products are possible down the line, we're told. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. The phone number: (501) 671-6328 (MEAT).
Hawgz Blues Cafe has opened in the former Aydelotte's/U.S. Pizza mansion, 5524 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock, but pay no attention -- or not so much attention -- to the menu listed on the website, hawgzbluescafe.com; they're serving only a limited bill of fare until mid-June. They're also awaiting their liquor license, which they expect to take effect June 12 (and planning a grand opening for that day); until then, the big fancy bar is, for the moment, only dispensing soft drinks. Hours, also for the time being, are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily (with a Sunday Gospel Brunch and Soul Food Buffet, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.). The phone number is (501) 478-6300.
For those who have been wondering what might be going in at the downtown Little Rock site of the recently razed Back Yard Burgers kiosk, 824 Broadway, wonder no more: A permit has been filed with the state Health Department for a Popeyes LouisianaKitchen, Little Rock's fifth, at that address.
Meanwhile, we're checking out the status of Mama B's Take Out, 1200 W. Daisy Gatson Bates Drive (at Cross Street), Little Rock, after a couple of readers asked us if it has closed, and we discovered at the Facebook page (facebook.com/pages/Mama-Bs/1504378456526769) the guarded speculation "May Be Permanently Closed." Repeated calls during business hours to the listed phone number, (501) 777-1126, have gone unanswered.
ZaZa Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza Co., 5600 Kavanaugh Blvd, Little Rock, marks its ninth year in business, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, with a backyard party on its patio and parking lot featuring music by bluegrass band Runaway Planet; LostForty beer; ZaZa founders Scott McGehee and John Beachboard making pizzas in a mobile wood oven plus German offerings from The Wunderbus food truck; a mini farmers market; a dunk tank where you can sink local celebrities (proceeds go to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance); and the chance to meet and buy seedlings from the farmers at Rattle's Garden, Little Rock Urban Farming, Hardin Farms and New South Produce Cooperative, which supply much of the restaurant's spring and summer produce. Call (501) 661-9292 (ZAZA).
Speaking of food trucks, the Downtown Little Rock Partnership was expected to post Wednesday on its Facebook page (facebook.com/MainStreetFoodTruckFestival) which food trucks will be vending for Main Street Food Truck Fridays, which resume this week, 10:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Fridays through June 23 on the "plaza" at Main Street and Capitol Avenue, in advance of the Oct. 7 Main Street Food Truck Festival.
And still speaking of food trucks, the Arkansas Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival will take place noon-6 p.m. Saturday at the Outlets of Little Rock, 11201 Bass Pro Parkway, Little Rock, under the auspices of Massachusetts-based Food Truck Festivals of America. The list includes Black Hound BBQ, Cajun Snow (flavored ice snowballs), Cypress Knee Food (Cajun cuisine), Jude's Delight (burgers and waffles), LoblollyCreamery, PhillyPhresh Water Ice (Italian ice) and TheWunderbus. Among the participating craft brewers: Apple Blossom (Arkansas), COOP Ale Works (Oklahoma), Destihl Brewery (Illinois), Schlafly Beer (Missouri), Sonoma Cider (California), SweetWater Brewing Co. (Georgia) and Victory Brewing Co. (Pennsylvania). General admission tickets are $5 in advance, $10 at the gate, free for children 12 and younger. Special VIP tickets, $20 in advance, $25 at the gate, entitle you to early access (11 a.m.-noon), one free dessert and unlimited water. Call (617) 782-7117 or visit foodtruckfestivalsofamerica.com or facebook.com/FTFNE.
One of our eagle-eyed Spa City correspondents reports the opening, or pending opening, of Riverside Cafe & Catering, in the Indiandale Center, 1534 Malvern Ave., Hot Springs, next to Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill. The menu is expected to include fish, burgers and chicken. We don't yet have a phone number. Also approaching, in the former Gino's Pizzeria & Philly Steaks, 1301 Albert Pike, Hot Springs, something called Wacky Wiener, which will offer gourmet 100-percent-beef hot dogs. Our research turned up another address -- 3205 Albert Pike -- so it's unclear just what's going on. A call to the listed number for that address, (501) 520-1166, produced a recorded message that a voice-mail box has not yet been set up.
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:
Weekend on 04/20/2017
Print Headline: Restaurant Transitions