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story.lead_photo.caption FILE — Bar tender Patrick Cowan pours a pint of beer at the Blue Canoe Brewing Company on E. Third Street in Little Rock in this June 2015 file photo. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Shelli Poole of and the Benton Courier reports that Kay Diemer, who ran Ed & Kay's restaurant at 15228 Interstate 30 in Benton and who still owns the building, has filed suit against peripatetic chef/restaurateur Bruno Beqiri, who leased out the space for the Italian Villa since November 2014, for long-standing nonpayment of rent and breach of the lease agreement. Poole has posted on her site the copy of a letter from the law firm of Jensen Young & Houston to Beqiri that lists arrears of $23,700, covering $4,000 a month in rent and $1,000 a month for furniture, fixtures and equipment payments. A recent Courier story reports that Beqiri owes $18,300 in past due rent, and that according to a filing dated Feb. 2 in Saline County Circuit Court, documents allege that he has failed to pay the entire rent amount each month since July 1, 2015. Beqiri on Monday said that despite reports to the contrary, the restaurant has not closed. We'll keep you posted.

Blue Canoe Brewing Co., 425 E. Third St., Little Rock, is expanding into the next-door former home of Brown Sugar Bakeshop with plans to open Taco Beer Burrito, offering Mexican foods with vegetable options, a lineup of on-tap beers and margaritas, sometime in April. Current taproom hours are 5-9 p.m. Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday; expectations are that the new place will be open for lunch and dinner six or seven days a week. Blue Canoe's phone number is (501) 492-9378.

Hideaway Pizza, a Tulsa-based chain, has filed plans to open a location sometime this fall at 5103 Warden Road, North Little Rock, next to Chuy's. Janie Harris, the chain's marketing and guest relations director, say it'll be the chain's first foray outside of Oklahoma; it operates seven outlets in Tulsa, seven in and around Oklahoma City and one in Bartlesville plus the original location in Stillwater. It'll have a full bar, occupy approximately 6,500 square feet, seat about 190 and employ between 90-100 people (many of them part time). Check out the menu -- sandwiches, salads, "starters" and pasta in addition to build-your-own and more than two dozen specialty pizzas -- and other details at

And speaking of chains making first forays into this area, Tampa, Fla.-based Burger 21 is looking to open its first location in Little Rock, signing a franchise agreement with Allen Hurst, a native Arkansan currently living in Colorado who is, we're told, searching for a location with an end-of-2016 target to open; he also plans to develop an additional four area "units" over the next five years. Check out the menu and other details at

And speaking of burgers, as of Monday, the McDonald's location at 104 S. University Ave., Little Rock, is offering table service, which the company is testing nationwide.

Co-owner Jack Sundell says he's just waiting on a permit from the city to start renovations at the Root Cafe, 1500 Main St., Little Rock, that will expand the dining room space, add a second bathroom, improve heating and air conditioning, expand the kitchen and remodel the existing interior. "We're expanding south toward the Esse Purse Museum, and adding kitchen space to the west, behind the existing kitchen," Sundell says. "We're adding walk-in and office space and there will be more room inside." Start and completion target dates are still uncertain -- "We're going to hopefully be starting as soon as possible, sometime this month," he says. "From that, it's anybody's best guess. We want to take our time and do it correctly." The project will involve using "retired" shipping containers, allowing them to construct on a modular basis, creating the space outside the current structure, then knocking down the separating walls. Sundell says he expects to remain open throughout, or at worst with minimum disruptions -- "a day here, a day there, we want to as much as possible to keep on doing what we're doing."

The expansion and renovations will make possible adding long-expected new dinner hours, as many as four days a week, "and we'll be able to add catering on a more regular basis, expand baking and canning operations," Sundell says. They've hired a dinner chef, Little Rock native Jonathan Arrington, who after attending Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago was the executive chef at a now-defunct Chicago restaurant called Coobah; he has been working as an executive chef for an airport-centered food service group in Minneapolis, and has moved back to be close to his family. He's already on the job, having planned the cafe's Valentine's Day dinner. "Between now and when we officially open for dinner, we'll have regular dinner events twice a month; one of them will be a ticketed dinner, and the other a counter-service dinner, like the way we do breakfast and lunch."

Sundell and his wife and co-owner, Corri Bristow Sundell, are funding all of this with $25,000 they received as the first prize via a cable TV documentary series and a $150,000 Mission Main Street Grant from Chase Bank. The restaurant phone number: (501) 414-0423.

And speaking of renovations, Table 28, 1501 Merrill Drive, Little Rock, the rathskeller restaurant, has wrapped up its renovation, including a new, raised ceiling and better lighting, new carpet and some new mirrors, columns and a chic new replacement for the formerly sunken bar that occupied all of one side of the dining room. It now seats 70, at new tables and a new cluster of booths. Hours are 4-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 224-2828.

At The Afterthought, 2721 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, chef Michael Jones has finally put in place his new Bistro menu. Among the highlights: made-to-order guacamole and salmon bruschetta appetizers, some hefty meat dishes (22-ounce "Grass Fed" T-Bone and a Braised "Bedrock" Short Rib) and some chef's specials (Korean Seared Ahi Tuna and a Jambalaya Risotto). Bistro hours are 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for Sunday brunch. The phone number is (501) 663-1196; the website, which didn't yet have the new menu posted as of our deadline, is

And Leisa Sims is launching a new food trailer, Roxy's Twisted Sandwiches, with a soft opening starting Feb. 18 at Flyway Brewing Co., 314 Maple St., in North Little Rock's Argenta District, and starting in March operating in and around the Little Rock/Conway area. Sims and husband Ty, who have named the trailer after their husky, found the concept in Los Angeles: stuffed sandwiches with a "twist," sort of a cornucopia, starting with a bread cone from Julie's Bakery in Conway; options will include smoked gouda Cajun macaroni and cheese with bacon, Andouille sausage or Texas-style pulled pork; twisted cheeseburgers; Tex-Mex and Cali tacos; and chili mac. Five percent of net proceeds will go to Arkansas no-kill animal shelters. They'll post daily locations on Facebook and Twitter feeds.

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 02/11/2016

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  • HawgFan
    February 11, 2016 at 7:37 a.m.

    The old Ed and Kay's building in Benton just needs to be torn down anyway. It's a piece of crap.