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story.lead_photo.caption Samu Bar Sushi Hibachi is coming soon to the space recently vacated by Oceans at Arthur’s in west Little Rock’s Village at Rahling Road.

We are saddened to report the Aug. 15 passing of Chi hospitality empress Lulu Cheng Chi, often referred to by family, friends and customers as "Mama" Chi. She was 71.

She was born May 19, 1947, in Shanghai and later moved with her family to Taipei, Taiwan, where she attended college and married I-Kang "Bill" Chi. They moved in 1981 to Little Rock, where she opened a place on Geyer Springs Road called Cuisine of China. In 1993 they opened the original Chi's in a sumptuous piece of Asian-American architecture on a bluff overlooking the intersection of West Markham Street and Shackleford Road. (The family just closed it a couple of months ago and consolidated it, including the weekend dim sum service, into what had been an outlying branch, Chi's Chinese Cuisine, on Chenal Parkway.)

Subsequent and still operating Chi family-owned restaurants in the Heights include Sushi Cafe, Lulu's Crab Boil and Prospect Bar and Grill; in west Little Rock, Sushi Cafe West and La Madeleine; and Chi's Asian Cafe in Riverdale. They have had past ownership stakes in Crazy Hibachi in North Little Rock and Sekisui in west Little Rock.

She is survived by her husband; two children, Dr. Jasen "Thuy" Chi and Jacob Chi; two sisters; and six grandchildren. Says Jasen Chi, on behalf of the family: "She touched many lives. Her one goal was always to better those around her through her restaurants. She loved her staff, loved her customers. There is a glowing part of her in all of us."


The space in the Village at Rahling Road, 27 Rahling Circle, Little Rock, recently vacated by Oceans at Arthur's has already leased out to Samu Bar Sushi Hibachi; we still lack any other details, but there's a "coming soon" sign on the door, duplicated on its Facebook page (

And speaking of Asian restaurants, we reported last week that Saffron Indian Cuisine was pending in the former J. Gumbo space in the Centre at Ten shopping center, 12911 Cantrell Road, Little Rock. It opened Saturday. The menu focuses on a "carefully selected spread of north and south Indian cuisine," according to the Facebook page ( Hours are 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. daily. The phone number is (501) 313-5335.

And still speaking of Asian restaurants, issues with a leaky roof may delay the opening of Aji Ramen Bar, 301 N. Shackleford Road, Little Rock, but owner Oki Sutanto still has a target of the first week of September. The menu will center on the Japanese noodle-broth dish; he'll also serve up a range of Japanese appetizers. And he has applied for an on-premises beer and wine permit. Hours will be 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Still no phone number, website or Facebook page.

The "Bankruptcy Watch" column in the Aug. 12 Democrat-Gazette lists The Tavern Sports Grill LLC, "c/o Ryan Brown," in the Promenade at Chenal, 17815 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, as filing for Chapter 11 on Aug. 6. It continues to operate -- hours are 11 am.-midnight Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday. The phone number is (501) 830-2100. And the establishment recently posted on its Facebook page that it will no longer accept orders through the Waitr food-delivery company.

Brian Kearns changed the name of the restaurant at the Arkansas Arts Center, in MacArthur Park, East Ninth and Commerce streets, Little Rock, from Best Impressions to Canvas in 2016 when he took it over, along with Simply the Best catering, from retiring caterers Rob and Martha Best. Now he confirms he's leaving the restaurant as of Aug. 31. "Museum restaurants aren't typical money makers, and we were always able to offset the losses from the catering business we did there," he explains, but "that has dried up with the news of the renovation." The Arts Center will undergo a major reconstruction project starting about this time next year; at some point in the next 11 months the restaurant will close, probably for the duration. We're still waiting to confirm who'll operate it in the meanwhile.

Although a grand opening is still set for Sept. 27, Live Life Chill, in the former Revolution restaurant, 300 President Clinton Ave., in Little Rock's River Market District, adjoining the Rev Room music venue, is now open, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. for lunch and, for dinner, 4-10 p.m. with the bar staying open, at least for the time being, based on what the crowd looks like. The menu includes burgers, nachos, tacos, "food on sticks," chicken wings, oysters, salads and wraps. The executive chef is Stephen Burrow (Forty Two and Conway's late Daly's); veteran bartender Dillon Garcia, late of The Pizzeria, is running the bar program in addition to being a partner in the restaurant. We couldn't get anybody to answer -- by deadline -- calls to the listed phone number, (501) 615-8399. The Facebook page is

An outlet of Orange City, Iowa-based Pizza Ranch, an Old West-theme pizzeria chain with 200 locations in 13 states, opens Monday at 955 Covington Way, Conway, south of Dave Ward Drive and west of South Harkrider Street, about halfway between Interstate 40 and the University of Central Arkansas. The menu features pizzas called (and trademarked as) Prairie, Texan Taco, Bronco, Trailblazer, Roundup and Stampede (their version of the sweep-the-floor). Oh, and there's a dessert item called Chocolate Cactus Bread. Hours will be 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 329-1688; the website,

The Meteor, 1001 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock, is offering "our delicious house-made breakfast tacos ... half off from 7-11 a.m.," and hosting the Pinches Tacos food truck from 4-9 p.m. for Taco Tuesdays through Nov. 6. The phone number is (501) 664-7765.

Mama's Gyros Grill, 3309 East Kiehl Ave., Sherwood, will mark National Gyros Day by taking $1 off gyros sandwiches and combos, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 31 and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 1. The phone number is (501) 833-0306.

Artist Thad Flenniken, retired from the faculty at the National Park College (formerly National Park Community College), will display his work at the monthly Wine & Art Dinner, 7 p.m. Sunday at The Avenue, in the Waters Hotel, 340 Central Ave., Hot Springs. For the series' one-year anniversary, executive chef Casey Copeland and team have created a special five-course menu to go along with what he says are "rare and exceptional wines" from Knights Bridge Winery in Calistoga, Calif. Find the menu and wine list online at Price is $160. For reservations, call (501) 625-3850.

And while he's in the neighborhood, Knights Bridge Director of Winemaking Douglas Danielak will take part in an informal three-course wine dinner, 6 p.m. Monday at the Capital Hotel, 111 W. Markham St., Little Rock. Tickets are $110, including tax and gratuities. Check out the menu at Call (501) 374-7474 or visit

Executive chef Matthew McClure joins forces with Hank Shaw of the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook ( for a special four-course Wild Game Dinner, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at The Hive, in the 21c Museum Hotel, 200 N.E. A St., Bentonville. Inspiration for each course comes from Shaw's book Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail: Upland Birds and Small Game From Field to Feast. Shaw will provide each guest a signed copy as part of the $75 per person ticket price (which does not include beverages, tax or gratuity). Seating is limited; get tickets at Call (479) 286-6517 or email

Sept. 17 is the target opening day for Local Lime Rogers, 2103 S. Promenade Blvd., Rogers, (between Mimi's Cafe & Dillard's). Food service will be 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; the bar will stay open later. The phone number is (479) 903-7300; the Facebook page,

Fayetteville-based Slim Chickens on Monday opened a corporate-owned restaurant at 1855 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fayetteville. Activities connected to the opening include a Sept. 1-15 fundraiser for the Arkansas Children's Hospital Northwest Family House (guests can round up their order total to the next dollar, with the change going to the donation) and a Sept. 3-7 "Day of Deals" promotion with discounts or freebies for early-arriving customers and a chance to win gift cards. Hours are 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. daily (with the drive-thru open until 1 a.m.). The phone number: (479) 313-2719.

Food trucks, caterers, restaurants and retail locations from around the state will show off black entrepreneurship and culinary skills while showcasing the cultural diversity of black-owned businesses at the Arkansas Association of Black Professionals' third annual Black Food Truck Festival, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 15 in front of the James Cox Building, Philander Smith College, 900 W. Daisy Gatson Bates Drive, Little Rock. Entry and parking are free; food and items from various vendors, of course, will cost money. It'll go on rain or shine. Visit the Facebook event page,

And the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) will host its inaugural world championship barbecue competition, Feb. 8-9 at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock. A total of $35,000 in prize money will be at stake -- and at steak; participants will compete in the four meat categories (chicken, pork ribs, pork and beef brisket) and the event will also include a KCBS-sanctioned National Steak Grilling Contest. Only KCBS members and previous competition winners are eligible to participate. The KCBS Board selected the Fairgrounds site "based on research and site visits conducted by the Board's Marketing Committee," according to a news release, after scouting locations across Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, "based on ease of accessibility during seasonal travel conditions."

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:

Lulu Cheng Chi
Photo by Gavin Lesnick
Pizza Ranch, an Iowa-based Old West-theme pizzeria chain, opens a location Monday in Conway.
Local Lime Rogers is set to open Sept. 17.

Weekend on 08/23/2018

Print Headline: Restaurant transitions: ‘Mama’ Chi dead at 71; space left by Oceans has new tenant; Pizza Ranch debut


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