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story.lead_photo.caption A hot pimento cheese skillet is on the menu at the new Watercolor in the Park at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Wednesday was official opening day for Watercolor in the Park in the former Canvas restaurant space inside the Arkansas Arts Center in MacArthur Park, East Ninth and Commerce streets, Little Rock. The restaurant is a new concept by Keet family-run JTJ Restaurants LLC, which operates central Arkansas Taziki's outlets as well as west Little Rock high-end Petit & Keet and Paninis and Company in Midtown. Executive chef Howard Wilson's new menu will focus on casual new American cuisine, including house-made soups (including a soup of the day and a vegan tomato basil), pasta and seafood entrees and "handhelds" (including Wagyu corned beef on pumpernickel with Swiss and a lemon-black pepper aioli, a flatbread turkey club and a short-rib-blend cheeseburger).

Initially they'll open Tuesday-Saturday, with a gourmet coffee and quiche menu from 10-11 a.m. and the full menu from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; beginning Dec. 9, they'll serve an 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday brunch, with the food coming from Petit & Keet. The restaurant will also cater events at the Arkansas Arts Center and the Terry House at Seventh and Rock streets. On the walls will be works by members of the Mid-Southern Watercolorists, maintaining it as an art as well as dining space. Another tradition continues of names reflecting things artistic (before it was Canvas it was Best Impressions). We're still waiting to find out what happens to the restaurant when, sometime in the next 10 months to a year, a major reconstruction project closes parts of the Arts Center.

The phone number is (501) 396-0390; email; the website is; and the Facebook page,

A Mexican restaurant called El Mezcal is what's going into the former Afterthought Bistro & Bar, 2721 Kavanaugh Blvd., in Hillcrest, which closed in May 2016, reports our Josh Snyder. The owners are the Valadez family, who also operate a grocery store and the four Cantina Cinco de Mayo restaurants in Little Rock and Bryant; Ramiro Valadez, who will operate El Mezcal, pledges high-quality service. Partner Vicente Hernandez says the target to open will be late February or early March. Rock City Eats reports the restaurant will feature a cocktail menu focusing heavily on the agave-based Mexican liquor that is the restaurant's namesake. Stephanos Mylonas of the next-door Mylo Coffee Co., 2715 Kavanaugh, saw his plans to renovate and reopen the space as a restaurant-entertainment venue fall through, though he did extend the coffee shop a few feet westward into what had been the party room, providing some extra seating and kitchen space.

Arthur's Prime Steakhouse is now open at its new spot, 16100 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, in the eastern half of a former auto dealership (occupying the western half, of course, is its seafood-sushi sibling, Oceans at Arthur's). Hours are 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5-9 p.m. Sunday, with a 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. joint Sunday brunch. The phone number remains (501) 821-1838.

Three big-name players have joined the culinary team at 42 bar and table at the Clinton Presidential Center, 1200 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock. Andre Poirot, most recently of the Capital Hotel, former executive chef at the Crowne Plaza Little Rock and the Peabody Little Rock, and before that executive chef at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans, is the new executive chef for the restaurant, banquet and catering operations. Jason Morrell, the new chef cuisine, was the chef and owner of Starving Artist Cafe and had been a chef at Sonny Williams' Steak Room and Simply the Best Catering. And new pastry chef Jeremy Pittman comes over from The Pizzeria. Michael Selig, director of food, beverage, and events for the Clinton Foundation, says to expect any menu changes after the first of the year. The restaurant phone number: (501) 537-0042; the website is

There appears to still be some life and maybe even warmth in Live Life Chill, 300 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock. It turns out it hasn't actually closed but, we're told, has reduced its operating scope to 2.5 days a week -- 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. They've certainly done a poor job keeping patrons apprised -- there are no posts about the new operating hours on the Facebook page; the website,, lists outdated hours; and calls to the phone number, (501) 615-8399, produce neither an answer nor even a voicemail message.

Roma Pizza & Pasta has opened at 402 Louisiana St., Little Rock, selling New York-style thin-crust pies, stromboli and calzones; pasta -- spaghetti, fettuccine Alfredo, penne, gnocchi, manicotti, lasagna, ziti and ravioli; chicken parmigiana; meatball and chicken, sausage and eggplant parm subs; and Buffalo wings and tenders. Hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. The phone number is (501) 615-8338. It's not the first pizzeria to occupy that revolving-door space, which most recently had been an Indian restaurant U.S. Pizza briefly operated a downtown branch there.

And speaking of pizza, we're supposed to keep watching the Facebook page ( to find out just when Sunday brunch starts at The Pizzeria, 4910 Kavanaugh Blvd., in Little Rock's Pulaski Heights. The phone number is (501) 551-1388.

And speaking of Pulaski Heights, the Starbucks at Kavanaugh Boulevard and North Pierce Street is scheduled to close Dec. 31, says property owner Lou Schickel, who bought the property shortly before the Seattle-based company began leasing it. The corporation has given previous notice in the past, he tells our reporter Noel Oman, but has always pulled back "at the last minute ... but this time, it doesn't sound like they're going to do that." He speculates that the lack of a drive-through window has cut potential sales roughly in half. A for-lease sign with Schickel's number has appeared on the fence outside the cafe, and Schickel says he doesn't expect the property to be vacant long, though he doubts that a new coffee shop will take its place. "Numerous people are looking at it already," Schickel said. "It'll rent very fast."


Into that very coffee shop void steps Eric Herget and his wife, Lou Anne, who operate Heights Corner Market, 5018 Kavanaugh. They've been planning to open something called Walter's in the space on the north side of the grocery store-cum-restaurant that opened up when the restaurant, now called The Green Room, moved earlier this year to the smaller penthouse area (that originally housed a Sue's Pie Shop and was the original brick-and-mortar home of The Pizzeria).

The Hergets are currently using the 2,000-square-foot room for private events, including several over the holidays, but once January rolls around, "we don't want that space just sitting," he says. The original plan was to establish Walter's as a cozy happy hour-evening spot with a focus on martinis, serving lighter fare and casual furniture (sofas, coffee tables, floor tables and lamps), and with music (jazz solos and small ensembles). When word came about Starbucks closing, he says, he began to focus on finding a daytime use for the space. "And in the morning, all of that parking is available, because [surrounding] stores are not open." He's looking at serving morning coffee -- simple coffee and decaf, no fancy stuff -- with pastries made in the grocery.

Target date to open Walter's is Dec. 15; tentatively plans are to operate Tuesday-Saturday, possibly adding Monday nights if there's a demand (jazz groups have been looking for a Monday-night home since the Afterthought closed). Coffee shop hours, somewhere along the lines of 6:30-11 a.m., would start somewhat thereafter, perhaps a little later in the month. Walter's would reopen about 4:30 p.m. for happy hour, initially mirroring the restaurant hours and closing at 9, but staying open an hour or two later if business demands it or on the weekends. But, Eric Herget stresses, he's keeping the neighborhood in mind: "We're not going to be operating a bar or nightclub."


Pita Pit, in the Centre at Ten, 12911 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, has closed -- no sign on the door, but it was locked tight during business hours and many of the contents appear to have been already removed. The phone number, (501) 227-7482 (PITA), hasn't been disconnected but has produced only a rapid busy signal for several days. And the website,, no longer lists it; a location search turns up this message: "No Results for Little Rock, Arkansas, United States." Conway native and former Memphis firefighter and paramedic Colby Ruple opened the restaurant in late 2013.

Milano's Italian Grill has opened in the former Sawbucks, 1800 Club Manor Drive, Maumelle. The menu is available at the Facebook page, We're told you can bring your own wine while their permit is pending. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. The phone number is (501) 734-8027.

And Minneapolis-based Bite Squad is taking a "bite" of two more Arkansas towns -- Cabot and Russellville -- this weekend, and as has been their custom, customers who order during a grand opening weekend (10:30 a.m. Friday-10 p.m. Sunday) can cull unlimited free food deliveries for one year. (What they actually receive is a one-year complimentary membership to Bite Squad's subscription-based service, Unlimited, subject to its terms and conditions.) Delivery is available within a seven-mile radius of participating restaurants, which in Cabot include Naru Sushi & Grill, Tio's Tex-Mex and The Mean Pig BBQ and in Russellville include Spices Food Truck, El Parian and Old Post Bar B Que, plus Tropical Smoothie Cafe and CiCis outlets where you find them. Delivery fees start at $2.99. Visit or download the Bite Squad app.

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:

A Wagyu corned beef sandwich is on the menu at the new Watercolor in the Park at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Weekend on 11/29/2018

Print Headline: Restaurant Transitions: Watercolor open; El Mezcal replacing Afterthought


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