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story.lead_photo.caption Banners on the side and front of the former Afterthought, Beechwood Road and Kavanaugh Boulevard, tell folks in Hillcrest that El Mezcal is “coming soon.” - Photo by Eric E. Harrison

The Subway outlet in the Victory Building, 1401 W. Capitol Ave., Little Rock, just east of the state Capitol, has been undergoing renovation, not closure, says owner Maunish Shah, and has stayed partially open, with limited seating and service, during the process. Shah says post-remodeling, his is the first central Arkansas outlet with Subway's new "Fresh Start" look, which includes new decor, equipment and seating, and "and our fellow franchisees are expecting the similar remodels soon." The final touches -- including new ceiling tiles and some wallpaper -- should be in place by today at the latest, he says. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; the phone number is (501) 378-7828.

Saladworks, a create-your-own salad, grain-bowl and toast chain, is gearing up to open its first Arkansas location in April at the Wellington Center at Chenal, 15400 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock. Five more locations are planned hereabouts within the next two years, including in downtown, Gibraltar Heights and University Park. Check out the offerings at saladworks.com/salad.

Two Sisters Cafe, 3130 E. Kiehl Ave., Sherwood, is adding a second location, with a target to open in March or at worst in April, in downtown Little Rock -- at 201 N. Izard St., in fact. It'll be primarily a coffee shop and cafe that will also possibly feature take-and-bake pastries, etc. Hours and days of operation are still under discussion. Two Sisters also has a catering operation side-by-side with the cafe (3140 E. Kiehl) and that's where the main offices are -- the phone number there is (501) 351-4289.

Chicot Hibachi Express has opened at 7412 North Hills Blvd., North Little Rock, in what had previously been an outlet of Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza. The menu includes "classic" hibachi entrees -- chicken teriyaki, shrimp, steak, vegetables, salmon, lobster -- and combos; side orders (noodles, fried rice, etc.); appetizers (crab rangoon, edamame, egg rolls, chicken, shrimp or vegetables tempura; and a handful of deep-fried sushi rolls. Hours are 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday. The phone number is (501) 864-7510. And if it seems like an odd name for a North Little Rock establishment, it turns out it is a second location; the original Chicot Hibachi Express is at 9105 Chicot Road, Little Rock, with a nearly identical menu and similar hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday (but closed Sunday). The phone number there is (501) 747-1337.

For some reason this didn't make the paper last month when one of our eagle-eyed colleagues reported it, but the demolition is complete for the former Ozark Country Restaurant, 202 Keightley Drive, gutted in a May 1 fire, and there's now a sign on the property that says "For Sale: Commercial Lot, Reed Gibbons, 501-580-7009, RPM."

Target opening date is now on or about Jan. 25 for Zen Thai & Fusion, in the Pinnacle Creek shopping center, 14810 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, in what previously had been Pasta J's West. We have come up with a couple of additional details, including at least a few menu items, via the Waitr order site (waitrapp.com/restaurants/ar/little-rock/zen-thai-fusion/10200 -- which, of course, also shows they'll be using Waitr as a delivery service). Appetizers will include pan-fried potsticker dumplings, California hot wings, mixed vegetable tempura and something called Kimono Shrimp; entrees will include fried rice, Pad Thai, Spicy Basil & Rice, Red Curry & Rice and Yellow Curry & Rice, and nine varieties of ramen (some with miso broth, others with shoyu or tonkatsu broth), among them the intriguingly named Singapore BBQ Pork Ramen, Five Spice Duck Ramen and Tom Yum Ramen (hot and sour).

The city of Little Rock Department of Planning & Development's Jan. 13 list of building permits includes one for 2721 Kavanaugh Blvd., in Little Rock's Hillcrest, most recently the Afterthought Bistro & Bar and due to become a Mexican restaurant called El Mezcal. It gives the Valadez family, owners of the four Cantina Cinco de Mayo restaurants in Little Rock and Bryant, permission to start removing the sub floor and pour concrete, and start remodeling for a new bar and office with mechanical, electrical and plumbing. Presumably that means that work, which neighbors have reported has temporarily ceased, will soon resume. The restaurant will, we're told, feature an upscale Mexican menu and a cocktail menu focusing heavily on the agave-based Mexican liquor that is the restaurant's namesake.

In the wake of last week's report that the Gigi's Cupcakes outlet in the Park Avenue Shopping Center, 416 S. University Ave., Little Rock, had closed, comes word that the whole Texas-based chain declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy Jan. 4. (So, by the way, has Sovrano LLC, owner of Mr. Gatti's Pizza, which many years back had a couple of area outlets. Both are affiliates of FundCorp, a Fort Worth-based private equity group.)

The honors continue to roll in for Jones Bar-B-Que, 219 W. Louisiana St., Marianna. The Food Network has named it one of two Arkansas Delta barbecue establishments -- the other being the slightly more celebrated McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant in Hot Springs -- as part of its recent "Best BBQ From Coast to Coast" report. "Arkansas does not have the national barbecue reputation of places like Texas and Kansas City, but the state boasts its own unique culture of 'cue, which is centered around the Arkansas Delta but moving out to the western side of the state," says the website entry (foodnetwork.com/restaurants/photos/best-barbecue-in-the-country). "The pitmasters there are known for pork shoulders, pork ribs and beef -- specifically, a cut called a gooseneck round," served with a spicy and vinegary tomato sauce. That specialty is found throughout the state, but one place really stands out: James Beard Award winner Jones Bar-B-Que Diner in Marianna, arguably the oldest black-owned restaurant in the United States."

Taste of D-Light, once a very popular Bryant Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant and buffet, closed almost exactly three years ago, in January 2016, at 3200 N. Reynolds Road, reportedly because owners Jerry and Lee Jones were retiring. The restaurant reopened at the end of last year as a drive-through-only kiosk, Taste of D Light On The Go, 3415 Arkansas 5 North, Bryant. It, too, has been popular -- enough to cause problems along the busy Arkansas 5 corridor as cars line up to get into the driveway blocking traffic in the process, Shelli Poole reports via her "My Saline" blog (mysaline.com). The Bryant Police Department has released this statement about the situation via social media: "The [department] is aware of the traffic problems that have developed with the recent opening of the Taste of Delight [sic] Restaurant. I assure this issue is being addressed by the City, Code Enforcement and Police Department as we have been in contact with the owner of the business and working to resolve this issue. We ask everyone to please stay safe while we work this out. Hopefully traffic will be moving smoothly once again as quickly as possible." The hours, by the way: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 213-0423.

The opening of Mama's Little Italy, 1020 Airport Road, Hot Springs, late last month apparently slipped by us. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 881-4121.

And in case you missed our Linda Satter's report last week, R Wings R Wild, the Arkansas company that owns and operates 16 Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Arkansas and Oklahoma, has agreed to pay $30,000 and train management employees about sex discrimination to resolve a lawsuit accusing it of failing to hire men as bartenders because of their sex, according to a consent decree filed Jan. 8. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Sept. 28, 2017, lawsuit, came three years after experienced bartender David Golden alleged he had responded to a Craigslist ad and was turned away from an open position at the Little Rock location by a manager who told him the business wanted to hire a woman instead; and that between February 2014 and April 2015 the company "failed to hire at least nine other male applicants who applied for bar-tending positions at its Arkansas and Oklahoma locations." A Feb. 19 trial date hangs on whether the federal judge presiding over the case signs off on the decree.

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

Chicot Hibachi Express has opened on North Hills Boulevard in North Little Rock.
Saladworks’ menu includes a Mandarin Chicken salad.

Weekend on 01/17/2019

Print Headline: RESTAURANT NEWS: New look for Subway; Saladworks in west LR; latest on El Mezcal

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  • Testingonetwothree
    January 17, 2019 at 5 a.m.

    The Minute Man burger chain that was originally founded in Little Rock in 1948 is set to make a triumphant return to the original city in the near future. Minute Man announced today in a press release that they are planning 3 locations in central Arkansas, likely split between Little Rock and Conway.

  • DowBM
    January 17, 2019 at 10:40 a.m.

    Is that Stone's Throw outpost in Stifft Station still going on?

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