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story.lead_photo.caption Linda McGoogan stands outside the “last Minute Man” standing in May as the restaurant marked the 70th anniversary of its 1948 founding. McGoogan and Arkansas native Perry J. Smith have formed a partnership with the goal of resurrecting the char-grilled burger chain. - Photo by Stephen Steed

Last week's news release, headlined "Minute Man restaurant eyes comeback with three locations in Little Rock and Conway" and announcing that "Minute Man Restaurant of El Dorado, Arkansas, has initial plans that call for opening three locations in the Little Rock and Conway areas," set folks a-Twitter -- and lit up Facebook as well.

Now, we don't want to burst anybody's bubble. But don't get your hopes up too high or too fast just yet. Pay particular heed, for example, to the words "initial plans" in the release, and note that it does not specify actual locations -- or a timeline.

Democrat-Gazette business reporter Stephen Steed chatted with Arkansas native Perry J. Smith, 53, who has created a limited partnership, Minute Man AR Mgmt LLC that is partnering "with Minute Man Restaurant of El Dorado, Ark., solely owned and operated by Linda McGoogan," to revive the "legendary brand." However, Smith tells Steed that even in a most-perfect world -- with investors already lined up -- it would take 12-18 months to open even one of those three Minute Man restaurants.

And those investors aren't yet lined up. In fact, Smith tells Steed, "the press release really was meant to just announce the partnership" -- which, as it turns out, is already 5 months old: Smith filed incorporation papers Sept. 6 with the Arkansas secretary of state's office. Smith, who founded the "upscale-casual" Matchbox Food Group in 2001, sold his shares a few years ago to open the Avalon Institute, a business-development firm in Bethesda, Md.

Wes T. Hall founded Minute Man in Little Rock in 1948; at its height, it had 57 locations, about 20 of them in Arkansas, the rest in Tennessee and Louisiana. The El Dorado restaurant, which McGoogan runs with help from her husband, Paul, and son, Brent, has been dubbed the "last Minute Man standing." Little Rock's last franchise, at West Fourth Street and Broadway, closed in 2002.

Smith grew up in Little Rock; his family moved to Washington in 1973 when his father, Don S. Smith got an appointment from President Richard Nixon to the Federal Power Commission. He held a similar position in the Jimmy Carter administration and died in 1993.

...

The Purple Cow opened its new North Little Rock branch Friday at 4201 Warden Road. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 904-7269. The website is purplecowlr.com. Not far away, LongHorn Steakhouse, opened Tuesday at 3911 McCain Blvd., North Little Rock. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 753-4629. The building was formerly a Sears Auto Center.

Gusano's, 313 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, posted Saturday on its Facebook page that "Gusano's is currently CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE," recommending that "for more updates, follow our social media." Calls to the phone number, (501) 374-1441, produced a recording asking us to hold while being connected to "a member of our staff," and then endless ringing while the connection went, apparently, nowhere. Owner Tim Chappell did not return a phone call by deadline.

Katmandu MoMo has closed its kiosk in the River Market Ottenheimer Market Hall, 400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock. Kyler Nordeck, who co-owns the business with his wife, Saroza Shrestha, says it was increasingly difficult to run their full-service Nepalese restaurant at 1018 Oak St., Conway, the kiosk and the food truck that started it all. Nordeck says he likes being downtown and is considering finding another Little Rock location, and starting in March you will probably see the food truck out more often than it has been. Hours for the Conway restaurant are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; the phone number there is (501) 205-8679.

Taziki's locations throughout the state have been offering 25 percent discounts to federal employees and immediate family who are furloughed or working without pay. And Capi Peck, a Little Rock city director who is the chef/owner of Trio's Restaurant, has been spearheading an effort to get free meals to Transportation Security Administration screeners who have been working without pay at Bill and Hilary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field since mid-December. Airport staff and Southwest and Delta airlines had been taking turns providing meals, including free breakfasts, and Congregation B'Nai Israel has been collecting money for gift cards for screeners' families. Primarily through a Facebook post, Peck has coordinated about 20 area restaurants and food professionals, including Ben Brainard and Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts (Big Orange, Local Lime, Heights Taco & Tamale, Lost Forty, etc.), pastry chef Zara Abbasi Wilkerson, Hayne Begley of Delta Biscuit Co., personal chef Margie Raimondo (formerly of Southern Table), Amy Kelley Bell of South on Main, Amanda Leigh Ivy of Sauce(d) and Donnie Ferneau Jr. of Cathead's Diner. Community leaders and Peck's Facebook friends have pledged financial support and hands-on help.

Meanwhile, Hawgz Blues Cafe CEO Kristian Nelson reports that he has been feeding furloughed and other federal government workers affected by the partial government shutdown at his Park Hill restaurant, 5524 John F. Kennedy Blvd., North Little Rock, handing out more than 120 meals over the past two weeks, and if the shutdown continues, he'll keep doing it. "It went really good," he says. "It really touched my heart." One woman told him this was the first time she's been full in several days -- that with no paycheck, it has come down to paying for food or gas so she can get to her job. "They were very appreciative," he says. "People really are suffering. And politicians can come and see these people are hurting."

Nelson also reports that he has sold his west Little Rock location, 14524 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, to the owners of Shri Ganesha Foods Inc., which plans to open an Asian restaurant in that space (name and type to be announced) -- again. (The strip-center storefront has housed a sushi restaurant and the second incarnation of Sai Gon; other restaurants that have come and gone in that space include two incarnations of The Main Cheese and, most recently, a short-lived Whole Hog Cafe.) Nelson's restaurant had recently cut back its hours to lunch service only, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Au Tran, owner of That Ramen Place, 5711 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Little Rock's Pulaski Heights, says he has had some delays in the arrival of equipment and is pushing back his target opening date to on or about Feb. 8. Tentative hours will be 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. The place still has no phone number, website or Facebook page.

One of our eagle-eyed readers has noticed that some rebuilding work is taking place at what used to be Jo Jo's Bar-B-Q, 117 Country Club Road, Sherwood, which closed following an Aug. 1 fire damaged the interior. It would appear, at least for the moment, that it won't be a resurrected JoJo's; the phone number, (501) 834-9696, which for months produced a voicemail message that the restaurant's closure was temporary, has now been disconnected, and Google now lists it as "permanently closed."

Franke's Cafeteria, marking its 100th anniversary, has plans to open a Conway location next month in the former Dixie Cafe at 1101 Fendley Drive, reports the Log Cabin Democrat. Franke's has two Little Rock locations -- in the Market Place Shopping Center, 11121 N. Rodney Parham Road, and inside the Regions Bank, 400 Broadway, with a subsidiary Sack It sandwich shop. William Keliher "Bill" Franke, grandson of founder C.A. Franke, took over the business in 1983. His wife, Carolyn, and their daughter, Christen Franke, also worked in the business. Christen, who became the manager after she got out of college, died in December 2016 at the age of 37; Bill, her father, died three months later in March 2017 at age 67. Carolyn Franke sold both locations in August to general manager Abraham Delgado.

Dempsey Bakery, 323 South Cross St. Little Rock, is No. 6 on the reader-based Top Eats' listing of "Best Gluten-Free Restaurants and Bakeries in the Nation for 2019" at Me & Gfree, a website that "empowers people with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity to lead healthier, happier, gluten-free lives," according to its mission statement. The complete list is available at meandgfree.com/150-must-visit-gluten-free-restaurants-bakeries. Dempsey's hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday (serving lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m.), 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. The phone number is (501) 375-2257; the website: dempseybakery.com.

And speaking of honors, Bruno's Little Italy, 310 Main St., Little Rock, is now a member of the Pizza Hall of Fame. That's according to PizzaTV, billing itself as "The Pizza World's TV Network," and its parent publication, PMQ Pizza Magazine, "The World's Authority on Pizza." The video (tinyurl.com/yc9wjsxt) gets some information wrong and mismatches a couple of photos but it's worth watching. An article by the magazine's Tracy Morin (pizzahalloffame.com/brunos-little-italy) covers the family history and the thin-crust, Neapolitan pizza that Vincenzo "Jimmy" Bruno introduced to Arkansas in 1948. Hours are 5-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 372-7866.

Jennifer Christman contributed to this week's column.

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

Photo by Jennifer Christman
Hawgz Blues Cafe in west Little Rock has been sold to a group planning to put yet another Asian restaurant in the space.

Weekend on 01/24/2019

Print Headline: Restaurant news: Minute Man comeback in initial stages; Purple Cow, LongHorn in NLR; Gusano's shut

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