The covid-19 virus and the recent mandates from the mayor of Little Rock and the governor that eateries shut down their dining rooms to reduce the potential spread of the disease has caused just about all the state’s bars and restaurants to revise, some more drastically than others, their entire business models.
Observationally, and with little actual data or details yet to back things up — remember, all this went down less than a week ago and changes are taking place, sometimes day by day — but places with drive-thru windows and those that have been around a while, or at least long enough to establish a dedicated clientele, are faring better.
That includes Trio’s, 8201 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, where on Saturday the parking lot was, even as early as 5:30 p.m., already busy with folks picking up food they had ordered by phone or online. The goal, says owner-chef Capi Peck, is to keep customers, insofar as is possible, out of the restaurant; they’re taking orders only in advance. An employee verifies your identity upon arrival and then brings your food to your car. The restaurant has also set up delivery, according to the Facebook page (facebook.com/TriosLR), to proximate neighborhoods.
Meanwhile, Bruno’s Little Italy, 310 Main St., Little Rock, had to add a second phone line to handle the volume of calls after pleading with curbside takeout customers on Facebook (facebook.com/BrunosLittleItaly) to have patience as their regular line was flooded. Hours this week are 4-8:30 p.m. through Saturday, and they’ll sell meat and marinara sauces in quantity “to top your own home-prepared dishes.” Those phone numbers, by the way, are (501) 372-7866 and (501) 414-5518.
And Loca Luna, 3519 Old Cantrell Road, Little Rock, reopened Monday with a menu of items from its kitchen and from next-door Red Door, and a slightly different twist on no-contact pickup: Call as you arrive and they’ll put your food on a table in the restaurant’s covered patio, with direct access to the parking lot. Hours are 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. The new to-go menu is up at tinyurl.com/LocaLunaToGo. “We took a big deep breath and have come out with lots of choices we can do well,” says owner-chef Mark Abernathy. They’re also selling wine to go under the new state regulations (see below); by the time you read this, you’ll also be able to buy cold beer in cans and bottles and draft brews in growlers. And they’re looking to start their own delivery service; the restaurant is already using Bite Squad, “but if you call us directly, you’ll save 20-25% on third-party delivery,” says an email blast to customers. The phone number is (501) 663-4666.
WINE, BREWS AND BOOZE
The ability to sell and even deliver bottled beer and wine is the result of a decision by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to allow restaurants and bars to sell wine and beer directly to diners for a 30-day period. Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a proclamation March 17 and the ABC issued a set of amended rules, good for 30 days, that restaurant and microbrewery restaurant permit holders “may sell corked or sealed bottles of wine with the purchase of food.” And, “to establish parity among all restaurants during this emergency, any restaurant licensed to sell beer under any permit may sell sealed cans and bottles of beer to patrons with purchase of food. Restaurants may also include beer and wine with delivery of food items.” However, “Restaurants shall not sell any spirituous liquor to go or for delivery.”
Meanwhile, there’s a big ol’ Easter egg in the regulation for retail liquor stores, which “may offer curbside services and delivery (emphasis ours) to their patrons.” So can grocery stores, convenience stores, distilleries, small breweries and small farm wineries. And they can sell and deliver not only wine and beer but “spirituous liquor” as well. (There are limits: Delivery must be by an employee of the establishment and cannot be via a third-party delivery service; everybody is going to have to make darn sure not to sell alcoholic beverages to anyone under 21. And, “There is to be no off-premise sales or deliveries within a dry county or area. There shall be no deliveries made into a dry county or area. Private club permit holders may not sell to go or deliver any alcoholic beverages.”)
Leaping immediately upon the opportunity was Colonial Wines & Spirits, 11200 W. Markham St., Little Rock, which announced it was starting delivery of wine, beer and spirits to customers’ homes. The store is waiving delivery fees for customers over 55 and those with physical challenges or disabilities.
Also early into the blocks, Stratton’s Market at Dugan’s Pub, 405 E. Third St., Little Rock, announced that it, too, would be “delivering your groceries, wine, liquor and beer while we’re stuck at home.” Their phone number: (501) 791-6700.
Several area restaurants, however, have shut their doors. Most of them have expressed hope that they would reopen eventually, if and when things got back to somewhere near normal. Some didn’t. Here’s what we have so far:
Bravo Cucina Italiana, in the Promenade at Chenal, 17815 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, is listed by Google as “closed permanently.” It’s no longer among the locations listed on the website, bravoitalian.com. And while the phone number, (501) 821-2485, has not yet been disconnected, we got no answer during business hours.
Cantina Laredo, in the Midtowne Shopping Center, 207 N. University Ave., Little Rock. No word on whether the closure is temporary or permanent.
The Capital Hotel, 111 W. Markham St., Little Rock, has suspended all hotel and restaurant operations
The 4-Dice Restaurant, Fordyce, Owners Paul and Kaye Holt explain that “Our style of dining experience was not suitable in the present state of things,” adding, “Self-serve, get-all-you want, buffets are not acceptable right now. We don’t take this action lightly. Our cafe has only closed for very short periods for remodeling or upgrades since 1967.” They urge customers, “when the contagion has eased and our lives have regained some normalcy, please come back and enjoy our offerings.”
Maddie’s Place, 1615 Rebseman Park Road, Little Rock, closed after service March 21. “We are doing this in an effort to let our awesome crew start the process of trying to get any benefits they can to make it through this crazy time,” co-owner/chef Brian Deloney posted on Facebook (facebook.com/maddiesplacelr). “We will be back when this craziness comes to an end — hopefully sooner than later!”
Chris Tanner has temporarily closed The Oyster Bar, 3003 W. Markham St., Little Rock, “for the next few weeks” (facebook.com/thelroysterbar) and Samantha’s Tap Room and Wood Grill, 322 Main St., Little Rock: “We can’t wait to welcome you all back when this is over” (facebook.com/samanthastaproom).
Admitting in a news release that the timing wasn’t exactly perfect, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe opened its eighth location on its scheduled opening date March 18 at 15000 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, just west of Taylor Loop Road, “despite the uncertainty of the service industry.” Like the rest of the state’s Taziki’s locations, it’ll offer curbside pickup; this one also has a to-go window. The listed phone number is (501) 448-2350.
The timing was a little better at Cathead’s Diner, 515 Shall St., Little Rock, where the new abbreviated to-go menu includes a line of new sandwiches that owner-chef Donnie Ferneau was planning to introduce anyway: a brisket melt (smoked brisket, fried onions, red and white barbecue sauce and melted smoked cheese), smoked turkey salad and fried chicken. Hours are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Call ahead — (501) 801-0843 — for prepaid curbside pickup.
The venerable HB’s Bar-B-Q, 6010 Lancaster Road, Little Rock, is doing takeout orders like everybody else, but “we do have picnic tables in the back that you are welcome to eat at weather permitting.” The phone number there: (501) 565-1930.
The Pizzeria, 4910 Kavanaugh Blvd. in the Heights, has set up a parking-lot pickup station so patrons don’t have to enter the restaurant to collect their pizzas. Though they prefer you don’t order in person, you can, or order by phone — (501) 551-1388 — or online at pizzeria-santalucia.com. (It’s via a service called Slice, so when you hear the phone repeatedly announcing, “You have a Slice order,” it doesn’t mean somebody has ordered a slice.)
HERE’S A TIP
The Downtown Little Rock Partnership (downtownlr.com) has set up the Little Rock Virtual Tip Jar as a way of helping support Little Rock’s service industry workers — “servers, cooks, kitchen staff and others from their favorite restaurants and bars that have been hurt in wake of covid-19.” Access the Google Sheet at tinyurl.com/LRtipjar; service workers can sign up on a form within the sheet; customers can choose one or more workers from the list and send a tip to their listed Venmo or Paypal accounts. By deadline, more than 500 had signed up.
Another way to support restaurants in hard times: Buy a gift card. More than two dozen Central Arkansas restaurants have made it easier to do online, at getlocalfood.co.
And this correction: We reported that the former Hop building at 7706 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, from which Taqueria La Pasadita had been evicted, had been removed; actually, it’s still standing. And there’s still a sign for the restaurant, which recently announced that it will be moving — covid-19 permitting — into a new sit-down restaurant in the Market Place Shopping Center, 11121 N Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock.
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 send a note to Restaurants, Weekend Section, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203. Send email to:
Print Headline: RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: Eateries cook up new ways to run — or just close