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RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: James Hale takes top job at Little Rock eatery; opening day nears for second Kemuri

by Eric E. Harrison | June 16, 2022 at 1:32 a.m.
James Hale has left The Grumpy Rabbit in Lonoke to become the new executive chef at Little Rock’s Allsopp & Chapple. Hale was co-owner and chef of Acadia (1999-2015) in Little Rock’s Hillcrest. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Carly Machen)

James Hale, former executive chef and co-owner of Acadia (1999-2015 in Little Rock’s Hillcrest) and briefly, for about a pre-pandemic year, chef at Capital Bar & Grill, departed the Little Rock restaurant scene in 2020 to head up the kitchen at The Grumpy Rabbit in Lonoke. Now he’s back, taking over last week as executive chef at Allsopp & Chapple, 311 Main St., Little Rock.

Wait a minute, you say, didn’t they just hire a new executive chef, Anthony Quintana, as of Feb. 28? Well, yes, but … co-owner Eric Carter reports that Quintana “had an opportunity in California that he could not pass up” and moved out there in May. Quintana replaced Bonner Cameron, who, as we recently reported, is now at Petit & Keet. Carter says Hale will make menu changes, “but we don’t have a specific timeline yet.”

Meanwhile, at The Grumpy Rabbit, 105 W. Front St., Lonoke, the website,, already lists Danyiel “EJ” Turner as daytime executive chef and Kyle Carson as evening executive chef.

Hale, at Acadia at the time, and Lee Richardson of what at the time was known as Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel, were nominated for the prestigious 2008 James Beard Foundation Awards in the Best Chef: South category (at the time comprising Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi). Neither won.

  photo  The second location of Kemuri sushi seafood robata, colloquially called “Kemuri West,” could open as soon as the July 4 weekend in the former Kiyen’s space on Little Rock’s Chenal Parkway. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Eric E. Harrison)
Dave Bisceglia, managing partner of Kemuri sushi seafood robata, 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd. in Little Rock’s Hillcrest, says progress is being made toward what he admits is an optimistic target to possibly open, or at least complete construction, over the July 4 weekend at its second location, what they’re colloquially calling “Kemuri West,” in what had been Kiyen’s Seafood Steak and Sushi in the Centre at Chenal shopping center, 17200 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock. Bisceglia reports some changes in the layout, primarily moving the restrooms, and putting a new bar area in the front. How close the menu hews to the one at the original will depend on staffing, he says. Bisceglia also told us he has brought on Phillip Mayfield, previously the food and beverage manager for Chenal Country Club and at one time manager of 42 bar & table at the Clinton Presidential Center, as Kemuri’s general manager.

The Senor Tequila restaurant in the Colony West Shopping Center, 10330 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock, remains closed following a May 10 fire that caused smoke damage to the building.

Arkansas Business reports that Emily Gray and Hudson Sandefur, who hold the Central Arkansas franchise on Chicken Salad Chick outlets, including the one that recently opened in North Little Rock, have signed a lease for another, in the still-under-construction Shoppes at Chenal, at 17406 Chenal Parkway in west Little Rock, which they hope to open sometime later this year. The partners also have their eyes on Hot Springs; if sales warrant, a potential location in midtown Little Rock; and, the business publication says, eventually Texarkana.

That street address rang a bell so we double-checked to see what else is in the hopper for that shopping center, and bingo: That’s also going to be the location for The Toasted Yolk Cafe, a Houston-based, brunch-centered chain and franchise operation. We reported a couple of months ago on a building permit application for $600,000 for the 5,435-square-foot Suite 230 in that shopping center. We don’t yet have any kind of timeline on when it might open; the website,, lists it as “coming soon.”

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A slight recent contretemps involving the Little Rock outlet of popular Conway soul food restaurant YGFBFKitchen, which opened in mid-May in the former Bone’s Chophouse, 27 Rahling Circle, led us to realize we had never published its operating hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The original Conway restaurant, 800 Fourth Ave., which closed temporarily to allow chef/co-owner MaryAnn Strange to concentrate her attention to the Little Rock operation, remains temporarily closed. YGFBF, you will recall, stands for “Your Girlfriend Best Friend,” which Strange first opened in 2017 as a food truck. The Little Rock phone number is (501) 448-2220; the Conway number is (501) 358-8533.;

  photo  Taziki's is bringing back, for a limited time, it's Mediterranean Lamb Burger. (Democrat-Gazette file photo)
Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, which has eight outlets in Arkansas, sent out an email blast to its customers last week presaging “Something Big Is Coming.” On Monday, we found out what it is: They’ve brought back the Mediterranean Lamb Burger, which the chain test-marketed last summer in Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville, partnering with the American Lamb Board. The sandwich consists of two ground lamb patties, topped with grilled peppers and onions, feta cheese and tzatziki on a grilled Kaiser bun. At the time, it sold for $10.99 (including a side salad); like everything else, the price has gone up, now $11.99. It’ll be available for a limited time; order one in-house or online through Sept. 4 and be automatically registered to win a Blackstone griddle and a Taziki’s prize pack (officially, no purchase necessary);

Mercado del Valle, 7725 Warden Road, Sherwood, a Mexican grocery store cum taqueria, now has a lunch menu. And a phone number: (501) 834-1555, Hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

Sunday is Father’s Day, and while it’s not nearly as big a day as Mother’s Day for the restaurant biz, it’s still advisable to make reservations if you’re taking Dad out for brunch.

And speaking of brunch, BrunchFest, a fundraiser for the Centers for Youth and Families, offers “mimosas, music, & more,” including brunch bites from area eateries, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. June 25 at The Hall, 721 W. Ninth St., Little Rock, hosted by the nonprofit’s Emerging Leaders young professionals group. Basic tickets, $25 (if you’re coming just for the food or are under 21), covers brunch samples from your favorite local restaurants, including @ The Corner, Hill Station, Community Bakery, Sauce(d) Bar and Oven, Kemuri sushi seafood robata, The Root Cafe, La Terraza Rum & Lounge, Graffiti’s, Star of India and the Arkansas Beef Council. For $35, add two mimosa tickets; for $75, “V.I.B.” (Very Important Brunchers) get unlimited mimosas, a separate entry port to the event, access to the V.I.B. Lounge in the venue’s upper deck (with its own specialty bar) and a souvenir cup. Admission is free for children 12 and younger. Visit Call (501) 666-9436 or email for more information.

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. Send email to:


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