RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: Chain joke comes true for Conway; Salad chain eyeing Arkansas expansion

Houston-based chain Salata Salad Kitchen is looking to expand into Central and Northwest Arkansas. Its restaurants are often at the end cap or corner of shopping centers so as to have a drive-thru window. Inside, customers proceed along a buffet combining bases and an unlimited amount of toppings for one base price. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

For years, it was a social media-fueled joke in and around Conway: Every time a construction project started, it was going to be a new Olive Garden. Well, nobody's laughing now that Fayetteville-based Boen Kemp Construction posted a "coming soon" sign at 554 Museum Road, Conway, announcing it would be the site of an Olive Garden Italian Kitchen. No timeline for the construction or for when the restaurant will open.

The Purple Cow location at 8026 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, now serves breakfast, expanding its hours into the morning: 7-10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday, while continuing to serve brunch from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. From the website ( "Our breakfast menu is full of everything from pancakes and waffles to breakfast sandwiches, omelets, breakfast cocktails and more. We even have South of the Border breakfast options featuring our chef's famous homemade salsa." (501) 221-3555.

Kelly Commercial Partners is pitching to potential tenants a property at Arkansas 10 (aka Cantrell Road) and Chenal Parkway — lots 2-9E, to be specific — with, among other bullet points, this highlight: "Dairy Queen restaurant nearby recently broke the company's world sales record." Is that true? Well, sort of. But it isn't recent, or rather it depends on how you define recent. Turns out that the grand opening of the west Little Rock DQ at 19428 Cantrell Road in June 2021 did, in fact, set a record for highest franchise sales volume, beating You Scream Holdings' previous records for openings in Cabot in July 2018 and in Saline County in December 2018, and as the most recent record, set by a franchisee in Oklahoma in December 2020.

Co-owner Christy Ouei confirms that Mulekick@MAD is closing this week. The offshoot of Magnolia's popular Mule Kick opened in September 2021 in what had been the Griffin Restaurant, 101 E. Locust St. in El Dorado's Murphy Arts District. "Being unable to find sufficient help at the leadership level and team member level has left Burt [co-owner Burt Adams] and me filling in many roles. While the work doesn't scare us, the number of nights in a row of driving home to Magnolia after midnight has gotten old. We've had some great employees in El Dorado but not enough for the size of the location." The closure, however, frees them up for another project: "But where God closes a door... Right? So, we will be opening a new location on the square in Magnolia, not MuleKick related, four minutes from home." The new establishment apparently will involve a speakeasy and a community kitchen, and "[t]he lessons learned and the friendships made during our El Dorado endeavor will be invaluable."

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Houston-based chain Salata Salad Kitchen is looking to expand beyond its current 90 outlets, mostly in Texas, Georgia, California, Louisiana and North Carolina. And, according to Julie Davis, the chain's vice president of franchise development, they are taking a good, hard look at moving into the Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas markets, which meet the chain's primary qualifications: contiguous to current markets, which makes supply chains easier, and lack of salad-chain competition.

She hasn't yet found a franchisee — the goal at the moment is to introduce the brand name to this area — but she foresees opening the first location, probably somewhere in Little Rock, by the third or fourth quarter of 2023.

What sets Salata apart, she says, is that it offers built-to-order salads and wraps that allow customer control with customizable options, including unlimited toppings, for one base price. (Other chains, she explains, weigh the salad and charge based on how much you've loaded into the bowl.) "You could have something a little different every day," she adds.

Most Salata restaurants occupy 1,800 to 2,200 square feet and involve a simple build-out, Davis notes, and preferably have drive-thru windows, though some in-line locations have added walk-up pick-up windows. And they're morning-centered in terms of daily preparation, so restaurant staff can start to ease off by late afternoons, evening and after dinner. Most of their restaurants operate 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

All sorts of additional information is available at the website:

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The Arkansas Museum of Discovery, 500 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, hosts its annual holiday party, this year called "Science After Dark: Jingle Booze," 6-9 p.m. Dec. 8. Attendees — 21 and older only — can eat (pizza for sale), drink (including beer from Stone's Throw), explore the depths of the Krampus Escape Room, watch a fire fiesta demo and craft festive ornaments. Admission is $5, free for museum members. Visit

Cureate, a Washington-based, female-owned small business focused on empowering food and beverage entrepreneurs and building local supply chains, is hosting a "Holiday Market" and pitch showcase Dec. 6 at TheatreSquared, 477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville. Folks can taste, sample and buy goods produced by graduates of the Cureate Courses Fall 2022 cohort and one of the 10 area cohort businesses could win a $5,000 cash prize based on its pitch to judges. Tickets, $5, include one drink as well as small bites. All ticket proceeds go toward the community prize. Visit

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It's not a lengthy list, but here are the places we heard from that will be open today for Thanksgiving.

◼️ Arthur's Prime Steakhouse, 16100 Chenal Parkway, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Thanksgiving feast, featuring shrimp cocktail, sushi, tuna bites, smoked hamachi, Caesar, pasta and mixed green salads; entrees — choice of turkey breast with giblet gravy and cranberry relish, cola-brown sugar glazed ham, beef tenderloin with a mushroom demi-glace or wild-caught Atlantic salmon in a Dijon peppercorn sauce; nine side items and nine desserts. $80, $35 for children 11 and younger. (501) 821-1838;

◼️ The Capital Hotel, 111 W. Markham St., Little Rock, is offering a Thanksgiving buffet on its mezzanine, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., $75, $35 children. (501) 374-7474.

◼️ Black Bear Diner, Lakewood Village, 2724 Lakewood Village Drive, North Little Rock. Open regular hours, 5 a.m.-7 p.m.; starting at 11 a.m., prix fixe three-course meals — choice of prime rib, roasted turkey or ham — while supplies last. Carry-out and delivery orders start Monday at (501) 812-0393.

◼️ Bobby's Cafe, 18505 MacArthur Drive, North Little Rock, will be open 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., first-come, first-served, fixed-price ($15) Thanksgiving dinner, including dessert and drink. (501) 851-7888.

◼️ Sullivan's Steakhouse, 17707 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, will serve a three-course turkey dinner with all the trimmings, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., $49 ($24 kids) plus taxes and gratuity, "while supplies last," as well as the existing dinner menu. (501) 817-3971;

◼️ Denny's, IHOP and Waffle House locations are, mostly, open; some IHOPs close early on holidays. Hours may shift or shorten. Check in advance to make sure.

◼️ And once again, Verona Italian Restaurant, 190 Skyline Drive, Conway, is serving a complimentary Thanksgiving lunch (pasta, salad and bread), and they're "excited to give back to our community by giving out free meals to everyone," 11 a.m.-2 p.m. (501) 358-6801;

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: