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RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: Pizza outlet closes doors; festival celebrates Turkish food, culture

by Eric E. Harrison | October 6, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.
Mellow Mushroom on Chenal Parkway has closed. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Eric E. Harrison)

The Little Rock outlet of the Mellow Mushroom pizza franchise/chain operation, 16103 Chenal Parkway, has closed. A Sept. 30 email blast to patrons thanked them "for helping us keep it Mellow at Mellow Mushroom Little Rock," but, "after 9 years of tossing dough and baking pies, we have hung up our aprons and closed our door one final time."

The restaurant no longer shows up on the chain's locator map (, where this message surfaces: "Bummer, looks like we are not within 25 miles of [121] E. Capitol Ave., Little Rock," the street address of the Democrat-Gazette. (We do find one other Arkansas outlet, at 1460 E. Augustine Lane, Fayetteville.)

We've learned that there will be a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. Tuesday for the Whataburger that we reported last week will be at 17100 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock. We've also gotten word that it will open sometime in 2023.

  photo  The Turkish Food Festival takes place Saturday in west Little Rock. (Democrat-Gazette file photo/Tammy Leker)
Mediterranean and Central Asian dishes, including kebabs, gyros, lahmajoon, kofta, salads and "a rich variety of desserts" will be at the center of the Arkansas Culture and Dialog Center's Turkish Food Fest, starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at 1501 Market St., Little Rock. The festival also features cultural and folklore activities, souvenirs and kids fun stations. Visit

Catching up on a couple of recent openings in Benton: the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, 16732 Interstate 30, Benton, serving 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday — (501) 575-3353,; and Rock n' Roll Sushi, 119 N. Market St. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. (501) 794-6049;

Meanwhile, we're still waiting for an opening date for the Benton outlet of The Mighty Crab, in the long-vacant former Dixie Cafe location, 17306 Interstate 30. We were reminded recently a banner has been sagging out front of the building since at least November. We also recall that there were delays in the opening of both Little Rock locations — 1817 S. University Ave. and 225 N. Shackleford Drive, and the original restaurant in North Little Rock's Lakewood Village.

  photo  Rafael "Yeyo" Rios poses for a 2020 at his Bentonville restaurant. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo/Ben Goff)
Yeyo's, which started out as a Bentonville food truck and has expanded to two trucks ("the blue truck" and "the yellow truck"); a restaurant — Yeyo's El Alma de Mexico — in Bentonville's 8th Street Market; and a taqueria/mezcaleria in Rogers, has made The New York Times' "The Restaurant List 2022" (, "50 places in America we're most excited about right now," compiled by Times food critics. It's the only Arkansas establishment on the list. Brett Anderson writes, "This flagship restaurant of a family business began when Hector Rios, known as Yeyo, turned a plot of land in Northwest Arkansas into a small farm. The farm supplies the food truck that his son Rafael started in 2012, just as it does this restaurant, which opened in 2017 and focuses on the cooking of the Rios family's native Michoacan. It has evolved to include cuisine from across Mexico, and the restaurant's food is as good as its back story: mole-draped chicken enmoladas, crisp-edged memelas topped with queso and nopales, housemade tortilla tacos filled with aromatic cochinita pibil, juicy barbacoa and spicy lengua. There's a burgeoning restaurant scene in this city, best known as the headquarters of Walmart. The Rios family is one reason."

Nominations are now open for the Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism's Division of Arkansas Heritage's Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. Find complete details, criteria and a nomination form at

Members of the media (as yet unidentified), in two- or four-member teams, square off against the morning-show team from KABZ-FM, 103.7, "The Buzz," to eat the most crab legs in 20 minutes in the Arkansas Media Seafood Challenge Crab/Shrimp Boil, 4-9 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Razorback Letterman's Club, Gate 7, War Memorial Stadium, 1 Stadium Drive, Little Rock. It's a benefit for the Jon. L Richardson Legacy Celebration and nonprofit Muskie Harris Rehabilitation Services. Richardson was the first Black scholarship football player at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, lettering from 1970-72 and "blazing a trail for thousands of future Razorbacks," according to a news release. He died in 2002 and was posthumously inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor in 2005, the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the South West Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2019. Tickets are $50, $400 per table; visit

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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