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RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: Mittelman takes charge at Lonoke’s Grumpy Rabbit; Herron is chef at Arkansas Museum of Fine Art’s new Park Grill

by Eric E. Harrison | April 20, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
Park Grill, the restaurant in the Arkansas Museum of Fine Art, is set to open May 4, with Patrick Herron as executive chef. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Eric E. Harrison)

Ira Mittelman will head up the staff at The Grumpy Rabbit, 105 W. Front St., Lonoke. His exact role is still being worked out, but he has plans to upgrade the menu, "try to take it up a few notches," he says. The restaurant's hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. (501) 438-8005; grumpyrabbitlonoke.com; facebook.com/grumpyrabbitlonoke.

Patrick Herron, a familiar name to area restaurantgoers, is the executive chef of Park Grill, the new restaurant at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, 501 E. Ninth St. in Little Rock's MacArthur Park, which is expected to open to the public May 4. It'll serve what Herron says is "recognizable food with an artistic flair," primarily locally sourced and with a contemporary Southern/Delta influence, lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and small plates from 2-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, with full dinner menu and Sunday brunch surfacing somewhere down the line. Another familiar name, Jeffrey Williams, late of Soul Fish, is the restaurant's general manager.

The website for the Fazoli's chain shows a location "coming soon" to 11410 W. Markham St., Little Rock. Yes, that's the former location of a Pizza Hut that has moved 'round the corner to the Bowman Curve Shopping Center, 400 N. Bowman Road. Keep an eye on locations.fazolis.com/ar/little-rock/11410-w--markham-street.html to gauge its progress.

Robert McIntosh III, who has been operating a food truck business, McIntosh Grill on Wheels, for a couple of years, has added a second truck — he's now operating in Little Rock on lots at 4200 Asher Ave. and 820 S. Shackleford Road, serving burgers, turkey burgers and the sweet potato pie and lemonade McIntosh's grandfather, Robert "Say" McIntosh, made famous, and with plans sometime this summer to add barbecue — another staple of the restaurants his grandfather operated across the landscape. (501) 590-4828.

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Tentative target opening date for the Tropical Smoothie Cafe outlet at West Fourth Street and Broadway in Little Rock is June 16, according to a spokeswoman for the franchisee, Little Rock-based DYNE Hospitality Group, but that depends on how long the inspection and permitting process takes. As she observes, "It remains to be seen how tornado recovery efforts will affect our ability to get inspections, since that department is going to be stretched very thin" for the foreseeable future.

The lot on which it sits has been used for parking since the closure and demolition of what had been Little Rock's last Minute Man restaurant, and the new cafe replaces one that had been operating, now closed, in the old Y a couple of blocks south at West Sixth and Broadway. DYNE, we're told, is planning some grand-opening events connected to this being "the 100th DYNE-operated cafe." It will have a drive-thru as well as indoor and outdoor dining; it's modeled after recently opened locations in Sherwood and Cabot, but not the "flagship" outlet at The Ranch in west Little Rock that opened in July.

Meanwhile, the outlet in the Breckenridge Village Shopping Center, Interstate 430 and North Rodney Parham Road, was heavily damaged by the March 31 tornado that ravaged the center and the neighborhood behind it, "so it will be closed for a while pending insurance and landlord negotiations," the spokeswoman says.

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The March 31 tornado also did major damage to Trio's, in Pavilion in the Park, 8201 Cantrell Road, Little Rock; we've been following the rebuilding process via Facebook (facebook.com/TriosLR), where an April 3 post explains, "Trio's must remain closed until Pavilion in the Park is deemed safe to occupy. As soon as we receive clearance we will be up and running! We do not have a timeline — we appreciate your patience!"

Across the river in North Little Rock's Amboy neighborhood, the tornado reportedly completely wiped out Dogtown Pizza, 5500 MacArthur Drive, while apparently the next-door Keihiro Hibachi and Sushi, 250 E. Military Drive at MacArthur, suffered little or no damage. This Monday post on the pizzeria's Facebook page (facebook.com/profile.php?id=100085937086339): "We are looking for a place to relocate our pizza shop. Let us know if you have a lead on any place."

Meanwhile, the outlet of burger chain Five Guys in Chenal Park West, 13000 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, has been closed for several days. We don't know why; there's nothing on the exterior to indicate its status one way or the other. The Baskin Robbins store at the other end of the L-shaped center did suffer some damage from the tornado; it's closed and gated off with a blue tarp on its roof. A call to the Five Guys' number, (501) 255-8727, produced a modified phone tree but we couldn't get anybody to answer any of its "branches" during business hours.

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Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon, in the process of expanding across the U.S., has worked out two separate multi-unit franchise deals for Arkansas: San Mirafuentes will bring three locations to Jonesboro and Little Rock — not sure yet how many in each town. And Jeff Poole will open locations in Bentonville and Fayetteville, presumably one each.

Bonchon currently has 120-plus units in the U.S., prioritizing growth in key markets in California, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, and more than 400 across nine countries, including Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar, Australia, France, the U.S., and Vietnam.

Bonchon, which translates from Korean to English as "my hometown," serves a Korean variety of fried chicken (including wings, drumsticks, strips and boneless) that is hand-battered, hand-brushed and double-fried to achieve a signature crunch that spurs its slogan, "Crunch Out Loud." The menu also offers Asian-fusion and Korean specialties. It originated in Busan, South Korea, in 2002. The news comes in the wake of the recent announcement that another Korean-centered chain, KPOT, primarily serving Korean barbecue and hot pot items, will open outlets at 4317 Warden Road, North Little Rock (which has previously housed outlets of Old Chicago and Newk's), and 2312 E. Parker Road in Jonesboro. No timeline yet on either. thekpot.com.

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Minnesota-based Crisp & Green, a "Healthy Salads & Bowls Brand," opens its first Arkansas outlet Saturday at 1401 S. Walton Blvd., Bentonville. As we've reported, it's the first of five planned Arkansas locations, but since the website, crispandgreen.com, lists the other four only as "Location(s) 2-5" without reference to any particular location, we can't yet tell you where. The menu offers specialty salads, grain and acai bowls and a selection of smoothies, all "handcrafted with sustainable, consciously sourced ingredients," according to a news release.

Grand opening festivities this weekend include a Saturday workout class, a ribbon-cutting and "free food (one signature salad or grain bowl) for the community." (Small print: "Must be in line by 1:30 p.m. Must be present to order, not valid online or on the app.") And, "periodic giveaways will offer guests the chance to win fun prizes!" On Sunday, starting at 10:30 a.m., anyone who comes in for lunch gets a free tumbler. Hours are 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. We're still trying to track down a phone number.

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Food-related, events, fundraisers, etc.:

◼️ The Pantry, 11401 N. Rodney Parham Road, Little Rock, is marking its 14th anniversary on Sunday and owner Thomas Boehm is making his signature paella to celebrate. The restaurant, including a cash bar, will be open, noon-4 p.m. (the full menu will also be available). The restaurant has been closed this week (Monday-today) to make some kitchen improvements. (501) 353-1875; littlerockpantry.com; facebook.com/thepantry.

◼️ Preserve Arkansas is bringing back Preservation Crustaceans, 6-8 p.m. May 6, "as a celebration of Arkansas Heritage Month," according to a news release, with "all-you-can-eat crawfish, shrimp, sausage and the fixings," at St. Joseph Center of Arkansas, 6800 Camp Robinson Road, North Little Rock. The event will also feature music by Brooklyn Fogle, building tours and "cold libations to wash down your spicy meal." General admission: $50 ($40 for Preserve Arkansas members), $10 for children 11-17, free for youngsters 10 and younger; VIP tickets, $70 ($60 for members) also include early entry, a signature cocktail and a Preservation Crustaceans t-shirt. Visit preservearkansas.org/what-we-do/preservation-crustaceans.

◼️ And speaking of anniversaries, Ristorante Capeo, 425 Main St. in North Little Rock's Argenta district, is offering a 20th anniversary wine dinner June 16, benefiting Step Ministries, which helps children "growing up in challenging situations in Central Arkansas." For an all-inclusive price of $150 (all proceeds, minus tax, gratuity and credit card fees, go to the nonprofit), you get an amuse bouche (lobster frittata with Hollandaise sauce and squid-ink whipped cream) and five courses: antipasta (eggplant stuffed with goat cheese topped with tomato sauce), insalata (fennel salad with bacon and candied peaches, seared tuna dressed with white truffle and balsamic vinaigrette), pasta (chestnut gnocchi in pesto sauce), peche (sablefish on lemon basil risotto), carne (lamb chops roasted with vegetables on a bed of pureed soybeans) and dolce (hazelnut gelato). All are paired with wines from Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. (501) 376-3463; capeo.us.

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: eharrison@adgnewsroom.com

Print Headline: New chief takes charge in Lonoke

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