We have updates on target opening dates for three Little Rock restaurants under construction, more or less in the order you should expect to be able to pass through their doors:
◼️ Look for the Tropical Smoothie Cafe outlet at West Fourth Street and Broadway to open at 7 a.m. June 23, according to Cait Dunn, director of marketing for franchisee Little Rock-based DYNE Hospitality Group. Hours will be 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. The lot on which it sits had been used for parking since the closure and demolition of what had been Little Rock's last Minute Man restaurant; the new cafe replaces one, 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 has a drive-thru as well as indoor and outdoor dining; it's modeled after recently opened locations in Sherwood and Cabot, and not the flagship outlet at The Ranch in west Little Rock that opened in July.
◼️ Look for the first Little Rock location, and the chain's fourth U.S. outlet overall, of Crazy King Burrito, in the former Whimsy Cookie space, 401 S. Bowman Road, "to be fully operational on June 30," according to Director of Franchise Development David J. Schuck. The mini-chain has two locations in Mexico; the other three in the United States are in Beavercreek, Ohio; Stevensville, Mich.; and Fort Collins, Colo. Check out the menu at crazykingburrito.org/online; it includes a dozen authentic burrito preparations (in wraps or bowls), queso dip, guacamole and couple of dessert items. No word yet on hours of operation.
◼️ And owner-operator Ben Brainard says "late summer-early fall" — if all goes well, sometime between Aug. 15 and Sept. 1, but he's not publicly committing to a specific window just yet — for the opening of the second location of his Big Bad Breakfast franchise in the former Soul Fish space at 306 Main St. Hours will be the same as the first one (101 S. Bowman Road at West Markham Street): 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily. Brainard has said he has little concern about competing for parking with the other restaurants on that block -- Bruno's Little Italy, Samantha's, Allsopp & Chapple, A.W. Lin's, Brewski's and Tamalcalli — because he won't be open for dinner (and Bruno's and Allsopp & Chapple aren't open for lunch), and he expects most of his weekday lunchtime customers should be coming from the downtown workforce, who, presumably, will walk there rather than drive.
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Raleigh, N.C., buffet chain Golden Corral, looking at future expansion plans, is planning to introduce a new fast-casual restaurant brand, to be called Homeward Kitchen. It'll serve some of Golden Corral's classic staples -- pot roast, fried chicken, meatloaf and the chain's signature banana pudding, for example -- over the counter or through a drive-thru window, as well as new items, including a Cajun Mac & Cheese Bowl and a Fried Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich (in Classic, Nashville Hot, Korean Style and Honey Dipped varieties).
The first location is slated to open this fall in Southern Pines, N.C., about an hour away from Raleigh, says Chief Development Officer David Conklin. "It's not going to be a buffet," Conklin says, adding, "We spent a lot of time from a strategic point of view," as the covid-19 pandemic "caused everybody to reassess their business models." The company turns 50 this year, and the new brand is part of a 100-year plan for the chain; Golden Corral, Conklin adds, "will still be our bread and butter," and will continue to grow into markets where 120,000-160,000 potential customers live within 15 minutes of a location. The new concept will allow growth into smaller markets as well, "serving comfort food in a more convenient way."
Service will also include breakfast, in the form of breakfast bowls, sandwiches and kolaches that can be easily put together for in-house dining or through a window for commuters. Conklin expects to see Homeward Kitchens' initial push into the Southeast, first in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, and also initially through existing franchises, fine-tuning as they grow. But he has no timeline for when you might expect to see any in Arkansas.
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And speaking of expansion plans, by way of updating our report on the coming opening of Arkansas' first Wienerschnitzel, at 1530 E. Centerton Blvd., Bentonville, we spoke with Brian Shinall, business manager and real estate developer for Amarillo, Texas-based franchisee Tejas Dogs. He confirms plans for a total of 20 Arkansas locations over the next five to seven years -- five of them in Northwest Arkansas, five to six in Central Arkansas (including Little Rock and surrounding towns like Benton and Conway) and the balance spread throughout the state. (They're looking, for example, at Russellville, Hot Springs, Jonesboro and West Memphis.) The current expansion model, he says, is to "flow down Interstate 40 and split off from there."
Shinall grew up in Springdale, attended the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and suggested a possible Arkansas expansion to Tejas Dogs owners Mike Smith and Alvin Fults, because "Arkansas is just a good place to do business," he says. "I'm excited about the whole state."
Shinall confirms that Wienerschnitzel parent company The Galardi Group is also the parent company and franchisor of Tastee Freez, LLC, and now incorporates Tastee Freez products into every new Wienerschnitzel, including the one in Bentonville. And Tejas Dogs has hired T.J. and Ronde Westbrook, husband and wife and longtime Wienerschnitzel managers, to run the Bentonville restaurant.
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And Pesto's by Lance opened Saturday in what had been the Pesto Cafe, 1830 N. College Ave., Fayetteville, the namesake, in part, of chef Lance Corbin. According to the website, pestosnwa.com, "Chef Lance believes in utilizing the freshest ingredients, following traditional Italian recipes, and using classical cooking techniques to provide the ultimate dining experience."
The menu, also available on the website, includes a Mozzarella Caprese and meatballs or Italian-style sausage (in house marinara topped with melted provolone) among the appetizers; entrees ($23-$40) including Pollo Tuscana Piccatta, Tortellini ala Vodka with Prosciutto, Shrimp Scampi, Zuppa di Mare (shrimp, scallops, calamari and mussels in a white-wine-tomato broth, served over linguine), eggplant or chicken parmesan, Linguine Pesto Alfredo, Veal Marsala and Chicken Portofino (chicken breast topped with shrimp and finished with melted provolone and a Roma tomato-pesto cream sauce); baked items -- lasagna, manicotti and cannelloni; pizzas; and, of course, spaghetti with meatballs or sausage. Look also for "fine wines and cocktails" and "classic Tuscan-inspired decor," according to a news release.
Hours, initially, at least, are dinner only, 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. with late-night bar service and a limited appetizer menu from 10 p.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday; a selection of lunch grinders on the menu indicate that lunch hours are on the horizon. (479) 263-5937; facebook.com/pestosbylance.
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: