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The Eat Blog

News and notes on food, fine dining, restaurants and eating in Arkansas. A daily digest of favorite flavors leavened with your comments. E-mail tips and feedback to Associate Editor Lauren James here.
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Restaurant Roundup: What's Here and What's Coming?


It's not just you, there has been a lot of restaurant news recently in Little Rock. 

We're excited to see what these new restaurants add to the already amazing food scene in the capital city. With all the recent restaurant happenings, we thought you might like a little refresher course on when and where you can look for these new eating spots.


Heights Taco & Tamale Co.

Location: 5805 Kavanaugh Blvd. Open Date: Late summer, early fall

The guys at Yellow Rocket Concepts just keep them coming, don't they? With ZaZa's, Big Orange and Local Lime already popular spots in Little Rock, the group, led by Scott McGehee, announced early this month it would be opening another restaurant. This one, Heights Taco & Tamale Co., is coming to Kavanaugh Boulevard in the soon-to-be former home of Browning's Mexican Grill. Browning's is set to remain open through June before making way for HT&T. The latest Yellow Rocket Concepts restaurant will feature authentic Mexican and Spanish dishes — including house-made tamales, burritos, nachos and churros — with a Texas flair. The restaurant will also have a full bar with a complete offering of original margaritas, in addition to local craft beers and house-made sodas. For more on the restaurant, check our story.


The Pie Hole

Location: All over the capital city! Open Date: Second week of June

Ever been in Fayetteville and enjoyed a great pie from a food truck known as "The Pie Hole"? Well, pretty soon you'll be able to enjoy those sweet treats right here in Little Rock. Just this week, owner Lauren French announced the truck would be coming to set up all over Little Rock and the surrounding areas, including at some of the farmers markets and other neighborhood events. The Pie Hole will also be at the Main Street Food Truck Festival in October. The Pie Hole offers cakes, cookies and pies, ranging from coconut cream, oatmeal cream and fruit to German chocolate. For more information, check out their Facebook page or our story here.


Baja Grill

Location: 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd. Open Date: Now!

Here's another food truck transplanted to the capital city, but what makes this one even better is it has opened up a brick-and-mortar shop. Baja Grill, once a popular food truck in Benton, announced a few months ago its plans to move to Little Rock and open a restaurant. Those plans came to fruition last week when it opened up in the Heights. Included in its menu, which features a Mexi-Cali cuisine, is a huge variety of tacos, burritos and quesadillas. Check out the menu here (PDF). There is a full bar coming to the restaurant, which will have an emphasis on signature margaritas, but not until July 1. The restaurant is now open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more on the restaurant, check out our story, or view their Facebook page and website.


Pizzeria Santa Lucia

Location: 5018 Kavanaugh Blvd. Open Date: No official date, but expected by mid-summer

Do you see a theme here? Traveling restaurants opening up brick-and-mortar locations in Little Rock. Add Pizzeria Santa Lucia to that list. You've probably seen their traveling wood oven at events around town. Pretty soon, you'll see them in the Heights at Terry's Finer Foods. Santa Lucia, owned by Jeremy and Jacquelyn Pittman, started work on the restaurant last month. It will feature a classic, Neapolitan style, pizza baking oven from Mario Acunto in Italy. The brick oven will be between 120 and 140 inches in diameter. Jacqueyn Pittman says the establishment, which will have a full bar with an emphasis on craft beer, will seat about 40 people and be more of a gastropub and less of a restaurant. For more on Santa Lucia, check out our story. The restaurant will be open from 5-11 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 5 p.m. to at least midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. More good news, Pittman says she and her husband plan to keep the traveling wood oven operation going. To keep up-to-date with the restaurant, check out Santa Lucia's Facebook page.


The Pie Shop at Terry's Finer Foods

Location: 5018 Kavanaugh Blvd. Open Date: Now!

Well, Pizzeria Santa Lucia is not the only new development at Terry's Finer Foods, and it's not the only one spearheaded by the Pittmans, who also own Palette Catering and Event Planning. They are also responsible for The Pie Shop at Terry's, which opened in March. The shop offers several varieties of fresh pies, including nut, chocolate and fruit, in addition to several out of the freezer like sausage egg and cheese, key lime, southwestern shepherd's pie and chocolate peanut butter. Slices are $3.99 and whole pies are $20-$32. It's open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., except Sundays when hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, check out our story and The Pie Shop's Facebook page.


Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Location: 314 S. University Ave., Suite 160 Open Date: August

Potbelly Sandwich Shop first opened in Chicago in 1977, and now has more than 300 shops across the country. This summer, the first one is coming to the Natural State and Little Rock. The shop, which specializes in signature sandwiches and hand-dipped milkshakes and features live music, will open in August in the Park Avenue shopping center at 314 S. University Ave., Suite 160. Ryan Hamra, a Little Rock native and operator of North Little Rock's Blue Coast Burrito, will be Potbelly's operating partner. The restaurant's operation and delivery hours have yet to be announced. Check out the shop's menu here.


Boulevard Bread Co.

Location: 1920 N. Grant St. Expansion Finish Date: August

So far, 2014 has been good to the Heights and its food scene. To add to that, Boulevard Bread Co. announced last month that it was expanding its Heights location to make way for about 50-75 more patrons and double its outdoor seating area. With the expansion will also come a full-service bar. Right now, the bar only offers beer and wine, but soon, it will offer classic cocktails with fresh ingredients. More take-out options and more items in the deli and pantry are also things customers can look forward to in the near future, thanks to the expansion. In addition, the shop's popular Sunday breakfast will extend to Saturday mornings. For more on the expansion, check out our story.


Taziki's Mediterranean Café

Location: McCain Mall Open Date: Early fall

Late last month, Taziki's announced it was opening another restaurant in central Arkansas. This one will be at McCain Mall next to the Regal McCain Mall Stadium 12 & RPX. The location will have outdoor seating, too. Just like its other locations, the restaurant will offer wholesome, fresh ingredients and flavors with a Mediterranean inspiration. For more information, check out our story.


Newk's Eatery

Location: 314 S. University Ave., Suite 180 Open Date: Now!

Newk's Eatery opened its third restaurant in central Arkansas in April in Midtown. The restaurant features fresh salads, soups and toasted sandwiches. For a full look at the menu, click here. The location at Park Avenue features indoor and outdoor seating for up to 160 patrons. For more on Newk's, check out our stories here and here, or check out the location's Facebook page.


U.S. Pizza Co.

Location: 5524 Kavanaugh Blvd. Reopen Date: Next week

If you haven't seen the updates to the U.S. Pizza Co. in the Heights — wow! The location, which originally opened in 1987, closed last fall for some hefty upgrades that included an expanded kitchen and improved landscaping. The company's Chief Operating Officer, Drew Weber, said the Heights restaurant is slated to reopen sometime next week, but did not give a specific date. For more information on the upgrades, check out our story. We'll keep you guys updated!


Café Brunelle

Location: 17819 Chenal Parkway, Suite C-129 Open Date: Now!

Well, guys, there is another café in Little Rock! This one, Café Brunelle, opened this week and offers a variety of deli-style sandwiches, soups and salads, pastries, and of course, specialty coffees. The shop is locally-owned and has partnered with many local artisans. It hopes to establish itself as a vibrant communal hub. It's just behind lululemon athletic at The Promenade and is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Check out our story for more information , or check out their Facebook page.

Taste of Tuesday: The Hummingbird from South on Main

Image by South on Main

Is it too early in the week to be dreaming of Friday night and a tasty cocktail? We're ready! 

Want to join us? Well, after you take a look at this concoction from South on Main, we don't think you'll have a choice.

The folks at South on Main like to say every hour there is happy. And with drinks like The Hummingbird, it's easy to see why. 

Our friends at the restaurant were kind enough to share the recipe with us, so now you can make it at home!

We won't tease you any longer, here it is.

The Hummingbird

The ingredients:

•1.5 oz. Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka

•4-5 oz. Fruit and Mint Tea*

•Mint sprig for garnish

*For the Fruit Tea:

-16 oz. Fresh brewed ice tea

-8 oz. Fresh squeezed orange juice

-4 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice

-2 oz. Fresh lime

-Simple Syrup (to taste)

-6 large sprigs of gently crushed fresh mint

The process:

Combine ingredients into a pitcher and stir for approximately one minute. Let it sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then, pour drink into a collins glass over ice and garnish with mint.

Enjoy! And thanks to South on Main for the recipe to this tasty drink!

Baja Grill Opens in the Heights

Image by Facebook, Baja Grill

What was once a popular food truck in Benton will be a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the Little Rock Heights, at 5923 Kavanaugh Blvd., as of Thursday.

More big news for the Heights food scene! The once popular Benton food truck, Baja Grill, will be a brick-and-mortar restaurant beginning today!

That's right. Now, you won't have to drive to Benton to enjoy the amazing Mexi-Cali cuisine, because owners Craig and Melissa Roe are bringing it to your backyard!

While customers can expect new menu items and weekly specials like steaks, salads and soups in the future, to start things off, Baja Grill is sticking to the basics, its core menu(PDF) from the food truck. And there is nothing wrong with that!

The "basics" include tasty starters like queso blanco, guacamole and salsa. Then, you've got a plethora of taco, burrito and quesadilla options for main courses. 

And when we say plethora, we mean it. Baja pork, chicken and beef, cuban, veggie and pig sooie are all options for burritos, tacos and quesadillas.

We don't know if you're ready for more good news this quick, but Baja Grill will also have a full bar, but you'll have to wait until July 1. Honestly, we think the food should be able to hold you over.

When it does open, Melissa Roe says it will be a full-service bar with an emphasis on signature margaritas, Sangria and Mojito.

The restaurant's hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Soirée contributor Kevin Shalin got a sneak peek and talks about his experience here. We'll be right over. 

An Arkansas BBQ Tour Like Never Before


So, we were casually checking social media when we came across, what appeared to be, the greatest barbecue expedition ever assembled.

Here's how it went down. Rex Nelson, Denver Peacock, Gabe Holmstrom, Jordan Johnson and Jason Parker set out on a 400-mile journey through the Arkansas Delta. Their mission? Cram down as much barbecue — along with some catfish and tamales because it's catfish and tamales — as humanly possible, all in one day. 

This Holy Grail of barbecue journeys through Arkansas had 10 stops in communities including Wilson, Blytheville, Waldenburg, Gregory and Bald Knob, and secured a sacred place for these five men in the history of Arkansas foodies.

It all started at 8 a.m. on Good Friday in the parking lot of the Clinton Presidential Center. They left Little Rock as mere mortals, but returned as legends of Arkansas barbecue, and probably a few pounds heavier.

We've got a quick recap of the trip below. If you want even more on this voyage, which included stops at non-food spots in Arkansas, we highly suggest you check out Rex Nelson's Southern Fried blog. Look for the posts "The great Arkansas Delta food tour" and "Arkansas Delta food tour: Part Two."

The trip even had its own hashtag, #ARBBQTour. Check it out.

Wilson Café in Wilson, Mississippi County

The trip started with a stop at Wilson Café in the small, south Mississippi County community of Wilson for the group to enjoy some good catfish. By the looks of this photo, it was better than good.


The Hog Pen, just south of Osceola, Mississippi County

The barbecue portion of the trip was supposed to begin in Blytheville, but the guys could not pass up this dive. Nelson says the food was "quite tasty," so we're guessing they didn't regret the stop.


The Blytheville Experience, Mississippi County

Here's where the trip hit its sweet spot. The guys made FIVE stops in "the barbecue capital of Arkansas," as Nelson lovingly refers to it. The Dixie Pig, the Kream Kastle, Penn's, the Razorback Cookers carryout trailer and "the trailer in the parking lot of the Hays store." Although the guys are pretty sure that isn't it's official name, that is what it's called by the locals. The guys ate at Dixie Pig, then stopped at the other four eateries, got the orders to go, and enjoyed the food out by the Mississippi River.

Here are some of the photos from the stops in Blytheville.









Woody's in Waldenburg, Poinsett County

Here, at the intersection of Arkansas 14 and U.S. 49, which Nelson says is one of the top food intersections in Arkansas, the guys sat down, once again, for another good ol' Natural State barbecue sandwich. The food came from the mayor of Waldenburg, William "Woody" Wood, and his wife, Cecelia.


Tamale Factory in Gregory, Woodruff County

This stop had multiple purposes. Yes, the food — which included tamales, fried shrimp and boiled shrimp — but also to visit with owner George Eldridge, who is also the owner of Doe's Eat Place in Little Rock. Nelson jokes there was no room left for one of Eldridge's steaks at this point of the voyage.


Bulldog Restaurant in Bald Knob, White County

What's a good food-trip without stopping for dessert? The guys stopped at the Bulldog Restaurant to enjoy some strawberry shortcake, only served in the spring, to finish off the trip. Nelson notes cars were lined up onto the highway to get some of the shortcake.


To Rex, Denver, Gabe, Jordan and Jason, we here at Soirée would like to say, job well done, sirs. And that, kids, is how the greatest barbecue expedition in Arkansas history unfolded.

Browning's Mexican Grill to Become Heights Taco & Tamale Company

Browning's is returning to the Heights later this year.

Big news for the Heights! 

A new restaurant is opening up, and we think you foodies are going to like this one! Yellow Rocket Concepts, the same guys who brought you ZaZa's, Big Orange and Local Lime are bringing another restaurant to the capital city: Heights Taco & Tamale Company.

It will be located at 5805 Kavanaugh Blvd., the current site of Browning's Mexican Grill. You can look for the restaurant to open some time in the late summer or early fall.

In addition to a full bar, HT&T's menu will offer authentic Mexican and Spanish dishes with Texas flair. House-made tamales, burritos, nachos and churros are just some of what Yellow Rock Concepts Executive Chef Scott McGehee has planned for the restaurant. 

"Working with tamales in our test kitchen last fall inspired me to revisit the recipes my father created during his days as co-owner and co-creator of Blue Mesa Grill and Juanita's," McGehee said in a news release. 

HT&T will have flour tortillas made on-site, original recipe desserts, including soft-serve ice cream, and salsas.

Back to the bar, there will be a full offering of original margaritas from Yellow Rock Concepts Director of Beverage, Lee Edwards. On top of that, you will be able enjoy local craft beers on draft, or by the bottle, in addition to house-made sodas. 

The restaurant will also have a limited menu for drive-thru at the HT&T "Rapido" window. More to come at a later date on that.

Browning's announced Tuesday it would remain open through June before closing its doors. For more on the story, check out Arkansas Business.

Taste of Tuesday: Beef Kebabs on the Grill

Image by Simply Recipes

It's May and temperatures are rising. It can mean only one thing: it's grill season!

It's time for beer, hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks and anything else you can throw on the grill. To kickoff this marvelous time of year, we wanted to make sure you had a good beef kebab recipe for when your friends come over this summer.

This particular recipe comes to us from Simply Recipes. For more of their kebab recipes, check out this page.

Beef Kebabs:

The ingredients:

-For the marinade:

•1/3 cup olive oil

•1/3 cup soy sauce

•3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

•1/4 cup honey

•2 cloves garlic, minced

•1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

•freshly ground black pepper to taste

-For the kebabs:

•1 1/2 lb. top sirloin steak, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

•1 large bell pepper

•1-2 medium red onions

•1/2 to a pound button mushrooms

•About 20 bamboo or wooden skewers

The steps:

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and add the meat. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably several hours or even overnight. 

Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. This will help prevent them from burning on the grill.

Cut the vegetables into chunks, roughly the width of the beef pieces. Thread the meat and vegetables onto double bamboo skewers. Using double skewers will help you turn the kebabs on the grill. If you keep space between the pieces, they grill more evenly. Paint the kebabs with some of the remaining marinade.

Prepare your grill for high, direct heat. Grill for 8-10 minutes, depending on how hot your grill is, and how done you like your meat. Turn occasionally. Let rest for five minutes before serving.

5 Restaurant Patios to Check Out Now

Loca Luna’s intimate patio is a popular spot for drinks and dinner in the warmer months.

Right now, all we want to do is sit outside, sip on a drink (or two), eat great food, relax with friends and family and enjoy this lovely spring weather.

Here are a few of our current favorite patio spots to hit up around town. 

Red Door, 3701 Cantrell Road, Little Rock: The outdoor seating at this restaurant has been referred to as a treehouse. With trees, shrubbery and flowers surrounding the deck, it's easy to see how that comparison was made. When the weather is nice and the sun is out, the patio also provides a great view of Cantrell Road. Most take advantage of this seating right now before the summer heat hits. During the day, you'll usually see the most patrons outside at Red Door early on in the lunch service and early on during dinner. The patio, which seats about 60 people, is open when the restaurant is, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. For more information on Red Door, click here.

Ya Ya's Euro Bistro, 17711 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock: There's not much the outdoor seating at Ya Ya's doesn't offer. Luxurious furniture and live music a few times a week is just some of what you might encounter. The location, at the Promenade at Chenal, allows patrons to enjoy a nice, relaxing meal outside while being close to several places to shop. You can also enjoy live music quite a bit while chowing down. The patio, which can seat 90-100 people, is open when the restaurant is, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Most take advantage of the outdoor option during the weekends. For more on Ya Ya's, click here.

Loca Luna, 3519 Cantrell Road, Little Rock: If you're looking for the patio seating with a more relaxed feel, Loca Luna might be your place. The outdoor seating, which can seat about 48, offers a covered and open section. Surrounded by vegetation of all kinds, it's a popular spot for an afternoon margarita. The tables have the option of being candlelit after dark. Most enjoy the setting during the spring and fall, and it usually gets busy during the evening hours. It's open when the restaurant is. For more information, click here.

U.S. Pizza Co., 2710 Kavanaugh Blvd., Little Rock: This covered- patio gives a great view of Kavanaugh in Hillcrest. There are plenty of umbrellas to go around to give guests a cool option and some shade in warm weather. It's a great place to enjoy a beer, or a bucket of champagne during the weekend brunch, while taking in the sights and sounds of Hillcrest. The patio can seat about 70 and is open daily for lunch and dinner. There's also the option of renting the upstairs patio with the event room at the restaurant. For more on U.S Pizza Co., click here.

Cantina Laredo, 207 N. University Ave., Suite 130, Little Rock: True to its cuisine, this place provides a quick Mexican getaway with a relaxing, fun atmosphere. There's a built-in canopy that provides shade when it's hot. When it's a bit chilly, heat lamps keep guests toasty. Most take advantage of the patio seating during the spring and fall. It's also a great place to enjoy Happy Hour during the week. It's open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations are available for the restaurant, but not the patio. For more information, click here.

How Chef Shuttle Is Changing Take-Out

Enjoy the Asian-influenced menu at Lilly's Dim Sum Then Some.

You might have noticed a recent surge in popularity of a certain Little Rock company called Chef Shuttle.

The local restaurant food delivery company was recently purchased by Ryan Herget, Kyle Crossland and Wes Kirtley. The trio of friends has taken the company from one that delivered to less than 10 restaurants in Little Rock to one that delivers to Little Rock, North Little Rock, Sherwood and Maumelle residents from more than 50 restaurants in the four cities.

The idea is simple. When you're at home or the office, hungry and don't want to go out, you go to Chef Shuttle's website, search the menus of the participating restaurants and order your food. From there, Chef Shuttle's dispatch center contacts the restaurant, which prepares the food. Then, one of Chef Shuttle's drivers picks up the food and delivers straight to you, within 60 minutes, all for a $4.95 fee. There is a minimum order of $15.

It's a food option that Herget said he has to continually remind customers is for real.

"Yes, you really only have to spend $5," he says, "you really only have to spend five minutes or less on the website."

For that fee, customers can enjoy food from restaurants like Bruno's Little Italy, Capitol Bistro, Corky's Ribs & BBQ, Cantina Laredo and Mexico Chiquito, among many others, without leaving their homes.

Chef Shuttle operates seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5-10 p.m. for dinner.

Herget, Crossland and Kirtley recently partnered with Jason and Stephen LaFrance and Dan Andrews, of Dale Capital Partners in Little Rock. The partnership developed from a delivery to the LaFrances by Herget in February.

"Just having their support, having them there to help us grow, bounce ideas off of, we couldn't be more excited about the future," Herget said.

For the future, Chef Shuttle hopes to continue to add to its current restaurant partnerships in Little Rock, currently at about 35, North Little Rock and Sherwood, at about 15 right now, and Maumelle, which currently has three restaurants.

In addition to adding to the current operation, Herget wants the company to continue to expand. Benton, Bryant and Conway are the first three areas Chef Shuttle hopes to reach.

Herget says he hopes the company is into Benton and Bryant by the end of May, and into Conway by mid-June.

"We're growing fast," he said. "We want to keep expanding, and we have a game plan mapped out, but it keeps changing because of the growth."

Chef Shuttle also hopes to soon have a mobile application to allow customers another avenue to order food from home or at work. Herget says the application is still about two months away from being released.

Here's a Q&A that Little Rock Soirée conducted with Herget:

Little Rock Soirée: Are you surprised no one else has done this before to this extent in Little Rock?

Ryan Herget: "Not really, because I wouldn't recommend anybody trying to do it. There is a lot of work. It takes a good core of people to make it happen, because there are so many moving parts, and really, you don't have control over anything. What I mean by that is, the restaurants have control over the food and when it leaves their kitchen, drivers, while you can control where they are, we don't know what traffic is going to be like. No day is the same. I can see why it has not been done before, but, luckily, with the people we have in our office, the partnerships we've made, we've been able to find something that works and we're going to stick to it."

LRS: What was that first week of business like?

RH: "That first week was hectic. We were calling friends in to drive, we didn't know what to expect. My mom has driven. She asked me on Easter, 'hey, when am I going to drive again.' I told her it would come one of these days."

LRS: What is one goal for the future you are really hoping to achieve?

RH: "I've always been excited about growing, trying to get established in Arkansas where we are a household name. I'm most excited to see these drivers get promoted, and start coming on as full-time employees of Chef Shuttle. We've got drivers lined up, ready to go. That's a motivating factor for me."

LRS: Do you think this company could grow out of central Arkansas, and across the state?

RH: "Absolutely, we've got the secret sauce. We do things differently. Our motivation is not our financial statement, it's making sure everybody is happy. It's just different. If someone is not happy, we'll do whatever we can to make it better. We're different than your average business. If we can really keep it about the customer experience, I don't think there is a limit."

For more on Chef Shuttle, check out this article on the website of our sister publication, Arkansas Business.

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About The Author
What’s new in shopping, the arts, music, travel, fun parties and delicious food in Arkansas? Let Lauren James of be your guide. An avid shopper, traveler and lover of everything-arts-related, she will show you the best of what Arkansas has to offer. Make your go-to spot every day to learn the latest in entertainment, dining, attractions, activities and more.
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