In case you missed this earlier in the week, Arkansas Heritage, a division of the state Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, on Monday inducted Bulldog Restaurant in Bald Knob, Kream Kastle of Blytheville and Ozark Cafe in Jasper as the 2023 inductees to the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame.
The Food Hall of Fame Committee chose these winners in the other four categories:
- ◼️ Jamie McAfee of the Pine Bluff Country Club is the Proprietor of the Year.
- ◼️ The winning Food-Themed Event is the Magnolia Blossom Festival and World Championship Steak Cook-Off.
- ◼️ Former Hot Springs restaurant Bohemia took the honors in the "Gone But Not Forgotten" category, honoring once-influential Arkansas restaurants that are no longer in operation.
- ◼️ And Little Rock's Community Bakery is this year's People's Choice winner. That was based, not on the selection of the committee, but on the total number of nominations received.
The committee — historians, chefs, foodies and food authors Paul S. Austin, Jimmy Bryant, Chip Culpepper, Quantia "Key" Fletcher, Cindy Grisham, Montine McNulty, Rex Nelson, Tim Nutt, Kat Robinson, Stephanie Wade, David Ware and Stanley Young and Parks, Heritage and Tourism Secretary Mike Mills, sorted through more than 1,800 nominations from all 75 Arkansas counties. They announced a list of finalists in January.
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A disturbing report, if it's true, and we're still working to confirm, but one of our readers reports a moving van outside Graffiti's Italian Restaurant, 7811 Cantrell Road, Little Rock, Monday night, and that one of the area's more venerable restaurants has closed without notice to patrons. We were unable to track down co-owner Armando Bolanos, either there or at his other restaurant, La Terraza Rum & Lounge in Little Rock's Hillcrest. We found a message on restaurant's website, graffitislr.com, that "This location is currently not accepting online orders. Please check back another time," which may or may not be significant; last posting on its Facebook page, facebook.com/graffitisitalian, was on Valentine's Day. We got a "leave a message" message by calling the phone number, (501) 224-9079, but it hasn't yet been disconnected.
Paul Bash, Denis Seyer, Louis Petit and Ed Moore, all scions of Restaurant Jacques & Suzanne who comprised Continental Cuisine, opened Graffiti's in October 1984. They sold it in 1997 to Paul McGee, who had been the restaurant's front-of-house manager, and Patrick Dayer, who ran it for 20 years. Armando and Sarah Bolanos and their La Terraza partners Carlos Valdivieso and Ana Lara bought the restaurant in 2017.
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El Herradero Mexican Bar & Grill is now open in the former El Chico, 8409 Interstate 30, Little Rock, on the frontage road off Geyer Springs Road, with a "Gran Apertura" with music and drink specials set for 1 p.m. March 23. See the menu-in-progress on the Facebook page, facebook.com/elherraderolr; hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Sunday. (501) 319-7989.
Today marks the grand opening of Mad House 101 Restaurant and Bar, replacing the now defunct [email protected], 101 E. Locust St. in El Dorado's Murphy Arts District. Dean and Angela Morrison also own and operate El Dorado's Off the Rail Cafe, 220 E. Main St., which serves breakfast and lunch (but not dinner) in an authentic 1883 rail car. Dean Morrison, in a news release a couple of months back, mentioned the menu would include an 8-ounce steak filet, a 14-ounce ribeye, chicken fried steak, parmesan-crusted chicken, grouper, salmon, fried shrimp and catfish, Cajun chicken fettuccine, gumbo, fish tacos, shrimp and grits, sandwiches and salads. The new operation will also oversee concessions and be the primary catering source for all Murphy Arts District events. Hours are 5-9 p.m. Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number is (870) 444-3008; the website, madhouse101.com, is still a work in progress, but you can visit the Facebook page, facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089949575391.
Monica Chatterton, owner and creator of Flake Baby Pastry, is joining the staff of The Bagel Shop as it prepares to move into its permanent home, 1501 Main St. in Little Rock's SoMa neighborhood. Chatterton will create and run what Bagel Shop co-owner Myles Roberson calls a "fantastical" pastry program. Recent staff additions also include 20-year restaurant industry veteran McNeill Eggert (Lilly's Dim Sum Then Some, Bruno's Little Italy and, most recently, Raduno) to assist with training; he will also be instrumental in building out the catering and special event programing, Roberson says. Chatterton has been operating Flake Baby Pastry since 2018 out of her North Little Rock home. The Bagel Shop is currently operating out of a west Little Rock commissary kitchen and is vending its products on a pickup basis Thursdays and Saturdays in the parking lot of the Main Street space. Visit thebagel.shop or instagram.com/thebagel.shop.
Jack in the Box Inc. has signed 14 new restaurant commitments that will bring franchises to two new states, Florida and Arkansas. The company announced last week it would open in Orlando, Fla., and Rogers; it will be the first entrance of the brand into any Arkansas market. We don't yet have specifics, but Dustin Thompson, director of franchise development for Jack in the Box, explains that "Our new franchisees for Arkansas are experienced multi-unit hotel franchise operators, and their local market knowledge combined with our strong presence in Texas and Oklahoma made this a natural fit for Jack in the Box."
MySaline.com reports that a 7 Brew Coffee drive-thru is taking over the property at 1415 Military Road, Benton, previously the site of a former Gulf gas station that most recently has housed Carmelita's Mexican Diner. A restaurant representative told MySaline's Shelli Poole that they will be moving, but "don't have news to announce yet about where they will be." Construction on the 7 Brew outlet is set to begin in April and it's expected to open this summer.
Spa City chef Michael Dampier, previously of The Ohio Club, plans to open a new Hot Springs restaurant, Ouachita Bar and Grill, later this year. It'll start out as a food truck that Dampier will situate, with a May target to open, next to the restaurant site, 911 Central Ave. He's expecting to complete renovations to the building by the end of the year. Dampier, aka "The Burger Chef," and OBG partners Rob and Tia Koller expect the new restaurant to have two floors, with a sports bar upstairs and a speakeasy downstairs. The menu will, of course, include but won't be limited to burgers; Dampier tells AY Magazine he plans to offer "a lot of barbecue ... brisket, ribs and pork in addition to burgers and sandwiches," as well as steaks and seafood. You can follow Dampier on his Facebook page, facebook.com/TheBurgerChefMichaelDampier.
And Taziki's Mediterranean Café is marking its 25th anniversary, along with Greek Heritage Month, with weekly "throwback priced specials" reflecting 1998 prices on select menu items:
- ◼️ Through Sunday: Greek Lemon Chicken Soup for $3.50
- ◼️ Monday-March 19: Greek Salad (no protein) for $5.75
- ◼️ March 20-26: 6-ounce Taziki Dip, $2
- ◼️ March 27-31: A free commemorative 25th anniversary cup with every beverage purchase (while supplies last).
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: [email protected]