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RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: GM exits Cache; Brewski's soft opening; new burger chain coming soon

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Lee Ingold, who in June 2016 took over as general manager of Cache, 425 President Clinton Ave. at River Market Avenue, Little Rock, has left the restaurant heading for Oklahoma City, where he is to be general manager at Flint Restaurant in the Colcord Hotel. (Ingold will be working for the Coury Hospitality Group, which manages the hotel for owner Devon Energy Co.)

"Hopefully I will be able to bring some Creole hospitality from my New Orleans days to the Great Plains," he says. "It's an exciting opportunity yet a bittersweet one, because I truly felt embraced by the Little Rock community when I relocated after [Hurricane] Katrina." He worked for 20 years in food, beverage and hospitality in New Orleans before coming to the Capital Hotel in 2008.

Ingold says he's leaving the restaurant in good hands: "I believe Payne [chef Payne Harding] will continue to flourish under the capable mentorship of chef Lee Richardson," who has been a consulting chef at Cache for about two years. Richardson, too, is a Capital Hotel alumnus; he left the hotel in June 2012.

Cache's phone number is (501) 850-0265; the website: cachelittlerock.com.

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Brewski's Pub & Grub, the sports bar that's replacing Club Level, 315 Main St., Little Rock, is doing soft openings today and Friday, and will be open for a sneak peek on Saturday during the Main Street Food Truck Festival; owner Brad McCray expects to be fully open to the public on Wednesday. Initially it'll open at 3 p.m. with plans to open it for lunch after the first of the year. The menu will feature upscale pub fare served on custom rustic dining tables. They were apparently holding on to the same phone number, (501) 372-1515, but it returned a "disconnected" recording earlier this week. Before Club Level took it over in 2013, the space had housed Porter's Jazz Cafe and subsequently the Jamaican-theme Montego Cafe. Brewski's becomes the fourth eatery on a busy block that will become busier as the year progresses. Its existing neighbors are Bruno's Little Italy, Soul Fish and Samantha's Wood-Fired Grill & Tap Room, all on the west side of the street; joining it on the east side will be a new downtown branch of west Little Rock Asian-fusion restaurant A.W. Lin's and Ira Mittelman's upscale Ira's.

Mittelman, meanwhile, says that after a lengthy series of delays, construction is finally starting on neighboring Ira's in the old Rose Building, 307 Main St., Little Rock, and he's looking at opening near the end of the year, though probably not before Christmas. "It's been a lot slower than I wanted it to be," he says. Mittelman is planning to offer a different menu from his Ira's Park Hill Grill on North Little Rock's Park Hill, "but it'll still be my food." He's expecting to be open for lunch and dinner six days a week, with an appetizer happy hour and possibly a "reverse happy hour" after 10 p.m. on weekends. Competing with five other restaurants on that block will be a challenge, he admits, but "hopefully we'll be one of the better ones."

Cheshire, Conn.-based Wayback Burgers is opening a Little Rock location in the Chenal Curve Shopping Center, 16900 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock. We don't yet have a target date, but it's "coming soon," saith the website, waybackburgers.com, where you can also check out the menu. It focuses on burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, shakes, sides (fries, cheese fries, mac & cheese bites, etc.), and, though the menu page doesn't mention it, we also found on the website something called the "Triple Triple" -- nine patties and nine slices of cheese.

And speaking of burger chains, don't expect before November at the earliest the opening of the west Little Rock location of Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, at the southwest corner of Chenal Parkway and South Bowman Road, in front of Wal-Mart. It's still "a few months out" from opening, according to a spokesman for the Wichita, Kan.-based chain, which has one central Arkansas outlet, on East McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock, and one in Fayetteville. Another, in the Shoppes of Benton, is under construction.

Walker's Home Cooking Restaurant and Catering has reopened in its former location, 1700 Main St., North Little Rock. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. The listed phone number is (501) 508-5550.

Sonic has opened at 111 Commons Drive, Maumelle, just off Maumelle Boulevard, replacing a former outlet that was set back a little farther from the main drag. Hours are 6 a.m.-midnight daily. The listed phone number is (501) 851-6648.

The inaugural John Daly's Steakhouse, 912 Front St., Conway, is open. And yes, it's named for the golfer, sometime of Dardanelle, who attended the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Hours are 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily for lunch and 4:30-9 p.m. for dinner Monday-Saturday. The phone number is (501) 358-6998. Locations in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas are among 10 restaurants plans call for over the next five years.

And speaking of Conway steakhouses, Outback Steakhouse was set to open Wednesday in its new location, 955 E. Oak St., Conway, replacing the previous outlet, 2310 Sanders St., which closed Sept. 26. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. They've kept their private club license to be able to serve alcoholic beverages in dry Conway, and the same phone number: (501) 548-6220.

Central Arkansas culinary veteran Josh Doering, currently making brownies and other delectables at Lost Forty, travels to St Louis Oct. 27-29 as Arkansas' representative at FlavoredNation.com's "A Taste of Every State." He'll be preparing our state's most "iconic" dish, fried catfish -- more specifically, fried catfish nuggets -- for up to 1,600 people over the two days the event is open to the public. "It was originally going to be three days, but Friday is just going to be a media day," Doering explains, so anything he prepares on the first day will be primarily for the TV and still cameras. He's working from his own recipe and isn't giving away specifics, except to cite "spices and breading and stuff," noting, "Cooking is basically just alchemy anyway, you just throw everything into a pot and wave your hand over it." He's also providing his own catfish, for which Flavored Nation will reimburse him. A single-day ticket, $55, entitles you to 10 tastings; the $125 VIP ducat includes early access, 20 tastings, best-of-house seating for the three stages of continuous entertainment and access to a VIP lounge. Visit flavorednation.com. Meanwhile, Doering is still raising money for a down payment on a breakfast-vending food truck that he's planning to call Grandma Josh's.

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Look for a late-fall opening target for The Vault, 723 Central Ave., Hot Springs, says general manager Randy Womack, formerly manager and sommelier at Central Park Fusion. Part of the dining space will occupy the former vault of the former Citizens National Bank Building, once known as the First Federal Building. (That's where, we're told by locals, Al Capone kept his money.)

The building has sat idle for decades, Womack notes. "I'm taking something in the heart of downtown Hot Springs that has been useless and unoccupied since the early '70s and neglected overall," he says. "I have the privilege of just creating a brand new identity for this building and I'm putting a really good face on it."

Womack says he's completing a previous owner's unrealized plans to turn it into a restaurant, including completely renovating 3,700 square feet of basement space into a massive prep kitchen. "It was a war zone, it looked like Kosovo," Womack says, "in a terrible state of deterioration." He has eventual plans for a portion of the still-unfinished space that he's using for general storage: "In the far distant future, it'll be a subterranean wine-lovers area." (A Vault wine vault, if you will.)

Food prepped there is brought upstairs and finished in what he describes as a "show kitchen." Chef Mike Easley, formerly of Cache, Maddie's Place and 1620, is still working on the menu; Womack says it'll be as close to farm-to-table as is practical, and you should look for a lot of fresh seafood -- "nothing frozen except maybe the occasional bit of shrimp," he says -- and premium meats, including locally sourced chicken. Womack is also busy creating a house wine; he has produced 600 bottles so far. He estimates seating capacity will be 120-180.

The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record reports co-owners Jason Taylor and Daron Praetzel also have plans to open a "higher-end, high-energy sports bar" with a lounge, music and open-air seating in the former J.C. Penney building at 812 Central Ave. -- "just down the street, opposite side of the block," Womack says.

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And the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce will hold a Business After Hours "Taste & Toast" network event, 5-7 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Promenade at Chenal, 17711 Chenal Parkway, Little Rock, to showcase food from the nine dining establishments in the shopping center (A.W. Lin's Asian Cuisine, Big Orange, Bravo! Cucina Italiana, Del Frisco's Grille, Gandolfo's New York Deli, Local Lime, Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, Pei Wei and YaYa's Euro Bistro). Tickets are $15, $5 in advance for chamber members ($10 for members at the door). Call (501) 374-2001 or visit web.littlerockchamber.com/events. Oh yes, and you must be 21 or older to attend.

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. Call (501) 399-3667 or (501) 378-3513, or send a note to Restaurants, Weekend Section, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203. Send email to:

eharrison@arkansasonline.com







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Wayback Burgers, a Cheshire, Conn.-based chain, sells a “Triple Triple” burger with nine patties and nine slices of cheese. A... + Enlarge

Weekend on 10/05/2017

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