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RESTAURANT TRANSITIONS: Dixie Cafes, Dickey's Barbecue Pit closed; Zaxby's on Kanis now open

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Photographs by Democrat-Gazette file photo

All 17 Dixie Cafe and Delta Cafe outlets across three states closed last week, leaving fans of the restaurant’s fried corn on the cob in the lurch.

Wednesday was the last day of operation for all nine Dixie Cafe restaurants in Arkansas and eight Dixie Cafe and Delta Cafe restaurants in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Dixie Restaurants Inc. CEO Allan Roberts said Monday in a news release, while thanking patrons, management and staff, that "After over 35 years in business, we have decided that we must close our restaurants. It is a very difficult operating environment for full-service, family-oriented restaurants. We have seen declining sales combined with increasing costs that has made this difficult decision necessary." Dixie Restaurants Inc. staff are also losing their jobs.

The first Little Rock Dixie Cafe opened in 1980 on Rebsamen Park Road (on the lot now occupied by a Waffle House), across the street from a current location, as the Black-Eyed Pea, and was affiliated with a Dallas-based chain of the same name; Roberts, who also operated a Black-Eyed Pea in Memphis, changed the names to Dixie Cafe in 1986 when he split off from the chain. And to avoid possible confusion with another chain called Dixie House, later restaurants in some markets assumed the name "Delta Cafe."

Also gone: Dickey's Barbecue Pit, 13503 Crystal Hill Road, North Little Rock. A Google search turned up the phrase "Permanently closed." The phone number, (501) 851-8000, hadn't yet been disconnected by our deadline, but nobody answered it during normal business hours and eventually it triggered an electronic beep. The most recent post (Nov. 16) on its Facebook page might just have been ominous: "Just a head's up ... we will be closed today and this weekend. We'll keep you posted on our status next week." The Dickey's website (dickeys.com/location) no longer lists the North Little Rock location. The franchise/chain operation still has central Arkansas outlets in Bryant and Searcy and Northwest Arkansas locations in Rogers, Lowell and Fayetteville.

Zaxby's first Little Rock location, 10601 Kanis Road, Little Rock, next to the Panera Bread and Dunkin' Donuts at Kanis and Shackleford Road, opened Monday. Hours are 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily except Christmas Day (and they'll probably close early Christmas Eve). The phone number is (501) 313-5268. Licensee Fred Weir says it's the first example of Zaxby's latest generation of stores, the so-called "modern farmhouse" design, not just in Arkansas but apparently west of the Mississippi River. Weir operates seven central Arkansas locations, in Benton, Hot Springs, Sherwood, Jacksonville and Maumelle; Zaxby's has outlets owned by others in Bryant, Conway and Cabot, and operates in 16 other states.

A LongHorn Steakhouse is in the works for the space being created by the renovation of the Sears Auto Center at McCain Mall on McCain Boulevard in North Little Rock. Seritage Growth Properties, "a national owner of 258 retail properties," reports in its "Third Quarter 2017 Operating Results" plans to "recapture and repurpose" 17,300 square feet of "auto center space for LongHorn Steakhouse and additional small shop retail." Construction is scheduled to start in the second quarter of 2018 and wrap up by the second quarter of 2019. LongHorn has central Arkansas outlets at 2628 S. Shackleford Road, Little Rock, and 1470 Higdon Ferry Road, Hot Springs, and also restaurants in Jonesboro, Fort Smith and Texarkana.

Tulsa-based McNellie's Restaurant Group expects to open Dust Bowl Lanes and Lounge, 315 E. Capitol Ave., Little Rock, by the end of December. The vintage-inspired bowling alley will feature eight lanes, a private room with two personal bowling lanes and a full upscale bar and food menu that includes milkshakes, onion rings and burgers. The group also plans to open the next door Fassler Hall, 311 E. Capitol, a German-inspired restaurant with an outdoor beer garden, in mid-January. It'll be open to all ages until 8 p.m., whereupon it'll only open to those 21 and older.

The Little Caesar's Pizza that moved across the street, from 4438 Camp Robinson Road, North Little Rock, to what had once been a Wendy's, 4600 Camp Robinson, opened last week. The new space, says Michael Fritz, president of Little Caesar's Pizza of Arkansas Inc., is roughly twice as big as what they were working in before, and it provides a drive-through window the previous location didn't have. Hours are 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The phone number remains (501) 758-1555.

Bone's Chophouse, 3920 Central Ave., Hot Springs, which used to be a Ruby Tuesday, is now open. Paul Uher, aka "Chef Paul," is one of three chefs in the kitchen -- the other two are Eli Tapia and Chico Santos. The menu, available at the website, boneschophouse.com -- which, by the way, still says it's "coming soon," according to the website -- focuses mainly on seafood and steaks ("broiled to perfection at 1,600 degrees, aged Angus ... hand-cut and trimmed in-house"). Current hours are 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, with a possible subsequent Sunday brunch. The phone number is (501) 520-5900.

The Little Rock Kitchen Cabinet, a group of local restaurant owners and operators, and the Little Rock School District Superintendent are running a "Restaurants Give Back" food drive through Friday, aimed at ensuring district students have plenty to eat while out of school for the forthcoming holiday break. Trio's owner-chef Capi Peck reports collecting 1.5 tons of food last year, "and we hope to collect even more this year." Drop off needed items -- canned meats/fish/poultry, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned/packaged meals, peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauces, cereal, soups and 100 percent juices (please -- no glass!) -- at one of these participating restaurants: Trio's, Whole Hog North Little Rock, Green Leaf Grill, Green Leaf Grill Express, Potbelly Sandwich Shop (both locations), U.S. Pizza (all central Arkansas locations), Gus's Fried Chicken, Lost 40, Heights Taco and Tamale, Old Mill Bread, the University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College Culinary Arts Institute, Cafe Bossa Nova, Rosalia's Bakery, the River Market Ottenheimer Market Hall and Clean Eatery.

And here are the winners of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center's 6th annual "Say It Ain't Say's" Sweet Potato Pie Baking Contest, Sunday at the center on West Ninth Street in Little Rock:

• People's Choice: Dana Yarbough-Fluker, "Scrumptious Sweet Potato Pie"

• Amateur: First place, Delores Morris, "The One by Dee"; second place, Dana Yarbough-Fluker's "Scrumptious Sweet Potato Pie"

• Professional: First place, Kelli Marks, Cathead's Diner, "Perfectly Purple Pie"; second place, Anne Woods, Honey Pies, "Bubba's Sweet Potato Meringue Pie."

A panel of local celebrities did the judging; the People's Choice Award was based on votes cast by attendees.

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







Fried corn on the cob at Dixie Cafe.

Weekend on 12/07/2017

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