Table Matters: Fort Smith, NWA restaurant news

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 864 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — Theo’s is finally expanding its comfy but overcrowded bar/lounge. However, you’ll have to go to Rogers to enjoy it.

After years of looking, Theo’s owner Scott Bowman has found a sweet spot in which to carry out the fun folks have been having at Theo’s for years. A local clientele of young professionals who love their sports and happy hour have been looking for a place to land since Eddie Haskell’s Patio & Grill closed at the first of the year in the Shoppes at Pinnacle Hills, across from the Embassy Suites.

Luckily, the crew at Pinnacle Realty Group was on the lookout for young Scott and helped him land the space. Bowman and dad Ted Bowman, operating as Bowman Hospitality Group, are opening the Rogers Theo’s to complement the original Theo’s at 318 N. Campbell Ave., just off Dickson, and the EastSide Grille on the city’s extreme — well, east side.

The Rogers location will continue the restaurant’s reputation for having tasty sides and appetizers, but it won’t be a sit-down restaurant, Bowman said.

“We find that we sell a lot of food in the lounge area and patio,” he said.

Both spots boast between 4,500 and 5,000 square feet, but without the 45 seats in Eddie Haskell’s, the northern post will feel larger.

The lounge’s famous ginger peach martinis, basil gimlets and Moscow mule cocktails are clearly a draw. It was headline news in the restaurant community when Fayetteville’s most appropriately named bartender, Ryan Polite, made the move to Theo’s from his popular perch at Lambeth Lounge at the Inn at Carnall Hall nearly two years ago.

Bowman said he’s carrying the same look and atmosphere to the Rogers location, which demands all-new decor, Opening is set for late spring or early summer — just in time for patio weather.

• “Fine. Food. Film.”
Such is the tagline for the yet-to-be-opened Movie Lounge, a small independently-owned two-theater movie house and upscale (shall we say WAY upscale?) restaurant in Fort Smith.

The “food” facet of this ground-breaking venture has been finalized at the hands of Chef Will Greenwood, an award-winning culinary expert who relocated from Washington D.C. to head the Move Lounge kitchen.

The menu is cleverly divided according to movie terms, such as “Previews” for appetizers and “Featured Presentations” for entrees and steakhouse specialties.

Starters range from $4 for Apache-style Chicken and Pop-Corn” Chowder — a creamy chicken corn broth with bell peppers and topped with popcorn — to $16 for Greek flatbread pizza with Gyro meat, as well as bourbon barbecued chicken with caramelized onions and pepperjack cheese.

Entrees range from $16 to $24.50 excluding the higher-priced steaks. On the low end — braised lamb shanks with merlot glaze and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. The highest-priced items on the “Features” menu include a 20-ounce ribeye and an 11-ounce beef tenderloin, both of which are $42.

A variety of foods in a wide range of prices can be made for dining in the two theaters or in a private screening room for 30. Hot-buttered popcorn is $4 — really no more than you’d pay at the big-box movie theaters — while those with a more developed palate can chose from fancier dishes, such as a smoked shrimp quesadilla or Caribbean shrimp spring rolls. Wraps, salads and flatbread pizzas can also be served in the theaters.

The Move Lounge is located at 7601 Rogers Ave.

Movie Lounge owners and siblings Dwight Curry and Lynn Curry Weidman are looking at a late April/early May grand opening date. They’ve also changed managers. Greg Fernholz has moved on and Ronnie Townsend is in.

• Suzie’s last stand
Longtime caterer and cook Suzie Stephens is “cautiously optimistic” about the success of her latest venture, J.D.’s Steakhouse, which opened Jan. 10.

“This is my last effort, my last ditch effort,” swears Stephens, who has tried her hand at everything from restaurants to bars to cooking schools. She now has all three under one roof at 3290 N. Lee Ave. in Fayetteville (directly south of Liquor World).

“This is a recession business,” said Stephens. “Every square inch of this building is being used.”

The restaurant was the site of her Nibble’s restaurant in the late 1990s and was most recently the short-lived location for the iconic eatery Mary Maestri’s. When the clock struck midnight last New Year’s Eve, Stephens’ arrangement with Maestri’s operator, Danny Maestri, ended, and Stephens went to work developing J.D.’s Steakhouse with Maestri’s son, J.D. Maestri. He had been the executive chef for the year it was Mary Maestri’s.

J.D.’s is open 5-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and has already developed a faithful following. It’s perhaps due to the many friends Stephens has accumulated over the years as a caterer and philanthropist. Many of the same faces can be found huddled around tables seating 70 in the dining room and 15 more in a bar in the foyer. She’s even been known to seat guests in the kitchen, where she operated the cooking school.

“People are loving the food. They’re loving the atmosphere,” she said.

She describes J.D.’s as “a true steakhouse” with 6-ounce and 8-ounce Black Angus filet mignon, 12-ounce Kansas City strips and hand-ground hamburgers.

“There was room for another steak place in Fayetteville,” Stephens said.

The menu shows great deal more diversity than anyplace she’s offered before: three homemade soups each night, four salads and as an appetizer, shrimp four ways — cocktail, scampi, grilled and fried. A daily “Date Night” special that includes two steaks, choice of salad for two people, two side dishes and a bottle of wine for $45. In addition to steaks, entrees include grilled salmon, chicken marsala.

• Rib Crib coming to Springdale
A member of the Rib Crib faithful, Jim Johns, is putting a crib at 1120 Mathias Drive in Springdale, just off Sunset Avenue in the vicinity of Interstate 540. The building last housed a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

Johns has 24 years experience in the restaurant business with nearly a decade working for Rob Crib. While he has helped open other franchises, this is his first.

“I wanted to do something on my own, so this is in,” he said.

Started by founder Bret Chandler in Tulsa in 1992, the chain specializes in 11 different barbecue and smoked meats, with an emphasis on pork spare ribs and baby back ribs, as well as hot sauces spanning a range of temperatures. The decor is like that of a rustic lodge.

“Western whimsical,” Chandler calls it.

Tuesday nights will offer all-you-can-eat ribs and sides. For lighter eaters, Rib Crib has salads with and without smoked chicken and healthy wraps.

“We’re not just barbecue,” he said.

The KFC location will undergo major renovations, but when it’s done they will seat about 120 rib fans. Johns is hoping to open sometime in April.

Other franchises are located in Benton and Searcy, Ark.; Oklahoma, Texas; New Mexico; Kansas; Missouri, Iowa and Florida.