Table Matters: Jose’s is back; buffalo wings land in Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 228 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — Joe Fennel’s signature greeting —  “How is it?" —  signaled he was in the house.

Hopefully, he and partner Doug Allen have enough chips, salsa and swirls left from a blockbuster opening weekend to continue the Jose’s tradition when the landmark eatery opens for real Monday (May 7).

Fennel, the original Jose’, and Allen, a Jose’ employee-turned-franchisee, partnered to reopen Jose’s on Dickson after the previous operator ran into financial trouble with the restaurant. The eatery had been shuttered since January.

Fennel and Allen introduced the new and refurbished Jose’s on Dickson to family and friends with a soft opening the night of May 2, then opened to the public for lunch and dinner the next day. And just like the old days of Jose’s, there was an hour-long wait Saturday night (May 5).

“I don’t know how many people we fed, but I’m pretty sure it was a Jose’s record,” Allen said while resting his dogs on Sunday (May 6).

“So many people [came in] simply thanking us for opening back up and having such a clean and updated restaurant,” he said.

There was some bragging about the food, too, he said. The dinner menu, at a whopping six pages, includes plenty of Jose’s original favorites (say it with me, “Chimichangas, chimichangas, chimichangas!”), plus many of new items, such as BBQ pork nachos, fish tacos and shrimp tacos.

The gang took Sunday to recoup, but will be open seven days a week beginning Monday. The dining room is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. on Sunday. The bar will be open until midnight every day except Sunday.

Market “wide open” for wings
Given the economic climate in Fort Smith, it may be hard to ascertain which is more noteworthy — the fact that Buffalo Wild Wings is opening one of the city’s first chain restaurant specializing in chicken wings or that the venture is adding at least 110 new jobs.

For those who love wings — and sports — the former is more cause for celebration. A new Buffalo Wild Wings is under construction and planned to open July 1 at 6550 Rogers Ave., a high-traffic area with some other chain restaurants and easy access to Interstate 540.

District manager James Allen said Howard saw an opportunity for his BWW “experience,” and he took it.

“The market was wide open for a concept like ours,” said Allen. “There’s nothing like it [in Fort Smith].”

It’s a sports lover’s fantasy: 60 televisions, 30 beers on tap and 14 flavors of wings. The atmosphere, said Allen, “evolves solely around sports.”

There are lots of sports bars and wing joints in town, but none do what BWW strives to accomplish, which is “to provide an experience as close as possible to being at the game,” he said.

The owner, Steve Howard of Oklahoma City, operates 17 other BWW stores in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, west Texas and Little Rock.

Allen is hiring managers now and hopes to fill in the rest of the staff over the next month.

BHK Kafe goes to empty Hjem
David Lewis’ Brick House Kitchen Kafe (BHK Kafe) is opening a second, larger operation in the former home of Hjem, on the ground level of East Square Plaza in Fayetteville.

The former Bank of America building faces the city’s square, and Lewis, like Hjem, is expected to draw heavily on the area’s nighttime pedestrian traffic, as well as seasonal events, such as the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.

The cafe now shares space with Nightbird Books in the 200 block of West Dickson, adjacent to the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse. It’s become known for its coffee, sweets and cheeses, though Lewis, a self-taught chef and caterer, would like to offer more.

At Hjem, he’ll have room to expand on his garden-to-table dinners, where guests break bread alongside the farmers who grew the produce and protein. The dinners are small, usually eight to 12 people, with seven to 10 courses, all served family-style.

The new locale “will allow us to be more who we are,” Lewis said.

He hopes to have it by the month’s end and will start out serving cafe fare, mostly coffee and pastries.

Theo’s going “full on”
We told you in February about Scott Bowman’s plans to open a scaled-down version of his Theo’s restaurant. At that time, he envisioned more of a bar and meeting place than a high-end restaurant in the space previously occupied by Eddie Haskell’s Patio & Grill at the Shoppes at Pinnacle Hills.

Since he’s made his plans known, he’s had lots of requests to duplicate his successful operation off Dickson Street in Fayetteville.
“Due to overwhelming positive feedback about opening a location in Rogers and constant requests to have the full menu, we decided to ke over additional space next door and convert to a full-service dining room with the ability to accommodate private parties,” Bowman said.

He’s shooting to be open by the end of the month.