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What's cooking/Capsule reviews June 22



What's cooking

Scott Holtzhouser, a native of St. Louis who operates a cafe in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park, N.Y., and two other New York area restaurants, will be moving to Little Rock to open Crew Restaurant and Bar at Interstate 430 and Highway 10 (Cantrell Road). Holtzhouser will be leasing space in a new project being developed by Lou Schickel.
“Not knocking New York, but we’re not New Yorkers. We want to get back to our Southern roots,” said Holtzhouser, who has been living in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. His wife, also from St. Louis, is an anesthesiologist who attended school in New Orleans, and made friends with a Little Rock couple through that connection, Holtzhouser said.
Holtzhouser was among several chefs invited to cook at the Clinton Presidential Center opening and created a private dinner for the Clinton family during that week in November 2004. He said he decided then to pursue a project in Little Rock.
Holtzhouser, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2000, ran a fine-dining, high-end restaurant in New York that he sold last November. Before he sold it, the restaurant was nominated for an Ivy Award, presented by the Culinary Institute. He plans to sell another of his holdings but will keep one that has a concept like the restaurant he’s planned for Little Rock, and he will keep his interest in the FDR Library cafe.
The target date for opening Crew is Sept. 28. Holtzhouser has already set up a website for the restaurant, which has its planned menu and other information, at www.crewrestaurant.com.

Look for Mama Bea’s Big Burgers to grow not only locally but perhaps outside of Arkansas in the not too distant future, a spokesman for the restaurant says. The location at 12th and University is currently the only location open, as the original Mama Bea’s on Asher is closed for refurbishing with plans for it to reopen in a few weeks. Arthur Moore says plans are to grow the business by training managers with restaurant experience and opening more outlets in strategic locations around the state and nation, with the possibility of franchising the restaurant.

Capsule reviews

NEW: RUMBA A new Mexi-Cuban spot in the River Market area, this restaurant and bar has a broad menu that includes tacos and enchiladas, tapas, Cuban-style sandwiches, and, at night, entrees like citrus-marinated grouper topped with grilled mangos, and marinated carved top sirloin. Specialty drinks are available also. 300 President Clinton Ave. 823-0090 Full bar CC $$-$$$ LD Mon.-Sat.

UPDATE: BROWNING’S MEXICAN GRILL We had the Saltillo plate. Of course we did. How do you go into Browning’s and not order one? It was exactly as it has been for 57 years -- the same brown and yellow presentation, the same hot plate, the same taste. It didn’t have chopped lettuce on the side, but that was probably a glitch. But the Saltillo is pure nostalgia. It is neither Mexican nor Tex-Mex nor Ark-Mex. It is Browning’s-Mex. If you want your nostalgia served with cheese-like cheese, Browning’s has plate lunches, and these have strong points. The chicken fried steak is much touted, and we’d tout it too if we hadn’t been served chicken fried chicken instead. The chicken fried chicken was not a pre-pounded, battered and frozen vehicle for gravy, but a freshly-fried piece of flesh. Peas — “June peas” the menu calls them — mixed with carrots, squash and boiled potatoes came on the side. The fried chicken is even more reputable than the chicken fried steak/chicken, because it’s done while you wait, which means you can expect to spend 25 minutes dunking good flour tortilla chips into the thin (but wonderfully familiar) queso before the meal comes to the table. You can pass the time with a cold bottle of beer, though, in the dark low-ceilinged back rooms or the bright front room decorated in Razorback and Mexican desert. We were pleased to see the numbers of teen-aged boys there, just like in the old days, hunched over their enchiladas and slinging back punch. 5805 Kavanaugh Blvd. 72207 Beer and wine. CC $-$$ 501-663-9956 LD Tue.-Sat.

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