No, it’s not an ice cream parlor, so don’t take the crumb-catchers to the Local Fountain Dive. (The awning, with its emphasis on Fountain, is a little confusing.) Instead, it’s a new bar opened by Ernie Biggs’ owner Daniel Bryant, and it features pool, shuffleboard and television in a storefront on Kavanaugh in Hillcrest. The Dive serves beer and wine only, which means there’s no substantial food to be had. Instead, it’s BYOD — as in dinner, which the management is happy to do. Patrons are bringing pizza from Damgoode Pies (two blocks west) or Tex-Mex from the Canon Grill (next door) to enjoy an atmosphere that’s been described as a laid-back alternative to Ciao Baci (around the corner). It’s a dark and narrow little watering hole, with a fine mural the length of the wall over the shuffleboard. The Dive keeps the front door propped open to help clear the air and chairs on the sidewalk for folks seeking respite from sound and smoke, creating a festive feel on the street. We observed that the patrons were majority male on a weeknight just after the Dive’s recent opening, but young couples of the footloose and free variety go, too. We’d provide a phone number here — but as far as we can determine, it’s still unlisted.
El Porton has begun work to transform the former Steak and Shake at 5120 Warden Road into the Mexican restaurant’s second outlet in the area. Owned by Juvenal Peres of Atlanta, the newest restaurant will serve the same Tex-Mex menu as the one in the Rock Creek Shopping Center along Markham, and will also offer a full bar. El Porton serves vegetarian dinners as well as especialidades burritos Jalisco, steak a la Tampiquena, pollo a la Parrilla, enchiladas and tamales. Look for a November opening.
GRAB-A-BITE While Arkansas is a long way from the Caribbean (thank God, given recent weather events) we still fancy a taste of the tropics from time to time. With that, we were happy to see the ramshackle little Grab-A-Bite Jamaican Jerk BBQ trailer take up the space at the corner of Third and Chester, recently vacated by the big Adam’s Catfish trailer (Adam’s has since rented a permanent spot on Cross Street). You can’t get much from Grab-A-Bite, but the things we have ordered off their short, hand-written menu (all cooked behind the trailer, old school style, on a smoldering barbecue grill) have been uniformly good: spicy hunks of chicken and pork, seasoned with the mixture of Jamaican spices that put the Jerk in Jamaican jerk. All served with bread and a salad, it really makes for a stick to your ribs dinner. Judging from his Bob Marley-accent, the owner is a real Jamaican, too. Someday, on our lunch hour, we’ll get some of his tasty grub, buy him a Coke, and ask just how in the hell he found his way to Arkansas.
GREAT WRAPS A sandwich or burrito stuffed while you shuffle along a line past the fixings seems to be the food fad of the day. We’d just as soon they whip it up in the kitchen. But the serving line routine didn’t lessen our enjoyment of this quick and friendly utilitarian joint on busy Rodney Parham. It takes a while to sort out the menu at the head of the line, but you basically can choose tortilla wraps, grilled flatbread sandwiches or grilled Philly steak sandwiches on hoagie buns. Chicken, cheese, steak, turkey and vegetables are the main stuffings. For sides, the top choice is the “kurly Q” fries, crisp and salty and curly, just like we’ve liked them since we were tots. A surprise hit was the supreme salad ($3.89, plus $1.50 to add grilled chicken, shaved steak or gyros meat). It was a gorgeous and heaping hill of perfectly fresh chopped romaine, tomatoes, black olives, banana peppers, cucumber, feta cheese and, in our case, a generous mound of gyros (not as heavily seasoned and greasy as we like, but you might). The dressings are cold and rich. Also earning a great rap: the Philly cheesesteak, thin-sliced peppery, juicy steak slathered with melted provolone and grilled onions on a hoagie — maybe good enough for a Yankee. It comes three ways: regular; with mushrooms and garlic, and a super Philly that throws in green peppers as well. Order fries and a drink — they’ve got sweet and unsweet tea here as well as soda — with the regular sandwich and you’re out only $6.69 before tax. Our meals had real staying power, so we weren’t tempted by the macadamia nut cookies by the register that the proprietor said are made fresh daily. In keeping with the healthy theme that Great Wraps promotes, fruit smoothies and low-carb tortilla bread are on the menu. Chicken strips and pita sandwiches are available for kids. 11400 N. Rodney Parham Road. No alcohol. CC $ 225-9727 LD Mon.-Sat.