J’s Place, the popular West Little Rock soda shop/burger and catfish spot, is eyeing a spot downtown for a second location, in the building that formerly housed New York Bagel at Sixth and Center streets. They’re looking for an early summer opening; at least that’s the word in the neighborhood. The original J’s Place opened in 2003 in the Market Street Shopping Center next to Lilly’s Dim Sum Then Some.
Meanwhile, getting in line with all the food regulations has slowed the planned opening of Lulav, the California kosher cuisine spot that is set to open at Sixth and Louisiana Streets. Now, there’s no definite opening date, only “soon.”
Lorri Belluomini, the owner of the Gym and Cafe at 9813 W. Markham St. next door to Chip’s Barbeque, is taking her store to the next step as a completely organic cafe and market. They’ll be selling produce and other organic food items such as chickens and other meats.You’ll also find them roasting whole organic chickens for sale. Belluomini says she hopes to have OrganiCafe, its likely new name, up and going in early March. The phone number is 312-1400.
CJ’S CAFETERIA You don’t go to CJ’s for decor. It makes a school lunchroom — an old one at that — look upscale. You go for lots of food, cheap. It’s buffet-style, eat all you want. That means, oh, maybe eight vegetables and starches and four main dishes. Nothing is nouvelle here. The cabbage is cooked until it’s brownish; the green beans disintegrate, but in the nicest, peppery, bacon-filled way. Candied sweet potatoes are first-rate. Mac-and-cheese is the standard smooth stuff. You could float a minesweeper in the thick, peppery cream gravy supplied to top mashed potatoes and biscuits. Of the main courses we tried, big chunks of smothered beef tips were the best, followed by some crispy fried chicken that would have been almost perfect with just a touch more seasoning. Dessert was kind of weird, a thick sludge of chocolate pudding and cake. We think. But for a little over $6 counting iced tea and tax, we walked away reasonably happy. The breakfast buffet is under $5. Same deal. Load up your plate. 824 W. Capitol Ave., 372-8816 BL Mon.-Fri. $.
THE OLIVE BRANCH Apparently not as well known as it deserves, the Olive Branch offers panini (Italian grilled sandwiches), four or five kinds of salad, soups, and desserts such as cheesecake and biscotti. But our favorite is the daily special, sometimes a pasta dish, sometimes risotto, sometimes a wonderfully hearty casserole of turkey, potatoes, carrots and cauliflower, served with your choice of salad (fresh greens with vinaigrette dressing, in our case). Or maybe an empanada, a fluffy pastry filled with beef and potatoes or vegetables and cheese, served with a large cup of a great minestrone. The special is served from lunch until it runs out. The rest of the menu is available all day. They do catering, too. 400 President Clinton Ave. (River Market) 372-0020 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. $ CC No alcohol.