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What's cooking/capsule reviews

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What's cooking Benson’s Bar & Que, which claims to be Fayetteville’s only “contest-quality” barbecue restaurant and bar, will open Thursday, June 9, at 313 W. Dickson St. (the old Bakery Building and former home of Big Daddy’s sports bar). The “contest quality” barbecue means it’s slow cooked in the style of Memphis ’cue, according to owner Kevin Benson. Benson’s will have pulled pork, brisket, chicken and ribs, as well as appetizers and “bar” food. Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Live acoustic music will be featured nightly Wednesday through Saturday, and the bar will continue to have plenty of TVs for game watching. Owner Benson is a UA-Fayetteville graduate and native of the Arkansas Delta region who has worked in Northwest Arkansas area kitchens the past several years. He and a team competed for the first time in the Memphis in May World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest last month. One note on the former Cuz Fishers, now Rick and D’s Fisher’s Cafe: the restaurant now takes all credit cards (under Roy Fisher and family previously, only American Express, check or cash was accepted). Also, the restaurant no longer serves beer. P.F. Chang’s, the Asian-fusion chain, opened its first Little Rock location on May 30. The restaurant is on Shackleford Road in the former Regas Grill location. Capsule reviews TONY ROMA’S Dare we try a Saturday night here? It wasn’t too bad a wait, just 30 minutes, long enough to study the menu and figure out all the sauce offerings and the other steak, seafood and chicken fare. We figured, though, they do some heavy bragging about their world famous ribs, so we ordered the baby back ribs with the original TR sauce and an ultimate “grill power” combo. Both started with a good size garden salad. But in the future, we’ll order the salad dressing on the side. Ours was more like, “you want salad with that dressing?” A totally perfect loaded baked potato came with our ribs serving. The ribs were divine, but we felt the portion might be a little smaller than some competitors we’ve enjoyed. The “ultimate” had a skewer of grilled shrimp, a half slab of St. Louis ribs (both home runs), and a 9 oz. sirloin steak, which was disappointing. The steak was chewy, chewy, chewy and some bites not digestible and returned to the plate. And if all the desserts are as small as the pecan pie we ordered, you may want to order your own serving verses sharing just one as we did. It was “deep dish,” but the triangular sliver was only about an inch and a half wide at the crust end. For us, Tony Roma’s is probably okay, but we’ve enjoyed some better options in the area.11 Shackleford Drive, 219-1420, LD Seven days a week, $-$$ CC Full Bar. WHITE RIVER CAFE If you’re headed to the White River National Wildlife Refuge in search of rare woodpeckers, stop here to fuel up. It’s not hard to find: It’s the restaurant with a stuffed buzzard in one window and a painting of an ivory-billed woodpecker on the other. It opens at 5 a.m. and the blueberry pancakes and omelets will get you off to a good start. (You’ll have to put up with some smoke, however.) You can eat from a buffet or order off a menu at night; though the crust was storebought, the chocolate pie was pretty darn good. Good sweet tea, too. The hamburgers are on the small side. 716 Madison St., 870-747-5413. BLD Mon.-Sat. $-$$. No alcohol.

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