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What's cooking/capsule reviews

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What's cooking Chef Peter Brave is planning a Fourth of July party the night of July 4 at his Brave New Restaurant, with dinner and a fireworks deck party. Brave says he’s expanding the restaurant’s deck for that evening only, offering a view of the downtown skyline and the fireworks that will be shot from the Main Street Bridge. Dinner will be served beginning at 5 p.m. The fireworks will start at approximately 9:15 p.m. Clarification: Though other NYPD Pizza outlets offer beer and wine, the Little Rock store that recently opened on Highway 10 and Chenonceau will not (see the review in the June 23 edition). The national NYPD Pizza website had not been updated by press time to reflect that difference. Capsule reviews CANCUN We made a dinner trip over to the original location at Pike Plaza that opened 12 years ago, when the neighborhood hardly had a Latino living in the area, unlike today. The place is still festive and glaring with its brightly painted interior. Chips and salsa with a zip start things off. Soft drinks came out in huge glasses. We had our tried and true dinner combination No. 25 of beef burrito, taco, beans and rice. Companion had the beef and chicken fajitas for one and shared it with our kiddo who could eat her weight in flour tortillas. We’ve been to other Mexican places in the area and kind of felt that the meals here were a notch or two above. The meals were hot (temperature), the burrito was bigger and the fajitas had more meat, great for sharing. And we learned about another deal that sounded great: Available at lunch time only, for $6.50 you can order any lunch combination or select a la carte and get free reorders, making it an all-you-can-eat bargain. The lunch special is good until 4 p.m. (early dinner, anyone?) and available every day. It is also available at the Jacksonville location. 2619 Pike, NLR, 771-4262, 1701 T. P. White Dr., Jacksonville, 985-3300, LD daily. $-$$ CC Full bar. ELLA’S RESTAURANT There’s new management and a new menu at this ambitious restaurant, but its distinctively enjoyable location — on the campus of the University of Arkansas — remains the same. It’s in Carnall Hall, an old UA building, once a women’s dormitory among other things, that has been restored and converted into an inn. Miles James, of the well-known James at the Mill in nearby Johnson, was associated with Ella’s when it opened, but no more. Matt DuFour, who was already on the staff at Ella’s, is now the executive chef, and the menu is not all he’s changed. The restaurant has a more traditional decor that seemed to us more pleasant, and more compatible with the building, than the previous all-white look. The menu is wide-ranging, as was our party’s selection of entrees. A diner who sometimes finds duck a little wild for her tastes was greatly pleased with her pan-seared duck breast served on creamy blue polenta, topped with sauteed gulf shrimp and orange marmalade glaze. The marmalade made the difference, she thought. Another member of the party was impressed with his pan-seared, sesame-crusted yellowfin tuna. Only the steak-eater of the bunch was less than delighted. His ribeye with espagnole sauce had a nice flavor, but the meat was gristly. On the other hand, the chili-whipped mashed potatoes were fine. Privately owned, Ella’s is connected with the UA’s hospitality and management program, which means that students work in the kitchen under DuFour’s supervision. 465 N. Arkansas Ave. (corner of Arkansas and Maple). Full bar CC $$-$$$ 479-582-1400 BLD Mon.-Sat B and BR Sun.

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