Dining » What's Cookin'

What's cooking/restaurant capsules March 3

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WHAT'S COOKING La Hacienda’s family is branching out again. The growing La Hacienda chain of restaurants in Arkansas began in Hot Springs, and the newest restaurant with a La Hacienda connection is Maria Bonita, which has opened on Airport Road in Hot Springs. The restaurant is open daily, not only for lunch and dinner, but also for breakfast. Cold Stone Creamery, a growing national chain with a location in West Little Rock on Chenal Parkway, has begun introducing a new flavor of ice cream each month that’s tied to a theme. Cold Stone calls it its “Red Pan” feature. February’s just-concluded special was “Red Hot,” while March will feature “Cotton Candy.” Cold Stone is also partnering nationwide with the 20th Century Fox movie studio, which is releasing the new animated movie “Robots” on March 11. The ice cream company is featuring ice cream and ice cream cake with a “Robots” theme. CAPSULE REVIEWS WALKER’S BAR-B-QUE COMPANY We heard a couple years back that the quickest way to judge any barbecue joint is to look at the pig on the sign. The more lively the pig, the better the ’cue. If it’s just a pig, drive on by. If, however, the pig is wearing a top hat and tails, dancing a jig while playing a fiddle and smoking a pipe, dig under the seat for change if you gotta, but you’d better eat there and soon. Given that rule, we knew Walker’s was going to be something special (their pig is wearing an apron and a chef’s hat, holding a spatula, with a decidedly dirty look in his eye. If memory serves, he might have even been smoking a cigar). Hungry for pulled pork on a recent night and stranded in the ’cue-devoid wasteland near McCain Mall, imagine how happy it made us to remember Walker’s strip-mall location, just down the freeway. They pushed our buttons in all the right ways, too: big pulled pork sammiches, smoky baked beans, tater salad, several styles of sauce on the table, and a big menu for anyone wanting more than that (honestly, though: who could?). We’ll keep Walker’s in mind when we’re in the NLR shopping jungle again, and all lovers of great barbecue should do the same. 5107 Warden Road, Sherwood, 758-3145. LD Mon.-Sat. $$ Full Bar. CC. Full Bar. LUCCHESI’S RAVIOLI AND PASTA COMPANY It’s easy to forget Lucchesi’s, tucked at the back of the Heights Theater center, which is too bad. It’s an attractive but informal place to have a quiet dinner. Best bets: many of the specialties they sell for takeout for instant Italian eating at home. The big portions of the likes of lasagna and crispy veal parmagiana discourage big appetizers for all but the most serious eaters. (We quibble a bit with the sharpness of the herbaceous tomato sauce, but that’s a highly subjective matter, we admit.) Unfortunately, we didn’t think of the portion sizes before ordering a heaping plate of breaded and fried provolone wedges, smothered in a buttery sauce with sautéed onions and peppers and olives. The crisp Caesar salad would have been enough to start. Stomachs are also filled by generous servings of soft, cheesy Italian bread and olive oil for dipping. Interesting Italian wines by the glass complement the cooking. Many rich desserts are on offer, but we couldn’t attempt them. Note: geegaws and gourmet items make this an interesting stop for gift shopping. 5600 Kavanaugh Blvd., 660-4444. L Mon.-Fri. $$ CC Beer and wine.

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