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What's cooking/Capsule review Aug. 31 

What's cooking

Starbucks is opening another coffeehouse in the Little Rock market at University Avenue and West Markham Street. The grand opening for the new place is Friday, Sept. 1, starting at 5:30 a.m. Starbucks will be open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Sunday hours will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Sports Page in downtown Little Rock is offering “steak nights” on special Friday nights, with a 10-ounce rib-eye and fries or salad for $8.95. The next “steak night,” complete with live music, is tentatively set for Friday, Sept. 8, from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., with the music winding down around midnight. The downtown burger and sandwich spot normally is open for lunch only. Call 372-9316 for more information.

COTHAM’S WEST It feels a little sacrilegious to walk into a Cotham’s in West Little Rock, but the Highway 10 branch of the legendary Scott restaurant does its best to provide a little countrified atmosphere along with the signature hubcap burgers. On a recent visit we skipped the ground beef and ordered the catfish, which came with a smorgasbord of fried sides: hushpuppies, corn fritters and French fries. All of it was great, and we really enjoyed the corn fritters — crunchy on the outside, with a sweet cream-corn center. And we couldn’t resist getting a side of onion rings — a good decision. They’re big, tasty and homemade. Our lunch companion wasn’t up for a hubcap, but he ordered a regulation-size cheeseburger — greasy and salty, he said, as good roadside-diner fare should be. And his side of fried green tomatoes didn’t disappoint. There are options for vegetarians or lighter eaters: the fried okra Caesar salad, for instance, or the veggie burger. Or choose from daily plate lunch specials starring standbys like meat loaf and chicken fried steak. You won’t leave hungry. 14710 Cantrell Road, 868-1744. LD Mon.-Sat. $ CC

Capsule review

UPDATE: ITALIAN COUPLE The Couple’s new location, which looks out at the state Capitol off Third Street at the railroad viaduct, is quite a contrast to its previous home on 12th Street. It was there that Michael and Yuli Lombardi Waters settled the first time, in 1996, drawn to Little Rock because it was President Clinton’s former home. And when they reopened earlier this year after a seven-year absence from the market, Michael tells us, it was the only spot available, so they occupied it for several months while still on the lookout for something bigger and better. They’ve found that, with a $30,000 investment in a redo and enlarged parking lot, in a building that also houses a liquor store. There are three large dining rooms and on a Friday, the parking lot was jammed and people waited outside the front door. Diners wait for such tasty items as the gnocchi doused in Yuli’s special tomato, cream and red pepper sauce. We tried the spaghetti carbonara, which was loaded with bacon bits, a little light on the cream, but with a distinctive flavor. Salads with the entrees are small but flavorful; the house dressing is a balsamic vinaigrette (though you can pick an assortment of other dressings). We started out our meal with the caprese: fresh bread, sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and large basil leaves. Our waiter was just learning the ropes and got the salads and entrees out of order, but we didn’t mind a bit, as we were having such a good time (and so too, judging from the sound coming from other tables, were other diners throughout the place). Still, the owners wanted to make up for it and comped two desserts that Yuli makes herself –- the dreamy, creamy chocolate balls, custard filled pastry shells doused in a rich chocolate mousse-like sauce; and a tiramisu with large lady fingers not overly soaked in espresso, and which was like dessert heaven. The DaVinci chianti was a nice complement to the meal, and they also had an inexpensive pinot grigio by the glass that suited Companion. Italian beers available. The surroundings, with florescent lighting that they’ve toned down to not overwhelm the table candles, aren’t ritzy, but offer a warm, festive feel that, along with the food, makes us want to return to the Italian Couple soon. 1900 W. 3rd St. Wine and beer. CC. $$-$$$ 372-4448. LD Tue.-Sat.

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