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What's cooking/capsule reviews 

What's cooking A Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant opened May 2 in the Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center on Highway 10. Soon to come on Highway 10 is a Catfish City and BBQ restaurant that the owners tell us will be larger and offer more items than their Catfish City on University (which is quite large in itself after a rebuilding job last year). The Highway 10 restaurant will offer a broader menu, we’re told, and will have a full bar. It’s days from opening, probably in two weeks. J’s Place, a popular malt-shop-style diner on Market Street, is opening its second location at the corner of Sixth and Center streets, and the restaurant is taking employment applications weekdays from 3-5 p.m. The restaurant, going in where a New York Bagels sign remained long after the shop closed, will open next month. It’s in the same building as Lulav, a planned California kosher cuisine eatery that is at the southeast corner of building, and will be opening the middle of this month, according to chef James Botwright. The Buffalo Grill, reopened on Rebsamen Park Road by Buffalo Grill West owner Doug Green, began a soft-opening for dinner only about two weeks ago and now serves lunch, too. The restaurant will feature an expanded deck. You’ll need to park in front or in the back of the restaurant; parking across the street that used to serve both the Buffalo Grill, when it was owned by John Gaiser, and the Faded Rose is now strictly for Faded Rose and the soon-to-come Bubba and Garcia’s restaurants, Rose owner Ed David says. Capsule reviews RICK AND D’S FISHER’S CAFE When it comes to Fisher’s, change has been good. Fisher’s, which was sold by Roy Fisher Jr. to Rick and Delana Green at the end of March, has been a mainstay of the North Little Rock breakfast scene more years than most of us like to count. As regular morning diners, we had to wonder, with the change in ownership, is it still a good place to start your day? We are pleased to say the answer is a resounding “yes.” The new owners have kept most of the good things about the old and added some nice touches. The coffee is still great and the service ensures you always have a hot cup. We wish they hadn’t replaced milk with Coffee Mate, though. The omelets are just as good and bigger than the old Fisher’s. The sausage and cheese (not on the menu, but they’ll make it) is especially good, and the bacon/cheese omelet ($5.50) is also great. Our pancake experts say they are just as good if not better (two for $2.99, three for $3.25). The hash browns are a nice side, not as crispy as the old, but still quite tasty ($1.15). But the most noticeable addition is grits. We never understood why Roy and family didn’t serve them. When we asked, the answer always came back “We just don’t.” Never argue with an institution. Rick and D’s makes good grits and if you look around you can spot the Yankees in attendance; they put sugar on theirs. The best test of a home-cookin’ place is its biscuits, and you will not be disappointed. While they are not quite as good as the old ones, which were flakier, these still pass our ultimate biscuit test: Are they good all by themselves? Our first try, a couple of days after the change, was a scary experience, but they have quickly corrected the problem and you should have no fear. One word to the wise: We’ve occasionally had biscuits that were a little overcooked, but they gladly replaced them. The gravy, too, is improved, and has a good flavor. For us, honey is the way to go, and we end up with a nice breakfast dessert. Our biggest concern was the service, and would it remain as it had been for years — where else can you go and be called “hon” or “sugar” or watch the waitresses flirt with 80-year-old men? Not to worry, the best waitresses in town still work at Fishers. Our favorite, Marisa, is still there and still telling the customers what to do. The new waitresses seem to be fitting in well and understanding what a special place Fisher’s is. The other improvement is that they now use one of the rooms for smokers. No more gagging on the way to the bathroom. Lunch and the pies? After such a good breakfast, where could you fit it in? 1919 E. Broadway, NLR, 374-5661. BLD Mon.-Fri. (6 a.m. to 3 p.m.). $-$$ CC Beer. WING STAR While we’ve got no problem with hot wings in general, the thought of a whole restaurant devoted to serving every possible incarnation of chicken propellers — hot, teriyaki, honey, Cajun, bbq, etc, etc, etc. — has always struck us as something of an oddity. Wings, by our way of thinking, are strictly an appetizer; something you eat BEFORE you eat. Nobody, for instance, would be crazy enough to open up a restaurant where all they had on the menu was nine different versions of cheese dip (Trademark! Trademark! We thought of it first!). Still, when we saw that Wing Star had opened in the former Mazatlan location, we were drawn there by an almost magnetic force. The good news is, the wings — if a little greasy — weren’t half bad. At Wing Star, they come in seven varieties. For those with asbestos palates, the “hot” was enough to cause our heat-loving companion’s eyes to cross for a second before he was able to fumble his tea glass to his lips. On the other end of the spectrum, the honey barbecue wings were just sweet enough, with a nice lick of fire at the end. Cajun, lemon pepper, teriyaki and garlic pepper seasonings are also available, as well as a “mild” level on the heat. Too, for those not interested in the maximum amount of effort for the minimal amount of meat, Wing Star also offers stuff like four varieties of fried rice, french fries, egg rolls, and catfish nuggets (though we’re pretty sure the only thing the fish served to us had in common with catfishus deliciosi was that both once lived underwater). Still, if you’re in Midtown and find yourself wing-hungry, it’s a nice little place to stop in for a bite, especially with its lunch specials that offer a lot of food at a minimal price. 1810 S. University Ave., 661-9292. LD Mon.-Sat. $ CC No alcohol.
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