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What's cooking/capsule reviews 

What's cooking Casting its lot in the busy Hot Springs restaurant business is Susie Q’s Restaurant and Lounge, which opened earlier this year at 173 Marion Anderson Road, about seven-tenths of a mile west of Lake Hamilton on U.S. 70. The restaurant opens at 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday (closing every night at 11 p.m.), and features a full menu with steaks, burgers, salads and seafood specials. There are two separate dance floors to accommodate the live-entertainment crowd all five nights. The site formerly housed Nick’s Place. Susie Q’s owner Dennis Key has redone the space in a 1950s motif. The international T.G.I. Friday’s casual dining chain informs us that it has recognized a need to re-energize a four-decades-old concept and that its restaurants will be soon be sporting a new, contemporary look. That includes the North Little Rock restaurant in Lakewood Village starting this week. Besides changes in exteriors and interiors, the revitalization includes a new, easier-to-follow menu layout and new selections. Friday’s expects to have all the company-owned restaurants in line with the new changes by the end of 2006, with the balance of franchise-owned restaurants completed by the end of 2007. Minneapolis-based Carlson, Friday’s parent company, is investing more than $200 million internationally. Capsule reviews JULIE’S We thought we’d give Julie’s on Shackleford in West Little Rock a try after it survived a recent fire that briefly closed the place. We tried to beat the Friday night crowd, driving right after work from downtown and getting there about 6. A parking place was hard to find, but once inside we discovered that most of the patrons were in the bar. After the week we had, we probably could have joined them if we didn’t have a youngster in tow. The interior has not changed too much, just maybe a few new tables (which seem kind of low). The menu runs from basic salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, steaks, chicken and fish all the way up to some combos with lobster. They serve a good bowl of French onion soup. We also tried the eight-ounce center-cut pork chop dinner with cinnamon apples, baked potato (or French fries, or rice) and garlic bread. The chop was picturesque with its crisscross grill marks and was absolutely delicious, moist and juicy. Mandarin chicken salad was Companion’s choice, and it included a good portion of ginger soy chicken breast. Chicken fingers to the rescue for our young one, who actually liked the honey mustard dip. We viewed the dessert tray and couldn’t pass up sharing a slice of warm pecan pie with vanilla ice cream. But then we noticed something that seemed out of place. We realized that even though Julie’s has a good bar business, the bar crowd is concealed from the eating area by closed double doors and across a foyer from the dining area. That made for a quiet, almost sedate, dining atmosphere. We could actually talk to one another without competing with other diners seated right up our elbows, excessively loud music and general noise. It was relaxing. (Later, we found out they have happy-hour drink and food specials behind those double doors.) 110 Shackleford Drive, 224-4501, LD daily. $-$$$ CC Full bar. GADWALL’S PIZZA While we’ve grown to love Sherwood’s Gadwall’s Grill for their big ol’ burgers, salads, fries and homey atmosphere, we didn’t know what to make of it when another Gadwall’s — this one a pizza joint — sprouted next door. To our delight, it seems that the folks at Gadwall’s bring the same zest to their pizzas as they do to their burgers, and serve this reviewer’s favorite salad in town: Gadwall’s soaked salad ($2.25 small, $3.50 large). It’s a flavorful mixture of greens, onions, olives and peppers, swimming in a sweet dressing. Our cheap-at-twice-the-price 13-inch supreme pizza ($10.20) was served on a cracker-thin crust (which is much harder to get right, in our book, than a big old thick crust), loaded with fresh veggies and cheese, then cut into squares instead of wedges, the way a thin-crust pizza should be. 7311 North Hills Blvd., Sherwood, 834-5200. Hours: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. $ CC
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