What’s cooking
Ryan Hamra, who owns a Blue Coast Burrito restaurant in Memphis, is opening the first Blue Coast Burrito in Arkansas, at 4613 E. McCain Blvd. in North Little Rock on Aug. 1. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
“I’ve been involved in Blue Coast for over two years,” said Hamra, who grew up in the restaurant business as the son of Gerry Hamra, who operated Wendy’s restaurants in this area for many years. “I traveled for six months looking for the right franchise.”
He checked out Baja Burrito in Nashville, a mom-and-pop operation with recipes they had come up with traveling in Baja and other regions, and met with the owners about franchising. They couldn’t franchise that name so they chose Blue Coast.
Ingredients are made fresh every day and the concept is “beachy California” with a family atmosphere, Hamra said. For a look at the offerings, check out www.bluecoastburrito.com. The phone number at the new restaurant 945-8033. The location is across the street from the new Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Capsule reviews
BEECHWOOD GRILL The minimalist look of the room doesn’t translate to the kitchen, which presents dishes that are anything but simple and have intriguing, varied flavors. They do a nice, plentiful bowl of hummus as a good starter, and we’ve enjoyed the range of daily soup offerings. On a recent lunch, we chose a special entrée of gouda cheese ravioli – marvelous, with a nice smoky flavor in the cheese – along with a burger (we’ve always found it dependable, large, and satisfying) and a Kavanaugh club sandwich. The only problem we had was wishing our club had been cut in the traditional quarters in the kitchen before it was presented, rather than in half triangles. So, obviously, if that’s our only quibble, we must have had a great meal. The bacon and the aged gouda took this club to another level. Service was friendly and attentive. One other thing to point out: The menu said that “fried shoestring potatoes” came with the burger. Well, they were french fries, and pretty basic. Maybe the owner doesn’t want to acknowledge the French, but didn’t want to call them “freedom” fries. All in all, we had a fine lunch dining experience, and smartly arrived early, as by noon nearly every table was taken. 2721 Kavanaugh. Full bar. CC $$-$$$ 663-1196 LD Mon.-Sun.
TOM’S TWELFTH STREET BAR-B-Q When anyone does a poll of the best barbecue in Pulaski County, Tom’s garners a few votes from the faithful, and that recently piqued our interest. We didn’t even notice this nondescript place just west of the intersection of Fair Park and 12th until we made a serious effort to find it. And sure enough, when we went looking, the city street crew doing roadwork was blocking the place. We still found a place close by to park. Outside, it’s a traditional barbecue shack you might find off the highway in the Delta. Inside, it’s chockfull of memorabilia to make your wait for your order worth it. Hanging from below the window where the food is passed from kitchen to cashier is a photo of Houston Nutt, so you know where the owner’s loyalty lies. If you’re not a Hog fan, you’d better not mention it. If you’re a hog fan, your best bet is to order the jumbo pork sandwich (the minimal difference in cost between regular and jumbo makes ordering a regular pointless unless you’re just not hungry, so why eat?). There’s a hint of the old Shack style of sauce in this ’cue, heavy, spicy and vinegary. We point out the sauce because, if you order the ribs, it’s more a thin, heavy-in-cider-vinegar style; maybe the sandwich bun absorbs a lot of the sauce. We know better than to order ribs at a tiny joint before asking if they were smoked that day, and these obviously weren’t. We got plenty of ribs with the order, and they weren’t disappointing, but they lacked the same-day or maybe even day-later freshness the grill imparts. A good rib deal, if they’re being smoked that day, is on Saturdays, when Tom’s offers one pound for half price if you order another at full price. Sounds like a good idea to pair with watching the Hogs. 5508 W. 12th St., 666-1225. LD Tue.-Fri. (close at 4:30 Wed., 5:30 Tue., Thu.-Fri.), L Sat. $ Cash or check only. No alcohol.