worth the wait
The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts finally opened last month, and the city's been buzzing ever since. See it for yourself 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon - 5 p.m. Sunday. Learn more at arkmfa.org.
argenta & pettaway
There's always something new happening around downtown, but the Argenta and Pettaway neighborhoods have had more than their share of news in recent weeks.
In Pettaway, which identifies itself as the area east of Main Street and west of I-30, a recent renaissance has brought maker markets to Pettaway Square, a brick-and-mortar location for Paper Hearts Bookstore, the return of Moody Brews and many more local businesses, with even more in the works.
Across the river, Argenta is taking advantage of the spring weather with the addition of "parklets" providing outdoor dining space along Main Street, not to mention the return of the recurring Argenta Dogtown Throwdown block parties, Argenta Vibe Music Series and weekly Dogtown Yoga sessions in the plaza.
on the horizon
There are more big changes coming to downtown with more developments and finalized plans to be released in the near future. The one everyone's watching? The "deck park." Thanks to an early 2023 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the city's plans for a new park over a stretch of I-30 is inching forward. The proposed space is designed to increase walkability in the area between MacArthur Park and the Hanger Hill and East Village neighborhoods.
Argenta's restaurant scene took a hit with the closing of longtime favorite Cregeen's Irish Pub in March, but it didn't sit empty for long. Draft and Table is currently in the works at 301 Main St. with plans to open in the fall. We caught up with executive chef Kevin Doroski (Ristorante Capeo, Brood and Barley, Mockingbird Bar and Tacos) to learn more.
The Menu: "I really want to share some of my favorite personal dishes with Argenta that are unique and delicious, without wandering too far out of people's comfort zones. We chose to call ourselves 'American fare' dining, mostly because America is a beautiful melting pot of traditions and recipes from all over the globe, and I would like to be able to use my menu to remind people of what a beautiful thing it is when people from all walks of life come together. There is no better way to bring people together than with food or music."
The Atmosphere: "We are truly giving the space a huge makeover to give it more of a 'restaurant that happens to have an amazing bar' vibe instead of a 'bar that also serves food' vibe. We are holding on to the original bar from Dublin that is in the space to keep that history alive. … We are working to provide a beautiful ambiance for date nights, concert nights and business lunches, as well as a great spot to grab a beer and meet your friends."
The Story: "The idea of taking over Cregeen's is something I never thought would happen. Not in a million years did I think we would pull it off. While doing a private chef dinner in Argenta one evening in June of last year, the idea was brought up as a light joke at first. Suddenly, I couldn't stop thinking about the possibilities or the opportunities that were there. A few months later, we had our [restaurant] name and a new obsession with the space.
"I simply want people to know that, while many of us are sad to see Cregeen's bittersweet exit from the block, we have a lot of exciting and new things to bring to the table, and I absolutely can't wait to see the reactions from people when they come in and get a taste."
Follow @draftandtableargenta on Instagram and Facebook for progress updates and details on pop-up events.
The most attention-grabbing restaurant opening in recent months has been Flora Jean's at the corner of Third and River Market Ave. from the team behind At the Corner. The Instagrammable appeal of the space has drawn plenty of social media views, but it's the fresh, vegetarian menu and juice bar that will keep customers coming back for more.
Though it was initially delayed, the new Sterling Market (pictured at top) has also been a hot commodity since opening last month. Owners took advantage of the spacious layout of the old Sterling Paint Factory in East Village to create a food court-style restaurant with everything from pizza by the slice to a quality butcher station, each featuring made-in-house items with local ingredients. Make sure to come back this summer when the alley patio opens.
In SoMa, the hotly anticipated opening of The Bagel Shop's brick-and-mortar space at 1501 S. Main St. is still on track to open this summer, now with Monica Chatterton of Flake Baby Pastry on the team. The second Big Bad Breakfast location, set to open in the former Soul Fish space downtown, is also still in the works.
The future of South on Main, however, is more uncertain. The iconic SoMa restaurant closed in January, but following a botched sale, owner Don Dugan announced intentions to reopen with a different concept. Until then, it is serving as a temporary location for The Loony Bin after the comedy club suffered significant damage in the March 31 tornado.