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MOORE ON MAUMELLE | Changing up Cheers with pizzas and a patio

Did you know that Cheers in Maumelle has a new owner? Well, you wouldn’t unless you looked closely. Wes Kirtley, 46, has taken over Cheers and has definite ideas of what will keep Maumelle’s leading fine dining establishment popular with folks around here and elsewhere.

Just last week, he started serving “brick oven” pizzas. He placed the new oven in the corner of the main dining room and can turn out an 8-10 inch pizza in about 3 to 4 minutes. Some of the selections include your basic cheese and up to the “Woo Pig Sooie,” featuring sausage, bacon, pepperoni and more bacon.

Of course, you can design your own choosing from a list of the usual ingredients. Pizza prices range from $9.75 to $14.95. They are the thin-crust variety and are all hand-made with fresh ingredients. They will also begin serving a skillet mac and cheese served in a cast iron vessel in the next few weeks.

He’s made a few changes that you may not notice including freshening up the paint and adding more lighting in the main dining room, which has always been strangely dim. He has also discontinued opening on Sundays due to the sparse crowd that showed up to watch football games.

Future plans include adding a patio outside with 6 to 8 tables with a wall around it to shield diners from the lovely Dollar General store parking lot view. He says he will also add a fire pit so he can offer seating even when the weather is a bit chilly.

The previous owner, Chris Tanner, will continue to operate the Cheers in the Heights.

Kirtley has franchise restaurant experience and is committed to making Cheers the first choice of Maumellians and attracting those from across the river to come here instead of dining in the “city.” Judging from an overflow crowd this past Friday, it seems to be working.

Lewis keeps his face on Facebook

If you’ve never taken a look at Maumelle Alderman Preston Lewis’ Facebook, you should. He posts under the name “Preston Lewis for Maumelle” and often posts information about what’s going on in Maumelle government and politics. Here were some of his thoughts on the traffic gridlock, one of Maumelle’s favorite topics and ongoing deterrent for folks to move out here or do business in the community.

Here’s an excerpt from his latest post:

There are solutions that the Mayor and other city officials are working toward. Here are two concrete solutions:

1. Traffic responsive signals for the existing lights on Maumelle Blvd. –

The current system is the same as almost all stoplights. It’s a timed system that is flawed and subject to frequent injustices. The system that is on the horizon would be a “smart traffic light system” that would have detection equipment to monitor the number of cars waiting at light currently. It would analyze the traffic patterns in real time and adjust the lights accordingly. I think this is something you will see in the very near future.

2. Construction of a 3rd Maumelle interstate exit onto I-40. This is almost like a mirage in the desert, but I say with absolute confidence that Mayor Mike Watson continues to make progress. In an era where federal “ear mark” projects have become taboo, he’s persistently slugging it out through the bureaucratic process to do what the Federal and State governments require for construction of an interstate exit. I applaud his persistence toward such an unenviable task.

We share in your frustration about traffic and welcome all ideas. If you want to vent, call me.

Better than your average cookie

You’ve never had anything like Clare Williams’ macarons. Pronounced MAH-KAH-RONE, and not to be confused with the coconut-infused cookie, the macaroon. A macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with eggs, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food coloring.

Her flavors range from “raspberry beret” to “obnoxious chocolate.” I have known Clare and her husband Kirby for about forty years and have been privy to several tastings of various flavors. If you want a special confection for your holiday gatherings, check out MaryClare Macarons. Look for them at Boulevard Bread, Hillcrest Artisan Meats and Terry’s Finer Foods in Little Rock or at the Savory Pantry in Hot Springs. They are melt-in-your-mouth good and will probably raise your sophistication level just a tad. Find out more at maryclaremacarons.com.

This is my last column until 2014, so thanks to all of you who read and send notes of criticism, encouragement, and even condemnation. Keep them coming. They are all equally welcome.

See you on the Boulevard. Have a Merry Christmas and safe New Year’s Eve.

Neal Moore is COE (chief of everything) at Neal Moore Creative, a PR, advertising and marketing consultancy. He has lived in Maumelle over 10 years. If you have a community concern contact him at neal.moore@sbcglobal.net. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.

CHRISTMAS BREAK

Columnist Neal Moore is taking the holiday season off. His column will return in January.

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