Baja Grill hits the spot, serves up tasty and cheap dishes

Baja Grill offers a wide variety of "Mexi-Cali" dishes, including their signature cheese dip. Photo by Lily Jones

Baja Grill offers a wide variety of “Mexi-Cali” dishes, including their signature cheese dip. Photo by Lily Jones

by Lily Jones, Staff Writer

At the corner of Kavanaugh and north University now sits the “Mexi-Cali” style restaurant, Baja Grill. Previous restaurants at this location, like Satellite Café, Seoul, Heights Café, and Mama Citas have all gone out of business, but it is evident by the 7 p.m. crowd that Baja Grill is here to stay.

The restaurant was once a mere food truck in Benton, Arkansas, but has now taken root in the Heights. The building has a covered patio facing Kavanaugh, and many tables and a few booths inside. The decorations are mostly bland and stereotypical for a restaurant, except for one lime-colored wall. Every table also has a painted bottle with the waiter’s name written in chalk.

Upon arriving on a Friday evening at 7, we were told that the wait time for two would be twenty minutes. We gave the hostess my phone number, and began to window shop near the restaurant.

On the confirmation text we were sent, there was a link that allowed us to see exactly how many minutes we have been waiting, and how many tables were in front of us in line. The total wait was about twenty minutes. When my phone finally chimed, we power-walked back to the restaurant.

We were seated at the patio and were immediately asked what drinks we wanted. After our Sprites arrived, we ordered a “triple dipper”, which consists of salsa, guacamole, and cheese dip. As the white cheese dip addict that I am, I truly believe Baja Grill has the best cheese dip in Little Rock. The salsa and guacamole were both fresh, and not too spicy for my taste.

When our waitress arrived to take our orders, I ordered the baja beef taco, while my friend opted for the Cuban burrito. All entrees consist of taco ingredients, and there is an option for a quesadilla, a burrito with rice and beans, or a “naked burrito,” which is all of the burrito elements put into a bowl without the tortilla wrap.

The beef taco was very fresh, with fresco cheese, pico de gallo, and “baja sauce” on top. About two or three would make enough for a meal. The Cuban burrito had shredded pork, avocado, rice and beans, and was topped with cheese dip and some other spicy sauces with names I don’t recall.

Both of our meals were extremely fresh and appetizing. The chips were crisp, and all of the dips were amazing.

The only down side to this restaurant was the long wait to be seated, and the somewhat slow service. However, the owner and chef were constantly walking around and making sure the food was up to par.

Baja Grill is a great ‘Mexi-Cali’ restaurant with easy prices and flavorful food.

Tiger staffers travel to Argenta Arts District

The journey to the Argenta Arts District begins by crossing over the Arkansas River via the Junction Bridge.

The journey to the Argenta Arts District begins by crossing over the Arkansas River via the Junction Bridge. Photo by Sophia Ordaz

by Sophie Barnes and Sophia Ordaz, staff writers

Junction Bridge is a huge metallic beast. Its joints are connected by heavy iron screws. Its spine is a rollercoaster of curves. The Arkansas River churns beneath this steely bridge, and as we take one last look at downtown Little Rock’s skyline, the Argenta Arts District grows closer and closer with every step.

There’s a Greyhound bus station. People coming and going like ants from their hill. A campy pawn shop with a mysterious limo parked out front. The street intersects and Main Street is just around the corner.

Main Street is the heart of the Argenta Arts District. The environment is relaxing and welcoming. Trees line the sidewalks, offering shade to passers-by, and the district is thriving with its locally-owned businesses. Entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds band together in what locals call a “big family.” Main Street existed long before the city of North Little Rock, along with the Argenta Drug Company, a national historic landmark.

“The Argenta Drug Company is the oldest pharmacy west of the Mississippi River,” Brandon, a four-year pharmacy student says. “I wrote a business plan for the building, and I had to do a big research project of the history of this building. This is all original tin ceiling; some of the paint is chipping up there in the back corner.”

Needless to say, the Argenta Drug Company has seen a great deal. It dates back to when North Little Rock was still known as Argenta and when Main Street was just a dirt road.

“This is a 130 year old pharmacy, and right now it’s only the fourth owner, so people who’ve owned this place stay with it for a long time,” Brandon says. “In fact, all three previous owners were Justices of the Peace, and people would come and get married in the back office. These couples will come in for their anniversary and talk about how they got married here.”

We take another look at the historic pharmacy. The hand-laid tile floor is black and white, and little mistakes in the pattern can even be seen by the naked eye. The ceiling is chipped and the wallpaper is peeling. Glass cases still hold prescription bottles dating back to the ‘50s, and regular customers crowd the pharmacy just as they did a century ago. The Argenta Drug Company is a living history book still being written.

Toward the end of the strip, a small congregation of tents and people has set up camp. We approach it excitedly, hoping we’re right in our guess that this is the Argenta Farmer’s Market. We are, and we enter the common ground to not just find homegrown tomatoes and freshly picked parsley, but other products like honey, soap, and hummus dip are sold by over twenty vendors that line the visitor’s walkway.

“We are a certified farmer’s market”, co-founder Barbara Armstrong states proudly. “Every farmer who is here has to grow what they sell.”

Armstrong likes to call this walking community a type of “cottage industry.” She takes much pride in the fact that her market is fresh and at the River Market, not all of the products sold are freshly grown.

“It’s just about making people aware that this is a true farmer’s market…Everything you see on this table, I grew,” Armstrong insights. “I’ve actually had to ask people to pull things off the table. It’s just the rules and regulations we follow.”

An intern from Hendrix College in Conway, Molly, enjoys working at the market because it teaches her how to handle herself with new people, a skill that will carry with her for the rest of her life.

“I like that the Argenta Arts District provides a lot of opportunities for a wide variety of people. This district is really interesting and diverse,” Molly says.

An internship with the market is just up the alley of students who want a beginner’s view of entrepreneurship and would like to be involved with a community project. If you, like Molly, have an interest in being an intern for the market, visit www.argentafarmersmarket.com for more description and contact information.

Mug’s Café was founded in 2013, and since then it has certainly become an important part of the Argenta Arts District. Mug’s Café doubles as the Church of Argenta, where a service is held every Sunday at ten-thirty a.m. Comfy chairs and sofas fan around the raised platform where the pastor speaks, and there’s a wood carving of the world’s continents on the back wall. This laidback environment exists throughout the café. The walls, some red brick, some wood, are covered with artworks created by local artists, and the tables where we eat are of a modest dark wood.

The sound of plates clinking, chairs scraping, and people chatting fills our ears as we open the glass door to Mug’s Café. We step into the café and order at the counter where we can see cooks chopping colorful vegetables and hear the sizzle of meat in the kitchen. The lunch menu offers dishes like the Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich, Cranberry Turkey Sliders, and even a vegetarian wrap. After some thought, we finally settle on the Chicken Salad Sandwich and head to a table by the front window to await our order.

When our orders are up, we bring the food back to the table. The chicken salad sandwiches are accompanied with green apple slices, and as we dive in, we strike up a conversation with the two women sitting at a neighboring table. We learn that the two friends, Joanne Williams and Linda Armstrong, met at Mug’s Café and that both women love living near the art district.

“I took pottery classes down the street, and I just loved it,” says Linda. “I love how this district has everything. You can get good food here, bike, and watch films. This district affects a lot of people.”

Before long, crumbs littered our plates, and our cups ran dry. As our conversations with Joanne and Linda came to an end, we couldn’t help but notice the way the Argenta Arts District unites people through art, food, and fellowship.

The first thing she says to us is, “Y’all two are pretty girls.”

Joanne Williams, a resident of the Argenta Arts District, sits down at Mug’s Café every day for lunch of a chicken-salad sandwich and crunchy apple slices. With her apartment sitting just around the corner, it’s an easy walk from here to there. And it must be because of an accident in 1985 that left her with a concussion and a tendency for seizures that have caused her to wreck two cars and lose her independence. Joanne must depend on her children and siblings for almost every activity she decides to venture upon. However, through her perspective, this dependency is premature. She wants to experience more than she has ever been able and in Argenta, she can. She’s almost sixty years old, and her life has just begun.

The Joint seems somewhat deceiving at first glance, looking like some kind of Off-Off-Broadway Theater.

A modern coffee shop with an in-house comedy group, the place is owned by Steve and Vicki Farrell and operated by a woman known as “Tex.”

The menu holds several eating and drinking options that include their signature German Chocolate Mocha blended coffee and their homemade pastries that ooze deliciousness from their trays in the counter displays.

“I’ve been working here for almost two years,” Tex recalls. “We’ve just had our third birthday with The Joint in the past few months. Compared to a year ago, we’re much busier. I gets packed on comedy night. The Main Thing is our comedy group.”

“What’s His Name?” is the current comedy project that the Farrell duo has taken on at their restaurant. Steve’s writing has been featured on Saturday Night Live, and Vicki is a small time producer/actress. They previously owned Radio City Music Hall in Dallas, but when the two moved to Little Rock in 2011, they founded The Joint and it has only blossomed since.

As for Tex, she enjoys her line of work and feels like she’s “part of the family.”

“It’s been a great place for me. We’re all like a family around here. It’s a really neat community to be a part of, and I want to stay and be a part of it,” Tex says.

The Main Thing performs on Fridays and Saturdays from 7-8 P.M., but be sure to come by on special nights to watch Armadillo Rodeo, Arkansas’s only professional teen-improv group, perform featuring many Central students that you know and love.

Just down the way from the Joint is a new extension, the area’s hustle-and-bustle in the Argenta Community Theater. Here “Fiddler on the Roof” and many other shows were put on this past theater season. Included in this was junior Casey Labatte who got the chance to be a part of the theater this summer.

“I saw a show there last year and thought it was great,” Casey says. “When I found out about ‘Fiddler,’ I auditioned and I got a lead role.”

Casey not only gained hours upon hours of resume material and Thespian points, but also the opportunity to perform in a state-of-the-art building.

“It was really nice. Beautiful building, very professional environment, but comfortable too,” Casey says.

The area’s official thrift and antique shop lies across the street from the theater. Inside, it’s cramped. A table corner obstructs our way. It’s hard to find a path amid the countless storage crates full of old dishes and porcelain figurines. But we have to see everything on the second level of Galaxy Furniture & Design.

“My wife and I go by Retroman and Retrogirl,” owner Wayne Hogan says. “We knew customers were going to call us something…that’s who we are now.”

Hogan’s nickname reflects Galaxy’s museum of “eclectic-vintage” pieces. Flowered sofas, 60s style chairs, a rainbow of luggage, department store mannequins, and a statue of Bart Simpson the size of a five year old take up only a fraction of the second level. There’s a rack of old comics that leans against a bookshelf and a life-size cardboard cutout of Ringo Starr that presides over the extensive record collection. A red neon sign hangs on the back wall, filling the space with a soft, rosy glow. The sign reads “BAGEL,” and its nonsensical nature matches Galaxy well.

“We do sell office furniture, and that’s our bread and butter,” says Hogan. “This vintage stuff is on the side. Young kids love it. It’s new to them, and it brings back good times for the parents. Collecting this stuff is what we love to do.”

Do not let the name fool you. Galaxy Furniture & Design is more than a furniture store, and it’s an incredible addition to the Argenta Arts District.

As we end our “exploring and imploring”, the street is now behind us and the light of the day is fading. A successful Saturday of shopping, eating, and meeting new and interesting people has met its end. With its one-of-a-kind businesses, friendly eateries, thriving fine arts and theater, and locally grown and produced goods, the Argenta Arts District is a valuable addition to the Central Arkansas area. We can only hope our adventures will lead us back again someday.

Golf team continues progress on challenging courses

 

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The War Memorial Golf Course is the practice location of the TIger golf team

By Ian Djurica, Staff Writer 

Coach Kim Burleson is getting the golf team ready for a strong year. Led by Lance Nolan and Cole Martin, the team is preparing to bring home the trophy in the upcoming state tournament.

“We practice Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays over at First Tee. Just driving range stuff and chipping and putting,” Cole Martin said. “And most of our tournament rounds are played at War Memorial golf course.”

Martin is one of nine guys on the team along with three girls: Skylar Baker, Paige Raborn, and Lauren Shepard.

Junior DJ Williams is hoping to represent the school at the state tournament in three weeks. War Memorial golf course on Markham street has always hosted the Tigers and keeps the course in top shape. The course is a par 64 with short holes and fast greens that test even the most skilled of golfers. With high quality courses and discounts to team members, War Memorial is always beneficial to Central.

After some uncertainty over who would be leading the team, Burleson took charge and is working with the players to build their skills.

“What sets our school apart from others is that Central puts an emphasis not only on improvement, but etiquette as well,” DJ Williams said.

With a certain set of rules unlike other sports, golf requires players to dress presentably and respect the rules of the game, even though there are no referees or judges. Players are expected to treat the course as well as they treat opponents.

“Whether it is good sportsmanship or dressing out, our golf team is always one of the freshest in the district,” Williams said.

Hands-on learning helps teach Biology concepts

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Photo by Melissa Donham, Biology teacher

Sophomores Makenna Edwards, Raekwon Rogers, Jack Curtis, and Amanpreet Kaur (left to right) work on DNA models in their Biology class. “The students are working on a hands-on project to learn about the dehydration synthesis of polypeptide bonds,” teacher Melissa Donham said.

Ambitious entrepreneurs establish ‘XA’ design firm

Junior Quentin Anderson and senior Xavier Vaughn plan on their company being more than just a clothing line.

 Photo by Jordan Graft, Junior Quentin Anderson (left) and senior Xavier Vaughn plan on their company being more than just a clothing line.

 

by Simeon Simmons, Features Editor

If you don’t act on it, your idea is never going to be anything.”

These are words from wise young entrepreneurs, senior Xavier Anthony and junior Quentin Anderson, who say their success is just beginning to break surface.

Xavier and Quentin have recently been promoting their contemporary clothing line, ‘XA’ (Xavier Anthony). However, this is not their first rodeo; they have both had lines of their own prior to ‘XA’. Xavier and his partner Anthony Lemons, who attends Parkview, teamed up to create ‘XA’ with the help of Creative Director, Quentin.

Yet the brand ‘XA’ is not limited to just a clothing line; these entrepreneurs will do almost anything that calls for originality and talent. As a design firm, they are known for assisting many other entrepreneurs like themselves, including photographers, film producers and music artists. They have recently been filming a music video directed by ‘XA’ for a local rapper, known as “Lothraxx”.

“’Xavier Anthony’ is not just a clothing line, ‘Xavier Anthony’ is a design firm,” Xavier said. “We don’t like to label ourselves as a clothing brand because we do way more than just clothes. We’re doing just about anything we can. If we can get our hands on it and get a ‘piece of the pie’ we’re going to try to do that.”

The two don’t plan on “XA” being a high school fantasy, long forgotten, and immediately tossed to the side after graduation. Xavier, Anthony, and Quentin aim to take this brand where “it’s too far to reach.” After high school, they intend to focus on taking their brand to the next level, and being accepted into college to take many courses in design and business. Even though they are focused on their clothing line, that’s not what they would like to limit themselves to.

“Eventually, we’re trying to have ‘XA’ cars, ‘XA’ airplanes; when you go over the bridge, you’ll be in your ‘XA’ shirt,” Quentin said.

As all great entrepreneurs know, the primary goal of starting a business is promoting it, emphasizing on exposure, publicity and pushing the brand into the limelight. ‘XA’ has a lot of big time, upcoming projects, including a four-city tour in Arkansas to Conway, Memphis, Fayetteville and Little Rock. ‘XA’ might also attend the A3C hip-hop festival in Atlanta, Georgia with a good friend of theirs, local rapper, “Lothraxx”. The A3C hip-hop festival includes performances from artists all over America, including upcoming producers and well-known hip-hop artist.

“It’s not necessarily about getting paid; it’s not about that right now. We’re worried about getting exposure, because without exposure, we’re not going to get paid,” Quentin said.

So, you’ve wanted to start a business of your own? Exactly, how do you do that? Xavier and Quentin told their secrets to victory: staying concentrated, getting things done, and receiving the encouraging support from others who are just as passionate about the journey as they are.

“Staying consistent, staying dedicated, being a hundred percent with whatever you’re doing, making sure you have a team, because without a team, you can make it, but it’s so much more support,” Xavier said. “I don’t want to say it’s so much easier to have a team, but it makes the journey less stressful.”

Quentin and Xavier think of their design firm as more of a lifestyle and less of a project. They say they will continue to work through all the difficulties thrown their way and give their brand their all.

“’XA’ is like producing art though a lifestyle,” Quentin said.

2014 Homecoming Court Nominees

Oct
1
6:00 pm

Freshman Nominees:

Sophomore Nominees:

Junior Nominees:

Senior Nominees:

‘The Giver’ writes its own story

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by Thomas Heye, Staff Writer

When the iconic utopian story The Giver by Lois Lowry was announced to have a big screen adaptation, I wondered what sort of changes director Philip Noyce would implement. Simply put, he changed far too much of the original story, and the movie didn’t’ have the same feel as the book at all.

Noyce did, however, made a few genius decisions as director. First, he filmed the first act in a limited black and white, showing various colors as the protagonist Jonas, played by Brenton Thwaites “discovers them.” The movie also has excellent casting, with Jeff Bridges as “The Giver,” the protagonist’s mentor, and Meryl Streep who plays an excellent bad guy.

The movie could’ve benefited by staying closer to the source material, failing in many aspects to do this. First, Noyce decided to make the story more of a Hunger Games/Twilight forbidden love story. It’s disappointing that the movie strayed from the heavy symbolism the book featured, and that screenwriter Michael Mitnick decided to completely forgo the cliffhanger ending of the book. Instead of the climax being over fear of Jonas dying, it becomes fear of his “romantic interest” dying.

Also, the casting of Taylor Swift as Rosemary, the Giver’s deceased daughter, simply distracts and confuses the audience, which is only a first of many errors by Mitnick and casting directors Venus Kanani and Mary Vernieu. Another mistake was casting of Alexander Skarsgard, who plays Jonas’s father Skargard fails to be a strong character, simply becoming a fragile father, who’s main role in the movie appeared to be long stares into the audience, and looking confused.

Now don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t an awful movie; there were many good parts too. The casting of Odeya Rush as the female protagonist is masterful, and she plays her role excellently. Also, the movie has a few scenes they use as a “flashback” of sorts, where the movie took popular video clips, or as they call them “memories” and the audience watches them. The first clip; one of sledding, is excellent as the stark color it features stands out in a black and white first act. Also, the later clips that feature skydiving and families being happy are excellently done, actually sparking excitement in a relatively dreary and slow film.

When the cards fall, The Giver remains a decent film, backed by a couple of great moves by Noyce and very strong source material. However, it is plagued by a plethora of bad decisions, such as the casting of Taylor Swift, and a weak storyline, that feels like it was taken directly out of The Hunger Games or Divergent. The resulting movie begs the question of what it could’ve been in the hands of a different director.

Ginny’s Declassified National Honor Society Survival Guide

Sep
19
12:00 pm

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By Ginny Greer, Managing Features Editor

“Attention National Honor Society: Your service hours are due no later than next Thursday.” More than a few of us groan when we hear this announcement in early May.

All throughout our day we keep thinking to ourselves ,“Oh my stars and stripes, I have to get twenty volunteer hours in ONE WEEK?”

Contrary to what our parents might be yelling at us as we break the news that we will be spending the weekend re-shelving books at the library, our procrastination is not always the result of indifference to humanity. With a year crammed full of research papers, science fair, and AP coursework, it is easy to let something we have the entire year to do get pushed to the back burner.

But I don’t think that twenty service hours begrudgingly completed at the eleventh hour is what our Honor Society leaders have in mind when they implore us to “give of ourselves.”

Here are a few ideas on how to complete the required volunteer work for various clubs in a way that will be morally fulfilling and manageable.

  1. FIND ONE OR TWO LOCATIONS AND MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN

Sure, you can collect an hour or two at a dozen different locations and get the necessary documentation to maintain membership in your clubs. But it is much better to pick a cause that is important to you—assistance to the elderly, mentorship to young children, political activism—and become a regular volunteer at a venue that promotes this cause. Start early in the year doing research to find out where your talents are needed in the Little Rock community and make a phone call to the Volunteer Coordinator of that organization. Try to arrange your schedule so that you can show up on a regular basis to serve. This way, you can build a relationship with the people you are helping, which will make your work more meaningful to you and them both.

 

  1. STAY ON TOP OF DOCUMENTATION

When you show up to an organization to offer your service, the members of that organization are (naturally) more focused on what you can do for them than what they can do for you. It is important that the time you give is logged at the organization so that when they are writing your letter in the spring, they have hard proof of the time you gave throughout the year. Each time you check in to your volunteer site, politely remind whoever is in charge that you need to sign in, and before you leave, remind them that you need to sign out. If possible, keep a copy of your log sheet at home so that there is a spare in case the site’s copy is misplaced.

 

  1. ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING

Remember that giving of yourself is more than just showing up. Organizations appreciate volunteers who demonstrate a bright spirit and an open-minded attitude. Make an impression on the people you serve by asking what you can do to help right off the bat rather than waiting for someone to give you an order, shutting off your phone and giving your full focus to your work, and completing your assignments with enthusiasm and engagement.

 

Every time you show up to volunteer you are building a reputation for yourself and for Central. Even a small number of apathetic or rude volunteers from a particular school can be enough to give an organization a bad impression of the school as a whole. Be mindful of how you conduct yourself when volunteering and you will be more likely to make organizations want to help you get your documentation and be receptive to volunteers from Central in the future.

 

 

Callahan Hirrel

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Callahan Hirrel is one of the two Executive Editors of The Tiger. The senior enjoys playing ultimate frisbee and soccer, as well as just hangin’ out. He plans on going to college, and entering into the field of astrophysics. Callahan is a professional pizza man at Vino’s Bar and Pub.

Dwayne Joseph

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Dwayne Joseph is one of the two Executive Editors of The Tiger. The senior enjoys playing drums, writing, and playing video games. Dwayne plans on attending college, majoring in journalism, and becoming a broadcast news analyst. There are many fun facts about Dwayne, but the one he finds most crucial to his identity is that he LOVES Ramen Noodles.