The Italian word “raduno” refers to a gathering, and everyone knows that pizzas are a favorite party food. So Little Rock’s new Raduno Brick Oven in the trendy South Main entertainment district next to the venerable South on Main is a great place for friends and family to gather around great food and drink. Although the concept of wood-fired pizzas is not as new to Little Rock as other cities, Raduno offers a more upscale environment for its artisan pizzas, a sleek, modernistic look with plenty of artwork on the walls, and electronic dance music playing in the background. The fairly diverse menu features weekend brunch, soups, salads, a small assortment of Italian sandwiches, and of course, pizzas, which are the restaurant’s signature. My thin-crust pepperoni was more than enough for one person, and absolutely delicious. Prices, while not cheap, were reasonable, and service pleasant, prompt and efficient. Raduno is definitely worth a visit when in Little Rock. Highly recommended.
Raduno Brick Oven & Barroom
1318 S Main St
Little Rock, AR 72202
(501) 374-7476 http://radunolr.com
After the Rebirth Brass Band performance, I walked back through the crowds on Cherry Street in downtown Helena. Many of the vendors were beginning to take down their displays for the night, but there was still a lot going on. At an outdoor performance spot, a group of younger blues musicians was performing, and it was actually really good music. A sign nearby explained that the group was Mookie Cartwright, Josh Parks and Friends. I am not sure who any of them were, but presumably, they are local Helena area artists. After checking them out for a moment, I stopped in Southbound Pizza nearby for a pepperoni and bacon pie before making the drive back to Memphis.
Prior to 2015, I had never heard of the Avondale neighborhood in Birmingham, but on my way to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, I noticed that the Yelp app on my phone was showing a number of restaurants on 41st Street in that area, so I decided to head there for lunch, to a pizza place called Post Office Pies. To my surprise, the area proved to be a district of restaurants and coffee bars, and there were a lot of choices. Despite originally deciding on pizza, I was extremely tempted by the oil drum barbecue in front of Saw’s Soul Kitchen next door, and the weather was so warm that people were sitting at the outdoor tables there. But I ultimately went ahead with my original pizza choice, and was quite pleased with the pepperoni and bacon pizza I enjoyed at Post Office Pies.
After lunch, I spied a coffee bar across the street called Satellite, which was attached to a music venue called Saturn. Inside was the last thing I would have expected- a wall display of Sun Ra album covers, although I finally remembered that Herman “Sonny” Blount was indeed born in Birmingham. The coffee there was great, the atmosphere cheerful, a great place for an after-lunch latte before continuing on my journey. Altogether, Avondale seems to be becoming a hip place for food and fun in Alabama’s largest city.
Post Office Pies
209 41st St S
Birmingham, AL 35222
Saw’s Soul Kitchen
214 41st St S
Birmingham, AL 35222
Saturn Birmingham/Satellite Coffee Bar
200 41st St S
Birmingham, AL 35222
When I got up early for breakfast on Grambling’s Homecoming Day, the weather was grey, but it wasn’t raining, so I was hopeful as I went to Lea’s of LeCompte in Monroe for breakfast. But no sooner had I left Monroe headed toward Ruston than the rains came down fiercely, and it was a cold and miserable rain at that. Even though I made my way to the area of Grambling where the parade was to begin, I could not find any place to park, and the rains were coming down so heavily that I decided to forego the parade and head to the Lincoln Parish Library in Ruston instead to do some historical research. About noon or so, I left the library, but the rains were continuing, so I headed over to Johnny’s Pizza House on Cooktown Road for a pizza buffet lunch. After that, it was still raining, and evident that the storms were not going to let up enough to let me attend the football game. I had no umbrella, no raincoat and no poncho. So I headed back to West Monroe, visiting the antique malls along Trenton Street, but really not finding much of anything of value. At dinner time, I headed to the Waterfront Grill, my favorite restaurant in Monroe, for a shrimp dinner, and then headed back over to Grambling to briefly hang out with my friend Dr. Reginald Owens, a journalism professor on the faculty at Louisiana Tech. But the rainy day had also been election day, so he had to go and comfort his cousin, who had lost his campaign for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury. Even worse, David Vitter had won the primary for governor, and was attacking his opponent on television as a proxy for Barack Obama. Altogether, it was a thoroughly depressing day.
When I left the North Claiborne Avenue area, it was dark and I was hungry. I thought about heading on to find something open for dinner, but I decided to head Uptown first and see if I could find any of the Indians out and about on Mardi Gras evening. Thanks to my friends in the TBC Band, I had known exactly where to find the Downtown tribes of Indians, but I was not so sure about the Uptown tribes. There were two places where I thought it likely that I might run into Indians; one of these, Shakespeare Park proved to be a disappointment, as it was mostly dark and unoccupied, as were the streets of the neighborhood around it. There were lots of cars parked in some blocks, but they represented private indoor house parties rather than any outdoor activities. But the other one, the area around 2nd & Dryades is a known hotbed of Indian activities, and is the location of a club called Handa Wanda, where Indian practices take place in the months leading up to Mardi Gras. Sure enough, I was not disappointed, although finding a place to park the car proved difficult. At least three different tribes of Indians were visible, with fair-sized crowds on the sidewalk of First and of Dryades. These Indians seemed a little wilder than those Downtown, the confrontations between tribes a little more heated, the drumming a little rawer and more insistent. At least one encounter between tribes looked as if it was going to become a fight, but somehow tempers were cooled and the tribes parted amicably. Unfortunately, the night’s activities were marred by a girl from the Ninth Ward that had come with one of the tribes. She kept starting an argument with a girl from Uptown, and the argument escalating into fighting. She refused to stop, even when asked to do so by a Big Chief. The recurring fight darkened the mood of those gathered, and the tribes started walking away and getting in cars to go home. A New Orleans police car came through shortly after, but the combatants had already left. It started raining, and I headed down on Magazine to eat at Pizza Domenica, which I had seen open when we passed by on the Jefferson City Buzzards’ bus earlier in the afternoon. The pepperoni pizza was absolutely amazing.
The number thirteen is anything but unlucky for pizza lovers in Atlanta, after the October 7th opening of Thirteen Pies Atlanta, the Buckhead location of a Fort Worth, Texas-based restaurant chain specializing in upscale pizzas and pasta. I was fortunate enough to try it on its second day open while I was in Atlanta for A3C, and I was for the most part pleased. Although there are a number of wood-oven pizza restaurants in most cities, Thirteen Pies has something of a unique twist, with a menu that features twelve specialty pizzas that are regularly available, and a semi-secret thirteenth that changes daily according to the fancy of the executive chef. Not that you cannot make alterations to customize your pizza, as I did, asking them to add applewood smoked bacon to their classic pepperoni, so I would assume that customers could request unique pizzas, as long as the ingredients are listed on the menu. Service was impeccable, and I was also pleased with the sleek, futuristic upscale look and feel of the establishment. Here’s hoping they make their way to Memphis.
Thirteen Pies Atlanta
250 Buckhead Ave Suite 317
Atlanta, GA 30305
For me, the third day of South By Southwest started with a breakfast at The Tavern on Lamar Boulevard just at the north end of downtown. Breakfast was something they had just started doing, but it was decent and got me started for the day. Once I got downtown, I headed over to the Louisiana tent, across the street from the Convention Center, where some artists were performing. But my panel on which I had to speak was being held at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in East Austin, so I had to walk a considerable ways from the community center to get there.
My hip-hop panel was, to say the least, disappointing; because the festival had moved it from the Convention Center to East Austin, attendance was slimmer than normal. There was no formal, scheduled transportation between the locations, either, which hurt even more. The organizers thinking was that the East Austin location would bring out more local artists, but it did not seem to, and the conference attendees had trouble getting out there, or perhaps just did not bother to do so.
But the walk put me in East Austin, and the walk back I found pleasant, taken at a leisurely pace. There were all kinds of restaurants and small shops; East Austin had been a Black and Hispanic neighborhood, but was now gentrifying in an odd pattern; bike shops and coffee bars stood chock-a-block with projects, churches and old juke joints. A barber shop had a DJ performing out in front of it. The streets swarmed with people. One old building had a sign identifying it as the “Historic Victory Grill,” and another sign stated “Since 1945.” It had been a famous stop on the Black entertainment route called the “Chitlin’ Circuit.” A rock band was loading in their equipment through the back door.
Back by the Convention Center, the German Reeperbahn Festival had taken over the Downtown Burgers truck, and were giving away charcoal-broiled hamburgers. The only thing better than charcoal-broiled hamburgers is FREE charcoal-broiled hamburgers, so I grabbed one and dug in. It made a satisfying dinner indeed.
Afterwards, it was mainly lots of walking; down Sixth Street, a coffee from Halcyon on Second, and then finally into one of the Texas rap showcases where I encountered a group from Austin called the League of Extraordinary G’z, with which I was quite impressed. Then it was more walking, under I-35 and back to the east side, trying to catch a performance by the Oklahoma City artist Jabee, which I missed, although I caught up with him under the tent afterwards.
On the east side were more crowds, more DJ’s, and lots of food trucks. Austin in fact had lots of food truck courts, kind of like trailer parks, except all the trailer parks sold food. They were generally shaded by trees, colorful and funky, with plenty of picnic tables for the patrons. Nobody seemed to feel like going to bed. Except me.
The trip from Gainesville back to Memphis is a long one, so I planned to break it up somewhere between, and discovered that I could get a reasonable rate on a room at Sandestin as long as I didn’t mind staying on the bay side of the resort, which I didn’t. My hotel room had a view of Choctawhatchee Bay, and was actually a three-room suite. Just a short drive away was an area of shops and restaurants known as the Village of Baytowne Wharf, where I ate dinner and did a fair amount of walking around. At one of the bars and grills near the pier, a band was playing, and I was surprised at the extent of the crowds. The weather was delightful, but after dinner I decided to head back to the room, and then to Fort Walton Beach to meet my homeboy Florida J at a rap club called Barley’s.
My friend E-Rokk was down from Kalamazoo, Michigan visiting his children in North Little Rock, Arkansas, so I decided to drive over there to meet him and take them to lunch. I headed west on I-40, listening to recordings of three George Antheil operas (Venus in Africa, Volpone and The Brothers) which I had downloaded from an online website.
At Forrest City, I headed over to Highway 70 where there was a flea market, and while I didn’t find any Abraham and His Sons or Ike Noble and the Uptights records, I did find a stash of Black gospel 45s, some of them from Wynne and Marianna, Arkansas, and a few on the Designer and Messenger labels out of Memphis.
I decided to stay on Highway 70 through Brinkley (the flea markets there were rather disappointing), and when I got to North Little Rock, E-Rokk gave me directions to where he was staying and I went and met him there. Since his girlfriend had to work, we took the kids with us and headed to a pizza place I had found on my iPhone called ZaZa’s Fresh Salads and Wood-Fired Pizzas on Kavanaugh Boulevard in Little Rock. The restaurant featured salads and pizzas cooked in a brick oven, as well as gelato, espresso and cappucino. We all enjoyed our pizzas, got some gelato for dessert, and then headed downtown to President Clinton Avenue to Andina Coffee Roasters where I bought some pounds of coffee to take home.
The kids were intirgued by an African drummer who was playing a djembe in front of the River Market, and then they wanted to run into a playground along the riverfront, so we walked over there, and then across the river bridge over to North Little Rock and back.
I had to get back to Memphis, so after it began to get dark, I dropped them back off at the apartment in North Little Rock and headed back toward Memphis. At West Memphis, I had seen a Huddle House and so I decided to eat dinner there, but, when I got there, I found that it was newly built and had not opened yet. So, now wanting breakfast, I settled for the Iron Skillet truckstop in West Memphis, and found that the breakfast there was really quite good.