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We’ve mentioned Big Orange a few times here on Eat Arkansas…I’m sure you’ve noticed. If you’ve never been to the BO at this point in your life, after the many accolades which have been thrown at the place, there may be no hope for you. Maybe you don’t think Big Orange is even that great…chances are, the guy right next to you does. The fact is, The Orange remains one of the most successful and important restaurants in the Arkansas culinary landscape.

So it’s understandable that the entire state is going hog-wild for the opening of Orange’s newest location in Midtown. Maybe it’s because the majority of Little Rockers begin to experience twitchy fits of anxiety every time they’re forced to head west of the 430, and with the new location, that may no longer be necessary.

The Big Orange folks have been stringing us along for a while now, teasing us with pictures and promises of a “coming soon” opening date. And now they have finally opened their doors to the public. They’re still calling this a “soft opening,” though they are operating with their regular business hours (see below).

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They’ve also added this addendum to their announcement:

“Though we will be open for normal operating hours, this week we will be honing our methods and perfecting our space. We kindly ask for your patience and understanding as we begin our first week of operation in our new Midtown home.”

I was fortunate to stop by the new location last week (before the official opening), slipping through the heavily guarded doors only by stealthily dodging the two hulking front-door bouncers. I was able to sneak in, grab a few pictures (and a milkshake), before anyone even noticed I was there.

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The masterminds behind this restaurant obviously know what they’re doing when it comes to restaurant design, promotion, and menu planning. Indeed, there may not be any better group in the state. It’s the small details that make a place like this unique. The way they color coordinate the menus, the straws, and the wall art. Everything is bright, shiny, and welcoming. There’s no question that Big Orange Midtown will kill when it opens.

The bar area is a focal point at the new location. The long rectangular bar juts into the middle of the dining room, proudly displaying their sizable collection of bottled beverages on towering display shelves. Head bartenders, Lee Edwards and Dylan Yelenich, have put their hearts into the place and the results are simply stunning. I’ve been fortunate to speak (and dine) with Lee on occasion, and the guy has a touch of brilliance inside of him. The guys knows alcohol like he knows his own mother…probably better. Their list of signature cocktails never disappoint, but they’ll also be featuring around a dozen beers and wines (yes, wines) on tap. At this point, the food menu will be basically identical to what you’d see at the WLR location.

There’s a large sliding “garage door” structure that opens up to a covered patio, ideal for summertime dining. This will allow the new location to operate at a higher capacity than its WLR sister (with seating for around 170-180 people). Additionally, there’s a large loft area (similar to what they’ve got going on at ZAZA) that overlooks the entire restaurant. This area can be rented out, situated nicely for large groups and private parties. Please, if you plan a party there, send an invitation my way.

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Expect this place to be busy…for a very long while. Understandable, though. These kids know what it takes to run a successful restaurant. We welcome you, Big Orange Midtown.

Big Orange Midtown is located at 207 N. University Ave. Hours are Mon – Thu: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm, Fri – Sat: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm, Sun: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

**Lots more pictures of the place after the jump**