TO KNOW IS TO LOVE: Cornerstone cheese steaks.
A man can be as particular about his bar as his woman.
In Little Rock, it’s difficult to find the perfect one. You want a place that is classically good-looking and elegant, but not too fancy. A place where you can go to relax and watch a ball game, have a serious conversation, or listen to some good music. A place that isn’t too crowded or loud, but which isn’t dead and scattered with daytime drunks passed out over their beers.
And if you are fortunate to find a bar that meets all of your criteria, she will steal your heart, which means you will want to spend all of your time with her. But as Mama might say, before you buy a ring, you better check to see if she can cook.
Well, we did some checking, and we’re bringing Cornerstone Deli and Pub home to meet Mama.
The North Little Rock establishment is the perfect bar. Located on Main Street, just across the bridge from downtown Little Rock, Cornerstone occupies a historic building in the recently restored Argenta district. Its dark-wood interior gives it an old-world pub atmosphere that makes it unique among bars around here.
There is a big-screen television in the front, another TV nearby above the bar, and three more spread throughout the rest of the place, which stretches back across the length of the ground floor. This allows for two other distinct areas: a quieter low-ceilinged middle room with tables, and a back room with a pool table and a 1,700-song jukebox.
You will find the Cornerstone packed for lunch on most days, and in the evenings it is just lively enough, with people at the bar watching sports or huddled at tables with their friends. There is live music on Friday and Saturday nights, which brings out a good crowd without creating the meat-market atmosphere you find in most River Market venues.
So Cornerstone is a nice-looking practical kind of place that suits every mood. Now, about the food.
Everything on the menu is great, especially because while it is casual enough to be called bar food, it is much better than what you would expect to find at a bar. If you just want something to snack on with your beer, your first choice should be the cheese dip, which is the thick, yellow kind with small chunks of tomato, served with tri-color chips that are always fresh. You also can get a rich, vegetable-laden salsa or a good spinach artichoke dip.
All of the sandwiches are excellent (there are 23), and there is something for every taste, priced between $4.75 and $6. Burgers, chicken sandwiches and a Philly cheese steak cover the basics, but you can eat healthy, too. Cornerstone offers a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich, four different “pita” sandwiches (which would more accurately be called wraps), and three kinds of salads. Other specialty sandwiches include a muffaletta, an Italian sub and a “Razorback Sub,” featuring chicken fingers on a toasted hoagie with provolone cheese and ranch dressing.
Speaking of the chicken fingers, you can get them straight with your choice of four sauces. Same goes for chicken wings.
If that isn’t enough, Cornerstone even makes six specialty pizzas, priced at $10 for a 10-inch, and $14 for a 14-inch. Or you can create your own pizza from a list of 10 toppings; those start at $8 for a 10-inch, and $11 for a 14-inch.
Last but not least, Cornerstone has a beer list that rivals any in town. There are 10 beers on tap, and these include the classics (Bud, Bud Light, Miller Light), as well as the champagne classics of draft beers: Guinness, Harp and Bass. The bottled beer list is equally impressive, ranging from Mexican (Corona, Pacifico, Dos Equis Amber), to German (Paulaner Weizen), to British (John Courage), to the more obscure offerings from the trendy New Belgium Brewery, which is famous for Fat Tire. Ciders are available, too.
You will be left wondering, “Is there anything she can’t do?” After about a year getting to know Cornerstone in the most intimate ways, we haven’t found anything yet.