It's the rare person who does not seek advice before taking the plunge in, say, buying a bike or a barbecue sandwich. Like Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says in his offering below, if you know where to go to get something special, it behooves you to share the information. What follows is a sprinkling of ideas from folks you've heard of and folks you haven't (including the staff). It's a gallimaufry of suggestions; we hope you'll find information here to make you feel like a native if you aren't; fill in the gaps if you are.
Where to buy a man's hat
Jos. A. Bank Clothiers
State legislator and legendary Little Rock civil rights attorney John Walker is known around town not only for his work before the bar and in the ledge, but as a gent who is carrying on the longstanding fashion tradition of men wearing brimmed hats. When we started looking around for a local celeb who could tell us where to buy a smart gentleman's hat, we naturally thought of him.
"I like my hats. I go to Jos. A. Bank to get my hats when they're on sale. They cost $29, and some occasions, you can buy two hats for $29. On one occasion, I bought three hats for $29 — buy one, get two free. You just have to know when. Those hats are wonderful. I've got about four of them right now. I wear a hat in part because I have a tendency to get cold. I don't wear them in the summer time — I may wear them occasionally in the summer, but it's basically a fall and winter thing. They help keep my body at an even temperature, and I like the appearance of it. It's comforting, and it makes me a little more confident when I'm engaging in conversation with people like Max [Brantley], who don't wear a hat."
Jos. A. Bank has two locations, at 203 N. University Avenue in Midtown (614-9487) and in the Chenal Creek shopping center in West Little Rock (225-5524).
Where to buy tacos
A Cliff's Notes version
The simple word "taco" does no justice at all to the variety of tortilla-wrapped goodness available around town. Folks looking for a high-end dining experience will want to try Local Lime in West Little Rock's Promenade Shopping Center, where high-quality ingredients meet one of the most inventive bar selections in town to create a meal experience to remember. Alternatively, The Fold in Riverdale has rebounded from a shaky start to become a fine-dining taco destination of its own. We're also very fond of a number of spots along Geyer Springs road, where taco trucks like Taqueria Samantha and K-Lienttos sit side by side with restaurants like Eliella and La Regional. Stopping at any of these places means deliciousness that won't hurt the pocketbook. Taco trucks worth noting for folks who need some suds with their Mexican fare are San Juan Jalisco, which parks outside Colonial Liquor on Markham, and Taqueria Alicia, an authentic truck that's taken up regular residence at Stone's Throw Brewing at Ninth and Rock.
Where to go to salute the sun
THV-11 anchor Dawn Scott has been doing yoga for more than a decade.
"I like everything about yoga. It's a mind-body-soul workout. It takes care of your body mentally, physically, and emotionally, and keeps you in check. Jack Bower has my favorite local class. It's a hot yoga class. He really pushes you to find your edge and is just a really good teacher. That's a more advanced class. If you were going for an intro class I would take a class from Breezy [Osborne] at Barefoot. She's also the owner. I've taken a class with her before as well — she knows how to articulate, she's very compassionate with her students and she has a really good spirit."
Barefoot Studio has two locations: at 3515 Old Cantrell Road in mid-town and 8501 Pinnacle Valley Road in West Little Rock, 661-8005.
Other yoga studios in Pulaski County include The Floating Lotus, 900 N. University Ave.; Viniyoga Arkansas, 910 W. 9th St.; MeridiYIN'z Yoga Studio, 11715 Rainwood Road; Breathe Pilates and Yoga, 2821 Kavanaugh; Soul Yoga Lounge, 1207 Rebsamen Park Road; IM=X Pilates Little Rock, 8201 Cantrell Road; Zenspin, 5612 R St.; Yoga Studio of Little Rock, 910 W. Sixth St.; Big Rock Yoga, 10700 Rodney Parham Road; Woodlands Edge Yoga, 3421 Woodlands Trail; and Regeneration Fitness, 117 E. Broadway, North Little Rock.
Where to hear local
politicos sing karaoke
When the legislature is in session at the Capitol, Wednesday nights at Dugan's become the go-to after-hours spot to knock back a few and let off some steam with a truly bipartisan activity: karaoke. Lawmakers and lobbyists, bureaucrats and party flaks — every Wednesday, a who's who of the newsmaker set shows off their talent (or lack thereof). Movers and shakers indeed. The best of the bunch: Lt. Gov. Mark Darr. His ethics may veer out of tune, but the man sings like an angel. Dugan's is located at 401 E. 3rd St., 244-0542.
Where to drink coffee
All kinds of non-Starbucks options
Escaping the over-roasted behemoth known as Starbucks is easier than ever in Central Arkansas. Hillcrest visitors can get a classic latte at several stops on Kavanaugh Boulevard: River City Coffee and Tea, in new digs; coffee with a Brazilian sharpness at Rosalia's, and the soon-to-be open Mylo Coffee Co., which will be roasting its own coffee on-site for their signature pour-over brew. Downtown and Heights-area coffee drinkers need look no further than Boulevard Bread Co., and Boulevard's java is also available in the River Market downtown, as is Andina's, around the corner on Third Street. Meanwhile, West Little Rockers swear by the house-roasted coffee available by the cup or by the pound at Guillermo's Gourmet Grounds on Rodney Parham. In North Little Rock, Mugs Argenta Cafe has provided a classy space in which to get caffeinated.
Christina Munoz once appeared on the cover of the Times in a suit and toe shoes. The KATV Channel 7 news anchor grew up dancing and became involved in Ballet Arkansas when she moved to Arkansas. Now, she has a 5-year-old ballerina, Sydney, on her hands and she sends her to Shuffles.
"I'm so thankful it turned out to be a quality studio. It's not a competition studio and to be honest, that's pretty rare. I was impressed with how sophisticated and professional everybody is — nobody's wearing midriff tops and skimpy outfits. As a mom, I'm uncomfortable with girls running around in skimpy costumes. [Sydney's] teacher happens to be a professional dancer at Ballet Arkansas — Lauren McCarty Horak.
"I grew up dancing in Yankton, S.D. My father was a violinist in the Yankton symphony for almost 40 years. He taught us all violin and we sang. We were an artsy-fartsy family.
"When I went to college [at the University of Minnesota] I started as a music and theater student and performed in the theater there. I got a back-up degree in broadcasting.
"I wanted to take ballet when I got here, but I ended up on the Ballet Arkansas board. I danced as Clara's mom in "The Nutcracker" for four years. I would just do the barre warm-up with the Ballet Arkansas dancers up to four times a week."
Being a mother to a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old has put dancing on the "back burner" for Munoz for now. But her long-term goal is to dance with her daughters, maybe in "The Nutcracker" again.
Ballet Arkansas, which uses Shuffles & Ballet II, 1521 Merrill Drive, for its rehearsal space, is building its own rehearsal space in the historic Arkansas Building being renovated at Sixth and Main streets downtown. For more information, call 223-5150. There are dozens of dance studios — including a couple teaching belly dance — in Pulaski County.
Where to see, create art
Arkansas Arts Center
MoMan Sumler is the godfather of Little Rock's spoken-word poetry scene. A veteran of slam poetry events and competitions all over the U.S. and the founder of the Rocktown Slam, he was instrumental in securing Little Rock as the host city for the 2015 Southern Fried Poetry Slam, one of the oldest and biggest slam poetry events in the country.
"The Little Rock's arts scene is burgeoning, and the Arkansas Arts Center stands at the vanguard. It is rare in the contemporary age to think about arts as entertainment, so long ago written off as the province of the elite and the ultra-educated, but the Arkansas Arts Center tackles that head on by making the arts approachable and accessible. From tango to painting, from sculpture to flashmobs — even poetry — the Arkansas Arts Center is at the forefront of pushing the culture, and bringing a truly worldwide arts experience to Central Arkansas. The commitment of the Arkansas Arts Center to the arts scene has not gone unnoticed. In 2013 they were responsible for creating the second largest 'yarn bombing' in America. Their annual ekphrastic poetry slam, 'Art on Art,' was the first of its kind and in no small part was instrumental to attracting festivals like the great Southern Fried Poetry Slam, coming to Little Rock in 2015. The Arts Center is housed in one of the most beautiful sections of the city, to wit, the MacArthur Park area, tucked deep in the heart of the historic Quapaw Quarter. For any and all budgets, my favorite place in Little Rock remains the Arkansas Arts Center!"
For more information on the Arkansas Arts Center, which is located at 501 E. 9th Street, call 327-4000.
Where to eat Thai food
Little Rock's Kevin Brockmeier is the author of three novels, two short story collections and two young adult novels. In April, Pantheon will publish his "A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade."
"Considering what a trek it is from Little Rock, I'm surprised how frequently I find myself returning to Chang Thai and Asian Cuisine. It's on Highway 107 in Sherwood, a straight five- or six-mile shot from the I-40 JFK exit, tucked into an unassuming little strip mall between a Subway and a beauty salon, but while the exterior is modest — and so, for that matter, is the decor — the food is inexpensive and delicious. The menu is friendly to both vegetarians and meat-eaters, spicy enough for adventurous palates or mild enough for wimps like me. I particularly recommend the green curry and the egg wrap pad Thai. Though Chang Thai has never been the hot new thing, requiring reservations or a half-hour wait, the chefs are as skilled as any in town. I must have introduced the place to 15 or 20 people within the last few years, and nearly every one of them has become a regular."
Chang Thai is at 9830 Arkansas 107, 835-4488. Other Thai spots worth checking out: Because of its proximity to HQ, we visit Bangkok Thai in the River Market at least once a week. The green curry and fresh tofu and large bowls of soup are especially recommended. kBird, a food truck that's almost always planted in a Hillcrest alley behind Mrs. Polka Dot and Ciao Baci near the Hillcrest Kroger on Beechwood, makes all of its Thai dishes using fresh, often local produce and meat from Hillcrest Artisan Meats. It's only usually open from 5-8:30 Monday through Friday, which works out well since that's usually when we don't feel like cooking.
good craft beer
Springhill Wine and Spirits, Colonial Wine and Spirits, Pleasant Valley Liquor and The Ridge Wine and Spirits
John Lewis Wells works a day job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in North Little Rock, but come Miller Time (had to get the lowbrow beer reference in there), he transforms into one of Central Arkansas's most beloved evangelists for Liquid Bread: his alter-ego, John the Beer Snob. Wells' "John the Beer Snob" Facebook page currently has just under 500 likes, each of those little thumbs representing a dedicated craft beer fan in Central Arkansas who is either networking with Wells to find the rarest and most enticing brews, or waiting for him to let them know where those brews can be found. We asked Wells where he gets the good stuff. As you might expect, he's got quite a few honey holes where he does his fishing.
"Springhill, Colonial, Pleasant Valley and the Ridge are the ones I do the most business with. The hard-to-find stuff, I'm always going to go to Colonial or Springhill. I go to Pleasant Valley and the Ridge because they're convenient. On the big purchases, though, it's Springhill and Colonial ... . I work in North Little Rock, so Springhill's closer to my work, but Colonial's closer to my home.
"Believe it or not, I will fairly regularly spend $100 on beer. It might be once a month or twice a month that I go out, but I tend to buy a lot at one time. Number one, the beers that I buy tend to age pretty well, so I may very well be setting some back. Because I review beers in my newsletter, I may not drink the entire beer. I may share it with somebody else. In fact, I give a lot of beer away ... . There's a lot of networking going on. There are several pages on Facebook where those of us who are into craft beer alert one another. I put one out today: Eric over at Springhill is offering some tastings of some Bourbon County Stout that's extremely rare, so when I saw that pop up on his Facebook page, I retransmitted it on my John the Beer Snob Facebook page. Now, everyone who likes my John the Beer Snob Facebook page knows to go to Springhill if they want to taste this rare and different beer."
Where to drink beer
and play a sport
Of course bowling is a sport. There's a ball. There's movement. There's trash talking. We've definitely worked up a sweat on a 7-10 split before. But even if you're going to be steadily rolling gutterballs, Professor Bowl is an adult hangout worth adding to your regular rotation. Because, delightfully, the bar's stocked with craft and import beer as well as any place in town. They've got 250 beers on their list, including all kinds of stuff you've never tried before. There's wine, too.
Professor Bowl is at 901 Towne Oaks Drive. The phone number is 224-9040.
Where to eat catfish
"Brewster's 2 is a gem," Dylan Yelenich, bartender extraordinaire at Big Orange tells us. "I remember walking in for the first time with a buddy and not knowing what to expect. We had driven by several times and always wondered about a place that touted it served the 'best catfish in 2006' (I could be wrong on the date).
"Bear in mind that my friend and I had a running debate over who had the best catfish in Central Arkansas and had been to quite a few places that summer to check out some prime fish eats. We had settled on Lassis Inn (as I assume many people do). But we weren't ready for the perfection that was the catfish at Brewster's 2.
"The fish itself was buttery and succulent, the breading was and still is the best I've tasted in a restaurant ... and the sides were amazing! How did a simple catfish meal, presented in a somewhat awkward space, (i.e. restaurant/night club combo) transcend all past catfish experiences? Maybe I'll never know. I do know that Brewster's 2 is somewhere I will always enjoy taking people for the first time. I enjoy seeing the look on someone's face when they dig into that Styrofoam plate of awesome!"
Brewster's 2 is located at 2725 S. Archer St., 301-7728.
Where to find
boudin, pigs' feet
and tripe soup?
K Hall and Rosalinda
"I love honest food," South on Main Chef Matthew Bell tells the Times. "And it doesn't get more honest than K-Hall & Sons. This is no-frills, no-fuss food. It is more than that, though. It's a neighborhood staple — selling groceries and farmers' produce in addition to serving great food. It is a throwback to a time when we relied on small markets for all our needs. I cannot think of a better burger in town, but my love for this place runs deeper than that. It's an excellent place to get boudin, pigs' feet, frog legs and a number of other hard-to-find items. Grab a burger and look around while you wait ... and just be amazed.
"Living in Austin, Texas, for a year I got a taste for real Latin food. I like Tex-Mex and cheese dip just as much as the next person, but I crave clean flavors and authentic ingredients. Rosalinda delivers every time. Their preparation of plantains impresses me every time. You can taste the love they put into their food with each item you order. I never tire of their pupusas or their tripe soup. The old adage is, 'it must be good if ex-pats eat there,' and this place is always full of them."
K Hall & Sons is at 1900 Wright Ave., 372-1513. Rosalinda Restaurant Hondureño is at 3700 JFK Blvd., North Little Rock, 771-5559.
Where to go
to learn about Arkansas's
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, a museum operated by the Department of Arkansas Heritage, occupies a reproduction of the original 1913 structure at Ninth and Broadway where the founding chapter of the African-American fraternity, the Mosaic Templars, was headquartered. The museum includes exhibits on Little Rock's African-American business district on Ninth Street as well as black entrepreneurs and history makers; an auditorium on the third floor is a copy of the famed original. Here's what Adrian "607" Tillman, a prolific Little Rock rapper who recently released his 39th album, "Nerd from the Hood," has to say about the museum:
"They know so much about 9th Street and how the district used to look. It's some real Little Rock history that's just right here to learn about. I was real impressed.
"They have pictures and you get to see the prominent areas there and the way black people used to populate 9th Street. That was an area we used to be in. We had doctors on that street, we had clubs on that street. They have pictures of the way it used to look, they have pictures of the schools before they integrated. Dunbar yearbook pictures on the walls. It's just crazy — a piece of Arkansas history that I don't know where else you can go look at that.
"You know your people got history here. When you look at all the pictures from the early 1900s, it's tight to look at some black Arkansans from that time and connect with them. We look up to New Orleans and all these other places but we got culture here too, and we have a history here too."
For more information on the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, located at 501 West Ninth Street, call 683-3593.
Other history museums in Little Rock: the Old State House, the oldest standing state capitol west of the Mississippi, which features permanent and changing exhibits related to Arkansas history; the Historic Arkansas Museum, which features restored buildings from Arkansas's territorial period along with galleries featuring Arkansas art and crafts, both historic and contemporary, and a gallery dedicated to the art and history of the state's original tribal nations; the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History and the Central High School Museum Visitor Center. The Clinton Presidential Center features permanent exhibits on the Clinton presidency along with changing exhibits on American culture.
The Arkansas Arts Center is Central Arkansas's premier arts institution, featuring a collection of works on paper and contemporary craft and operating a Museum School and the Arkansas Children's Theatre.
The Museum of Discovery is an interactive science museum for children and adults; the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center features exhibits on Arkansas wildlife.
In North Little Rock, there is the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum on the Arkansas River and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Museum in Verizon Arena.
How to get your kids away from video games and using their imagination
Adventure Quest at Unity Martial Arts
"The standard report we get from parents after they pick up their kids is that they talk a thousand miles an hour for 30 minutes and then fall asleep," said Tanner Critz of Adventure Quest, a freewheeling version of a live-action role-playing game that has thrilled area kids since Critz brought it to Unity Martial Arts five years ago (Critz also teaches Cuong Nhu, a Vietnamese martial art, to both kids and adults).
Adventure Quest creates a narrative fantasy — which the kids themselves have a part in building — in which the kids advance the story by completing various trials and puzzles involving athletic, artistic and mental challenges. The world that the story takes place in changes each year, depending on what the kids want (last year was pirate-based). Costumes, foam weapons and other props add to the fun.
"If you take all the stuff that kids really like about movies and video games but then you make it where instead of pressing buttons you're doing physical activities, kids will pursue with the kind of vigor you're hoping for," Critz said. "They get to guide the story and they'll push themselves a lot harder if it's in the context of a story. They're very tuned in."
In addition to an avenue for playful fun, Critz views the game as a great opportunity for kids to get exercise, gain an enthusiasm for learning and solving puzzles, and build self esteem. Adventure Quest is open to kids in grades 1-6. Older kids also participate as helpers to Critz and other staff.
Adventure Quest happens in 3-hour-long evening sessions once or twice a month, as well as day-long and week-long camps. For information on schedules and prices, contact Unity Martial Arts at 664-0604 or visit its website, unitymartialarts.com.
How to find out if your tot is the next Master Chef Junior
Cooking classes for kids at Hillary Rodham Clinton Children's Library
How about an educational activity for children that could lead to tasty treats for the whole family? Jen Throneberry at the Children's Library offers two cooking programs for kids, both free and open to the public.
"Snack Attack," for kids 6 and older, happens every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. and is limited to 50 participants (first come, first serve; the popular program can fill up quickly so show up early). With Throneberry's help, kids put together simple snacks (recent goodies: fruit kabobs, caprese skewers, sandwich sushi and make-your-own trail mix), and then enjoy chomping down on their creations when they're done.
"Kids in the Kitchen" is a more intensive program for kids 8 and older that requires registration — by phone or in person at the library. The class meets twice a month for two months on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Kids can come to all four classes or pick and choose. Kids cook a full meal — the first week is breakfast, the second week is lunch, then a dinner item and finally dessert. Recent meals: quiche, breakfast pizza, homemade vegetable soup and cornbread, stuffed pasta shells and no-bake pumpkin pie. And it's not just the kids that get to enjoy. Families are invited to come and sit down together to have the meal that the children prepared that evening. "These are skills that they can take home," Throneberry said. "In our 'Kids in the Kitchen' program, we're working with food safety and food preparation, hand-washing, knife safety and things of that nature. After they've completed one or two classes, parents could feel confident in their child preparing the meals themselves. I'd still recommend parental supervision, but that gives the child independence and they feel good about what they've done because they did it themselves."
In both programs, the library uses as many fresh items from their own teaching garden as possible. For more information, call 978-3870. Note: It's not just for the little ones — kids up to age 15 have participated.
Where to hit the gym
10 Fitness and Chenal Health and Fitness
Born in Florida, David Bazzel was recruited to play for the Razorbacks in the 1980s by Lou Holtz, and went on to serve as captain of the team and play in four bowl games. After leaving the gridiron, Bazzel — who still looks young enough at 50-plus that we're beginning to suspect he's an undead vampire, even though he said old football injuries have forced him to scale back his workouts in recent years — worked as a personal trainer before becoming a fixture in local news, radio and sports. Currently, his most high-profile gig is as a morning talk show host for 103.7 The Buzz.
"I actually have two gyms where I work out. One is 10 Fitness and the other is Chenal Fitness. I have them on both sides of town, so I can go either direction. Jeff Lawrence at Chenal Fitness used to be a member of mine when I opened Gold's Gym in Arkansas back in the '80s. 10 Fitness is right around the corner and we have a relationship worked out with them through The Buzz. Both of them are convenient to my condo — both within three to four minutes of my place. That's key. I used to do personal training and used to be in the gym business, and I can tell you, if it's not convenient with your schedule, it's tough to get there. ... In this day and age, when everybody's so busy, you'd better find something that you can get to pretty quickly and easily get a workout in.
"During football season, I probably gain 15 to 20 pounds. It's very irritating, but there's just not enough time in the day. I do a radio show too, so I'm up in the morning and can't work out in the mornings ... but I usually like to work out at least four days a week. The problem is, I've got so many injuries and joint issues, it's really difficult for me to train like I'd like to. So what I'll usually do is 30 minutes of weights and then do 20 to 30 minutes of cardio, or if I'm not doing cardio that day, I'll do 45 minutes of weights. The last 10 or 15 years, it's gotten so difficult. I have to be very careful with every movement I do, so I don't do heavy weights anymore. It's really just trying to find a range of motion that doesn't hurt my joints."
Chenal Health and Fitness is located at 16105 Chenal Parkway in Little Rock. Its phone number is 436-4600. The 10 Fitness in West Little Rock is located at 14524 Cantrell Road. Its number is 886-4844.
Where to eat
biscuits and gravy
Your very Southern grandma may give you some dirty looks if you told her the best biscuits and gravy in Little Rock are being served up by a troop of young folks covered in tattoos, sporting gnarly hipster beards and numerous body piercings. But never mind her. The Root serves up one of the finest breakfasts in town.
The cafe's breakfast menu is studded with spectacular dishes, but it is their exemplary biscuits and gravy that has us heading back as often as possible. Many other breakfast joints around town take the easy way out with this dish — using prefabricated, just-add-milk, ready-mix gravy — often resulting in a pale white, gummy, bland sauce without much richness or depth of flavor. Things are different at The Root. Owner Jack Sundell calls his biscuits and gravy a "labor of love." He's using local pork sausage, crumbled and browned in a frying pan. Flour and cream are added and the gravy is slowly simmered until thick, rich, and flavorful. The biscuits are just as lovely. Light and flaky, soft on the inside and crusty on the outside.
The Root Cafe is located at 1500 Main St. The phone number is 414-0423.
Where to get your car fixed
While there are those folks who can afford to get a fresh whiff of that New Car Smell every few years, a large segment of the population is stuck driving cars that long since rolled past their warranties. Some of us prefer to drive an older heap, something that's not going to lead to crying and gnashing of teeth if it gets kabonked in a parking lot, scraped going fishing, or splatted on the upholstery by a wayward ice cream cone.
Driving a jalopy from another decade comes with certain maintenance responsibilities, not to mention unforeseen breakdowns. That's why Foster's Garage in Little Rock is so great to have around. Housed in a garage that looks like something out of a Dick Tracy comic, the place includes what might be the best office in Little Rock: a warm little cell stuffed with a wooden desk, calendars, automotive manuals and business cards, all bearing the lovely smell of fresh grease and new tires. Mike and Gary, the brothers who run the joint, are quick, friendly, thorough, and honest to a fault (example: they once fixed our beater with a $40 hose after we told Gary we'd budgeted for the $1,000-plus repair another well-known Little Rock garage said we'd need). If they ever retire or go out of business, we don't know what the hell we're going to do — which is, come to think of it, part of the reason we're writing this. We're not above using our position for self-preservation.
If your car breaks down, or if you just need brakes or wipers or a radiator flush, do yourself a favor and call Foster's. They're the heroes Little Rock deserves.
Foster's is located at 409 W. Eighth St. The phone number is 371-9535.
Where to eat chicken livers
Seek and ye shall find
Say the words "chicken livers" to the next person you see and watch them make a face. Then take them around Little Rock to all the places that will change their minds about this humble bit of bird. Fans of the fried variety will want to stop at South on Main for the Spicy Chicken Liver Salad, a wedge salad covered with mounds of breaded bits of livery goodness. Just a few blocks away, Natchez in the Tower Building puts their fried delicacies atop a bowl of house-made gnocchi, pork belly and greens to create one of the best bowls of food available in the city. A legion of devotees of Sandy's Homeplace Cafe, between Hanger Hill and the airport — including, rumor has it, the governor — has Tuesday circled on their calendar, the day when the home cookin' spot serves up fried chicken livers and gravy. Whole livers aren't the only way to enjoy this underrated meat: Chicken liver pate is worth trying at the Capital Bar and Grill downtown, Hillcrest Artisan Meats on Kavanaugh and at The Pantry off Rodney Parham.
Where to go for a cheap date
The PUBLIC Theater, etc.
Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe by day, improv performer by night:
"While Little Rock has a great music scene, laughter can be a great catalyst on a date. There are smaller, intimate downtown venues like The PUBLIC Theater in Little Rock and The Joint in North Little Rock that feature improv comedy, sketch comedy, even full-blown comedy productions. Having performed at both venues, I've witnessed firsthand that laughing together can break the ice on a first date, or dissolve away other life stress for long-term couples. And it's usually cheaper than the cover price for shows elsewhere."
The PUBLIC Theater, where the comedy group Red Octopus often performs, is at 616 Center St. The Joint, where the comedy group The Main Thing performs, is at 301 Main St., North Little Rock. Little Rock also has the Loony Bin Comedy Club, which features national acts, at 10301 Rodney Parham Road.
Where to learn to play fiddle, finally
Thanks to a good idea in the legislature — yes, really — people in Arkansas who are 60 or older can go back to college for basically nothing. That means you can finally get those acting classes your mother wouldn't let you have, for a small application fee of $50. That $50 doesn't have to be anted up again as long as you stay enrolled.
There's a catch: Regular students get first chance at the seats. That means that you need to register last, on the last day before classes start, and you may not always get that seat in the differential equations class you've always yearned to take.
In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, 306 folks 60 or older took classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock through the unpoetically named "Tuition Waiver Sixty and Older — 303.4" program. UALR says the enrollees take classes all across the curriculum.
Pay your children back. Take up the violin.
Where to buy
a cheap office chair
Arkansas State Surplus Sales
Broken, bent, unwheeled, pants-snagging, over-ridden and generally screwed-up office chairs are the bane of any office experience, right behind bad coffee and bosses worthy of "The Office." Worse, new chairs tend to be expensive, which means you may wind up stuck with a numbness-inducing example for years. Never fear, though: if you're looking for a great office chair for under $20 bucks, there's always the Arkansas State Surplus sale, held every Wednesday at the Arkansas Marketing and Redistribution warehouse at 6620 Young Road near Geyer Springs.
If you're not in the market for a place to park it, they've also got a plethora of other cheap used goodies that once belonged to Joe Taxpayer, including — on a recent visit — $20 bicycles, hospital gurneys, laptop computers by the ton, IV stands, cameras, TVs, projectors, photo enlargers, ex-patrol cars, trucks, buses, boats, and enough file cabinets and desks to build a wall around the State Capitol so the politicians can't get out to buy anything else. It's a vast, amazing place, full of great finds (all-wood mid-century chairs and desks have been common in recent years), and easy on the wallet. Definitely fun for the bargain hunter, and it opens up at 7 a.m. so you can swing by before work.
Where to go for hole-in-the-wall barbecue
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is a Jonesboro boy, so he didn't know about HB's barbecue at 6010 Lancaster, off 65th Street, when he first came to town. He says there's lots of good barbecue in Central Arkansas, but he likes HB's best.
"I was taken there by a Little Rock businessman, from several generations in Little Rock, early in my term. I wondered where we were going; we kept driving and driving. It's in a little neighborhood off 65th Street; you'd never find it unless someone took you there first. I've never been in there when I've failed to see people I know, and it only seats 20 people at a time. It's very much a hidden jewel. I always get a chopped pork plate, with sauce that's very tangy, a vinegar-and-molasses sauce, and I like their beans. And they have some secret source out of Stuttgart that makes their fried pies. As much as I try to resist ... . They only make coffee in the winter months but will on special request in summer to go with the fried pie. I think it's your responsibility, once you find a place like that, that you show it to other people."
HB's barbecue is so good because it uses the recipes of the late great Shack Barbecue at Third and Victory. The phone number is 565-1930.
Where to buy men's shirts
Frank Gibson Wardrobe Management
David Sanders stands out from his fellow legislators, with his double-breasted suits and white-collared shirts. He was the perfect person to ask for sartorial secrets for men.
"My secret, if I have one, is to be a discerning and deliberate shopper at multiple places. I've gone from fat to skinny, so what's happened is I've expanded my horizons as I've lost weight. ... Most of us are asymmetrical. The trick that I use [to look good] is getting a good shirt. What most people don't know is you can actually get a shirt made to fit your body, oftentimes at the same price you can buy a good dress shirt off the rack. I go to Frank Gibson Wardrobe Management. You can also go to Bauman's, J. Duke or Greenhaws. Frank is just an expert at it and pays attention to meticulous detail in terms of measurements. He takes 20 or more measurements. ... He does all the work.
"I wear a spread collar shirt, which you can't normally buy off the rack. ... A shirt is reasonable ... about $150. And they last a long time."
Another Sanders tip: "If a collar is white you can get it replaced, or adjusted. Also, don't starch shirts. The starch breaks them down."
Frank Gibson Wardrobe Management is located at 8 Shackleford Plaza. Bauman's Fine Men's Clothing is located at 8201 Cantrell Road. J. duke & co. is located at 11610 Pleasant Ridge Road. Greenhaw's Fine Men's Wear is located at 10301 N. Rodney Parham.
Where to buy bike gear
Gene Pfeifer, 76, has been involved in the Central Arkansas biking scene for many years, working with Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas to promote trails and safer street routes. It was Pfeifer's gift of land that helped extend the Arkansas River Trail in North Little Rock from the Burns Park soccer fields to Lock and Dam No. 7, where the Big Dam Bridge was eventually built. BACA has had less luck with landowners on the Little Rock side. Pfeifer chalks this up partially to the Dillard's headquarters on Cantrell, saying it "has not cooperated with the mayor" in allowing a cantilevered trail along the river on Dillard's property. (He dared the Times to quote him. "Hell, if I can say it, y'all ought to print it.") He declined to be photographed in Spandex for this article.
"[My wife] Linda and I started riding bicycles about 20 years ago for recreation and health. We ride in North Little Rock on the River Trail and in Colorado, where we spend a good part of the summer and early fall. We bought our beginner bicycles — hybrids — at Chainwheel and pretty quickly transitioned to legitimate road bikes. We ride with very competitive cycling friends in Colorado who have challenged us to upgrade our equipment and we found that Bruce [Thalheimer] and Pat [Barron] could provide us with custom equipment, which was exactly what we needed. They measured us up and made the bikes ergonomically correct for us. ...
"We exclusively ride the North Little Rock trail and the new portion, the Emerald Park Trail, which circles up above the [Big Rock] quarry. ... The trail affords magnificent views, from the Clinton Center downstream to the Big Dam Bridge and the I-430 bridge downstream."
Pfeifer rides a Grail, customized at Chainwheel, which is located at 10300 N. Rodney Parham Road. The phone number is 224-7651. Other bicycle dealers in Pulaski County include Spokes, Orbea, Arkansas Cycling and Fitness and the Community Bicyclist in Little Rock, NLR Bicycles in North Little Rock, J & P Bike Shop in Sherwood and Riders Ready in Maumelle. Bobby's Bike Hike is a bike rental operation at the River Market.
Where to get stock pot, tortilla soup and goat karahi
"My wife and I love to try new or tucked-away places each week, but admittedly, we have a few favorites that we find ourselves revisiting again and again," said Stephanos Mylonas, owner of Mylo Coffee Co. "I find it hard to resist the stock pot at The Pantry, a cozy yet upscale brasserie specializing in Eastern-European dishes, with a heavy sprinkling of Continental favorites as well. This place is just right for a special but affordable night out. We plan to visit again soon, as we hear they've added some Spanish flair to the once-clear broth stock pot: shrimp, saffron, and tomato; yes, please!
"Another quick and easy lunch or dinner option is El Palenque on Rodney Parham. This unassuming storefront has garnered the critics' attention in recent months, and for good reason. In our experience, it is the best (as well as the most authentic) Mexican restaurant in the area. I love to order the tortilla soup when I want something a little lighter. The tomato-based broth is zesty and loaded with chicken, but the best thing is digging down past the veggies and tortilla strips to get to the stretchy white cheese in the bottom of the bowl. Needless to say, we are regulars.
"Taj Mahal is a close second for our most frequented restaurant. We love the variety of dishes and the complexity of flavor. I usually order the goat karahi, as I love the meat and it is otherwise hard to come by. This dish is rich and tender and is best served with roti — fresh whole wheat bread from the tandoor."
The Pantry is located at 11401 N. Rodney Parham Road, 353-1875. El Palenque is located at 9501 N. Rodney Parham Road, 312-0045. Taj Mahal is located at 1520 Market St., 520-4900.
Rejected editor's picks
We can't win 'em all, friends. Some of our picks, possibly made under the influence of too much spiked egg nog, are just plain bad. Here's a few of the ones that didn't make the cut. (Note: the following rejected editor's picks may or may not reflect actual, on-this-plane-of-existence reality).
Where to go for some outdoor whoopee
Worried about hook-handed murderers slipping up on you and your honey while you're fogging up the windows of your Subaru some night? Fearful of a misplaced knee knocking it out of gear so you and your nook-buddy roll into the river? Well, au naturale canoodler, worry no longer. The best place in Little Rock for outdoor lovin' is in the parking lot at the south end of the Big Dam Bridge, under the watchful, unblinking eye of one of the Little Rock Police Department's new network of high-tech surveillance cameras. That's right. Now you can make the growing, constitutionally questionable surveillance state work for you! It's just like "The Dark Knight," except that, instead of Christian Bale in skintight rubber protectively watching over you from the top of that streetlamp, it's a balding cop in a too-tight polo shirt ... miles away ... alone ... in a darkened room. Best of all, if you want a reminder of that Bad Moon Risin' moment, the LRPD's cameras record 24/7, and the footage is accessible by any citizen through the Freedom of Information Act. Perfect for next year's divorce proceeding and/or video Christmas card!
Where to pick up men
Ladies, are you tired of sipping crantinis with friends (the Virginal One, the Slutty One, the Boring One and you, the Sarah Jessica Parker One) while bemoaning the fact that you can never find any eligible men in Little Rock? Where does a woman-on-the-go find a guy in Central Arkansas? The gym? Mostly gay dudes. Bars? Hope you're not allergic to Rohypnol. Church? Too many serial killers hiding in plain sight. No, this is a new world, and a new economy! You need a man who can stride boldly into the 21st century, clean the crud out of your laptop keyboard, and make you a bundle in tech. That's why the best place to pick up eligible guys in Central Arkansas is Z82 Retrocade in Sherwood. You heard in the affirmative, human female: the smell of fried wiring, hot motherboards and a room full of vintage, carefully-restored console arcade games from the Reagan administration is your ticket to a big house in San Francisco's Presidio Heights (just a short commute to Silicon Valley) and vacations with Bill and Melinda Gates on the French Rivera. It's easy: Just put on your sexiest "Gabe Newell is God" T-shirt, dab a little processor thermal paste behind your ears, wiggle up to that guy going for the high score on "Dig Dug," and say: "Is that a roll of quarters in your pocket, handsome? Because I'd love to kick your ass at 'Mortal Kombat II.' "
What to drink after a fun weekend
Ever had one of those crazy nights on the town that leave you worrying over every cold sore for the rest of the year and periodically muttering "unclean! unclean!" while showering? We sure have. That's why having a product in town like Hank's Old Fashioned Memory Wipe is so important. Hank Bumpus was a veteran mechanic at a Honda dealership in North Little Rock before his manager caught him after hours one night trying to make tender love to a blue Civic he'd named Nancy Spinatra. Shitcanned and tormented by the pain of that bitter parting, Hank went out to his garage in August 2011 and mixed up a potent concoction of used motor oil, vodka, jock itch cream, lye, Pepsi, helicopter fuel, hydrocodone, mustache wax, the blue supermeth from "Breaking Bad" and Wite-Out, then downed it. Though his suicide attempt failed, ever since then, Hank's Old Fashioned Memory Wipe — still proudly bottled in that same garage (FUN FACT: Thanks to an Indian Treaty signed in 1879, the Food and Drug Administration has no jurisdiction in Levy) — has been helping those who get the periodic "take me now, Lord" shivers scoop troubling old memories out of their brains quicker than you can say "Leonard Shelby." It's guaranteed to either kill you, or totally obliterate the last week. Either way, you'll be free of those booze-cloudy flashes of running from the cops, pressing your butt cheeks against the window at The Flying Saucer, and eating fried chicken naked with a dude who looked like a cast member from "Duck Dynasty."