Ah, whiskey! Ah, beer! Ah, wine! Sweet nectar of dreams! Untangler of shy tongues and loosener of bodices! Is there any human interaction you can't make more interesting, exciting, engaging or reckless? And no, we're not just talking about the times things go right, so save your scolding, ye teetotalers. We're old enough to know when to say when. Everything in moderation. Friends don't let friends (or friends-of-friends) do anything stupid while tanked up.
While there are those out there who are well within their rights to hate Demon Rum, it should kinda go without saying that we here at the Arkansas Times tend to be fans. For one thing: we're reporters, a profession well known for our propensity for hollow-leggedness. For another: a sizeable chunk of the best moments of our lives are directly attributable to our Ol' Pal Al in one way or another, from pregnancies to parties to marriage proposals to heart-to-heart talks that we could have never had without the help of Liquid Courage. For a lot of you reading this, it's likely that way as well. As for the rest of you: more beer for us!
This week, we raise a glass to raising a glass with our annual Arkansas Times Bar Guide. Whether you like your drinks in the dark-and-cool or the sweaty-and-loud, there's someplace here to fill your schooner, stein, shot glass, snifter, goblet, tumbler, pitcher and/or schooner.
And because this paper doesn't easily cram into your back pocket, we've made all the info below on happy hours and specials available in our FREE bar app, Cocktail Compass, newly redesigned and available for Android. Find it at arktimes.com/cocktailcompass or by searching for "Cocktail Compass" in the app store.
DIVES WE LOVE
MIDTOWN Why do we go to Midtown? Why do we wait in line to get in, to fight through the bottlenecked throngs to get a drink; to stand in line to pee; to wade through the dancers who lost rhythm around the time they found the urge to dance; to dodge a pool stick, always jabbing the crowd no matter how tightly it envelops the pool tables; to order a hamburger; to eat the hamburger in exactly four bites, to follow the tide of crowd to and from the bar until the sun is threatening to come up? Because we don't want to go home. Because it's the rare ritual that at least on an annual basis those of us who drink and can still make it past the evening news take part in regardless of age, race or class. Also, those burgers really are good. 1316 Main St. 372-9990. midtownar.com. Full bar. 3 p.m.-5 a.m. daily. Happy hour: 3-8 p.m. daily.
PIZZA D'ACTION Some bars, for whatever reason, become a kind of community center, equal parts meeting house, debate room, dance hall, hook-up spot, hangout and heathen church. The beloved, crusty dive known as Pizza D's has surely reached that status. The firing of a much-respected bartender and two other long-time hands late last year made for some friction between management and customers, including an apparently-still-ongoing boycott that gives us an Excedrin 3 headache every time we hear about it. The bartender is back now, though, and Pizza D is mostly what it always has been: a neighborhood pub with a loyal clientele, cheap drinks, an outdoor patio, pool, ping pong, darts, a full menu (including a new slate of appetizing-sounding plate lunch items weekdays) and tons of quirky, nicotine-stained personality. It's a bar, folks. Don't take it all so seriously. 2919 W. Markham St. 666-5403. pizzadaction.net. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 4-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
WHITE WATER TAVERN The Times has probably devoted as many column inches to rhapsodizing about the White Water Tavern as it has to lambasting Mike Huckabee. OK, that's an exaggeration, but regardless, we love this place and we've never been bashful about it. As has been pointed out many times before, it is not going to win any beauty contests or awards for best selection of obscure single-malt scotches, but it's got more character, a richer history and better decor than just about anywhere else in Central Arkansas. Cheap pitchers and great live music don't hurt either. Full bar. 2500 W. 7th St. 375-8400. whitewatertavern.com. 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon-Sat.
W.T. BUBBA'S COUNTRY TAVERN The great thing about W.T. Bubba's Country Tavern's decor is that anything goes. So when you walk in and see screwdrivers and drills lying on the truck beds that line the bar's north wall, well, they just look like they ought to be there. Just like the small V.I.P. lounge, which happens to be a little travel trailer plopped off to one side of the bar and fitted with seats and a small table and a view of the stage, just right for some private PBR time, or maybe PBR and a shot. As it turns out, the drill and screwdriver were in use, by workmen installing floodlights for the stage, and not a prop, and it also turns out that you can enjoy your evening lolling on one of the truck beds and not have to go to the bar, because they'll fill the truck's big aluminum tool box with ice and beer. We took a seat in a booth that looked like it had just been thrown together with plywood (and surely was), and ordered up some fried pickles and fried bologna and a burger and fries and a barbecue sandwich. (You don't really need to know what a Pabst tastes like, do you? It's stylish these days, but it's still Pabst.) So about the food: W.T. Bubba's (the owner says the W.T. is for "Wilford Theodore," contradicting the manager's translation, "White Trash") is a bar and music hall and the food is not the main concern right now. That's too bad, because the ambiance here is pretty swell. In back of the VIP trailer is the "back yard," with comfy furniture; the whole shebang can be rented for $100. The chain link fence that defines a dining area around the bar is pretty nifty. The dance floor is new and shiny. There's country karaoke on Wednesdays and beer ball in the back, plus another game of dubious legality that you can win money playing. There's a patio with cafe tables and bar stools that gives you a view of Riverfront Park and Riverfest Amphitheatre. You've got the opportunity to buy a Bubba's T-shirt. And the manager swears by the homemade moon pies. If they can put a little more love put into the food, and get AT&T to install a phone, Bubba's could live a long life. 500 President Clinton Ave. (in the Museum Center basement). 244-2528 (but it doesn't work). On Facebook. Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight Sun.-Tue., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Wed.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
SPECTATORS GRILL AND PUB A no-frills sports bar in Levy, with shuffleboard, pool and darts if you're the kind who likes your beer with a side of diversion. 1012 W. 34th St., NLR. 791-0990. spectatorsgrillandpub.com Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. plus all day Sat.
HIP ON HOPS
CREGEEN'S Of all the drinking establishments in the region that bill themselves as "Irish pubs," Cregeen's is on top in two pretty important categories: 1) ambience and 2) booze. The walls are painted dark colors and the inside is appointed in a good amount of wood and frosted glass, making it an ideal daytime drinking spot. There's even a genuine snug (pronounced "snoog," it rhymes with the first syllable in "sugar"), which is a closed-off booth that offers a degree of privacy to the drinker. Then there's the formidable selection of beer and liquor, including what has to be one of the better selections of single-malt scotch and Irish whiskies in the area. 301 Main St., NLR. 376-7468. cregeens.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight Sun., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 5-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
THE FLYING SAUCER For those who dote on that milk of life, love and longing that's better known as beer, heaven must look a lot like the Flying Saucer, Little Rock's temple to the gods who visited the magic of hops, grain and yeast on mere mortals like us. Part of a chain with outlets in six states, the Saucer features a truly mind-boggling array of beers; 130 in bottles and over 75 on tap at last count, ranging in color from angel's tears to dark chocolate brown. For $18, you can join the Saucer's U.F.O. Club. Once you drink 300 beers (keeping track of them via a magnetic card), you get a party and a special plate with your name on it on the wall. In addition to all that sweet, sweet brewski, the Saucer has a full menu of pub grub, plus some of the best no-nonsense pub decor in town, heavy on wood and simple seating (we particularly like the dark, windowless man-lair downstairs, where the pool tables are), with big roll up doors at the front to let the wind in on spring evenings. Who could ask for anything more? 1323 President Clinton Ave. 372-8032. beerknurd.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
VINO'S One of the genuine institutions in the Central Arkansas bar-scape, Vino's is the quintessential punk-rock pizza dive, but attracts an incredibly diverse array of customers on the strength of its reliable, thin-crust pies, satisfying gut-bomb calzones and house-brewed beer that ranges from very good to great. Added bonus: you can buy to-go growlers of Vino's suds on Sunday. For many years, Vino's hosted live music nearly every night. That tapered off sharply, but after a couple of years with very sporadic shows, the management is getting the live entertainment back into gear, with bands, a movie night, spoken word performances and more. 923 W. 7th St. 375-8466. vinosbrewpub.com. Beer and wine. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thu., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri., 11:30 a.m.-midnight Sat., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-close Wed. and Sat.
BOSCOS A beer-lover's paradise in the River Market with an in-house brewery and the best patio in town if something's going on at the amphitheater. 500 President Clinton Ave. 907-1881. boscosbeer.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.- midnight Fri.- Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 3:30-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
PROST Willy D's refined and cozy sister bar around the corner, for those seeking a more subdued vibe. With a good beer menu. 322 President Clinton Ave. 244-9550. Full bar. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Tue-Fri., 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 4 p.m.-2 a.m. (or close) Tue.
DRINK TO THE MUSIC
AFTERTHOUGHT A longtime Hillcrest favorite, The Afterthought is the bar that you and your parents — or you and your adult children — can agree on. It's connected to the upscale restaurant Vieux Carre, self-described as a Southern Bistro, and most of that menu is available at The Afterthought. It's a classy, cozy nook, with a solid selection of drinks and regular live music, often jazz and blues, but with some rock, country, soul and other stuff from time to time. There's the Sunday Jazz Brunch in Vieux Carre, a rotating array of players on Monday, a jam session led by pianist Carl Mouton on Tuesday, an open-mic night on Wednesdays, and starting in July, karaoke on Thursdays. Fridays and Saturdays typically feature bands starting at 9 p.m. and a cover at the door — usually $7. 2721 Kavanaugh Blvd. 663-1196. afterthoughtbar.com. Full bar. 4:30 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Thu., 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri., 4:30 p.m.-midnight Sat. Happy hour: 4:30-7:30 Mon.-Fri.
CAJUN'S WHARFEspecially during the warm weather months, few Little Rock bars draw a crowd like Cajun's does. Why? Because people love drinking with views of water, and Cajun's massive, tiered deck is just about the only place in town within a rock's throw of the river. Because folks like to eat fried food, which Cajun's bar menu specializes in, while they're drinking and looking at the river. Because cover bands play songs that make people dance on the deck and near a stage in the equally massive two-story interior space (the bar's signature cocktail, the Play De Do, a close cousin to the Hurricane, might have something to do with the dancing). Because the bar is widely considered the spot for singles of all ages looking to mingle. In other words, be prepared to be ogled. On a recent visit, that meant the big bad wolf, or rather a bald man with a peach-fuzz mustache wearing a wolf-howling-at-the-moon T-shirt, who stalked from one corner of the deck to ours, just to get a look. As we were leaving, some unseen person said, "Damn!" as we walked out. And all that came with our date nearby. 2400 Cantrell Road. 375-5351. cajunswharf.com. Full bar. 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Wed., 4:30 p.m.-close Thu.-Fri., 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
JUANITA'S Last year, Juanita's left its longtime home on South Main Street for new digs in the River Market. The new location is a two-story affair, with the big room upstairs used for concerts and the downstairs and patio area dedicated to the restaurant. The food offerings at Juanita's will no doubt be familiar to many folks in Central Arkansas. It's the type of Tex-Mex that has long dominated in the area, but it's done well, in ample portions at prices that are comparable to its neighbors. The downstairs bar is a cozy little thing, tucked away in a corner, with enough seating for a half-dozen souls and a flat screen TV located in a convenient spot. There's a good selection of beers — with emphasis on Mexican brews, natch — and a respectable array of tequila, including the nectar-like Hussong's Reposado. 614 President Clinton Ave. 372-1228. juanitas.com. Full bar. Hours vary by event, restaurant hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
REVOLUTION Opened by the same folks who started Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack, Revolution has the feel of being the bigger brother of that popular purveyor of live music and fried chicken. The food is focused more on the Caribbean and Latin America, although there are some other flavors (and burgers) in the mix as well. In addition to happy hour drinks (4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.) there are also specials on small plates, which are half off. There are two bars, one in the big music room and the other in back, where there is a good amount of restaurant seating and a sizable patio. The live music offerings tend toward the rock and country side, but there's also a regular salsa dancing night every Tuesday, with $2 Coronas and tequila bombs. 300 President Clinton Ave. 823-0091. rumbarevolution.com. Full bar. Hours vary by event in the venue, but go no later than 2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 1 a.m. Sat. and midnight Sun. In the restaurant: 4-10 p.m. Mon., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tue.-Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
STICKYZ ROCK 'N' ROLL CHICKEN SHACK What's not to love about crunchy, delicious deep-fried chicken, ice-cold beer and live music? It's probably the closest thing to a can't-lose business model as one could find in the admittedly tough live music industry. For supporting evidence, Stickyz just celebrated its 12th birthday and is going strong. The place is essentially split between the venue side and the restaurant/lounge side, each with plenty of seating, its own bar and TVs that are nearly always playing ESPN. Last year, Stickyz took the plunge and went nonsmoking, a move that opened the place up to the 20-and-younger crowd. Though the chicken fingers are the star of the show — especially the voodoo wings with creamy dill sauce, a transcendent combo — the rest of the menu is also consistently delicious. 107 River Market Ave. 372-7707. stickyz.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
ERNIE BIGGS Another long-time River Market saloon, with a piano bar twist and live music every night of the week. 307 President Clinton Ave. 372-4782. erniebiggs.com Full bar. 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. No happy hour, but drink specials every night.
WILLY D'S Another River Market piano bar hangout, with nightly live music and a vibrant crowd. 322 President Clinton Ave. 244-9550. willydspianobar.com. Full bar. 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Tue.-Fri., 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Tue.
CLUB ACES If you are looking for booming Latin-flavored pop music and a dance floor bathed in multi-colored lights surrounded by projected screens of Mexican soap operas, then Club Aces awaits. Local Latinos, many decked out in their sharp cowboy and cowgirl wear, showcase their moves on a dance floor partitioned off with a wooden rail where onlookers wait to find the right partner or song to set the night off. Other nights, the club does rap-themed nights. Club Aces is as great for people watching as it is for sweating the night away on the dance floor. And when you leave Club Aces on the weekend, one of the best food trucks in the city, Samantha No. 2, is waiting outside to satisfy your taco, burrito and quesadilla cravings. 308 Broadway St. 687-3046. On Facebook. Full bar. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Tue.-Sun.
DISCOVERY For more than 30 years — since the tail end of the disco-era — "Disco" has been the go-to spot for locals who want to dance into the wee hours. The multi-room warehouse in Riverdale is a palace of hedonism, with a 135 BPM soundtrack, cage-dancing, drag shows, pulsating light shows and regular "V-Jays" (DJs who also mix together music videos). The discotech area, where the house music plays, recently got a facelift and the upstairs has recently reopened after being closed for 13 years. Those who like their music a little more traditional — say top 40 and hip-hop — will find plenty of space to do your thing in the lobby. Hey, ladies! In June and July, if you show up before 2 a.m., you get in for free. 1021 Jessie Road. 501-666-2744. latenightdisco.com. Full bar. 9 p.m.-5 a.m. Sat.
ELECTRIC COWBOY Little Rock's Electric Cowboy is part of a regional chain of Electric Cowboys. It's just what the name suggests, and then some. With the exception of the mechanical bull ($5 a whirl), it reminds us of the mega-clubs we frequented in early college — gigantic dance floor, vending machines with snacks and cigarettes, multiple bars in a single room, high-heeled girls playing billiards in smoky corners and none-too-subtle conversations with strangers. But Electric Cowboy might also be the most diverse club in Little Rock. It's a true mash-up of ages and ethnicities, sporting everything from cocktail minis and spiked heels, to slacks and button-downs, to boots, Wranglers, cut-offs and crop-tops. Songs like the "Cupid Shuffle" bring everyone to the floor. Otherwise, about half the folks congregate on the fringes, sipping margaritas and beer and awaiting the return of "their" music. Some unflappable souls brave the dance, no matter what. There's usually a string of club jams followed by a string of country ballads; during the latter on a recent visit, one hip-hop kid led his lady through a bouncy, quick-studied two-step. Wednesday is Ladies Night, complete with dollar shots and a Daisy Dukes contest. Other nights host karaoke and special events. Weekend cover runs about $5, and for the uninitiated, getting there is a bit mind-boggling, so come with a DD. 9515 Interstate 30. 562-6000. electriccowboy.com. Full bar. 7:30 p.m.-5 a.m. (or close) Wed.-Sun. Daily drink specials.
SWAY Sway has been around for nearly two years, but it's still finding its identity. The sleek downtown venue originally catered to gay professionals of every gender, with kitschy events such as '80s nights to help diversify the crowd. Twenty months and a new promoter later, Sway is a weekend-only joint that occasionally hosts live music, video release parties and, recently, the Joe Adams NFL draft party. The demographic spans mid-20s to mid-30s, the look is sexy, and the vibe is big city hype — chrome, colored strobes and tiered dance floors. Long Island Ice Teas ($7.50 a pop) are house specialties, but there's also beer ($3 domestic, $4 import), just in case you prefer to leave your bed the next day. The sound is R&B and club hip-hop, of the ilk that often dictates choreography via lyrics. Friday is usually for special events or live music. Otherwise, it's a low (or no) cover affair. Saturday nights are called "Kiss," and that's when this place bumps. Go early for cheap cover, because prices rise as the dance floor quakes. Men beware — you need a collared shirt and something other than flip flops to make it inside. (There's also a no caps or sunglasses policy). There's a smoking patio and occasionally, a reverse happy hour — which means designate a driver, because the drink specials come an hour before close. 412 Louisiana St. 907-2582. On Facebook. Full bar. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
BOGIE'S BAR AND GRILL Yeah, it's a bar in the Holiday Inn over in North Little Rock, but we're willing to bet the beer still tastes like beer and the whiskey still tastes like whiskey. 120 W. Pershing Road, NLR. 812-0019. Full bar. 5-10 p.m. daily (with extended hours when there are events like concerts at Verizon Arena). Happy hour: 5-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
CLUB ELEVATIONS "The club on the hill" in Southwest Little Rock is where the restless gather to dance and eat free fried chicken(and other soul food goodies) until the wee hours. With pool tables, a nice-sized dance floor and "sexy dress" contests on Saturdays. Power 92 DJs regularly host. The free buffet starts at 9 p.m. Monday and Thursday and at midnight on Saturday. 7200 Colonel Glenn Road. 562-3317. On Facebook. Full bar. 9 p.m.-5 a.m. Thu.-Mon.
JIMMY DOYLE'S COUNTRY CLUB The last of the star-studded honky tonks, with a country band, cheap drinks, dancing, six pool tables, and a true cast of characters. 11800 Maybelline Road, NLR. 945-9042. Full bar. 7:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 7:30-8:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
TRINITI Formerly known as Backstreet, this gay friendly club features two dance floors, a regular V-Jay and a drag show at 1 a.m. 1021 Jessie Road. 664-2744. trinitilr.com. Full bar. 9 p.m.-5 a.m. Fri.
BUFFALO WILD WINGS Though we do most of our drinking at watering holes a bit closer to downtown, we know that people out in Petit Roche West have to get their beer and hot wings on, too. With that in mind, we can think of far worse places to wind up than Buffalo Wild Wings. If you're a sports fan, it doesn't get a lot better than this: more than 50 big TVs (even in the bathrooms) showing every competitive sport short of kangaroo boxing, plus a dedicated sports bar which features cover-charge-free viewing of big ticket events, including title boxing matches, UFC fights and all Razorback games, just to name a few. If that's not your bag, they also feature video games, a weekly dart league, interactive trivia and poker, two big patios for outdoor seating, a full menu built around burgers, sammiches and great wings in 20 flavors from sweet to "don't let the sauce stay on your skin for too long" (no, seriously ... the waitress told us this), and a weekly karaoke competition with cash prizes. Definitely the good kind of chain. 14800 Cantrell Road. 868-5279. buffalowildwings.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Sun. Happy hour: 3-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
FOX AND HOUND The window view of rows of packed pool tables and the chalkboard schedule of televised sporting events of the day that greets you at the entrance lets you know right off what to expect at Fox and Hound. Part of a chain of bars in the South and Midwest, the North Little Rock Fox and Hound caters to fans of all stripes with everything from horseracing to pay-per-view UFC fights ($10 cover on those nights). The massive TVs that encircle the bar area allow for an almost 360 degree view of different games competing for your attention. With a tagline of "Sports, Spirits and Fun," Fox and Hound may not be for everyone, but it certainly takes care of the pool sharks and diehard sports fans. 2800 Lakewood Village Drive, NLR. 753-8300. foxandhound.com. Full Bar. Smoking. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Daily. Happy Hour: 3-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
THE TAVERN SPORTS GRILL If you find yourself west of West End and like watching sports on dozens of massive-screened TVs, this is the place for you. Other attractions: Wings that are smoked for five hours, flash-fried and then smoked again. A patio that looks out onto the Chenal 9 movie theater and hosts live music from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday (recently, that meant a bearded man in bootcut jeans singing about whiskey and women and strumming an acoustic guitar). A Golden Tee machine that allows you to test your ball spinning skills against players from around the world in real-time. Pool and shuffleboard. A happy hour special that discounts everything in the bar, aside from pitchers, by $1. And, perhaps most attractive for those who have been dragged out to what's fast becoming the shopping destination in Central Arkansas, it's cool, there are lots of chairs and they sell booze. 17815 Chenal Parkway (in the Promenade at Chenal). 830-2100. thetavernsportsgrill.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 3-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
WEST END SMOKEHOUSE AND TAVERN Sure, it's a sports bar. But with its appropriately dim lighting, elevated bar, and a variety of seating that allows you to have your own semi-private get-together if you so choose, there's more to it than that. If you're not into watching sports, West End has shuffleboard and darts as well as hourly pool tables that you can put on your tab, free Texas Hold 'Em tournaments on Saturday and Sunday afternoons where you can win trips to tournaments in Tunica, and live music Friday and Saturday nights. There's a full menu with daily specials throughout the week to compliment the pizza, burgers, seafood, steaks and barbecue. So obviously TVs on every wall and comfortable seating isn't for everyone, but if you like ham-cooked, brown-sugared green beans, hangover worthy nachos, and knowledgeable bartenders who know their gin and how a dirty martini should be shaken, then look no further. 215 N. Shackleford Road. 224-7665. westendsmokehouse.net. Full bar. 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sun. Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
BIG WHISKEY'S AMERICAN BAR AND GRILL A chain, but with a hometown feel, a cool interior, great grub and some of the best Friday and Saturday night people-watching to be had in the River Market. 225 E. Markham St. 324-2449. bigwhiskeys.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Wed., 11 a.m.-midnight Thu.,11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
FLYING DD Surely the only bar around with two sand volleyball courts, Flying DD (pronounced Flying D's) bills itself as "the bar with balls." See what they did there? A large space with a stage and a boomin' sound system, D's offers daily specials optimized for maximum partying. Such as $3 margaritas on Monday, $2 well drinks on Tuesday and $5 pitchers on karaoke Thursday. On Sundays and Wednesday, the local volleyball league plays. Owner Wally Waller is evangelical about the sport and sees real growth potential for it in Little Rock. 4601 South University Ave. 773-9990. flyingdd.com. Full bar. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 2 p.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: nightly specials Mon.-Thu.
GUSANO'S PIZZA Gusano's is a family-friendly sports and pizza bar. What it doesn't offer: a smoking section, outdoor seating or bar games. What it does offer: food 'til late, free wi-fi and a cavernous room with huge TVs and a glass front that opens to the bustle of President Clinton Avenue. Wednesdays are trivia night from 8 to 10 p.m. There's occasional karaoke, and happy hour is every weekday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with $2 domestic bottles and $3 well drinks. 313 President Clinton Ave. 374-1441. gusanospizza.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu., Sun.; 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
ZACK'S PLACE Unpretentious, extended happy hour, smoke friendly, good food, sports on TV — that pretty much sums it up. Zack's offers $1.50 domestic drafts from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., live Texas Hold 'Em on Tuesdays and Wednesday, karaoke on Thursdays and Saturdays and a Dj-ed dance party on Fridays. There's also a couple of gaming terminals, pool tables, dart boards and free wi-fi. 1400 S. University. 664-6444. On Facebook. 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat. Happy hour: 2-7 p.m. daily.
ON THE SWANKY SIDE
CAPITAL BAR AND GRILL This wood-paneled, white table-clothed restaurant and bar in the Capital Hotel is where powerbrokers meet to decide the fate of the universe — or at least our little corner of it — while drinking the best brown liquor money can buy. To wit, the Capital is the only bar in town that serves Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve, perhaps the most revered (and scarce) bourbon on the market. But don't leave the Capital to the suits. It's a required stop for all discerning drinkers no matter how you're dressed. The cocktail menu and selection are just about unparalleled in Central Arkansas. The bartenders are knowledgeable and friendly. From Wednesday to Saturday, the city's finest jazz trio, the Ted Ludwig Trio, holds court. After concerts or other special events downtown and on the weekends, the bar's hoppin'. Pro-tip: try the second floor balcony, which has seating and great views of Markham, on busy nights. 111 Markham St. 374-7474. capitalhotel.com/CBG. Full bar. 11 a.m.-close daily.
CIAO BACI The tapas at Ciao Baci are of the teeny-tiny kind. Quarter-sized croquet monsieurs. Olive-sized avocado fritters. If it hadn't been for the cheese board's nice loaf of bread, our group might not have been able to stand up from the table on the deck, where despite the heat we spent a pleasant hour (or two) drinking and popping the diminutive, but delicious, snacks. The most astonishing bite was the dime-sized cheese shortcake, a little something the kitchen sends out gratis, one to a customer. We could have eaten a short ton of them. The wine list offered labels heretofore unknown to this writer, and while our selection (an "Ardeche" Latour chardonnay) didn't quite match our personal palate, the House White Sangria was a hit with our companion, a Ciao Baci maven. Our gin and tonic drinker was happily amazed when the bartender trotted across the street to the grocery store to get her favorite tonic. So the tapas, while vanishingly small, were delicious, the deck was lovely, the wait staff was smart and helpful and next time someone else is paying, we'll do it all over again, and order a real meal and one of Ciao Baci's famous smores. A note: Though we expected to stand out like a sore thumb at Ciao Baci because of our advanced years, that was not the case. All generations were fully represented, from the single and searching to the more staid dipsomaniacs. This is a fine and gracious place. 605 N. Beechwood. 603-0238. ciaobaci.org. Full bar. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. (or close) Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. daily.
CRUSH WINE BAR Wine bars can be stuffy and annoying, but Crush is neither. In fact, Crush might be the perfect neighborhood watering hole — particularly if you're over 30, partial to grapes (although there's beer, too), and more into conversation than a shouted monologue across a musty room. Crush is never deserted but rarely packed, with the exception of the bi-monthly Monday night $15 wine tastings. The decor isn't attention grabbing, but everything is comfortable, and this is one of those rare, amorphous places that can be whatever you want it to be. It's classy and low-lit, so it makes a great date spot. But it's also casual and comfortable enough for an evening drink with friends. It's got big picture windows and a deck where the tables aren't crammed elbow to elbow. You can spend anywhere from $7 on a glass to $120 on a bottle (and get any bottle under $40 for $20 on Tuesdays). The appetizers — mostly cheese and meat plates, bruschetta and the like — are always fresh and yummy. And if you're overwhelmed by the wine list, ask the staff to recommend. They know what's tried and true. 318 N. Main St., NLR. 374-9463. On Facebook. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Mon., 4-11 p.m. Tue.-Sat. Happy hour: Tue.-Sun. 4-7 p.m.
LULAV Lulav is downtown's take on upscale Mediterranean bohemian. The look is neoclassical — soaring ceilings and sweeping staircases, noir lighting set against oriental rugs, floor-length drapes and candelabra, and all of it housed in a 1929 Spanish Mission building. There's a full bar, but the focus is on wine. The owner, J. Matt Lile, is an oenologist, and he personally curates the wine menu. Lulav also has a vast food menu, with a heavy dose of seafood and exotic cheeses. In addition to the restaurant, there's a large lounge and an upstairs event space. The bartenders are friendly, and the bar area manages to feel both cozy and eloquent. Prices are generally steep, but there are weekly drink specials. On Martini Mondays, you get six tasters for $6, which equals a total alcohol content of roughly two real martinis. On Wino Wednesdays, there's the same sort of deal — eight wines for $8. And there's happy hour on Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Night hours can be tricky, though. You may go there, as we did, at 9:30 on a Saturday night, only to be told that they're shutting up early. It's best to call ahead. 220 W. 6th St. 374-5100. lulaveatery.com. Full bar. 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Lounge: 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Mon.-Sun. Happy hour: 5-6:30 p.m.
MADURO CIGAR BAR & LOUNGE Even though Miami martini lounge seems to be the theme, this cigar bar on the edge of the River Market (one of the newest bars in town) still manages a neighborhood vibe, even on the weekend. Red walls add a little sexiness, while the plush, dark-brown leather booths and chairs and the cigars slow the pace. After all, what's more easy-going than smoking a cigar? Maduro and its large walk-in humidor have plenty to choose from. Rum and tequila are specialties among the liquor selections and the cocktail menu is promising: The Main St. Manhattan and the Moon Dream (Makers, Luxardo Cherry Liqueor and a dash and splash of a couple of other things) were among the best cocktails we've had so far this summer. The cigar smoke is definitely noticeable but doesn't cling to your hair or clothes like cigarette smoke does in other bars thanks to the industrial strength smoke eaters and air purification devices they have stationed throughout the place. Cuban coffee and espresso drinks available, too. 109 Main St. 374-3710. On Facebook. Full bar. 3-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 3 p.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. daily.
SIX TEN CENTER Six Ten Center is the most unassuming scene downtown. It's in an old brick building, with an unmarked storefront covered by a white grill. The windows stay drawn, and since smoking is allowed, there's no line out front to hint at what's inside — a dimly lit martini bar with a vibrant happy hour, exposed brick and beams, and a host of friendly, primarily gay regulars. Six Ten is more comfortable than the average martini bar. Don't let the house specialty, a bruise-colored affair called "Swamp Pussy" (Red Bull, grenadine and four kinds of vodka), deter you — the crowd is more sophisticated than this drink would suggest. The flat-screen TVs are likely to broadcast Rihanna and cohort over sports, and there's an Internet jukebox for any patron wanting to change the ambiance. Wi-fi will cost you two drinks, happy hour is 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, with reverse happy hour at 9 p.m. until close on weekends. On Mondays, five bucks will get you a martini and a manicure. Thursday at 6 p.m., the bar hosts free salsa lessons, in conjunction with dollar tacos and $3 Budweiser Lime-a-ritas. 610 Center St. 374-4678. On Facebook.4-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 4 p.m.-midnight Fri., 6 p.m.-12 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 5-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 9 p.m.-close Sat.
BY THE GLASS Wine and conversation, the manager says, with occasional music on the weekends, wine talks and book signings. 5713 Kavanaugh Blvd. 663-9463. On Facebook. Beer and wine. 4-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 4 p.m.-midnight Sat. Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
COPPER GRILL A bright, elegant and ultra-modern restaurant with a large patio that's an ideal spot for an after-work drink. 300 E. 3rd St. 375-3333. coppergrilllr.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
MALLARD'S CIGAR BAR & LOUNGE Classic cigar bar, with deep rich wood, fireplaces, leather armchairs and scattered cocktail tables. Wi-fi is free, smoking is encouraged (a wide selection of cigars are available for purchase) and flat-screen TVs broadcast sports and news. Just know that the bar may close early if it's a slow night. If you're a non-smoker, try the Peabody Lobby Bar and look at for special events held in the Peabody's open-air "roof-top." 3 Statehouse Plaza. 399-8050. peabodylittlerock.com. Full bar. 5 p.m.-2 a.m. (or close) Mon.-Sat.
PORTER'S JAZZ CAFE A promising Southern cafe/jazz venue in a stretch of Main Street that desperately needs some anchor tenants. There've been some bumps in the road, including a recent hiatus while the bar ironed out some problems with its landlord and the ABC, but it's back now, hosting live entertainment every Friday and Saturday and often on Thursdays and Sundays. Look out for expanded hours and other new developments in the near future, co-owner Marcell Dean says. 315 Main St. 324-1900. On Facebook. Full bar. 8 p.m.-2 a.m. (or close) Thu.-Fri., 8 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. (or close), 6 p.m.-midnight (or close) Sun.
SO Upscale dining in the classy part of town, with a deep wine list and get-what-you-pay-for attention to service and culinary detail. 3610 Kavanaugh Blvd. 663-1464. sorestaurantbar.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 4-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 5-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
SONNY WILLIAMS' STEAK HOUSE A low-key, upscale piano bar populated by businessmen and travelers that makes for a good spot to have a drink before or after a dress-up event downtown. On a recent trip, a bartender made us a delicious Mojito, with a generous handful of muddled mint and fresh lime juice. 500 President Clinton Ave. 324-2999. sonnywilliamssteakroom.com. 5-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Happy hour: Mon.-Fri. 5-6:30 p.m.
TWELVE MODERN LOUNGE The rare club that doesn't want the young 'uns. If you're younger than 25, keep it moving. Twelve doesn't want you. It's the grown folks, those who're looking for a "sophisticated night of lounging, relaxing, and dancing" who are the target demo here. The space, sleek and modern inside, regularly hosts after-parties and special events. 1900 W. Third St. 301-1200. On Facebook. Full bar. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Sun. Happy hour: all night on Sunday.
ZIN URBAN WINE AND BEER BAR Here's the chic place to go for your apres-office Cakebread. It's in the River Market, but not of the River Market: It's not loud, the music is subdued, and you don't get your name on the wall for trying a cold glass of Leinenkugal or Miller Lite. The glassware — yes, that's important — is lovely. 300 River Market Ave. 246-4876. zin.com. Wine and beer. 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 4-10 p.m. Thu., 4-11 p.m. Fri., 4 p.m.-midnight Sat. Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME
BIG ORANGE If you're a discerning drinker and live in West Little Rock, Big Orange is an oasis in a desert of chain bars. The crowds, perpetually lined up outside the restaurant, come for burgers, fries, milkshakes and pie. Drinkers come early or late, when they can get a seat at the bar, for a drink menu and booze selection rivaled in Little Rock only by the Capital Bar and Grill. Recent obsessions: A near-perfect Pimm's Cup. The Texas Two Step, a cocktail created by bar manager Dylan Yelenich, that's muddled jalapeños and basil, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, Cointreau and either tequila or mezcal (the smokier mezcal version is better) shaken and on the rocks. And Saison Dupont, a delicious Belgian ale with a hint of spiciness, available on tap along with half a dozen other craft brews. 17809 Chenal Parkway (in the Promenade at Chenal). 821-1515. bigorangeburger.com. Full bar. 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 10:30 a.m.-midnight (or close) Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: daily specials Sun.-Wed.
HIBERNIA IRISH TAVERN While you don't feel quite like you have stepped into an authentic Irish pub, Hibernia Irish Tavern has a homey, well-worn feel that immediately puts you at ease. Walls lined with kitschy landscape paintings of Ireland's countryside and signs for spirits and beers of Irish origin go well with the no-frills seating in front of a stage and regulars posted up at the bar. Hibernia features a full menu with classic Irish (and English) favorites like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and the overflowing Irish Breakfast, which is served all day. On the weekends, enjoy live music while you sip Guinness and Smithwick's on tap. 9700 N. Rodney Parham Road. hiberniairishtavern.com. Full bar. 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat., 10 a.m.-midnight. Sun. Happy Hour: 3-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
HILLCREST FOUNTAINThis Hillcrest bar has a primo location, a nice patio out back (even if it does overlook the Kroger parking lot) and a classic bar sort of vibe. The clientele tends heavily toward the khaki-polo-white-cap crowd, and if you were in a fraternity or sorority — especially at the University of Arkansas — this is probably already one of your main haunts. The place has a solid selection of beers, especially bottled offerings, which range from PBR longnecks to some truly top-shelf choices, such as Delirium Tremens, from Belgian brewers Huyghe Brewery. There are two pool tables up front, and it gets fairly crowded, especially on weekends. 2809 Kavanaugh Blvd. 614-9818. hillcrestfountain.com. Beer and wine. 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Sun.-Wed., 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. daily.
MARKHAM STREET GRILL AND PUBIf you're looking for a place where everybody knows your name — in a strip mall in West Little Rock — Markham Street Pub is definitely that spot. Filled with neighborhood regulars and folks just off the clock from nearby businesses, it's perhaps the most "Cheers"-like bar in the area. And it's not without its surprises, including a full menu with some of the best burgers in the city (the fried jalapeño topped Southwest Burger is a must), a Sunday brunch menu (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) complete with cheap mimosas and Bloody Mary bar, and live music with no cover Thursday through Saturday nights. With a kitchen that stays open until midnight and $10 buckets of domestics from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, you can enjoy sports on one of the many televisions knowing that there's above average bar food to help you sober up at the end of the night. 11321 W. Markham St. No. 6. 224-2010. markhamst.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
MISS KITTY'S SALOON Miss Kitty's is a family place. We know that's not what's usually associated with two-buck Jello shots and drag variety shows, but nonetheless, we mean it. In its seven-month existence, Miss Kitty's has gained a reputation as a major LGBT community hub. It's not just about drinkin' and dancin' and countrified DJs. There always seems to be some sort of benefit or BBQ going on. When a filmmaker comes through town, working on a feature about a transgender kid and hoping to interview folks about bullying, where better to hold a meet-and-greet? The crowd is friendly rather than cliquey, even to stray straight folk. There's a front bar with a TV (blasting Britney Spears music videos when we were there), a room with a stage and dance floor, a pinball machine, a small patio and a couple of billiards tables. The whole bar is open to smokers, wi-fi will cost you two drinks, and weekly events include karaoke on Wednesdays and open mic on Thursdays. 307 W. 7th St. 374-4699. Full bar. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Wed.-Sat.
ROCKET TWENTY ONE Formerly known as Ferneau — after Donnie Ferneau, who remains the executive chef — this Hillcrest restaurant was purchased last year by Arkansas businessman Frank Fletcher, who changed the name but retained the upscale trappings. According to its website, the place offers "a sleek, West Coast atmosphere," and a recent visit confirmed that; there is definitely an "L.A." vibe going on, with ultra-fancy cocktails, a big fish tank and a backlit bar that glows an elegant white. It's definitely one of the places to take your coast-dwelling friends in an attempt to prove that Arkansas does have some swank watering holes. 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd. 603-9208. On Facebook. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Sat., bar 4 p.m.-a p.m. Mon.-Sat. Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
SALUT Located in the bottom floor of Prospect Place, an office/apartment tower off North University, Salut is a restaurant by day and a late-night club until the wee hours. The look is upscale but not gimmicky, and the crowd is about five years past Fayetteville's Dickson Street. Drink specials (half-off) begin at 11 p.m., but nothing gets busy till 1 a.m. The tiny indoor dance floor doesn't seem to get much play, but the deck is as bustling as downtown's free parking lots. It's overhung with old trees and strung in twinkling lights. If a female displays hesitation at the bar, she'll wind up with something called "Tie me to the bedpost" (their name, not ours), comprising several different fruit juices, grenadine and, we think, rum. There's a late night menu, mostly sandwiches. We had parmesan fries — a soggy affair dotted with processed white crumbs and served with a side of sharp, lemon-flavored mayo that the kitchen is trying to pass off as aioli. But we were a few drinks in, so it was OK. 1501 N. University Ave. 660-4200. On Facebook. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 11 p.m.-5 a.m. Thu.-Sat. Happy hour: 11 p.m.-5 a.m. Thu.-Sat.
BAR LOUIE There's a toga party set for 7 p.m. June 30, with Belushi jello shots for young folks who aren't sure who Belushi is and Bluto punch, ditto. Need we say more? 11525 Cantrell Road. 228-0444. On Facebook. On Facebook. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 4-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
DUGAN'S A cozy Irish-themed pub with a fireplace that's a nice change of pace from the River Market strip. 403 E. 3rd St. 244-0542. duganspublr.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
THE HOUSE A residential home turned gastropub, this Hillcrest hangout has an impressive beer menu, with a healthy dose of microbrews, and they've been known to host Diamond Bear tastings. Smoking only on the patio. Fair warning: service can be spotty. 722 N. Palm St. 663-4500. On Facebook. Full bar. 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10:30 p.m. daily. Happy hour: 5-7 p.m. daily.
JOUBERT'S TAVERN Beer, pool and darts at this classic neighborhood bar. 7303 Kanis. 664-9953. Beer. 2 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 2 p.m.-midnight Sat. Happy hour: 2-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
KHALIL'S PUB AND GRILL A friendly Irish pub with live music by the Arkansas Celtic Music Society. 110 S. Shackleford Road. 224-0224. www.khalilspub.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 3 p.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 3-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
THE PANTRY A casual fine dining bistro that specializes in central European fare. With an excellent beer selection and a nice cocktail menu. 11401 Rodney Parham. 353-1875. littlerockpantry.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. and after 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
RENO'S ARGENTA CAFE Sports and music bar and restaurant in North Little Rock's arts district. 312 Main St., NLR. 376-2900. Full bar. 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Sat. (kitchen opens 11 a.m.). Happy hour: 4-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat., drink specials throughout the week.
TOWN PUMP Long-time neighborhood bar with great burgers and shuffleboard and a full bar and no smoking. 1321 Rebsamen Park Road. 663-9802. On Facebook. Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight Mon. and Wed., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Tue., Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., all day Wed.
TRAX Formerly known as Sidetracks until a threat of a trademark lawsuit, this gay-friendly neighborhood bar also bills itself as an authentic paranormal bar, which ghosthunters have verified. Fear not, the apparitions and orbs have mainly stayed away during operating hours. Another draw: It's perhaps the only bar in town that has Natural Light on tap. 415 Main St., NLR. 244-0444. On Facebook. Full bar. 5 p.m.-2 a.m. daily. Happy hour: 5-7 p.m. daily.A previous version of this guide incorrectly indicated that Joubert's offers a full bar and Gusano's offers pool and shuffleboard. It also included an incorrect phont number for Lulav.