- STILL FINE: The burger at the Town Pump.
The year 1969 was memorable, a year of great tragedy (the Big Shoot-out) and great triumph (Man on the Moon). Not quite as storied as either of those events, but important to some, was the opening of the Town Pump.
“The Town Pump was originally built as a tavern to serve the locals who needed a place to call home,” the menu of today's Town Pump says. “For over 40 years now, the ‘Pump' has been known far and wide as a Little Rock favorite. Acknowledged by ‘Southern Living Magazine' as having one of the top burgers in Arkansas, we invite you to relax, order a cold one, and make yourself at home.”
That message is from the new owners of the Pump, Dane and Cindy Harris, who've had it since Sept. 1. They closed the place for a couple of weeks, then re-opened on Sept. 18. The Harrises haven't turned the place upside down, but they've tweaked it. “We did a little bit of renovation, a little cleaning and rearranging,” Dane Harris said. “We changed the menu a little bit.”
To someone who hadn't been to the Pump in years, a noticeable change was that there's no more smoking at the bar, or anywhere else inside the main building. Smoking is allowed only on a screened-in porch. Smoking restrictions have come to many Little Rock taverns in recent years, in compliance with state law. Another possible change: While we were there, for a late lunch, employees were considerably involved in cleaning up. We don't remember the old Pump being obsessed with cleanliness.
But there's still a pool table off to one side of the bar, separated from the main dining area, and there are still “all-day, everyday deals” such as the 12-ounce can of Pabst Blue Ribbon for a dollar. The Pump is trying to be a little more family-oriented during the day and early evening, Harris said – there's even a children's menu – but the bar crowd is still very important to the place.
The essence of the menu is still the sort of thing you'd expect in a place like the Pump. One doesn't come here for sushi or tofu. That burger praised by Southern Living is indeed very good, certainly among the best in town. It's a third of a pound of beef, cooked medium unless you specify otherwise, and a number of toppings are available — various cheeses, bacon, mushrooms, guacamole, etc. Each burger comes with either fries, cole slaw or potato salad. The fries are the skinny, McDonald's-type, not bad but not the old-fashioned fries we were hoping for. The cole slaw is the heavy-on-the-mayo kind that many people like. The potato salad is hard to classify. One of us thought it was pretty good, another thought it was pretty bad.
Ever since the legendary D and D closed, we've been looking for a good foot-long chili dog. The Pump's isn't D-and-D class, but it's better than most we've found. One of the things you'll find under the “Fun Foods” heading, along with wings, cheese sticks and nachos, is “The Monster-Sized Platter of Chili Cheese Fries … This is enough for 2-3 people.” Some people maybe. A friend put it away by himself. A little greasy, he said, and delicious.
1321 Rebsamen Park Road
Home of the Pumperger®. “A killer burger if we say so ourselves.”
11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Beer and wine available now, liquor license applied for. Credit cards accepted.