Perfect 10: Plunge into Little Rock-area dive bars Posted by: Meggie Green | 0 Comments
The phrase “dive bar” gets thrown around a lot these days. It’s a debatable distinction, but a quick survey of four homogeneous friends and the Internet says the general criteria are cheap drinks, independent ownership, loyal (often older) patrons, and a devotion to the basics — ice cold beer, stout drinks, a couple of barstools — and less regard for superfluous details, such as spotless bathrooms, extensive menu options, napkins, etc. While it’s by no means exhaustive, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite central Arkansas dives that seem to fit the bill.
The Town Pump is home to many things that make it a reliable Little Rock favorite: jello shots, karaoke nights, great bar food, cheap pitchers, a screened-in patio, live music, and pool tables. It’s an appealing option at nearly any time of day, whether you’re in the mood to grab a burger and fries for lunch, happy hour drinks and hot wings, or late-night cocktails. The place gets busy after dark, but there’s ample elbow room at the U-shaped bar to wait while the solid, speedy bartenders pour your drink of choice.
1321 Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock. (501) 663-9802
My Friend’s Place
“My Friend’s Place” is an apt name for this neighborhood pub, where we were greeted by two smiling bartenders who frequently checked on our table, refilling pitchers and clearing away glasses. The joint is roomy and offers plenty of places to perch while you drink or play pool, but we’re fond of the booths conveniently situated across from the bar. Pluses: an indoor phone booth, taxidermied animal heads, icy cold pitchers. Good food, too.
5501 MacArthur Drive, North Little Rock. (501) 758-9933
White Water Tavern
White Water Tavern consistently boasts superb bartenders, $3.50 pitchers, a killer jukebox, pool tables upstairs, picnic tables outside, dance parties, seasonal “Breakfast, Books, and Booze” sales, and occasional movie nights. Live acts range from the Mississippi blues-inspired sounds of Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm to sludge metal band The Body, and countless local acts who call WWT home. And now that Jonathan Wilkins is serving up mouth-watering burgers, sandwiches, and fries (from quality, local ingredients at cheap prices, no less), there’s basically no reason to ever leave.
2500 W. Seventh St., Little Rock. (501) 375-8400
Midtown is a true dive in its own right, but because of its late hours (open until 5 a.m.), it’s also the uncontested after-after-after bar of Little Rock. It serves a varied clientele, and you’re guaranteed to feel at home whether drinking a tallboy alone at the bar or making out with someone against the cigarette machine by the bathrooms. It doesn’t matter if the drinks are cheap (they are), because you won’t remember. The burgers are legendary. Yelp classifies the noise level as “Very Loud.” There are three charming breakfast places nearby for when you invariably return the next morning to retrieve your car.
1316 Main St., Little Rock. (501) 372-9990
There are dive bars that really want to look like dive bars, and then there are those that have earned the distinction by quietly existing for decades. The Forge in North Little Rock is the latter. The decor and furnishings have gone unaltered for years, and despite pipsqueaks like my friends and I hunting down the best “dives” in town, the patrons don’t seem to have changed much over the years, either. The swiveling office chairs parked around old oak tables are inviting, as are $1.75 Bud Lights served in impossibly frosty goblets. On the particular Tuesday we went, our waitress was outgoing and attentive and frequently made her way over to our dark, smoky corner of the room to refill our beers. She gestured to a lone man at the end of the bar and told us not to mind the old-school country music he’d queued on the jukebox, and we didn’t at all.
3000 Pike Ave., North Little Rock. (501) 758-5980
Pizza D’Action is like a never-ending block party in the heart of Stifft Station. It’s low-key, comfy, and highly enjoyable whether you’re piled in a window booth with your friends and a $1.50 PBR or crowded around the big-screen yelling at a football game. The recently-expanded food menu is served until 10 p.m., and late-night slices are available at the bar. Games include ping pong, pool and darts. The drinks (and shots) are as big as they are potent, and the stalwart bartenders are among the best around. And the Pizza D smell — characteristic of any dive bar worthy of the title — washes off with a quick shower, which you probably needed anyway.
2919 W. Markham St., Little Rock. (501) 666-5403
Crazee’s Cool Cafe
Crazee’s offers some of the coldest beer in town, as well as juicy burgers, pork chops, hush puppies and perfectly-fried catfish until 10:30 p.m. Happy hour prices at Crazee’s are a steal, but even the regular prices — $9 for a big pitcher of Miller Light — are hard to beat. Service is always friendly (we’re especially fond of Margie), and regulars are usually happy to share the coveted pool tables.
7626 Cantrell Road, Little Rock. (501) 221-9696
Spectators Grill & Pub
Spectators Grill & Pub is spacious enough to house its loyal customers and newcomers alike, but the cluttered walls and dark booths give it a cozy feel. There’s plenty to love about this place, including $2 PBR tallboys, Diamond Bear on tap, and discount imports on Thursday nights. The owner, Glenda, approached our booth with a smile, asked each of our names, and solicited suggestions for how she could make the place more “fun” for young folks. We told her we’d just been discussing the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the bar, and that we wouldn’t change a thing. And we weren’t just being nice.
1012 W. 34th St., North Little Rock. (501) 791-0990
Jimmy Doyle’s Country Club
I’d long heard of the magic of Jimmy Doyle’s Country Club, the beckoning honky-tonk on I-40 that’s no-frills and mostly dance floor, and once I experienced it for myself on a particularly wild weekend night, I was a believer. Go on a Friday (Ladies’ Night) for some unforgettable karaoke, or go on a Saturday with a group of friends and your best dancing shoes to hear the always-lively Arkansas River Bottom Band. There’s typically a small cover, which is well worth it.
11800 Maybelline Road, North Little Rock. (501) 945-9042
The Nest Lounge
Formerly known as the Honey Hut, The Nest Lounge is as charming as its name used to imply; it’s been a longtime favorite of ours for karaoke, but it’s just as enjoyable on quiet nights. The bartenders are eager to make you feel at home, whether that means inviting you to help them DJ or serving you a special birthday shot. The regulars are laid-back and agreeable and never seem to mind shooting pool to the sound of a trainwreck karaoke version of “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy and Monica.
3723 Mac Arthur Drive, North Little Rock. (501) 812-6501
photos by Melissa Tucker and Amy Bowers
Meggie Green is a freelance writer in Little Rock, Ark.
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