You’ve asked, so we delivered – a guide to Rock City’s quintessential dives.
Before you start reading, however, let’s talk about what a dive is. While I can’t guarantee that I’ll check all of your boxes in this round-up of local offerings, I do want to say explain my criteria. I’m basing this list on a pedestrian-friendly, anything-goes, beer/alcohol serving establishment with a certain late-night aesthetic – if you catch my drift.
A place you’d hang with your friends while watching the big game. A place you frequent regularly for trivia or karaoke. A place you have to wade through smoke to find your favorite barstool. A place where – as corny as it sounds – everyone knows your name.
I’m talking a no-frills establishment that’s roaring for a good-time – a place to blow off steam. Read on.
Crazee’s Cafe: A neighborhood hang for over 30 years, Crazee’s motto says it all: “We’re all here, because we’re not all there.” Think domestics with bar food (definitely try the catfish) and waitresses who expect you and your typical group to sit at that same table by the jukebox. There’s a nostalgic popcorn machine with bags nearby up for grabs, and a large TV that’s often streaming the game-of-the-moment. The space recently did away with smoking, so saddle up to the bar to have a few. If you’re nice to the regulars they might even share one of the two pool tables.
The Town Pump: Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the Pump on your drive by – as it is the definition of hole-in-the-wall. Head inside and you’ll quickly see that this place is a hub for everyone. In the early evenings, regulars post up at the bar to take advantage of happy hour – Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and all day Wednesday. As the night draws on, the patrons kick it up a notch – namely, a younger, more eclectic crowd stumbles in. Karaoke reigns on Tuesdays and the third Friday of each month, plus there’s a pool table, a shuffleboard table, and foosball. Get the party started with a round of jello-shots and you’ll fit right in.
The Fountain: What’s not to love about a beer and wine bar located in the heart of Hillcrest? You never know who you’ll run into here – the UAMS students keep it pretty busy, but so do the regulars – a split between business-types and free spirits. Some will argue that this isn’t a dive, but I think it’s worth mentioning for the highlights. You’ve got pool tables, shuffleboard, a great bar staff, and a really enjoyable patio out back. Whether you’re walking in on a Tuesday afternoon post work, or lining up to to check your ID on a Friday night, you can’t help but walk into a lovely cloud of smoke with your name on it.
Hibernia Irish Tavern: It’s always dark in Hibernia, but the people who run the place are some of the friendliest in the Rock. The pub is an ode to Ireland, and there’s always something happening on their friendly stage, plus the full bar comes with a full menu to boot. Mondays are for trivia, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for open mics, and you’re likely to catch local contemporary music on the stage during the weekend along with some traditional Irish acts, as well. Do take advantage of happy hour: 4 – 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday, enjoy $2 Domestic Drafts, $2 Domestic Bottles, and $3 Well Drinks. When you stop at the bar, tell Gerry I sent you.
Four Quarter Bar: It’s no secret that I have a slight obsession with Four Quarter Bar in Argenta. The late night music venue has some of the best in-house smoked meat dishes, and their bar harbors a large craft beer selection with everything you need for cocktail-making and shots. Four Quarter harbors a laid-back, anything-goes vibe with shuffleboard upstairs, a bar perfect for meeting industry folks or local artists, and an oasis of a back patio. See if you can catch Conan Robinson and ask him to make you a Bloody Mary, brunch-only be damned. Live music usually kicks off around 10 p.m., and with the venue open till 2 a.m. daily, feel free to spread your wings and be your true night owl self.
White Water Tavern: You can always count on White Water for a.) a good time, b.) great music, and c.) an eclectic crowd. The bar offers a solid, yet colorful atmosphere from the unassuming, graffiti-clad walls and music memorabilia, to the friendly bar staff slinging drinks. If you’re looking for some of the best names in local, regional, and national music to play a local stage, you best check White Water’s live music calendar. If you’re not in to live music, stop by before the show starts and catch Southern Salt’s Lauren McCants’ food streaming out of the kitchen. The pool tables upstairs are a fun hideaway as is the somewhat magical (if smoky) patio out back. If you’re nice enough … you just might be able to snag a Margarita. (More on this in an upcoming post.)
Joubert’s Tavern: On first visit, this neighborhood hang doesn’t seem extremely special. With heavy domestic offerings and a typical bar menu you might wonder what all the chatter is about. It’s all in the patrons, though, as Joubert’s is THE quintessential place for “where everybody knows your name.” And while it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Joubert’s is an atmosphere that you can’t find anywhere else in the Rock. And hey, if it doesn’t suit you, you can find the door.
Grumpy’s Too: If you want a strong drink in the West Little Rock area, head to Grumpy’s Too. It’s a friendly little bar with decent food and a great atmosphere. Catch the next game, play a little pool, or enjoy this weekend’s live music. Part of the fun is the bar staff, which are friendly with a touch of sass in the best way. Be prepared to smell like smoke – but don’t worry – that’s truly the mark of a good time.
Reno’s Argenta Cafe: Reno’s might be one of the best kept secrets in Central Arkansas – (sorry Stacey.) The smokey bar is attended to by a friendly staff, and has been reworking their beer offerings over the past year or so. You can get some excellent craft beer along with a few familiars, as well as a mixed-drink or two. The eatery also has some highly underrated food specials – as in $1 Tacos on Wednesdays and all you can eat Hot Wings on Mondays. They also tend to get outside the box with dishes like Lamb Sliders – trust us – you have to give Reno’s a visit. Enjoy live music and a friendly, neighborhood vibe: Reno’s is the kind of place go to and recognize that it’s just what you’ve been looking for.
Pizza D’s: You never know what you’re going to get when you step into Stifft Station’s pizza joint. One thing you can rely on, is the smokey, under-lit interior containing a PBR or a shot or two with your name on it. The clientele, while full of regulars is constantly changing and yet always the same. Blow off steam by playing darts, ping-pong, or pool, or get into a philosophical discussion with that guy who’s drowning in his pitcher. Anything goes, and we’ll catch you there tonight after work.
Markham Street: If you weren’t expecting to find Little Rock’s version of “Cheers” in a strip mall – well – Markham Street Grill and Pub can show you the way. Full of regulars bantering with the latest gossip, the place is home to cheap liquor, domestic beers, and live music. The menu will likely surprise you with a few gems including their entire line of burgers. This is definitely the place for group hangs, and if you’re into sports, you’ve got a prime seat to catch the latest game. Markham Street isn’t necessarily anything special, but that’s exactly why it’s an exceptional place to park it for a beer or two.
The Forge: A North Little Rock institution, it’s all about pool and beers at The Forge. The place, while small, is open to everyone. The patrons include old-timer regulars plus a constant influx of new people checking out the offerings. Think cheap beer, a friendly staff, an even friendlier clientele, and pool tournaments every Saturday. What’s not to love?
Norm’s: A Southwest Little Rock hang, Norm’s is one of the best (and probably most underrated) music venues in town. The staff is friendly and the stage is always playing host to something new. Cheap drinks, cheap eats, and a good time is guaranteed by the unassuming establishment. Blend in, stand out, or just straight up order a round for you and your friends – it’s a great way to Saturday night.