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Drink on us 

It's June and it's already oppressively hot. You know what'll fix that? Buzz Aldrin's portable air-conditioned suit. Short of that, your best bet might be an ice-cold pale ale and a game of pool in your favorite well-refrigerated bar. Refreshing, slightly numbing and inside — it's all you can hope for in these scorching times.

To help you find just the right spot in which to seek refuge, we've revisited our favorite watering holes, sussing out their happy hours and special features. Let what follows guide you to buzzed bliss. And get it to go via Cocktail Compass, our handy iPhone app for finding bars and happy hours in Central Arkansas. Download it at arktimes.com/cocktailcompass.

Dives We Love

MIDTOWN BILLIARDS The picture of dive bar: a concrete floor, Polaroids and beer signs covering just about every inch of wall space, a chandelier made of PBR cans and three pool tables, stained so heavily that if you squint, they look like maps. You come to this slender bar, one of only a handful that have a private club license that allows them to stay open until 5 a.m. and the only one in downtown — from wedding receptions, from concerts, from anywhere that drinks have been served — because you don't want the night to end. You leave after spending most of your time waiting in line for the bathroom and, if you're smart, eating a hamburger (a late-night delicacy), carrying a dank combination of sweat, spilled beer and decades of unventilated cigarette smoke and hamburger grease. And then you do it again the next weekend. 1316 Main St. 372-9990. midtownar.com. Full bar. 3 p.m.-5 a.m. daily. Happy hour: 3 p.m.-8 p.m. daily.

SPECTATORS Some people might call Spectators a hole in the wall, but the regulars might not take too kindly to that. Tucked away just off MacArthur Drive in North Little Rock, Spectators is hidden just enough that you might drive by it a couple of times but it's worth seeking out. This is a good-time bar with a decent menu and good prices on beer. They serve "Imperial Pints" too, bigger than your average bear, so if you're gonna have more than a couple, call a driver. Throw in the occasional live cover band — the last time we went we heard everything from KISS to "Amarillo by Morning" — and a good burger and that's all you really need. 1012 W. 34th St., NLR. Full bar. $-$$. 791-0990. 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Mon.-Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-midnight Sat.

WHITE WATER TAVERN The bar's a repurposed shuffleboard top. The mantle above holds a bowling pen; an oil painting of a regular for the last 40 years; a Busch bottle filled with, among other things, the ashes of a dead man and pubic hair from four women. It's hard to say exactly how old the floors and walls are since the building's burned three times in the last 30-odd years. Inside the stall in the men's bathroom is graffiti that reads "Fort Sumter was an inside job." Out the back door is a fenced-in area for the smokers who used to billow inside. Onstage is someone you've never heard of. Or someone whose songs you know all the words to. It doesn't matter. 2500 W. Seventh. 375-8400. whitewatertavern.com. Full bar. 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 6 p.m.-1 a.m., Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Also

Markham St. One of only a few dive-y hangouts in West Little Rock. 11321 W. Markham St. 224-2010. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon-Fri., 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 3 p.m. -7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Pizza D'Action A beloved, if cigarette smoke-drenched, Stifft Station hangout, with darts, ping-pong, pinball and outdoor seating. 2919 W. Markham St. 666-5403. Full bar. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed.; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Thu.-Fri.; 12-10 p.m. Sat.; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Hip on Hops

BOSCOS There are three reasons you might be enticed to visit this mini-chain for drinks: 1. It's well situated, in the heart of the River Market, with a big, elevated deck that overlooks Riverfest Amphitheatre and the Arkansas River, though during concerts, you have to pay for the privilege of those seats. 2. One of only two restaurant/breweries in town, it's got eight in-house brews on tap, ranging from a Bombay IPA to the seasonal Hook Slide Ale, made specially for the beer garden at Dickey-Stephens. 3. It's one of the few places you can buy beer and take it home on a Sunday. All of the brewpub's house beers are available to go in 64 oz. growlers for $10 apiece, with a $3 refundable deposit for each bottle. 500 President Clinton Ave. 907-1881. boscosbeer.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Fri.-Sat., 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

CREGEEN'S A friend of ours recently said that if you could combine the food from Dugan's with the beer selection at Cregeen's, you'd have the perfect Americanized Irish pub. They're right. Cregeen's food is about what you'd expect and not much more, but its beer selection is great, maybe even the best in North Little Rock. And isn't that really why you go to a pub in the first place? The atmosphere at Cregeen's is exactly what you want from a bar: friendly staff, a little loud but not rowdy, a few TVs if you want to watch the game and pub grub (throw in your typical Irish pub fare here too) aplenty. On a cool afternoon or evening you can sit outside and watch the trolley and the foot traffic roll down Main Street in Argenta, all while sipping on a tall, cool Guinness. 301 Main St. NLR. 376-7468. cregeens.com/Argenta. Full bar. 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Sun.

VINO'S With 19 beers on tap, including five terrific house brews (the Firehouse Pale is our favorite), you've got plenty to choose from here. Out back, there's a raised deck and picnic tables on the patio below. In the rear of the building is an all-ages venue space that's known for booking punk rock that kids appreciate, but also hosts just about anything you can imagine. When there's no music, there's pinball to play and big flat-screens to watch the game on. And of course there's always a slice of some of Little Rock's best pizza to be had up front. And don't forget, Vino's house-brews are always available to take home in growlers. 923 W. Seventh 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.-12 a.m. Fri., 11:30 a.m.-12 a.m. Sat., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Wed., 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Sat.

PROSTThe first thing to remember about Prost is that the entrance is not on President Clinton Avenue, like the other bars in the Rivermarket area, but just around the corner on Ottenheimer Drive, so if you sit and stare out the window as you drink — and which of us hasn't at one time or another? — you have a different perspective. More likely, you'll want to look at the paintings on the wall in the front room. The bar itself is in the back room, not too crowded and with a nice selection of draft beers and during happy hour, they're only $1.50. Prost hosts karaoke on Tuesday, beer pong on Thursday and live music Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 120 Ottenheimer. 244-9550. Full bar. 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Tue.-Fri., 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m.

Also

Flying Saucer With 75 beers on tap, this mini-chain has easily the best selection in town. Earlier this month, it went non-smoking. With live music, sports on TV and a popular trivia night on Tuesdays. 323 President Clinton Ave. 372-8032. beerknurd.com/stores/littlerock. Beer and wine. 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.

Drink to the Music

THE AFTERTHOUGHT This has long been the grown-ups' bar in the Hillcrest neighborhood, thanks to the jazzy music served up on Mondays and at Sunday brunch, and other bluesy and acoustic nights. If you love the Meshugga Klezmer band, this is the place to hear them. If you are an open-mic person, this bar's for you. If you like Science Cafe, this is the place where, once a month, you can tipple and listen to doctorates talk about DNA and clean water and diseases. Fun! Lately, even young folks have been coming in droves as the club experiments with booking heroes of the local scene. You've got to get there early for any special performance, since the place seats only about 100, but the wait staff deftly maneuvers the tabletops to keep the spirits and chow flowing and the mood mellow. In winter, there's a (low, mostly symbolic) fire in the fireplace. There are 11 specialty drinks, the most popular being the French Beach, a mixture of Stolichnaya vanilla, Malibu rum, pineapple juice and a dash of grenadine, served on the rocks. 2721 Kavanaugh Blvd. 663-1196. afterthoughtbar.com. Full bar. 4:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 4:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4:30 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

CAJUN'S WHARF One of the largest bars in town, Cajun's has a lot going for it: A massive, tiered deck (with its own bar) that overlooks the Arkansas River that might be the best place to get a drink in Little Rock in the summer time. An almost equally large interior, oriented around a large stage, where local cover bands play songs that make the people dance. A signature cocktail, the Play-De-Do (a close cousin to the Hurricane), that comes in a big Mason jar and packs a serious buzz. Perhaps because of all of those amenities Cajun's has a reputation as a nexus for singles looking to mingle. Even if that's not your scene, don't forget the deck. 2400 Cantrell Road. 375-5351. cajunswharf.com. Full bar. 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.- Wed., 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m., Thurs.-Fri., 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4:30 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

ERNIE BIGGS Piano bars: they're equal parts Japanese karaoke room, late-night frat-house shout-along, "Sing Along with Mitch Miller" re-run and classic rock radio at rush hour. They're proof that, no, your fourth vodka tonic isn't going to "get your voice where it needs to be." They're kind of hokey, occasionally ear-assaulting and, without a doubt, a quirky, uniquely American institution. Not to mention incredibly popular. On weekends, the River Market dueling piano bar is packed more often than not, alive with people howling along to any number of piano bar staples: "Rocket Man," "Bennie and the Jets" and, God knows, "Brown Eyed Girl." Biggs' musicians appear on a rotating basis, drawing on touring piano bar pros, including a Brit who plays a mean R&B keytar. The bar is no stranger to offering deep-discount drink specials, as well. Catch a $2 pint of domestic draft on Sunday and Mondays and take advantage of "Dollar Night" on Wednesdays, where a buck will get you a domestic draft or any number of well drinks. 307 President Clinton Ave. 372-4782. erniebiggs.com. Full bar. 8 p.m.-1:30 a.m. daily. Happy hour: 8 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Sun.-Wed.

STICKYZ ROCK 'N' ROLL CHICKEN SHACK The name may have changed — a trademark fight stripped this beer and chicken joint from its former name, Sticky Fingerz — but this is still one of our favorite River Market spots and consistently the best place to hear music in the River Market. And when you get tired of the band or having to shout your conversation, there's a big adjacent lounge, with cushioned seats and big booths, and a relatively new, large patio area. Plus, delicious chicken strips. 107 Commerce St. 372-7707. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 4:30 p.m.-close Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Varies on Sun. depending on concerts. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

WILLY D's Noisy and determinedly festive when the music starts, this dueling-pianos arena is popular with guests from downtown hotels, we suspect, and home-towners looking for the occasional rowdy night out. It's not the sort of establishment that attracts a regular happy-hour crowd. In fact, it doesn't even have a happy hour, doesn't open until 7 p.m., and the music sometimes doesn't start until 9 p.m. There are a lot of tables close together, and even some grandstand-type seats along one wall. Not a place for the claustrophobic. It shares a kitchen with its next-door neighbor, Prost. The menu features various sausages on buns; burgers and other standard bar fare are available too. Smoking is permitted, which may offend some people, but no-smoking rules weren't really made for places like this. 322 President Clinton Ave. 244-9540. willydspianobar.com. Full bar. 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Tue.-Fri., 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat.

Also

Juanita's The venerable cantina/Tex-Mex restaurant/venue is soon to move to the River Market, where it promises to continue to host bands of all stripes. 1300 S. Main St. 372-1228. www.juanitas.com. Full bar. Bar hours dependent on concerts. Happy hour (in the restaurant): 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

Revolution Stickyz sister-restaurant/bar/venue hosts big-name acts on its stage, serves up good pub grub and offers one of the few decks in the River Market. 300 President Clinton Ave. 823-0090. Full bar. Hours vary depending on concerts Sun.-Wed. 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Happy Feet

DISCOVERY For years, "Disco" has been the crowned queen of Little Rock's clubbing nightlife scene. Every Saturday night, in a semi-industrial complex off of east Cantrell, the expansive, multi-roomed warehouse turns into a jumping house of hedonism, replete with chest-rattling bass, go-go cages, pupil-dilating laser lights and, of course, those famous drag shows. The club offers hip-hop, techno and, now, live music, all housed in separate rooms with individual bars for each. At the end of this month, on Saturday, June 25, Discovery fetes owner and local club icon Norman Jones on his 65th birthday with a special "Medicare Birthday Party," featuring a slate of party-starting familiars, including long-time Disco DJ favorite Big Brown. If Little Rock is going to see a crazy shake in June, this is going to be it. 1021 Jessie Road. 501-666-2744. Full bar. 10 p.m.-5 a.m. Sat. $$$

JIMMY DOYLE'S COUNTRY CLUB While a lot of the local bar scene has gone to bumping music, appletinis and flat-screen TVs on every vertical surface, it's still the same as it's been for over 35 years out at Jimmy Doyle's Country Club just off I-40 in North Little Rock: cold beer, a big dance floor and a live band kicking out the '70s outlaw country and bluesy rock. In a world that's running low on authenticity, Jimmy Doyle's might be the area's purest remaining expression of the honky tonk. Run by semi-retired singer/songwriter Jimmy Doyle and his wife Patsy Gale, the 10,000-square-foot club features plentiful dive-bar patina, karaoke on Friday nights and live music from the Arkansas River Bottom Band on Saturday nights. The clientele runs toward the same vintage as "Urban Cowboy," but that's not necessarily a bad thing if you're looking for a laid-back scene. The drinks are cheap, the band takes requests and the dance floor is usually full. Just be sure to wear your cowboy boots. 11800 Maybelline Road, NLR. 945-9042. Full bar. 7:30 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 7:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

ELECTRIC COWBOY The country and western-themed nightclub plays dance music of all genres for the hordes to step to on its basketball-court sized dance floor. Tests of drunken courage sit in opposing corners: the famed electric bull in one, and an electronic punching bag in the other. With pool tables, occasional live music, karaoke, happy hour and smoking. 9515 Interstate 30. 562-6000. www.electriccowboy.com/littlerock. Full bar. 7:30 p.m.-5 a.m., Wed.-Sun. Happy hour: daily specials.

Also

Sway Perhaps the swankiest dance club in town, with a cozy patio out back. 412 Louisiana St. 907-2582. 8 p.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Sat. Happy hour: 8 p.m.-10 p.m. Thu.-Sat.

Pulse/Off Center A gay bar from the owner of Discovery with drag shows at 11 p.m. and dancing next door at the theater-turned-disco Off Center. 307 W. 7th St. 374-4699. Full bar. CC. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Wed.-Sat. Happy hour: 9 p.m.-midnight Wed.-Thu.

Game Time

BIG WHISKEY'S AMERICAN BAR AND GRILL Big Whiskey's Bar and Grill is right across the parking lot from the Arkansas Times, close enough we could probably throw a bottlecap from their patio and hit the window of the newsroom, so we've come to know its cool, dim confines well. It's a very grown-up place, appointed in dark wood and soft lighting — which puts it in stark contrast to some of the more meat-market joints further down President Clinton. With more than two-dozen flat screen TVs, it's an ideal spot for watching whatever game you're interested in. Or given that it's situated with windows looking out on one of the busiest corners in Little Rock, it's a great spot for great people-watching. As for drinking, if you want to impress your friends, $20 gets you a shot of limited edition Jack Daniel's single barrel whiskey brewed special for Big Whiskey's and your name on a plaque on a barrel. Otherwise, there's a full bar and 11 beers on tap. 225 E. Markham. 324-2449. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Tue., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Wed.-Thu., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-6 p.m. daily.

THE FOX AND HOUNDFrom time to time, we watch the 1961 pool hall epic "The Hustler," staring Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson; there's something about the green felt of a pool table that gives us delusions of grandeur. So we should probably stay away from The Fox and Hound, with its acres of felt and 10 tournament-quality billiard tables, lest we end up a bitter shell of a man like Felson. The Fox and Hound's tables are available for $8 per hour, and are in a clean, friendly, well-lit setting. Though off-the-rack cues are available at the tables, you can rent more Fast Eddie-worthy sticks at the front. If you're not interested in shooting pool, the Fox and Hound also features a NORAD-worthy collection of flat screen televisions showing sports of all sorts, a full bar and a generous pub-style menu. The beer selection is fairly extensive, too; and they offer drink specials like $2 pint nights and $2.50 draft nights. Karoke is Tuesday night and live music is Friday and Saturday, with an open mic night backed by a live band on Sunday. Card sharps, take note: Texas Hold 'Em poker tournaments happen on Monday and Thursday evenings. 2800 Lakewood Village, NLR. 753-8300. www.foxandhound.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. daily.

GUSANO'S Need a place to watch the big game, the big fight, the big afternoon Seinfeld re-run? Gusano's has got you covered. If you're in the River Market district, it's really the place to go to watch sports, play some games and have a couple of beers. Gusano's has big screen TVs hanging from the ceiling in just about every direction you could possibly turn your head. If you'd rather do something than just watch, there's shuffleboard and pool in the back, behind its massive bar. With all that crammed into one place, you'd think it would be crowded as all get-out, but thanks to a big floor plan it's not. A large selection of appetizers go great with a brew or one of Gusano's signature deep-dish, stuffed pizzas. 313 President Clinton Ave. 374-1441. www.gusanospizza.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. daily.

ZACK'S PLACE Sometime after its founding in 1988, the super-sized Midtown bar branded itself "the mother of all sports bars." That's a tall order: We'll happily call it our favorite place in Little Rock to throw darts, though. Even for a neighborhood bar in the South, Zack's bartenders are exceptionally welcoming and the drinks are poured with a heavy hand and are more than reasonably priced, but that row of dartboards mounted on a long stretch of wall is what keeps us coming back. There's a certain unique nostalgia that comes with sharp darts, cold beers and smoking ashtrays that's hard not to appreciate. For those who don't care for a round of Cricket or 501, Zack's also offers trivia nights on Monday, live Texas Hold 'Em nights on Tuesday and Wednesday, karaoke on Thursday and Little Rock's long-tenured traveling bar DJ Debbi T, on Friday nights. 1400 S. University Ave. 664-6444. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 2 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Also

Buffalo Wild Wings A sports bar on steroids with numerous humongous TVs and a menu full of thirst-inducing items. 14800 Cantrell Road. 868-5279. www.buffalowildwings.com. 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Sun.

The Tavern Sports Grill Recently opened in The Promenade at Chenal, this sports bar hopes to draw with its numerous, monster-sized televisions, extensive bar selection and Martini Monday nights, featuring $3.50 stemmed cocktails strong enough to get your lady a teensy bit interested in Monday Night Football. With outdoor seating and karaoke, too. 17815 Chenal Pkwy. 830-2100. Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight daily. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

West End More than 50 TVs, a massive bar, pool tables, comfortable seating and live music on the weekends make this a popular West Little Rock hangout. With smoking, darts and shuffleboard, too. 215 N. Shackleford Road. 224-7665. Full bar. 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Thu. 11 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sun. Happy hour: 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

On The Swanky Side

CAPITAL BAR & GRILL You'll be hard pressed to order any classic cocktail here that the bartenders can't make — and make as good or better than you've ever had it. A Mint Julep? Served, as tradition dictates, in a pewter cup with densely packed crushed ice and fresh mint. Perfection. An Old Fashioned? You'll forever think of the brandied cherries the Capital uses as a garnish as a central ingredient. Thursday through Saturday, expect to find the bar hoppin', with a mix of hotel guests and regulars vibin' to the sweet swing of New Orleans expat Ted Ludwig's seven-string guitar. 111 Markham St. 374-7474. capitalhotel.com/CBG. Full bar. 11 a.m.-close daily.

DIVERSION TAPAS RESTAURANT You can get pretty diverted here, all right, right off your bar stool, if you're tempted to have more than one of the delicious martinis that Diversion is known for. On a recent trip, our barman informed us that the young women who frequent Diversion generally go for the flavored martinis, especially the chocolate and one appallingly named the "Jolly Rancher" (made with melon). The adult drinks — G&Ts and a dirty martini — we tried out were excellent (Bombay Sapphire), as was the Chardonnay, a generous pour for only $5, since it was Thursday, when selected wines are the happy hour drink. If you've got lots of lolly, this is a great place to perch at the bar, beneath the oversized chandelier, and watch the Hillcrest traffic go by. Things get busy late in the evening, when the crowd slinks to the dark depths of the upscale bar to inhabit comfortable leather couches. The older folks, who've decided to skip the cafeteria for the night and get drunk, will have the place to themselves just after work. With excellent tapas, including raw tuna and crab cakes. 2611 Kavanaugh Blvd. 501-414-0409. Full bar. 5 p.m.-close Tues.-Sat. Happy hour: 5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.

MALLARD'S This hotel bar doesn't feel like one. Rather, it gives off a high-class speakeasy vibe. Wood-paneled, dark and cool and tucked-away down a hall off the lobby of the Peabody, it's where cigar aficionados, tourists and downtown revelers looking to escape the River Market strip gather to sit in plush, leather furniture by a fireplace. If you're a non-smoker, try the Peabody Lobby Bar, or on most Fridays in the summer, the Peabody RiverTop party room, where revelers can look out at the Arkansas River and hear live music. 3 Statehouse Plaza. 906-4000. peabodylittlerock.com. Full bar. 4:30 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Thu., 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fri.-Sat.

ZIN URBAN WINE AND BEER BAR This is the kind of sophisticated place you would expect to find in a bar on the ground floor of the Tuf-Nut lofts downtown. Its pale palette — white leather chairs and wave-textured walls, gray wool banquettes, natural woods — is set off by pink and blue lights illuminating the wine glasses behind the bar. The wine menu is diverse and, besides by the glass and bottle, customers may order combinations of wine in small servings. It's a place where one might hear wine snobs go on about the oaky cloak, the plummy legs, the acid mouthfeel, the acetone nose ... . Acetone nose? We chalked that up to the drift of air from the salon next door, a bouquet you could catch without ordering any wine at all. Still, the wine is good, even if it's not what you ordered (on a recent trip, our waitress asked three times what our order was and still got it wrong, delivering white instead of red to the table). The music is jazzy, easy to talk over. And to be fair to the waitress, she brought us samples of wine to taste to help us make our selection (Le Drunk Rooster chardonnay). The cheapest wines on the menu are $7 a (nicely full) glass or $23 a bottle; there's also a $45 Serge Laporte Sancerre from France, a $47 Seghesio Old Vine Zinfandel from California and a $70 Moet Imperial Champagne. There are also 11 beers on the menu (including a Guiness Stout Draft in a can) and plates of meats, cheeses, figs, peppers, hummus and other bites. 300 River Market Ave., 501-246-4876. zinlr.com. Full bar. 4-10 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 4 p.m.-midnight Thu.-Sat., 5-9:30 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4 p.m. daily.

Also

Lulav This comfortably chic downtown bistro turns into the V Lounge every night at 10 p.m., with drinks and mingling and an occasional DJ. 220 W. 6th St. 374-5100. lulaveatery.com. Full bar. 5 p.m.-1 a.m. daily. Happy hour: 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Thu.

Capi's This Pleasant Ridge Town Center-located Neuvo Mexican restaurant is a great spot to catch an early happy hour in West Little Rock. With a patio, too. 11525 Cantrell, Suite 917. 225-9600. capisrestaurant.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-close Tue.-Sun. Happy hour: 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Tue.-Fri.

Copper Grill This sunny and ultra-modern restaurant in downtown's most chic condo tower is an elegant place for an after-work cocktail. With patio seating. Third and Cumberland Streets. 375-3333. Full bar. 11a.m.-10p.m. Mon.-Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

Crush An unpretentious bar/lounge in downtown Argenta with an appealing and erudite wine list. 318 Main St., NLR. 374-9463. Full bar. 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 4 p.m.-11 p.m. (or later) Fri.-Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Sonny Williams' Steak House This upscale steakhouse in the River Market offers a Grand Piano Bar with players tickling the ivories Tuesday through Saturday. 500 President Clinton Ave. 324-2999. Full bar. Piano Bar: 7 p.m.-11 p.m. (or later) Tue.-Sat.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

BAR LOUIE This new West Little Rock hangout's menu might be a little hit and miss, but they make a drink, poured liberally and in a big glass. There's also a decent selection of beers and a list of specialty cocktails for those who prefer their drinks with titles like "Strawberry Fizz" and "Pom Peche." Cocktail prices aren't listed, so be sure to ask if you're penny pinching. You could always try the happy hour specials too: $3.50 well drinks and draft beers from 4 pm. to 6 p.m. 11525 Cantrell Road. 228-0444. www.barlouieamerica.com. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri.; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat.; 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

FERNEAU On weekends and Thursday (part of the weekend for the bar crowd), this fine dining restaurant becomes one of the busiest bars in town, with the post-collegiate, UAMS crowd mixing with slightly older singles still looking to mingle. It's a lovely space, with a curved granite bar, a small corner area where local musicians often perform, a small patio for the smokers and plenty of tables in the restaurant if you feel like spreading out. Try the Basil Lemon Drop Martini and anything on the delicious late-night menu, available 10 p.m.-1 a.m. Thu.-Fri. and 10 p.m.-midnight Sat. 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd. 603-9208. ferneaurestaurant.com. Full bar. 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Tue.-Wed., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Sat. Happy hour: 10 p.m.-midnight Thu.-Sat.

HILLCREST FOUNTAIN No reason to spin words here: The Fountain is not all things to all people. Anchored right in the middle of Hillcrest, the wine bar cum neighborhood dive is one of the few surviving smoking holes in town. There's no liquor on the menu. The layout — an open area in the front, an open porch in the back and, in between, a bar and row of clunky tables practically touching — can get cumbersome fast. People tend to love it or stay far away, but we can get behind The Fountain for all of the above. The interior has a lived-in charm about it and, as shuffleboard all-stars know, their table is one of the best (and longest) in town. Plus, its back porch is one of the best places to people-watch: Crushing a beer and watching the after-work crowd tote groceries and joust for Kroger parking spaces is one Hillcrest's great simple pleasures. 2809 Kavanaugh Blvd. 614-9818. Beer and wine only. 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.

JOUBERT'S TAVERN There's a lot to be said for the simple neighborhood bar. It's not the place you probably go to pick up or be picked up, to raise hell, power drink or listen to a pumping beat. Mostly, it's just a cold beer, a football or baseball game on the television and maybe a game of pool if you're feeling personally sportsmanlike. It's the kind of bar that guys stop by on their way home from work to grab a brew; where the dudes watching a baseball game on the TV behind the bar can probably reel off the stats of their favorite players of yore like the names of their kids. With six pool tables, a collection of vintage baseball trophies, and a few video games, it's not the fanciest joint in town, but it does look like a place where it'd be easy to become a regular — especially if you like sports, want a no-nonsense atmosphere, and live in midtown. 7303 Kanis Road. 664-9953. Full bar. 2 p.m.-1 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 12 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 2 p.m.-6 p.m., Mon. - Sat.

KHALIL'S PUB & GRILL On a recent visit to Khalil's, the lengthy dress code posted outside the door kept us from going in, fearful we might be found in violation of one of the rules: "NO VISIBLE UNDERGARMENTS. NO GANG-RELATED TATTOOS. NO PANTS BELOW THE WAISTLINE. NO EXCESSIVELY BAGGY CLOTHING. NO WIFEBEATERS ... " So we just peered in at the three or four mid-afternoon day drinkers watching a baseball game on TV. Cowboy hats are permitted apparently. Khalil's is reluctant to give out information over the phone too, we discovered, but according to its website, it has live music on Friday, karaoke from 7 a.m. to last call on Wednesday and Saturday, and "Arkansas's largest karaoke data base." Happy Hour is 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri., with $1 off draft beers, well drinks, and wine by the glass, and 50 percent off appetizers. Those appetizers from the restaurant next door are pretty interesting too – bierocks, Scottish eggs, German potato cakes, etc. 110 S. Shackleford Road. 224-0224. khalilspub.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 3-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

RENO'S With so many places to choose from in Argenta, it might be hard for you to pick out your favorite haunt, but Reno's deserves as good a shot as any other. Decently priced beverages and a solid menu make this one of North Little Rock's best places. The bar's got a real neighborhood feel and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Case in point: $2 well drinks on Tuesdays for happy hour. They also do $2 off draft beers every day from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you're hungry, try the fried pickle slices. This is a smoking bar, but the high ceilings, fans and overhead vents make it easy for non-smokers to have a good time, too. 312 Main St. NLR. Full bar. 376-2900. www.renosargentacafe.com. 11 a.m.-12 a.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

TOWN PUMP A couple of years ago, the staple of Riverdale watering holes became, practically overnight, a rendezvous for Little Rock young guns. Given that the bulk of the bar's steady clientele consisted of gents who had been nursing beers since before the Pump rookies were born, it seemed like the makings of a volatile arrangement. Two years later, the dive's definition of "bar regular" has changed and, once again, burgers and beer have proven to be the great uniter. (God bless America.) The drink selections are pretty standard; fine by us as long as the tenders keep handing out the occasional whiskey and coke. And the food — well, there are precious few better places in town to commit carbocide: the Pump Burger is a Little Rock classic and the veggie burger is the best and most gloriously unhealthy in town. Another welcome addition: the spray-painted beach mural that whisks back porch patrons away to a world of white sands, cool breezes and, endearingly blurry thing it is, severe myopia. 1321 Rebsamen Park Road. 663-9802. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. daily and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Wed.

Also

610 Center A low-key, gay-friendly bar from the owner of Discovery that's a great spot for drinks after work. 610 Center St. 374-4678. Full bar. CC. Happy hour: 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

Ciao Baci This fine dining spot transforms nightly into a popular lounge that serves specialty drinks until late. 605 N. Beechwood St. 603-0238. ciaobaci.org. Full bar. 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Wed.

Dugan's A relatively new entry into the River Market District bar scene, this Irish pub is a great stop for an after-work beer, with with plenty of bar seating and tables and an outdoor patio. 403 E. 3rd St. 244-0542. duganspublr.com. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. Happy hour: 4 pm-7pm

Salut This bistro has became the late night hangout du jour for post-collegiates and folks from the Heights and Hillcrest who don't want to go home, but don't want to go to Midtown either. 1501 N. University. 660-4200. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Tues., 5 p.m.-5 a.m. Wed.-Sat. Happy hour: 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Sidetracks A friendly (and gay-friendly) neighborhood tavern in Argenta. 415 Main St., NLR. 244-0444. Full bar. CC. 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Sat., 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Sun. Happy hour: 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Thu.

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