Autumn temps are perfect for outdoor activities
Again this year, the staff of the Times adds its own two cents' worth to a slightly idiosyncratic discussion of the bests of Arkansas.
Hey, it's our paper.
BEST INSTANT LUNCH: Smoked turkey salad from Burge's, 5620 R St. in the Heights, is like the best ham salad you ever ate except you can kid yourself into thinking it's healthier because it's based on the ground smoked turkey that is a staple of this old-school restaurant. It's nothing more than turkey, mayo, boiled eggs, relish and black pepper and it's nothing less than addictive. Make a sandwich with it. Dip a chip in it. Stuff a tomato with it or just spoon it right out of the container. It's that good. Swear. It costs $10.50 a pint, but the better deal is a whole quart, $18.17.
BEST LOCAL BREWERY: This is not a knock on Vino's or Bosco's, the only other possible winners in the area, but only Diamond Bear spreads the gospel of Arkansas beer across the region by packaging and shipping its product, and only Diamond Bear serves up its stuff free of charge to whomever comes in for a complimentary brewery tour. Given at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays at the company's headquarters, a former car dealership at 323 Cross St., the tour is somewhat slapdash and leaves the whole brewing process a bit obscure. But you're really coming to sample DB's wares — there were four styles on tap when we went — and none disappoints.
BEST PUBLIC SPACE: Gotta be the new Peabody Park in Riverfront Park. In a town where too many of our green spaces seem to hover on the verge of being given over to trash and weeds, this place is an absolute wonderland, packed with hills to roll down; tunnels that go over and under and through; one of the best slides in the city, and that gorgeous spray-n-play fountain, which had kids of all ages voicing screams of delight on a recent, sweltering afternoon. The only problem we can foresee in this litigious age is that — while the park is decidedly not one of those round-cornered, safety-first monstrosities that rule kidspaces these days — we're betting Little Rock's battalion of personal injury attorneys has fill-in-the-blank lawsuits printed and ready for the first time some young'un takes a header off the 15-foot boulder-climbing wall. Note to the designers: Love, love, love the park; but restraint is the better part of valor, especially in a world where $5 million jury verdicts are considered small change.
BEST PLACE FOR AN OUTDOOR PARTY: Recently, we had the good fortune of attending a friendly get-together out at the Big Maumelle Pavilion in Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Backed by a wooded mountainside studded with medium-sized boulders (perfect for the kiddies to go climbing on when dinner is done), the pavilion is buried in the secluded interior of the park, down a lovely, winding road and close to the confluence of the Maumelle and Arkansas Rivers. Featuring a stone fireplace, electricity on site, a new restroom facility and a fishing dock nearby, it's a great, quiet setting for any fete, with an out-and-out lovely drive to get there.
BEST COLUMNIST: George Arnold, who heads the editorial page of the Northwest Arkansas edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is our perennial choice. For one thing, he's not predictable, except for a generally calm tone — none of our kneejerk liberalism or the snooty conservatism of the big paper's Little Rock editorial page (and none of its forced folksiness, either). He speaks, as Vietnam veteran, with a sober understanding about war. He defends civil liberties. He afflicts the comfortable. He runs a diverse mix of voices on the Northwest op-ed page. He's deeply rooted in Arkansas. His voice would be welcome more often in the Little Rock edition of the paper.
He's a monster with monsters who aid his unholy lust