Best new tattoo parlor Sitting behind the counter of Electric Heart, the Beechwood Street tattoo studio she co-owns with her husband Caleb, Christie Pritchett has seen well-to-do ladies stroll by during Hillcrest's Shop 'n Sip, look at the sign and glance in and see the back wall mural of a heart surrounded by lightning bolts and mouth, "It's a tattoo parlor!" with the same suggestion of shock that you might use if you saw a Bengal tiger in Burns park. But mostly, she and Caleb say, Hillcrest merchants and residents have warmly welcomed the tattoo studio since it opened last fall. And why not? Among Gens X and Y, tattoos are as accepted as botox has become among boomers. And naturally, boutique, art-oriented shops have emerged. That's what Electric Heart's about. The studio keeps relatively early hours (2 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday) and does almost entirely custom work. "Drunk people who decide they want a tattoo at 1 a.m. aren't who we're after," Caleb Pritchett says. Most of the work Caleb and the store's other tattoo artist Katie McGowan do comes after days or sometimes weeks of consultation. See the Sailor Jerry-inspired fish with a rouge-cheeked beauty peeking her face out of its mouth on the Electric Heart Facebook page to get a sense of the studio's chops.
Adding to the art house feel, in the back of the studio, Christie runs Roll & Tumble, a sharp letterpress shop that specializes in the handmade posters that grace the walls of Electric Heart.
Caleb did the tattoo that graces our cover a little quicker than usual, but that's because Times graphic designer Bryan Moats designed it before Caleb tattooed it on his arm. In full disclosure, despite our efforts to convince Bryan to get "Best of Arkansas 2011" tattooed and get an update every year, the words you see on the cover are there by the magic of Photoshop.
Best donut We heard somewhere the other day that Dunkin' Donuts might be moving into Arkansas, to compete with Krispy Kreme, Shipley's and the assorted bakeries and independents who do their own take on that holeyest of glazed pastries. Doesn't matter. As we told someone years ago after they gushed over the forthcoming Krispy Kreme franchise in West Little Rock, nothing is ever going to touch a Spudnut when it comes to donut perfection. If you've never tasted one, the difference between a Spudnut and every other donut in the known universe is like the difference between Han Solo and some fat dude in a vest and too-tight pants at Comicon, playing at being Han Solo. There is no comparison. Made from potato flour, Spudnuts are air light, with a perfect, hand-applied glaze. The surviving Arkansas outlets in El Dorado and Magnolia have managed to outlive the once-400-franchise-strong Spudnut company itself, but down in El Do, at a nondescript little building marked only by a rusted-to-near-illegibility Spudnuts sign, locals line up out the door on Saturdays for a dozen fresh from the grease. This writer can tell you: They're totally worth the wait.
Best construction site The rolling grassy hills of the Clinton Presidential Park provide a satisfying and welcome view of men at work on two projects to please visitors and 'rockers alike. One of them is the most long-awaited attraction downtown: the Rock Island Bridge, a railroad bridge reuse that completes the biking-hiking River Trail loop. Under construction now is a ramp to the bridge. Announced in 2001 and anticipated to open on the coattails of the Clinton Library in 2004, it was a bridge project too far in the future for trail proponents. Thanks to stimulus funding and other grants, the bridge project got moving. Last year, the Clinton Foundation said the bridge would open this Thursday, July 28. The opening has been pushed back to fall. Still, seeing that work is actually ongoing on the bridge makes one almost giddy.
No clothing or fashion shops. Remember when those made all the news?
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