Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
It's become a familiar story: For years there was one brewpub (Vino's), then scant few after River Rock (now Damgoode Pies) and (much later) Diamond Bear came along. Then, almost suddenly, there were many, the most recently opened including Flyway in North Little Rock and Rebel Kettle, which debuted March 25 on Sixth Street, just east of Interstate 30 and one block from Lost Forty.
The question of how many purveyors of locally crafted beer the market will bear will continue to be asked. But based on business the first week at Rebel Kettle, the early answer is that the market isn't saturated. Not even close.
On Friday, April 1, Rebel Kettle was jammed, every seat taken and dozens milling around the bar and the lower patio with its picnic tables and couch/chair seating. While waiting for our table, we were able to squeeze in at the bar to order drinks — an impressive 16 Rebel Kettle brews and four quite-decent wines are on tap — and we soon ran into co-owner Jason Polk, who admitted to being more than a bit frazzled.
Rebel Kettle had been overrun at lunch and now was on a wait for dinner. He'd been on the phone with Ben E. Keith, his foodservice company, and planned to be there Saturday morning for emergency provisions.
A nice touch is complimentary, lightly seasoned popcorn (and Kool-Aid-infused pickles we somehow failed to notice), which we eagerly munched while testing out the C-Street and Alphaholic IPAs and the White Limo golden ale. Most of the beers come in 8- and 12-ounce portions, and oddly the smaller beers cost less per ounce. So far, Rebel Kettle's aren't our favorite local beers, but we settled in on the Alphaholic as one we can stick to, and we applaud the creativity in the number offered and the breadth of styles.
It took our waiter a while to report that the chicken wings we'd ordered wouldn't be coming (thanks, lunch mob), so we moved straight into our three main dishes: the classic cheeseburger ($9.50), grilled Reuben ($9) and Rebel Cobb salad ($9.25). Right out of the chute, Rebel Kettle has one of the better burgers and Reubens in town. The burger is extremely juicy, and the patty is nicely crisped. The accompanying mustard, mayonnaise, (self-applied) ketchup and lettuce/tomato provided the appropriate goo factor, as did the melted Swiss, sauerkraut and remoulade that joined with high-quality pastrami (the close cousin to corned beef) on the Reuben. Each sandwich came with a bag of Zapp's chips.
The Rebel Cobb is a nontraditional take on the classic salad. It features small cubes of andouille sausage and another sausage that seemed like summer sausage (the menu says pastrami, but this wasn't), along with crumbled blue cheese, tomato and a dollop of olive salad from the famed Gambino's in New Orleans. It didn't rate as high as the sandwiches, but it's interesting.
We'd saved room for dessert, but that too was a casualty of the huge crowds, so we returned the next morning about 11:15 to find a smaller crowd that had swelled by noon, along with fresher popcorn, wings and dessert.
The wings actually weren't worth the overnight wait. They were small and while ordered "hot" (the other choices are "Cajun" and "fire) they were bland. Eight wings actually means eight wing pieces (at Gus's Famous Fried Chicken one "wing" means one whole three-jointed wing), and at $8.75 they wouldn't be a good deal even if they were tastier.
The pretzel, however, is a rock star. Those who equate pretzels with Auntie Anne's need to give this bad boy from Arkansas Fresh a try. It's crispy on the outside with fine salt vs. salt chunks applied. Inside it is soft, dense and perfectly chewy. It's $6 with spicy mustard, but pay the extra $1.50 to get a cup of house-made beer cheese — thick, very cheddary, with a bit of red pepper kick.
We were pleased with the shrimp po' boy ($9.50), a 6-inch Gambino's loaf stuffed with six sauteed, medium-sized shrimp, lettuce, tomato and remoulade (we opted out of the onion). It shared that nice goo factor with its mates on the burger/sandwich menu.
There is but one dessert at this point — a $5.50 float made with Yarnell's vanilla ice cream, the Wake 'n' Flake chocolate coconut cream stout, whipped cream, shaved chocolate and toasted coconut. We thought the cream stout worked well with the traditional dessert ingredients, but our non-craft-beer-loving dining mate vehemently disagreed.
Besides some really good bar food, Rebel Kettle also benefits from a good vibe. The three large garage doors that open from the bar to the primary patio were open on a sunny, breezy Saturday. The wood planks in the ceiling are likely original, as clearly is all the exposed brick. It's become a popular stop for the bicycle set and has the feel of a place that's fun and comfortable just to hang out.
On our Friday night, an NBA game was being shown on the three large TVs with no volume; classic rock played over the sound system. On Saturday the TVs alternated between auto racing and soccer, and though only a couple of guys at the bar seemed to be paying attention to the soccer, we all had to listen to the TV commentary. We asked if music was a possibility, but that never happened.
822 E. Sixth St.
Rebel Kettle has five burgers, and a couple of them are quite creative. But if you'd prefer, you can substitute grilled chicken for beef at no cost, and for an extra 75 cents you can get a fried egg on top.
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
All credit cards.