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The long pour: Central Arkansas bar guide 

Ah, whiskey! Ah, beer! Ah, wine! Sweet nectar of dreams! Untangler of shy tongues and loosener of bodices! Is there any human interaction you can't make more interesting, exciting, engaging or reckless? And no, we're not just talking about the times things go right, so save your scolding, ye teetotalers. We're old enough to know when to say when. Everything in moderation. Friends don't let friends (or friends-of-friends) do anything stupid while tanked up.

While there are those out there who are well within their rights to hate Demon Rum, it should kinda go without saying that we here at the Arkansas Times tend to be fans. For one thing: we're reporters, a profession well known for our propensity for hollow-leggedness. For another: a sizeable chunk of the best moments of our lives are directly attributable to our Ol' Pal Al in one way or another, from pregnancies to parties to marriage proposals to heart-to-heart talks that we could have never had without the help of Liquid Courage. For a lot of you reading this, it's likely that way as well. As for the rest of you: more beer for us!

This week, we raise a glass to raising a glass with our annual Arkansas Times Bar Guide. Whether you like your drinks in the dark-and-cool or the sweaty-and-loud, there's someplace here to fill your schooner, stein, shot glass, snifter, goblet, tumbler, pitcher and/or schooner.

And because this paper doesn't easily cram into your back pocket, we've made all the info below on happy hours and specials available in our FREE bar app, Cocktail Compass, newly redesigned and available for Android. Find it at arktimes.com/cocktailcompass or by searching for "Cocktail Compass" in the app store.

DIVES WE LOVE

MIDTOWN Why do we go to Midtown? Why do we wait in line to get in, to fight through the bottlenecked throngs to get a drink; to stand in line to pee; to wade through the dancers who lost rhythm around the time they found the urge to dance; to dodge a pool stick, always jabbing the crowd no matter how tightly it envelops the pool tables; to order a hamburger; to eat the hamburger in exactly four bites, to follow the tide of crowd to and from the bar until the sun is threatening to come up? Because we don't want to go home. Because it's the rare ritual that at least on an annual basis those of us who drink and can still make it past the evening news take part in regardless of age, race or class. Also, those burgers really are good. 1316 Main St. 372-9990. midtownar.com. Full bar. 3 p.m.-5 a.m. daily. Happy hour: 3-8 p.m. daily.

PIZZA D'ACTION Some bars, for whatever reason, become a kind of community center, equal parts meeting house, debate room, dance hall, hook-up spot, hangout and heathen church. The beloved, crusty dive known as Pizza D's has surely reached that status. The firing of a much-respected bartender and two other long-time hands late last year made for some friction between management and customers, including an apparently-still-ongoing boycott that gives us an Excedrin 3 headache every time we hear about it. The bartender is back now, though, and Pizza D is mostly what it always has been: a neighborhood pub with a loyal clientele, cheap drinks, an outdoor patio, pool, ping pong, darts, a full menu (including a new slate of appetizing-sounding plate lunch items weekdays) and tons of quirky, nicotine-stained personality. It's a bar, folks. Don't take it all so seriously. 2919 W. Markham St. 666-5403. pizzadaction.net. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun. Happy hour: 4-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

WHITE WATER TAVERN The Times has probably devoted as many column inches to rhapsodizing about the White Water Tavern as it has to lambasting Mike Huckabee. OK, that's an exaggeration, but regardless, we love this place and we've never been bashful about it. As has been pointed out many times before, it is not going to win any beauty contests or awards for best selection of obscure single-malt scotches, but it's got more character, a richer history and better decor than just about anywhere else in Central Arkansas. Cheap pitchers and great live music don't hurt either. Full bar. 2500 W. 7th St. 375-8400. whitewatertavern.com. 2 p.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon-Sat.

W.T. BUBBA'S COUNTRY TAVERN The great thing about W.T. Bubba's Country Tavern's decor is that anything goes. So when you walk in and see screwdrivers and drills lying on the truck beds that line the bar's north wall, well, they just look like they ought to be there. Just like the small V.I.P. lounge, which happens to be a little travel trailer plopped off to one side of the bar and fitted with seats and a small table and a view of the stage, just right for some private PBR time, or maybe PBR and a shot. As it turns out, the drill and screwdriver were in use, by workmen installing floodlights for the stage, and not a prop, and it also turns out that you can enjoy your evening lolling on one of the truck beds and not have to go to the bar, because they'll fill the truck's big aluminum tool box with ice and beer. We took a seat in a booth that looked like it had just been thrown together with plywood (and surely was), and ordered up some fried pickles and fried bologna and a burger and fries and a barbecue sandwich. (You don't really need to know what a Pabst tastes like, do you? It's stylish these days, but it's still Pabst.) So about the food: W.T. Bubba's (the owner says the W.T. is for "Wilford Theodore," contradicting the manager's translation, "White Trash") is a bar and music hall and the food is not the main concern right now. That's too bad, because the ambiance here is pretty swell. In back of the VIP trailer is the "back yard," with comfy furniture; the whole shebang can be rented for $100. The chain link fence that defines a dining area around the bar is pretty nifty. The dance floor is new and shiny. There's country karaoke on Wednesdays and beer ball in the back, plus another game of dubious legality that you can win money playing. There's a patio with cafe tables and bar stools that gives you a view of Riverfront Park and Riverfest Amphitheatre. You've got the opportunity to buy a Bubba's T-shirt. And the manager swears by the homemade moon pies. If they can put a little more love put into the food, and get AT&T to install a phone, Bubba's could live a long life. 500 President Clinton Ave. (in the Museum Center basement). 244-2528 (but it doesn't work). On Facebook. Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight Sun.-Tue., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Wed.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri.

ALSO

SPECTATORS GRILL AND PUB A no-frills sports bar in Levy, with shuffleboard, pool and darts if you're the kind who likes your beer with a side of diversion. 1012 W. 34th St., NLR. 791-0990. spectatorsgrillandpub.com Full bar. 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 11 a.m-1 a.m. Sat. Happy hour: 4-6:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. plus all day Sat.

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