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"Gilligan's Island" never was an integral part of our television diet. We can mumble most of the words to the theme song, but we've never felt an overriding affection for Gilligan, the Skipper, Mary Ann or the old rich guy, Thurston Howell. So the idea that someone actually opened up a Gilligan-themed bar seemed like a bit of a misfire. But, whatever your opinion of "Gilligan," the food is on target.
The restaurant itself is nestled in a corner of a strip mall off Highway 10, west of Interstate 430, so you have to look closely for the sign. Once you find your way inside, the restaurant is comfortable and modern. It's dimly lit, with new tile floors, a stage and a bar made out of concrete and old glass bottle stumps with a nice hardwood top. Life preservers adorn the walls and a hi-def big screen displays nostalgia-inducing "Gilligan's" episodes.
If you don't want to sit inside, there's a patio outside with nice cushy lawn chairs and shaded tables with a couple ceiling fans out there to get the air moving during these dog days.
We sat down and decided to take advantage of the happy hour prices ($1 domestic draft for us and a $3.50 margarita for our companions). The margarita wasn't your typical, cheap happy hour margarita. It was good and strong.
The restaurant's Facebook page says it cooks "bar food," so we figured we couldn't go wrong with a round of appetizers. There's plenty to choose from; we narrowed it down to three. Thirst n' Howl offers three different types of sliders: beef, chicken and pork. The chicken sliders ($5.25) are served on toasted buns with a chipotle pepper hot sauce on the side. The chicken was prepared well, grilled but still juicy and the sauce was a great addition.
The coconut shrimp appetizer ($7) outstanding. The batter was fried to a nice golden hue, not that dark brown color you see at many establishments. Served with a side of "Millionaire Sauce," a spicy ranch concoction, the shrimps were a great start to our meal.
The baked potato skins ($6.50) were a little different from those we're used to. The toppings came mixed up — cheddar cheese, jalapenos and bacon bits — and the taters were served with a side of ranch. But they were big, evenly cooked and a nice compliment to our draft beer.
For the main course it was burgers. We like things spicy so we ordered the "Volcano Burger," which comes with jalapenos not only on top of, but ground in the meat, which makes for a lot of flavor. The bun was a little buttery for our taste, but the burger was big and juicy.
Our companion ordered the turkey burger ($6.50), which was jazzed up with seasonings and good. Burgers come with chips, but fries ($1.25 extra) made a nice side to the spicy main courses we chose.
As for the staff, it's early yet so our waitress wasn't too familiar with all the offerings, but was able to make a suggestion or two. The owners were there while we ate, tending bar and helping out in the back. They were very interested in what we thought and seemed eager to please.
Is it the best pub grub around? Maybe not, but it is solid and located in a part of town that could use a good neighborhood bar. If you live out in West Little Rock and don't feel like making the trip out to Ump's or Reno's or the myriad restaurants in the River Market, then Thirst n' Howl will treat you right.
Thirst n' Howl
14710 Cantrell Road
There's lots of bar food to choose from any time of the day, but Thirst n' Howl also has daily lunch specials, like homemade tamales, served up on Tuesdays with a side of spicy chili.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. daily.
Full bar, credit cards accepted.