A somewhat new and happening part of town known for great food and its great party scene. In the River Market area they close the streets off at 9:00 p.m. on weekend nights. Most of these restaurants are a convenient walk from area hotels, or you can hop the trolley for 50 cents. During the day, you’ll want to check out the Farmer’s Market.
ANDINA CAFE AND ROASTERY Java is the main attraction, but a good selection of sandwiches and big salads and Italian sodas are available. Nice breakfast spot, too. Inside the River Market. 400 President Clinton Ave. CC $$ 376-2326. BL Mon.-Sun
BEST IMPRESSIONS The menu combines Asian, Italian and French sensibilities in soups, salads and meaty fare. A departure from the tearoom of yore and run by Simply the Best Catering. Arkansas Arts Center. Beer and wine CC $$. 907-5946. L Tue.-Sun.
BOSCOS Restaurant for Beer Lovers. Be sure to get by to sample some of their tasty microbrews, and they do food well, too. Along with tried and true things like sandwiches, burgers, steaks and big salads, they have entrees like black bean and goat cheese tamales, pizzas and muffalettas. 500 President Clinton Ave. Full bar CC $$ 907-1881. LD daily.
BOULEVARD BREAD CO. Fresh bread, fresh pastries, wide selection of cheeses, meats, side dishes — all superb. Good coffee, too. Located in the Cox Center. Third and Commerce. BL 7 until 3 Mon.-Fri.
CAFE 42 A handsome restaurant in the Clinton Presidential Center, and it can handle the most presidential of appetites. An all-you-can-eat salad bar has both trendy and down-home items, personal pizzas make a nice lunch choice, but it’s $18.95 Sunday brunch, in the style of grand hotels, where the café is a landslide winner. You have to deal with passing through security like all library visitors, but there’s no admission charge. 1200 President Clinton Ave. (Clinton Presidential Center). Beer and wine CC $$ 537-0042. BL Mon.-Sat. BR Sun.
CAMP DAVID Inside the Holiday Inn Presidential Conference Center, Camp David particularly pleases with its breakfast and themed buffets each day of the week. Wonderful Sunday brunch. I-30 and 6th Street Full bar CC $$-$$$ 975-2267. BLD daily.
COAST CAFE A variety of salads, smoothies, sandwiches and pizzas, and there’s breakfast and coffee, too. Inside the River Market. 400 President Clinton Ave. No alcohol No CC $-$$ 371-0164. BL Mon.-Sat.
COMMUNITY BAKERY This sunny downtown bakery is the place to linger over a latte, bagels and the New York Times. But a lunchtime dash for sandwiches is OK, too, though it’s often packed. 1200 Main St. No alcohol CC $-$$ 375-7105. BLD daily.
COTHAM’S IN THE CITY A Capitol neighborhood version of the famous Scott country store, with the same specialties — giant hubcap hamburgers, well-fried plate lunches and monumental desserts. (Cotham’s West: 14710 Cantrell Road, 868-1744. LD Mon.-Sat., CC, beer and wine.) 1401 W. 3rd St. No alcohol CC $-$$ 370-9177. L Mon.-Fri.
DAVE’S PLACE Downtown’s premier soup-and-sandwich stop at lunch, and a set dinner spot on Friday night to give a little creative outlet to chef supreme David Williams. Beef, chicken and fish are served with continental flair. 201 Center St. CC $$ 372-3283. L Mon.-Fri. D Fri.
DOE’S EAT PLACE A skid-row dive turned power brokers’ watering hole with huge steaks, great tamales and broiled shrimp, and killer burgers at lunch. A favorite hangout for politicos – especially President Clinton! 1023 W. Markham St. Full bar CC $$-$$$ 376-1195. LD Mon.-Sat.
DOUBLETREE PLAZA BAR & GRILL The lobby restaurant in the Doubletree is elegantly comfortable, but you’ll find no airs put on at heaping breakfast and lunch buffets. Markham and Broadway. Full bar CC $$ 372-4311. BLD daily.
DOWNTOWN DELI A locally owned eatery, with bigger sandwiches and lower prices than most downtown chain competitors. Also huge, loaded baked potatoes, soups and salads. 323 Center St. No alcohol CC $ 372-3696. BL Mon.-Fri.
FLYING FISH The fried seafood is fresh and crunchy and there are plenty of raw, boiled and grilled offerings, too. The hamburgers are a hit, too. It’s self-service; wander on through the screen door and you’ll find a slick team of cooks and servers doing a creditable job of serving big crowds. 511 President Clinton Ave. Beer and wine CC $-$$ 375-3474 LD daily.
FLYING SAUCER Beer, with dozens on tap, is the big draw at this popular River Market venue, but the food’s good, too. Sandwiches, including a great Reuben, salads, quesadillas and the bratwurst are dependable. 323 President Clinton Ave. Beer and wine CC $-$$ 372-7468. LD Mon.-Sat.
NU CUISINE LOUNGE Former Spaule chef Paul Novicky is back in the saddle at this trendy restaurant and lounge on the shoulder of the River Market district. The cuisine is fusion plus comfort food (the French cut pork chop and white beans — bravo!) in a minimalist setting that pairs white chairs and curtains and tablecloths with blue goblets and pink champagne. For people-watching, Nu’s got the vu. 225 E. Markham St. Full bar CC $$$ 378-7500. D Tue.-Sat.
SAN FRANCISCO BREAD CO. Breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, soups and a hot cup of joe, or a iced glass of tea. Across from the Statehouse Convention Center. 101 Main St., 372-7322. BLD 7 days. $-$$ CC.
SONNY WILLIAMS’ STEAK ROOM Steaks, chicken and seafood in a wonderful setting in the River Market. Steak gets pricey, but the lump crabmeat au gratin appetizer is outstanding. Give the turtle soup a try. 500 President Clinton Ave. Full bar CC $$$ 324-2999. D Mon.-Sat.
SPORTS PAGE Perhaps the largest, juiciest, most flavorful burger in town. Grilled turkey and hot cheese on sourdough gets praise, too. Now with lunch specials. 414 Louisiana St. Beer and wine CC $ 372-9316. LD Mon.-Fri.
STICKY FINGERZ ROCK ’N’ ROLL CHICKEN SHACK Fingers any way you can imagine, plus sandwiches and burgers, and a fun setting for music and happy hour gatherings. 107 Commerce St. Full bar CC $-$$ 372-7707. LD Mon.-Sat.
STOCK POT Wonderful soups — tomato-basil, cream of brie, split pea and broccoli cheese — and ready-made chicken and egg salad sandwiches and more. Inside the River Market. 400 President Clinton Ave. CC $-$$ 376-7687. LD Mon.-Sat.
SUFFICIENT GROUNDS Great coffee, good bagels and pastries, and a limited lunch menu are at the downtown location. 1 Union Plaza. CC $-$$ 372-1009. BL Mon.-Fri.
VERMILLION WATER GRILLE Chef Michael Selig’s River Market District endeavor is an after-work hot spot as well as a fine dining restaurant — check out all the suits at lunch — that boasts of fresh fish selections. We’re big fans of the Mediterranean salad. On the rooftop of this building is where the Arkansas Times will host the “Late Nite Happy Hour” Thursday starting at 9:00. We’ll see you there. 200 S. Commerce St. Full bar CC $$$ Reservations not accepted 371-9600. LD Mon.-Sat.
HANAROO SUSHI They know sushi at Hanaroo. For you sushi lovers, at least once, sit at the sushi bar and let the owner show his stuff. He’s a transplant from Austin and runs the only sushi bar in downtown Little Rock. Hanaroo serves up a generous maki roll, with ingredients ladled along the top rather than inside the roll itself. So the spicy tuna roll and the (extra!) spicy crab roll resemble rice logs doused in the tuna and crab concoctions. Drop by for their lunch and dinner specials. There’s always a delicious surprise. 205 W. Capitol Ave.(Alcohol license pending) CC $$ 301-7900. L Mon-Fri D Tue-Sat.
SIMS BAR-B-QUE Good spare ribs, sandwiches, beef, half and whole chicken and an addictive vinegar-mustard-brown sugar sauce unique for this part of the country. Multiple locations: 1307 John Barrow; 4528 Camp Robinson Road, NLR; 7801 Geyer Springs, and the original at 716 W. 33rd St. Beer No CC $-$$ 372-6868. LD Mon.-Sat.
MR. MASON’S PIT BAR-B-Q Beef, pork, sausage and chicken, all smoked to melting tenderness and doused with a choice of sauces. The crusty but tender backribs star. Side dishes are top quality. 915 W. Capitol Ave. CC $ 372-4227. L Mon.-Fri. D Thu.-Fri.
LULAV Former culinary teacher James Botwright operates this Mediteranean-California fusion restaurant, and the delicious flavors are like none you’ll experience anywhere in the city. Good fish, veal, daring salads and much more. Full bar. CC. $$-$$$ 374-5100. LD Tue-Sat. “Reverse happy hour” 10 p.m.-midnight Thu-Sat.
MIDDLE EASTERN CUISINE Gyros, falafel and souvlaki plates, as well as hummus, tabouleh, eggplant dip and other dishes — wonderful food at wonderful prices. Inside the River Market. 400 President Clinton Ave. No alcohol CC $-$$ 372-1662. L Mon.-Sat.
UNDERGROUND PUB Hearty, tasty British pub-style fare, including exceptional custom-made sausages, crunchy fish and chips and a decent Reuben. Inviting bar with an impressive draft beer and single-malt whiskey selection. 500 President Clinton Ave. Full bar CC $-$$ 707-2537. LD Mon.-Sat.
RUMBA/REVOLUTION A new place in town that should be open the middle of May 2006. Currently billing itself as a Cuban Caribbean style restaurant with a huge entertainment venue that will take in larger capacity live music acts. Brought to you by the owners of an already first-rate operation – Sticky Fingerz Rock ‘N ‘Roll Chicken Shack — this place promises to be a hit! We can’t wait. 300 President Clinton Ave. Full bar for sure! Details forthcoming.
Capriccio Grill Italian Steakhouse. In the Peabody Hotel. Large portions are the rule here, though the menu is not, as the name might suggest, exclusively Italian. Steaks are fabulous, soups and seafood are good choices too. 3 Statehouse Plaza. CC $$-$$$ 906-4000 LD Mon.-Sun.
CIAO Don’t forget about this casual yet elegant bistro tucked into a downtown storefront. The fine pasta and seafood dishes, ambiance and overall charm combine to make it a relaxing, enjoyable, affordable choice. 405 W. Seventh St. Beer and wine CC $$ 372-0238. LD Mon.-Sat.
DON VICCI’S ITALIAN RISTORANTE Good, inexpensive downtown-area Italian-American fare that includes pasta, pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Entrees with chicken, shrimp, beef and veal, and various pasta, sauce and topping combinations. Be sure to try the eggplant or chicken Parmesan. Limited delivery available. 211 W. Capitol Ave. Full bar. CC $-$$ 372-3700. LD Mon.-Sat.
GUSANO’S They make the tomatoey Chicago-style deep-dish pizza the way it’s done in the Windy City. It takes a little longer to come out of the oven, but it’s worth the wait. 313 President Clinton Ave. Full bar CC $-$$ 501-374-1441. LD 7 days
IRIANA’S Unbelievably generous thick-crust pizza with unmatched zest. Good salads, too; grinders are great, particularly the Italian sausage. 201 E. Markham St. Beer and wine CC $-$$ 374-3656. LD daily.
VINO’S Great rock ’n’ roll club also is a fantastic pizzeria with huge calzones and always improving home-brewed beers. 923 W. Seventh St. Beer and wine CC $-$$ 375-8466. LD 7 days
COTIJA’S A branch off the famed La Hacienda family tree has opened downtown, with a massive menu of tasty lunch and dinner specials, the familiar white cheese dip and sweet red and fiery-hot green salsas, and friendly service. Try the brochettes (combo meat-seafood cooked ka-bob style and eaten with tortillas). 406 S. Louisiana Alcohol license pending CC. 244-0733. LD Mon.-Sat. (close at 5).
JUANITA’S Menu includes a variety of combination entree choices — enchiladas, tacos, flautas, shrimp burritos and such — plus creative salads and other dishes. And of course the “Blue Mesa” cheese dip. 1300 Main St. Full bar CC $$ 372-1228. LD Mon.-Sat.