@story CARA DORRELL
Market place destinations now offer much more than local crafts and farmers markets. They are evolving into unique centers that showcase a city or region’s culture, history, and flavor. The River Market District, located in downtown Little Rock, running along the river bank, is a prime example.
The array of attractions promises to fill both day and night with exciting places to visit. Travelers could spend an entire weekend walking the river and touring the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden, taking in a show at the Riverfest Amphitheatre, and even riding the district’s roving trolley. If shopping is the intended daytime activity, shops abound, spanning every need from souvenirs to beauty products. The Ottenheimer Market Hall permanently houses fifteen diverse merchants, with specialty items, groceries, and fresh food. Galleries and museums share the district. To keep up the self-contained feel, varied lodging choices are available. Courtyard by Marriott, and Hampton Inn & Suites are the closest, but the most distinctive is the Peabody Little Rock, where the ducks are the main attraction and walk the red carpet for fans.
Nightlife on the River is just as varied as the daytime activities. Restaurants line the district, giving the traveler multiple options. The 500 block of President Clinton Avenue has three spots of interest contained in one location. Each destination is singular in identity and atmosphere, ranging from affordable to night-out-on-the-town.
The Underground Pub can be found, appropriately, under Boscos, and has a dark and authentic ambiance. Decked out in all its UK-inspired glory, the Underground Pub is home to authentic British pub food, traditional American fare, and an always welcome happy hour. This location is the most affordable of the three. It’s a lunchtime retreat for locals craving fish and chips, and a nighttime hot spot via a DJ and good company. The Underground Pub also features pool and dart games, bringing a competitive edge to the night’s entertainment.
Boscos Restaurant and Brewing Co. is the beer fan’s destination. Boscos has been making their own brew for sixteen years, winning awards for their unique style. They feature four styles always on tap: Boscos Famous Flaming Stone Beer, an “original Steinbier” brewed with traditional German techniques resulting in a unique caramel character. Boscos Bombay IPA is an intensely hoppy amber beer; Downtown Brown, is an English-style, nut brown ale, with sweet and malty flavors; and the Isle of Skye Scottish Ale is a rich, full-bodied brew with three varieties of hops and vanilla. Special and seasonal beers are also offered, along with award-winning cask-conditioned ale available on select dates.
Boscos also has an extensive menu, with prices falling into the moderate range. Their brick oven prepares not only devilishly delicious pizzas, like the Pollo Diablo, but also one of their signature items, Wood Oven Planked Salmon. Other signature dishes include double cut pork chops and prime cuts of steak, accompanied by a surprising multitude of choices, like pizzas, pasta and sandwiches. A Sunday Jazz Brunch is offered to help keep the weekend fresh. Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and fresh-squeezed juices welcome those gathering for the midmorning feast. The brunch menu includes omelets, benedicts and hash, and the staple Belgian waffles.
For those seeking a romantic getaway, Sonny William’s Steak Room is a more intimate choice. Sonny William’s is the most expensive of the three establishments; however, they specialize in memorable moments. Their wine list is extensive and features award-winning labels, including premier Napa Valley wines. Their menu features Omaha aged Angus beef steaks, and several wild game selections, including a wild game sausage and cheese plate, duck breast salad, and grilled elk. But that’s not all that lives on the wild side; their seafood dishes include Alaskan king crab and Tasmanian salmon. If looking for a special, Friday is Prime Rib Night at Sonny’s. Patio seating takes the romantic atmosphere outside with a view of the Arkansas River, and a piano bar is located in the back of the restaurant. Live entertainment can be heard Tuesday through Saturday from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m.
The River Market District in Little Rock is a close destination, compared to other river walks and outdoor markets. It houses just as much diversity and entertainment as its contemporaries as far away as New Orleans and Seattle. The district is growing in appeal, with accessible culture, food, shopping and hotels. A multitude of artistic exhibits showcase the region’s history. A visit to Little Rock is not complete without a stroll beside the river, a freshly brewed beer, and good times.