Award-winning master brewer Jesse Melton crafts Diamond Bear's brews with creative recipes that honor traditional German beer-purity laws, merging fragrant hops and aged yeast with two-row malted barley and clean, filtered water sourced from Lakes Winona and Maumelle. The resulting beers range from the Southern Blonde or Irish Red to the Paradise porter, which combines chocolate malt with a bevy of hops for the best balance of sweet and bitter since Candy Land went on strike. During the tour, guides lead groups of ale aficionados throughout the facility, instilling information and granting glimpses of the equipment used during each stage of the brewing process. Along the way, guests older than 21 savor individual beer samples, and non-imbibers and underage participants partake of bubbly root beer. All tour-goers depart the malt mecca toting a souvenir Diamond Bear pint glass. Sunday tours begin at 3 p.m., but participants should arrive 15–20 minutes early for pretour cuddling of the brewery's pet yeast and to ensure the tour starts in a timely fashion. Beer is also available for sale on Sundays at the brewery.
Capitol Smokehouse slow-roasts every ounce of its menu's barbecue eats, keeping temperatures low for 16 to 18 hours to produce tender bits of brisket, pork, and chicken. Meat seekers can set carnivorous sights on orders of ribs, sandwiches, burgers, and belly-filling sides, as well as a variety of daily specials. Traverse the saucy peaks of the jumbo pulled-pork sandwich, whose summit comes capped with a crunchy hat of coleslaw ($6.25), or set hollowing maws loose on a half-slab of baby-back ribs ($10.99). Capitol Smokehouse & Grill also sates saccharine-minded mouths with its dessert selection, which includes gobs of gooey butter cake ($1.75) and delectable mouthfuls of Candy’s banana pudding ($1.75).
Back Yard Burgers serves up 100% Black Angus burgers that are made-to-order on genuine flame-licked grills. Third-pound patties dress for dinner with fresh lettuce, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, dill pickles, and a condimental trio of ketchup, mustard, and mayo. Patrons can further gussy up for patty prom with premium add-ons, including coleslaw, chili, sautéed mushrooms, and bacon, available at additional costs. Though not covered by this Groupon, sides such as loaded baked potatoes, chili, seasoned fries, and chili-cheese fries are also available to help diehard Weather Channel fans stay satisfied through five-day forecasts explained in real time.
Sonny Williams’ Steak Room slings savory steaks, cut from aged Angus beef, and fresh seafood in a classy but comfortable environment. Stomach-surf through the seasonally changing menu to find a steak slab that tempts your taste buds, whether it be the 12 oz. fillet ($44.95), the bone-in cowboy rib eye ($45.95), or the New York strip ($44.95). Steaks are primarily cooked medium, medium rare, and 12-leaf-clover rare, and each is paired with the chef’s choice of veggies plus your choice of potato or wild rice with walnuts. Those boycotting beef for personal never-to-be- revealed reasons can nosh on Sonny’s cioppino ($34.95), a mixture of shrimp, clams, scallops, mussels, and fresh fish in a piquant champagne-tomato broth. To finish off the last modicum of hunger, Sonny’s serves a decadent dark-chocolate crème brûlée ($6.50) and Frangelico and vanilla-bean cheesecake ($6.75).
A downtown mainstay for more than a quarter century, Ciao Italian Restaurant quells cravings with Prime Omaha beef and house-made sugar-free marinara rife with garlic, basil, and olive oil. Chef Tony, the eatery's epicurean mastermind, pours more than three decades of culinary experience into the preparation of Maryland-style crab cakes and fettuccine alfredo seasoned with pepper and ground nutmeg. Servers ferry glasses of pomegranate margaritas to tables dressed in gray linens and patrons sink forks into creamy cannolis imported from New York City's Little Italy. The venue's cozy dining area seats businessmen for quick lunches, couples for candlelit dinners, and canine actors for Lady and the Tramp scene studies.
Alexis Jones, the chef and owner of Natchez Restaurant, is doing more than adding contemporary French- and Mediterranean-inspired twists to Southern classics—she's making grown men just about cry. Of her fried-egg-topped gnocchi, food blogger Daniel Walker of the Arkansas Times says, " When I cut into the egg, and the bright golden yolk cascades down the layers of meat, vegetables, and ricotta, I was so happy I nearly welled up with tears … One of the best dishes I’ve eaten in Little Rock." SyncWeekly.com's Spencer Watson had a similarly visceral reaction to Jones's surprising cuisine: of the "light, airy" veggie risotto, he exclaimed, "I want to lie down in this risotto and make risotto angels in it."
The fact that Jones's food is eliciting euphoric reactions should come as no surprise. The young chef has racked up fine-dining experience at some impressive Southern restaurants, including Ashley's at the Capital Hotel and Snackbar, the Oxford eatery of James Beard Award winner John Currence. Jones designs her ever-changing lunch and dinner menus with local, seasonal ingredients, creating unexpected combinations such as veal osso buco with cheese grits and quail served with a cornmeal waffle and pepper-apple compote.
The restaurant's interior is as simple and elegant as Jones's dishes: white walls and floors accentuate jet-black tables and a row of colorful prints. A black-and-white checkered countertop and electric-blue awning overhead give the kitchen and bar area a bistro-meets-diner vibe, like a jukebox that only plays "La Vie En Rose."
The cooks behind the restaurant, lounge, and café keep things focused, putting together a tight menu that draws from the best of American cuisine, including grilled burgers, Cajun rice sides, and chef-prepared fish fillets. In addition to a trio of salads, they prepare four pub-grub appetizers, including pork-chop bites, mozzarella sticks, and deep-fried chicken wings dunked in thai, bourbon, or spicy Cajun sauce. After digging into finger foods, diners can enjoy entrees of grilled chicken breast or grab hold of one of four classic, no-frills sandwiches—such as the BLT or turkey club—that come with housemade potato chips.
Thirteen signature mixed drinks—12 of which bartenders spike with Cîroc premium vodkas—act as the bedrock to a drink menu filled with fountain drinks and domestic and imported beers. A peach-flavored one, for instance, blends with orange and cranberry juices to create Peach on the Beach, a tastier treat than the short-lived Prune in the Fridge.