story by Peter Lewis
This is your Friday Feast. Each Thursday The City Wire will post a few short notes from Peter Lewis that offer at least two dining and entertainment options for the weekend. Enjoy.
Vietnamese beer and blues. Double yum
Situated at the corner of 271 South and Ingersol Avenue is a nondescript building that houses a quite remarkable restaurant. While not necessarily well known throughout the River Valley area, this gem of an establishment has earned a cult following among those seeking high quality Asian cuisine.
There is no better testament to this than the reactions one encounters when mentioning the Green Papaya. One is met with either a knowing smile or a perplexed countenance. A middle ground does not exist.
Seen from the outside it would be easy to dismiss the Green Papaya. However, adventurous souls always adhere to the old idiom of judging books. Disregard appearances and barge through those doors. You will not only be rewarded with an interior of understated grace but with an array of beer and wine.
Once you’ve accustomed yourself to your surroundings, politely request your server to bring you a Tsingtao beer while you peruse the menu.
The Green Papaya has a varied menu. Most entrees are in the $6-$10 range. With such variety at a reasonable rate, you might find yourself on round two before you are able to choose. Though their heaping plates of fried rice and their lighter vermicelli noodle plates are both wonderful choices, might I suggest upping the ante by trying out a large bowl of Phở, a traditional Vietnamese soup. Be sure to pronounce this soup of thinly sliced meat and noodles correctly, however. It is pronounced "fuh" and not as it seems to our Anglicized mind. Remembering this will not only save potential embarrassment but perhaps even impress your date.
Content with your gastronomic decisions, shift cultural gears and make your way down to Ava’s Rib Shack a mere two miles away. Located on U.S. 71 South, the Rib Shack has long made a mark on the music scene in the river city. With a full bar and ice cold beer, you will be hard pressed to find a better way to pull yourself away from the comforts of southeast Asia. Cocktail in hand, peek at the multitudinous memorabilia that don the walls and prepare yourself for the bluesy rock sounds of The Mighty Moonfrogs, who hit the stage at 8 p.m. on Friday.
This experience is a 6 out of 10 on the PeterMeter adventure scale.
Pizza and Oreos
The Varsity Sports Grill has seen its share of ups and downs since first opening its doors at 318 Garrison Avenue. Despite a great bar and numerous televisions, my own patronage disappeared several years ago after tiring of the sub par food. Having been away, a second chance was recently bestowed upon the establishment after hearing positive reports from different acquaintances. The unsubstantiated reports were substantiated indeed.
The Varsity is an excellent example of an “American” establishment. With an array of sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, pastas, and steaks, there is most certainly something for everyone. While the steaks are somewhat higher, most dishes are within a range of $7-$11. The restaurant is rounded out with pool tables and flat screen televisions throughout the bar area.
Skip the traditional seating and hunker down at the bar. Though there is an abundance of options, remain reasonable and try out the Minor Leaguer — a two topping mini pizza and toy salad for only $6.99. Channel your inner Paul Newman and make like "Fast" Eddie with a few rounds of pool and a cold Coors while you wait for your dinner.
After the Celtics have dispatched the Hornets and you have dispatched your meal, find yourself across the street at the new Hanging Judge Saloon. At the corner of Second Street and Garrison, Billy Garner’s establishment is the latest addition to the avenue.
The establishment is able to offer something for the most diverse of crowds. With a pool table to appease the bar games crowd, sleek flat screens to sate the sports fan in your group, live music for the auditory pleasure seeker, and professional bartenders to continually rehydrate the thirstiest of patrons, there is quite literally something for everyone. Bringing it all together is the artwork that punctuates the bar’s laid back vibe while simultaneously paying homage to the city’s roots.
Be sure to settle into the Saloon before 10 p.m. on Friday night when Oreo Blue is scheduled to perform. The cover charge is $2. By paying the cover charge you will receive a wooden token which you can redeem at the bar for $1 off a drink. Essentially you are getting in for a dollar. You’ll be hard pressed to find a venue that offers such award winning talent at a more reasonable (ridiculous?) price. Seize the opportunity to hear these veteran blues rockers who promise music that “hits you in your ears, goes to your heart, and then straight to your hips!” We’ll see you down there for a night that ranks 5 out of 10 on the PeterMeter adventure scale.
Know your Peter
Born and raised in Fort Smith, Peter Lewis is a graduate of the University of Texas. Prior to returning to the Fort Smith area, Peter spent the past year as a bartender living abroad and traveling. He’s never had a hot pocket before, but was convinced to try chocolate covered foie gras. It was oddly delicious, he reports.