There’s definitely not a lack of sports bars in town, but Central Arkansas isn’t exactly crammed with places to play pool. Billiard tables alone do not a pool hall make, so it’s nice when places crop up that are not only equipped for the game but also use it to attract their clientele. For instances, Shooter’s, which by its very name suggest a shark-friendly environment.
We hit up the sports bar on a Monday night for the football crowd and, it turns out, the pool league. The place is wide and roomy, and the design of its building suggests that it might have once been an interstate-side Baptist Church; it was built to be a restaurant, however, and in fact was Hog’s Breath before it was Shooter’s. The space lends itself well to its purpose: about 10 pool tables arranged in one corner, about twice as many TVs of all sizes and at all angles and a sizable amount of tables for diners and drinkers. The bar, too, can fit a good crowd comfortably.
When it comes to bar food, one has to be careful not to be pretentious. Standard is the way to go; we don’t expect Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen making us culinary guinea pigs. In this sense, Shooter’s has it down: there are no curveballs on the menu, and if your stomach’s rumbling and you know what you’re in the mood for, you won’t be disappointed. There are, however, a few unique items you might not expect.
We started out with the Woo Pig Basket ($8.99), an appetizer combination of alligator bites, calamari, crawfish tails, catfish and fries. What drew our eye was the alligator, which you don’t see on menus every day. The bites were flavorful and chewy, and went well with the tangy, creamy remoulade they were served with. The catfish was tasty, too, mildly earthy and distinctly fishy, with just the right amount of breading. The calamari and crawfish were too breaded, and a bit small — smaller than the bite-size alligator bits, which were almost too big for a single mouthful — and hard to appreciate. The fries were crinkle-cut, which always has a place on our palate. Altogether there was a decent amount of food, and the Woo Pig Basket could easily serve as an entree. We also gave the onion rings ($5.49) a shot; they weren’t bad, but a bit on the thin side, and perhaps a little too crispy.
Next we ordered the Quarterback Club ($8.59). We got exactly what we expected, served with a side of fries. It was equal parts turkey, ham and bacon, and, cut into quarters, we were pleased that it didn’t fall apart as easily as at other places. The Texas toast it was served on was a nice touch, too. It came with a side of fries and was very filling, especially after the appetizer.
In an attempt to see how Shooter’s handled something other than the usual bar fare, we also got the Hawaiian Chicken ($9.98). It was a chicken breast marinated in teriyaki and served with a couple pineapple rings over wild rice. The Caesar salad we ordered as a side was enormous and little bit sparse on its accoutrements (a lot of lettuce and dressing), but otherwise typical. The chicken itself was good, with the perfect combination of spices, and the pineapple was a nice touch that really brought out the flavor. It wasn’t a huge serving, but it sat well in our stomachs after the fried appetizer, and didn’t leave us overstuffed.
On another visit, we thought momentarily of ordering a steak, but decided against it. No doubt a steak at Shooter’s would be tasty enough, but it’s a sports bar, after all, and we didn’t think their steak should be held accountable with the rest of the menu. The food is filling, and although much of what we had was fried finger food, it wasn’t extraordinarily greasy, so we didn’t walk out the door bloated. For a place to watch the game and grab a bite to eat, it works just fine, even if it’s a bit far from our usual stomping grounds (on the frontage road along I-30). Plus, it hosts local musical acts and weekly events such as open mic night (Tuesday), karaoke (Wednesday), and $1.50 longnecks on Thursdays. And, let us not forget, there are enough pool tables that you probably won’t have to wait on one if you show up wanting to play and chow down on a few alligator bites.