Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dugan’s Pub - “Highway to Dizzy’s-ville”

Corner of Third and Rock Streets
Little Rock

Dugan’s has a lot going for it: location, location, location. It sits right on the corner of Third and Rock Streets on the ground floor of a largely-vacant condominium high-rise. Within easy walking distance of the River Market area, another condominium high-rise and the surrounding neighborhoods, you’d think they wouldn’t be so scared about failing.

The owner of the restaurant worked for years at Kelly’s Bistro (why, why, why does every restaurant lately aspire to be a “bistro”?) on West Markham. Going to have to go to Kelly’s again and see what they’re up to out West. Anyway, Duggan’s had promise initially, i.e., an “Irish” pub offering some nice beer choices (Smithwick’s, in particular) and, let’s say, “Irish-inspired” foods.

After several visits (including opening night), I noticed an unmistable trend -- they’re on not a Highway to Hell, but definitely a boulevard to Dizzy’s-ville. Dizzy’s, to me, represents the nadir of a “restaurant” eating experience. Want a thousand items on a menu? Sure, we got ‘em. All of them bad? Gotcha covered. Love frozen french fries and pre-processed foods? No problem. Distracted, self-absorbed service? Yep, we’re down with that, too.

But this isn’t a review of the odious Dizzy’s Gypsy (wha?) “Bistro.” My point, however long in arriving at it, is that Dugan’s had promise but is making so many compromises to ensure its longevity that it’s rapidly becoming just-another-generic-bar. Sad. Because when it finally arrives at that point, there really won’t be any compelling reason to go there.

For example, I noticed during a recent visit that a mix of pop-rock was playing on the Dugan’s sound system. I asked the floor manager if they hadn’t had Celtic music playing in the early days of their opening? “Yeah,” he said, “but people asked us to put on stuff that they were familiar with, so we did.” Ah, so you don’t really know who you are and what you want to be? You will let a committee of individuals tell you how to run your pub? Got it. And, of course, a committee of Arkansans who’ve never heard Celtic music before will always opt for Billy Joel in a heartbeat. “Keltic, whazzat? What position does he play?”

The beer at Dugan’s is cold, and you have a few interesting choices. In the food department, a safe bet (based on three orderings) has been the fish-and-chips. My girlfriend has had the corned-beef something, and commented that she never saw corned-beef that looked like that before. Right, it had been Dizzy-fied.

And, the floor manager. That’s another issue. This one was channeling Bill Belichek with his rumpled grey hoodie and jeans. Manager? He could have been a guy arriving to clean the grease trap in the kitchen. Just amazing. The only thing he lacked was a baseball cap backward on his head.

I will end this rant. Dugan’s had promise. It’s quickly becoming Dizzy’s deux. Service is very much dependent on who you get. Extremely distracted, last night. The food is shaky, except for the fish-and-chips. As I said, the beer is cold. Faint praise, yes. The location is great. It’s just sad that a place that, at least, implied with its name that it would be something different (and, as a result, very welcome), is quickly turning into yet another generic sports-bar.


At 2:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess I should just stick with going to Cregeen's. Menu looks to be about the same, but they have that wonderful Irish linen-fold carved paneling in the back room...


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