Weekend Excursion – Northwest Arkansas

e06debc2-4d87-4540-a9fe-4ca0e572c267Taking a weekend trip to get some food, drink, and culture in is always a good idea.  Recently, the Misses and I took the chance to slip up to Northwest Arkansas and enjoy a little mini-vacation and unsurprisingly, I’m going to talk about the Northwest Arkansas Food and Drink! If you follow the various social media accounts, you probably saw some of that unfold. It was a great time, and even with the big chunk of time in Bentonville, there is a lot left to explore that we didn’t get the chance to visit this time in Fayetteville, Rogers, Springdale, and Bentonville. I’ll take you threw the trip and our highlights along the way, but some of the thoughts on the restaurants are percolating into a whole other post for the future.  At the end, I’ll ask what we missed and where we should prioritize the next time we make it back to NWA, but for now, here is a brief travelogue of how our trip went!


Apple Blossom Brewing Company

As we got into Fayetteville, into the NWA corridor it was time for a late lunch and a refreshing beer.  We decided that we needed to visit Apple Blossom Brewing Company in person instead of just a quick tipple at a Craft Beer Festival. ABBC focuses on providing a quality range of craft beers, from gose to stout, in a comfortable setting with elevated bar food.


The Gose in particular was richer than I expected with a great clean flavor and the characteristic salty twang of that style.  The flagship Armstrong APA is a great beverage for the fall with a rich and hoppy flavor that belies it’s APA style. A bahn mi sandwich was a great contrast to the sampling of beers with a crunchy, salty, and refreshing bite in an addictingly chewy bread that wasn’t too heavy.


I do want to note that I’ve been friends with one of the owners of ABBC for decades, so always take any of my descriptions of their food and beer with the appropriate grain(s) of salt.  


Dickson Street Bookshop


A little bit of culture is always a good thing.  As book people, the Dickson Street Bookstore was one of the earliest additions to our itinerary. The bookstore is a used bookstore that covers rooms upon rooms of books that benefits from being located for decades in a college town.  


The bookstore has a well organized series of rooms covering different topics with books that range from popular to academic and everything in between.  Friendly and welcoming staff with the guarantee that there is *something* you’ll want make this a great way to spend an hour or two.


Crisis Brewing


Brian Sorenson, the author of Arkansas Beer: An Intoxicating History , chimed in on Twitter when I was asking about favorites with the recommendation for Crisis Brewing.  Crisis Brewing is the South Fayetteville Nano Brewery – the patio and deck certainly have more seats than inside and with a food truck parked out back.  It is tucked off a hill and with an enjoyably comfortable setting. The O Face Cream Ale was a big hit and the Irish Red Ale was quite flavorful and memorable.  [Not all beers pictured].  


Local Lime – Rogers

For dinner, we made it to Rogers, Arkansas for a taste of something both familiar and new – Local Lime Rogers! The vibe and feel of the Local Lime Rogers seems to have some of the frenetic energy of Heights Taco and Tamale in Central Arkansas – it is not quite as slick as the original location’s Cali-Mex destination.  The steer’s head is more readily visible and a clear centerpoint for the entire restaurant like the original, but the walls draw your eye with the graphic designs and the open beam ceilings give it a sense of warmth.

Spinach Enchiladas

Spinach Enchiladas


Cocktails were up to the standards I have for a Yellow Rocket spot – the Prickly Strawberry Mai Thai was a fantastically balanced tequila based riff on a Mai Tai pulling it into the orbit of the Local Lime Cali-Mex feel and The Firing Line lived up to its name.  As a huge fan of the original Local Lime margarita and it’s balance, I am happy to say that the cocktails continue that tradition.

For the food, we mixed up some of the items we always get with some new items so we skipped the tacos and pescado vera cruz, but did go for our familiar trio of salsas – zucchini, tres chiles, and verde tomatillo. I don’t know why, but the zucchini salsa was one of the most memorable bites of the evening – it brought back memories of 5-6 years ago when Local Lime was still finding their way in the Little Rock dining scene and the bites of salsa that convinced people to pay for the bites to start their meal.  Hopefully, they will spot check the original location’s recipe against the recipe they are using in Rogers, which I heard is from a hidden stash of the original opening recipes, to make sure that there wasn’t some drift in the ratio over the years. The Queso Flameada is new to us at the Rogers location!

img_3564It’s kind of hard to go wrong with flaming cheese and chorizo, though there is a vegetarian version.  As an avowed queso fundido devotee, this is a dish I hope makes it back to Little Rock because of the added onions and flavors the flambe adds to a dish of molten cheese.  The spinach enchiladas are also quite tasty and far richer than you might assume for a vegetarian entree. The sour cream and chile sauce baked with the spinach and artichoke give a fantastic flavor which when you take all the bites together may bring to mind spinach artichoke dip with a kick of heat.  It is also a full plate, but not an overwhelming portion. The sizing of the entrees makes sense when people are also enjoying appetizers and dessert.

And speaking of dessert – the tres leches cake is fantastic and has had a bit of a facelift.  Some subtle changes to the recipe give it a lightness and brightness that made it easier to finish.  We thought that the rum balance had been changed, but we were assured that the amount of dark rum was actually increased.  

A place familiar but new was indeed the watchword of the dinner for Local Lime.  NWA, you should check it out.



I do want to note that I’ve been friends with one of the owners/chefs of Local Lime for decades, so always take any of my descriptions with the appropriate grain(s) of salt.
Bentonville was the meat of the trip and there was a full Saturday planned from the start.  It helped to send a few messages to get some insight from friends at breakfast, and then later along the way.  But to start the morning out, we had breakfast.


The Hive at 21C 


The Hive is the restaurant located in the 21C Boutique Hotel just off the Bentonville Town Square.  It is decorated in a funky and fun way with the bees and honeycomb elements made up of recycled materials.  The 21C Hotel also has a museum component and exhibits of art to add to the experience. The Hive is known for its “refined country cuisine” but is also well recognized for making their meats in house which can make breakfast truly extraordinary.  Chef Matt McLure and his team have recieved numerous James Beard Foundation nominations and FOOD + WINE accolades. Strong black coffee was a great start to the meal, while the buttermilk pancakes were delicately cooked maintaining a cakey consistency with a soft and yielding exterior instead of a hard sear. The granola, a dish I wouldn’t normally order, provided refreshing and easy to eat with a well balanced inclusion of high quality ingredients.  Even the Breakfast Sandwich had a little twist – In balancing the rich and fatty sausage, salty cheese, and biscuit, a thin layer of tomato jam set off the whole dish. It was a little touch, but it was like that little piece of balance that was needed and the tomato flavor was intriguing against the rest of the dish.


Onyx Coffee Lab


In anticipation of walking around the Bentonville Town Square and observing the local businesses and restaurants with a trusty local guide, we stopped at Onyx Coffee Lab.  It was the first weekend that actually felt like fall and so had a bit of a nip in the air. The Coffee Culture is strong in Northwest Arkansas but sadly all we had time for in our visit was a stop by the nationally recognized Onyx Coffee. It isn’t pictured, but I had a fantastic espresso shot – slightly viscous from emulsified oils, bitter bit not acrid, an an enjoyable experience.  For the less traditional, there are drinks like the Harvest Oat Latte, pictured below, that combines butternut and pumpkin with spices and oat milk for a fresh take on a fall informed latte.


Black Apple Crossing Cidery


Before we got to more culture, we knew that a visit to Black Apple Cidery was in the works.  Black Apple Crossing is the only dedicated cidery in the State and it let us get an official stop in Springdale in our NWA jaunt.  While other breweries do have a seasonal or rotating cider, Black Apple only makes cider. As a cocktail lover, sour beers and ciders are balanced in ways I am already drawn to so the lovely wife and I dug into a flight of all of their offerings.  They range from a bone dry variety all the way to a spiced and aged cider reminiscent of how Chardonnay will age. The hibiscus tinged and tart Cardinal Kiss may have been my favorite but that’s partially because I want to put it in a cocktail. Despite being on over 100 restaurant and bar taps in Northwest Arkansas, they are not known as well here in Central Arkansas a scant 200 miles away. They have plans to fix that, according to the bar chatter and hopefully that will change in 2019.


Taqueria Don Guero

Black Apple Crossing doesn’t have food in the taproom, but they do have a taco stand across the street.  Taqueria Don Guero is one of a multitude of taco stands, stalls, and trucks that we saw in Springdale – I want to go back and just eat my weight in tacos up and down the main streets. Don Guero tacos and tortas are welcomed in the Black Apple Crossing tap room, and even just a little snack of two street tacos tells you why. Authentic and delicious tacos are an artform and the lengua had the crispy edges and melt in your mouth meatiness that only lengua can provide while the buche is an offal that isn’t advertised as often that hits the spot for rich and filling snacks while sipping on ciders.




Crepes Paulette

Once back in Bentonville proper, an additional snack before the requisite visit to The Museum (see below), was acquired from Crepes Paulette.  One of the more notable food trucks that graced bentonville’s explosive growth early on, Crepes Paulette provided a range of crepes both sweet and savory to hungry customers.  While the food truck still exists, a brick and mortar serves even more guests hungry for French fare. We had a quick bite with one savory, The Classic, and one sweet, The Cinnaroll, crepe which we split between us.  

The Classic is a ham and cheese savory crepe with an extra egg wash on the crepe itself.  It hits all those wonderful notes of fatty and salty ham and cheese still melting but with the lightness of the crepe somehow doesn’t make you feel weighed down.  The egg wash itself can be a trick, and ours was a little over where it may want to be, but it was still delicious. The Cinnaroll was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.  It may be the use of butter, as a good French inspired recipe, helps to mellow out what could have been an overwhelmingly sweet option.



Crystal Bridges

Crystal Bridges is a remarkable achievement as an art museum.  I mentioned earlier, a little bit of art and culture does the mind a wonder of good, and seeing some of the most remarkable art work from American artists tracing our country’s relationship with media and expression was a fantastic journey.  We need more time to see more of the permanent collection, and Crystal Bridges is fine with photography so long as there is no flash. We also didn’t have quite the chance to wander the grounds of the museum where there are permanent installations to encounter and engage with art in a natural setting as well.

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Press Room

After a full day, and I didn’t even mention the spice buying, it was time to have a good dinner.  The Press Room is right on the Bentonville Town Square, and is part of the Rope Swing Group’s offerings.  The Press Room has a distinctly modern feel in it’s design and offers a variety of food from breakfast to late night.  Recently, the kitchen has been taken over by Travis McConnell and Arturo Solis, both of whom Central Arkansans may recognize as talented chefs who spent time here at the Capital Hotel in different capacities.  

It an be a difficult needle to thread when trying to be relaxed but also refined but the dinner menu shows off what these two can do when given a chance.  We opted to start the evening with Burratta and Heirloom Tomatoes. It is easy to compare restaurants when they have similar options – here it was a subtle thing to make all the difference.  The herb oil on the bottom, waiting to be scooped up with a rich and creamy bite of burrata or that could balance the sweetness of the tomatoes showed off why this is an appetizer that you see offered.  The cocktail list is one that is working to keep up with the food offering the lighter take on bourbon for example in the Rye the Lightning. Using Rye Whiskey and balancing out that sharp flavor with sloe gin was a refreshing take on a sloe gin fizz . Similarly, the thyme accented It’s Gin Thyme was playful in it’s summer sweetness and herbal balance bringing blackberry, mint, and thyme to the drink.

The duck with roasted golden beets and chard was a hit.  The sweet and earthy beets paired well with the duck and it’s slightly gamey flavor.  The blackberry agrodolce was the harmonizing part of the dish and it served to marry everything together.  My favorite dish of the weekend was the octopus entree I had. It was served with chorizo verde and braised navy beans that was a complete dish.  The octopus was perfectly cooked with a firm texture and delicate flavor that was paired with the chorizo’s heat and herbs. A double chocolate ice cream slider rounded out the meal and a glass of calvados.  One of the most impressive things for me was when I left, full and happy, I wasn’t stuffed – the servings were filling and generous but not an embarrassing abundance.

The Holler

Before we called it a night, we hopped over to check out The Holler which has been recommended by more people than we could count.  The Holler is another Rope Swing Group concept, and its location is as impressive to me as the concept. The Eighth Street Market is a spot that includes dedicated food stalls for vendors to work from providing a real diversity and variety to the offerings as well as Bike Rack Brewing Company tap room, a new Chocolatier, and more.  The Holler itself appears meant to be available for everyone. It has lifesize shuffle board games in the center of the space, an accessible and fun menu, and cocktails on tap to match the beer and wine offerings. All the cocktails are on tap reducing the prep time and providing a way into consistency for what could be a high volume location.  We had just eaten at The Press Room, so we were not that hungry but the menu includes The Impossible Burger and numerous low or no meat options which really intrigues me. We saw people that ranged from their 20s to the their 60s wearing business attire, jeans, and everything in between in our brief visit. The Old Fashioned I sipped while taking in the scene was better than most – I saw the bartender finish it once it came from the tap and the secret here may be that the bitters were added after the tap (both regular and Orange bitters) and the effort to peel and express the orange.  




Tusk & Trotter

For our last bites in Bentonville before heading home, we grabbed brunch at Tusk & Trotter.  Chef Rob Nelson has gotten a lot of acclaim and I wanted to check out their bar program which has a reputation for their heavy use of house infused liquors.  On that note, instead of a “traditional” brunch cocktail, I opted for the House Gin & Tonic. It is a house infusion gin and quality tonic highball that was redolent with the spice and anise notes of a gin above and beyond other gins. (It makes me want to do another few rounds of my own house gin).  It was a great match for the food that would follow. The Lemon Cherry Bourbonade is another example of a cocktail that made me really appreciate Bentonville’s bartenders. It is a balanced cocktail that, while unapologetically sweet, isn’t overly sweet, cloying, or shallow. Flavorful and complex cocktails that are balanced sweet can be rare to find.


The Southern Benedict showed off the deep roots of southern style cuisine in Arkansas.  The housemade bacon was cured in a way that enhanced it’s pork flavor without trying to mask it which added to the flavorful biscuit base.  The sausage gravy was exactly what I wanted and what was promised bringing together the rich dish. I balanced that rich, salty, and fatty dish by choosing the Ozark Caviar as my side – the fresh vegetables used to make this side provided the contrast needed for the indulgent main.  My wife’s blackened chicken sandwich was equally well prepared and proved how blackened chicken is supposed to work where the spice and seasoning isn’t turned into carbon beyond recognition. She appreciated the flavors that came through and enjoyed the well fried fries before we had to start the journey home.



Preston Rose Brewery & Farm

Preston Rose Brewery & Farm is a little bit off the beaten path in Paris, Arkansas.  It is a hidden gem, however, and worth the visit. While the unassuming building on the farm that is the tap room can seat around two dozen people, the flavors and experience far exceed the size of the operation. Having had consistently excellent samples of the Prestonrose beer at festivals over the past several years, we knew what we were in for.  

Prestonrose Brewery has only been in existence a few years and is located on a working organic farm.  Paris, Arkansas is a good 20 to 30 minutes off the main Interstate, but it is worth the trip for the food and the beer.  We enjoyed a flight of the options offered currently, though I enjoyed the jalapeno informed hefeweizen far more than my wife.  


For food, I had a rich but not heavy cream of mushroom soup, the kind that is made with big pieces of mushrooms while the cake my wife had balanced the fall spice trend beautifully.



This was just a quick and jam packed weekend in Northwest Arkansas, and a lot in Bentonville. There are dozens of places we didn’t make it to and people we didn’t get to see.  When we 

make it back to NWA again, what are the spots we missed?