A cultural oasis in the heart of Arkansas, Bentonville has been firmly placed on the South’s art trail since the launch of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in 2011. The project was a trigger for social and cultural change and the city now boasts a varied and cosmopolitan culinary scene where trendy urban eateries, casual food trucks and upscale dining experiences dominate the foodscape. This is our pick of the 10 best cultural restaurants in Bentonville.
Forget the big, pan-national chains; for the best coffee in town, head straight to the Pressroom. This place is rightly famed for its eclectic collection of espresso-based drinks, such as the almond joy mocha, or the Nutella and crème brûlée coffees. It also has its finger on the pulse of contemporary trends in cooking, with its menu rich with vegan, gluten-free and healthy options. Order a creamy coffee, plus a light lunch, and enjoy the artsy décor complete with paintings and mixed media art. Open mic nights and music events are organized regularly at the Pressroom.
Crepes Paulette is undoubtedly the city’s favourite crepe joint. A tiny booth with outdoor seating, hungry diners can pick from a delectable selection of sweet and savoury French crepes. On offer are super-healthy pancakes with a fresh salad filling, fruity ones with a generous dollop of whipped cream, and those perfect examples of comfort food, cheese and ham within a delicate structure of French batter.
Restaurant, American, $
Nestled within Bentonville’s pride and joy, the recently opened Crystal Bridges Museum, Eleven is both distinctly, local taking much of its inspiration from the traditions of the Ozarks and cosmopolitan, due to its refined decor and ever-sophisticated cooking techniques. A Jeff Koons sculpture hangs above the dining room, which is all arches and natural light, and the vibe of a cultural oasis is felt throughout. When eating here, don’t forget that the building was designed by Israeli architect extraordinaire Moshe Safdie. Highlights on Eleven’s calendar include the Culture Hour, a bi-weekly event with special prices, New American fare and live music on Fridays, a perfect ending to a day at the museum.
Restaurant, American, Contemporary, $$
A fresh addition to Bentonville, The Hive has taken the local dining scene by storm. And the hype is all-embracing: from the restaurant’s cultural location in the recently opened yet legendary 21c Museum Hotel, to the contemporary menu designed by Chef Matthew McLure. The urban chic decor, where light, wooden frames, industrial chairs and works of art create a balanced whole; is distinctly punctuated by the presence of The Hive’s playful mascot, a bright green plastic penguin. The menu of locally sourced ingredients aims not only to reflect Arkansas country cooking, but to infuse it with a sense of sophistication through high quality produce and a touch of urban experiment.
A rustic French-Mediterranean gem nestled in a stone-clad farmhouse in the heart of Bentonville, Petit Bistro sets the scene for a romantic meal in an effortlessly elegant setting. The owner, Dario Amini, was raised in Europe and brings the traditions of home to his Bentonville venture. Among some of the more typical Mediterranean dishes are the pizzas rustiques, the Lebanese lamb chops with mint, garlic and Israeli cous-cous; or the shrimp puttanesca pasta with grape tomatoes, kalamata olives and capers. Good weather in Bentonville calls for a lunch on Petit Bistro’s patio, which is a green oasis of serenity.
Table Mesa Bistro
Bar, Bistro, American
Table Mesa Bistro is Arkansas’ go-to place for Latin-inspired cuisine, with elements of Asian cooking and Pacific Northwest trends thrown in for good measure. And while modern takes on Latin cooking are very prominent on the menu, gourmet classics also make a convincing appearance in several varieties, from the butternut squash enchiladas to the slow-roasted Oaxaca pork tacos with pineapple pico. With three locations around the state, Table Mesa Bistro is owned by the Garretts, a husband-and-wife team whose contribution to the local community has come in the shape of this upbeat, contemporary and successful dining venue, and much-loved meeting place.
Bistro, Restaurant, Italian, Mediterranean, Fusion, $
Owned by the husband-and-wife team behind Table Mesa Bistro, the Garretts, Tavola Trattoria travels all the way to Europe for its culinary inspiration. This American-Italian trattoria is a casual affair where the food takes centre stage. Simple and sleek in its decor, the venue sets forth a menu of classic Italian-Mediterranean fusion dishes, from the saltimbocca served with cream, marsala wine reduction, prosciutto and wild mushroom ravioli, to the wide array of pasta and ravioli dishes. With reasonable prices and great comfort food, Tavola Trattoria is a great place for a laid-back dinner with friends or family.
Tusk and Trotter
Brasserie, Pub, Restaurant, American, $
Sitting in the very heart of Downtown Bentonville, Tusk and Trotter has been nurturing a reputation like no other dining establishment in the city since 2011. Although its achievements are many and varied, and include a portfolio of enviable awards, Tusk and Trotter is particularly loved for its casual, trendy vibe and ambitious, refined approach to cooking. Chef and Owner Rob Nelson, inspired by the time he spent studying in France, is committed to making the best of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Current highlights include The Deer Hunter, a marinated and grilled Venison flank steak, and the Arkansas catfish pastrami. To complement your meal, pick a bottle from the carefully curated selection of regional micro brews.
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