I like to eat.
Specifically, I liked to eat good food. So when we found out we were moving to Arkansas I had visions of a gastronomical wasteland. I envisioned plates of black eyed peas, weepy pale collard greens, overcooked dry pork, and dry salty biscuits served by melancholy waitresses named Flo or Daisy. Arriving in NWA, I was almost immediately disabused of this stereotype.
In the cold month of January we arrived at the still nascent downtown Bentonville, Arkansas. I had my first real meal at Tusk and Trotter. Our little band of Southern California refugees were still a bit shaken by cold and rustic drive from the airport. Our attitudes seemed to immediately start to morph upon this first taste of NWA.
With an excellent menu, all locally sourced foods, we ordered up a feast and washed it down with some amazing local brews. We chatted and laughed with wait staff about the area and people. We left the restaurant well fed and our spirits lifted. Maybe this place wasn’t too bad after all I thought. I could sense my wife breathe a small mental sigh of relief.
Little did I know that was just the tip of a culinary iceberg. I could not possibly do justice to the all the great food here in NWA, but if you have a week or so here, I thought I might highlight some of my favorites both fancy and simple. Let’s start with where you may start your day…
When in Northwest Arkansas try and avoid the breakfast places like Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, and the Waffle House; you can get that anywhere. Go explore the wonders of breakfast and brunch in the Ozarks.
One of my favorites is the relatively new comer The Buttered Biscuit. As I understand it the owners, Ana and Sam Russel , were really jonesing for a good breakfast place like they had back home in Lansing, Michigan. Not finding one here to their liking at the time, they did what everyone seems to do around here when they want something not present; they opened one. All the food at the Biscuit is locally sourced, but all you really need to know about this place is two words: bacon jam. On the weekends the place gets very crowded in the morning with LA-type lines piling outside and people parking across the street. No matter, its worth the wait and they get through those lines pretty quickly.
Another must eat at is the Press Room in downtown Bville. This place is hipster central, but with a welcome emulsion of Arkansan friendliness. The food is thoughtful, unique, and delicious. I am a fan of their avocado toast and their corn beef hash (Press-Trami). Their Gingerslap shot is a great whoa-boy way to start your day too.
I am not a buffet fan, Jimmy or otherwise, but Table Mesa (again in downtown Bville) has an absolutely fantastic one on Sunday mornings. It is reasonably priced and features a variety of Southwestern and Mexican inspired food. There is an omelet chef and a variety of high quality dishes to chose from. Sadly, my kids often opt for the fruit loops…
If you are in a more traditional frame of mind for breakfast than you can’t beat The Station Cafe. Operating since 1977 it offers up traditional breakfast fare like sunny side up eggs, bacon, and biscuits and gravy all for an incredibly reasonable price. Bring your paper, relax, and eavesdrop on the locals for the latest hub-bub. Sadly you better go soon as the Station is set to close this year.
If crepes are your game, then Crepe’s Paulette is Monopoly, Chess, and Twister all rolled in one. Now for the record, I am typically not a crepes fan. They are the pancake and waffle’s precocious European cousin. But put your teeth into the Elvis crepe and your tastes buds will transport you to the tiger print couches of Graceland. Amazing. These folks don’t mess around. They have both sweet and savory crepes that are sure to please. They recently moved from the shack by the ice-skating rink to a permanent location on A street. As a bonus Hero’s Coffee is right next store.
Heading south, a very popular and crowded weekend location is an old converted farm house in Fayetteville called The Farmer’s Table. It has a bohemian vibe with a floor plan that is pretty much what you expect in an old farm house. With creaky floors and odd ball dishware they also have an outdoor seating at picnic tables. You can really notice the difference in their dishes because of the local and organic ingredients. A few grow right outside. It is crowded but the food and service are both excellent. They change up the menu seasonally to conform with what is locally available. My favorite: the curried deviled eggs with Sirachi.
One of our other favorites for breakfast or lunch is Arsaga’s at the Depot in Fayetteville. Typically a younger crowd they often have live music and serve a great selection of omelets, crepes, sandwiches and salads. As any proper fixie riding mustachioed ironic t-shirt wearing person would expect, their brussels sprouts may be mixed with crack; they are that addicting.
A short drive east of Fayetteville in a little town called Farmington is a place called Briar Rose Baker and Deli. Looking like the home of some benevolent German witch, inside is a stockpile of delicious confections to eat. While the sandwiches and soups are excellent; they really make their mark with their baked goods. I am a particular fan of their cinnamon rolls and sticky buns served warm and gooey.
Finally, if you are feeling fancy and want to bask in the glory of Bville’s weird artistic vibe, head on down to the Hive which is inside 21C right outside of downtown Bentonville. With a menu that reads like an assignment from your anarchist poetry professor, you can ponder the meaning of BMF Chicken on a Biscuit while sipping on a When Life Gives you Lemons elixir. There is really nothing on this menu that is not short of extraordinary…and you have life size green penguins you can play with too.
So that’s my very short favorites list. There are others, but those would be my “must visit breakfast spots” in this area. If you are new to the area, make sure you try and stop by. If you live here, would love to hear your opinion or additions to my “must eat breakfast places”.