While Bentonville is best known as the world headquarters for Walmart, this small town of about 50,000 residents in northwest Arkansas has an impressive food scene. In a county filled with orchards, farms, ranches, and dairies, Bentonville chefs work closely with local food producers to create seasonally inspired menus using locally sourced ingredients. By infusing traditional Southern cuisine with dishes from around the world, Bentonville created what is now known as High South cuisine. Enjoy ingredients like juicy peaches, earthy black walnuts, thick pork chops, and creamy artisan cheese in a variety of Southern dishes with a twist when you visit these seven fantastic restaurants in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Fun Fact: When Sam Walton was still a kid growing up in Columbia, Missouri, Bentonville was nicknamed Fruit City due to the millions of apple trees in Bentonville and the surrounding towns in Benton County.
1. ONYX Coffee Lab
It’s said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you’re like me, coffee is even more important. One of the best places to grab a cup of joe in Bentonville is at ONYX Coffee Lab in Bentonville’s quaint downtown, just a few steps from Sam Walton’s original Walmart. Pull up a chair at the long wooden counter that faces floor-to-ceiling windows and sip your favorite breakfast beverage -- coffee, tea, or a smoothie -- while watching the world go by. Make it a meal by pairing your pour with a bacon and egg croissant sandwich or a piece of avocado sourdough toast that includes egg and prosciutto.
Pro Tip: If you’re exploring Arkansas beyond Bentonville, you’ll also find Onyx Coffee locations in Fayetteville and Rogers.
2. The Buttered Biscuit
While I love each meal of the day, breakfast always takes the (hot) cake. The Buttered Biscuit warms my heart (and fills my stomach) with the most delicious fluffy pancakes, sugar-dusted beignets, filling omelettes, and (of course) buttery biscuits. Embrace High South cuisine by ordering a Cajun eggs benedict, which replaces the traditional ham with lump blue crab cakes and adds a layer of spinach for color. Or check out the Kickin’ Chicken waffles that tops a crispy waffle with bacon jam and adds a piece of spicy fried chicken before pouring maple syrup over the entire dish.
Pro Tip: Take a taste of Arkansas home with you by wrapping up bacon jam or Arkansas black apple butter.
3. Crepes Paulette
Although it’s only a half-mile south of the Bentonville City Square, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled to Paris at Crepes Paulette. Enjoy thin French-style pancakes loaded with either savory or sweet fillings and folded into a delicious traditional triangle (rather than rolled). If you’re visiting for brunch, lunch, or dinner, you’ll find la Classic with ham, cheddar, and egg and La Rubenesque with traditional Reuben sandwich ingredients quite filling. Vegetarians will be delighted to see several savory meat-free options like La Centrale and la Spinach. And, if you’re visiting Bentonville with a food allergy, you’ll be glad to know that Paulette’s savory buckwheat crepes are gluten-free. Be sure to save room for a sweet crepe as well! I recommend la Foster filled with salted caramel, banana, and cinnamon or any option that includes Nutella.
4. The Pedaler’s Pub
Did you know that Bentonville is the Mountain Biking Capital of the World? That’s right! And what makes The Pedaler’s Pub popular with Bentonville’s bike crowd is that it’s located on the Downtown Trail, one of several paths in the system of more than 100 miles of urban trails through this northwestern Arkansas town. Whether you arrive by bike, on foot, or via another mode of transportation, you’ll enjoy a variety of hand-tossed wood-fired pizzas at The Pedaler’s Pub. While you can certainly order a basic pie, like cheese or pepperoni, you’ll also find many unique craft selections. Meat lovers will want to try the Alpe with thinly sliced ribeye steak, spinach, feta, and sun-dried tomatoes. Or check out the spicy chicken bacon ranch that offers a bit of a kick and is topped with roasted sunflower seeds. Vegetarians will delight at the Greenie, featuring artichoke hearts, bell peppers, black olives, and fresh spinach on a pesto base, or the Fungi, loaded with shitake, portobello, and button mushrooms. In addition to pizza, The Pedaler’s Pub also offers a wide variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches.
Pro Tip: If you fall in love with Bentonville, consider making it your new hometown. You may qualify for a $10,000 cash award to make that dream a reality. (And the Mountain Biking Capital of the World will even throw in a new two-wheeler to sweeten the deal!)
5. Smokin’ Joe’s Ribhouse
As hard as it is for a Kansas City girl to recommend barbeque outside of the Barbeque Capital of the World, it’s equally difficult to travel elsewhere in the Barbeque Belt and not give the local fare a try. Roughly halfway between Kansas City and Memphis, Smokin’ Joe’s Ribhouse in Bentonville feels like a blend of the two barbeque styles. While Memphis barbeque is all about pork, especially ribs and pulled pork, diners will also find smoked sliced brisket, smoked turkey breast, and smoked sausage on the menu at Joe’s (as if they were in Kansas City). Pair your meat platter or barbeque sandwich with a Southern side like fried okra, Cajun rice, or black-eyed peas, because those are rarely on the menu in the barbeque region to the north of Arkansas.
Fun Fact: Over the years, there have been more than five accepted spellings for “barbeque.” While there are only two today -- with a “c” and with a “q” -- most Kansas Citians follow the Kansas City Barbeque Society’s lead and use a “q.”
6. The Hive
Maybe you’ve had better luck than I, but I don’t typically recommend hotel restaurants because they’re rarely anything to write home about. But just as 21c Museum Hotels created a new accommodation experience by breathing new life into historic buildings, converting them into combination contemporary art museums and boutique hotels, they’ve also set a new standard for hotel restaurants by taking a chef-driven approach. And calling the shots at The Hive, the restaurant inside Bentonville’s award-winning 21c Museum Hotel, is multi-time James Beard Award semifinalist and Arkansas native Matthew McClure.
In a dining room decorated with larger-than-life bees building gigantic honeycombs, guests will enjoy a seasonally inspired menu that features ingredients from Arkansas farms. Pork plays a leading role, from the pork sausage in the biscuits and gravy to the Berkshire hog chop on the dinner menu. You’ll also find dishes that include black walnuts, pecans, peaches, and other Southern cuisine essentials.
Raise a glass to the little company Sam Walton established a few blocks away on the west side of Bentonville City Square by ordering a Hive ‘n Dime. Featuring your choice of vodka, gin, or bourbon and house tonic, this classic cocktail is a play on Walton’s 5 and 10. Or enjoy hickory wood-softened Arkansas moonshine in a Bad Moon Rising cocktail that pairs it with smoky scotch, Madeira, and maple.
7. The Preacher's Son
About a block west of Onyx Coffee Lab, another fantastic restaurant in Bentonville is The Preacher’s Son. After an impressive career that took him to kitchens on both coasts -- including a stint at The French Laundry in Northern California -- native son Chef Neal Gray returned to Arkansas. After converting Bentonville’s oldest church into a restaurant, retaining its cathedral windows and wooden beams and adding pew-like seating around the tables, The Preacher’s Son also secured gold-level certification for its sustainability practices.
With a menu of New American cuisine peppered with Southern inspiration, Chef Gray works with local farms to source fresh ingredients for his ever-changing menu, including fresh produce from Villines Farm and Vet Veggies, berries from the Neal Family Farm, mushrooms from Fat Top Farm, lamb from Hanna Family Ranch, artisan cheese from White River Creamery, and gluten-free baked goods from Olly Makes Bakery.
Pro Tip: Before your meal, enjoy an aperitif at Undercroft, a speakeasy in the basement of The Preacher’s Son, or sip a nightcap on the restaurant’s rooftop bar.
From your first cup of coffee to a nightcap, you won’t want to miss these seven fantastic restaurants when you visit Bentonville, Arkansas.
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