Have you ever heard of Fayetteville, Arkansas? It’s a beautiful oasis in the middle of Northwest Arkansas’ Ozark mountains and deserves to be recognized for all of its beauty. It has become a tourist destination, it is home to the Arkansas Razorbacks, and it is consistently named as one of the “Best Places to Live” (No. 3 in 2016, No. 5 in 2017, No. 5 in 2018, and No. 4 in 2019). It is well known for annual events in motorcycling, music, art, and film.
Fayetteville has a place in my personal heart too. It’s a place where moved when I was an 18 year old freshman at the University of Arkansas. It’s a place where I studied, made lifelong friends, became 21, became a “dog-mom”, graduated college, and entered into the hospitality world as a “real adult”. I’ve been in Northwest Arkansas since 2011, and in those eight years, I’ve made those memories, but I’ve also made up my mind about my favorite things about some of my favorite local hot-spots.
BITE + DRINK
Theo’s: I believe this is the best upscale-casual Happy Hour in Fayetteville. In the lounge, there is centrally arranged comfortable furniture, with TV’s at the bar (perfect for watching the Razorbacks, or my favorite – the St. Louis Blues, play). There are a few booths and high-top tables on the perimeter if the group is a little smaller and more intimate – whereas the lounge furniture allows for more socialization and meeting new people. If the weather is nice, there is also prime seating on their patio facing Dickson Street.
MC’s Pick: Trina’s Ginger Peach (vodka, peach, ginger syrup, lemon) + Charcuterie Board (two meats, two cheeses, accompaniments)
Bordino’s: This restaurant has been around for almost 2 decades. The atmosphere is a little less lounge, and a little more restaurant, as they do not have any TV’s in the bar area, but their cocktails and wine list do not disappoint.
MC’s Pick: Baker’s Blues (house-infused lavender & blueberry vodka, lavender simple syrup, fresh lemon juice) + Triple Threat (grana padano, roasted garlic, balsamic vinegar)
LOCAL LUNCH + DINNER
Hammontree’s Grilled Cheese: With a variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to choose from, most guests can find something that they like at this restaurant. A very casual atmosphere off Dickson Street, Hammontrees is a perfect spot to grab a bite to eat after some mid-morning weekend shopping or after a long day at work.
MC’s Picks: Sweet Potato Fries (with avocado ranch dipping sauce) + Cheebacca Grilled Cheese (sharp white cheddar, house cheese, bacon, pulled pork, onions, and garlic cilantro sauce on sourdough) P.S. I prefer no onions on my Cheebacca Grilled Cheese, and I add the house BBQ sauce!
Hugo’s: In business since 1977, Hugo’s is a Fayetteville staple, consistently ranking in the top 1-3 restaurants on websites like TripAdvisor. It’s located in Downtown Historic Fayetteville, in the basement of an original building. It encompasses Fayetteville with the art and historical pieces around the restaurant, and even locals continue to go back. If you plan to stop by on a weekend evening, there might be a bit of a wait, so be prepared to arrive early! There’s not much of a waiting area, but most people just wait outside and get to know one another while they wait for a great meal.
MC’s Picks: Ace Pineapple Cider (Sebastopol, CA) + cheeseburger with ketchup, pickles, and cheese + Grasshopper Crepe (mint chocolate chip ice cream inside of crepes with hot fudge drizzle)
Sassy’s: Sassy’s BBQ sauce and spices are from a family recipe developed by Sassy Jones’ grandfather, Jasper Jones, in 1885. The sauce has been said to be good on pork, beef, chicken, dove, quail, duck, goat, lamb, rabbit, squirrel, deer, coon, possum, shrimp, catfish, crawfish, oysters, armadillo, rattlesnake, and just about anything else. Their menu has a little bit of everything, and they want their guests to enjoy and stay awhile by having TV’s with TV’s with the game on, porches for warm days, and the best part – good food.
MC’s Picks: Homemade Fried Pickles + Pulled Pork Sandwich Combo, with (2) sides: sweet potato tots and mustard potato salad
Farmer’s Table Cafe: With the motto, “where locals meet and eat,” Farmer’s Table Cafe is built for the locals of Fayetteville, and even those coming through town. It is a tiny house within Fayetteville, where patrons can enjoy a wonderful meal from local vendors, and meet others within their community.
MC’s Picks: Benny on a Biscuit (Ozarks version of the egg’s benedict: 2 poached eggs, Bansley’s farm ham, Dripping Springs Garden kale, atop a handmade biscuit with hollandaise) or Pickled + Deviled Plate (deviled local eggs, pickled local vegetables, Great Ferments okra, Ozark All Seasons greens) + Chicken Salad (roasted chicken, dried cranberries, almonds, dill, celery, on Stone Mill Bakery sourdough)
Catfish Hole: In 1993, the owners of Catfish Hole opened their first location in Alma, AR. Not soon after, they added a location in Fayetteville, which has become a popular spot for locals and tourists. Most people rave about hushpuppies, but they’re especially known for their catfish – as it is a common catch in the Northwest Arkansas area.
MC’s Picks: Regular Catch of Catfish Filets, served with french fries + fixin’s (fixings include: hushpuppies, coleslaw, pickles, onions, lemons and green tomato relish)
Woodstone: A recent add in 2014 to the Fayetteville restaurant scene, Woodstone Pizza + Bar features wood fired, artisan pizza with a scratch kitchen, locally sourced ingredients, local craft beers and cocktails.
MC’s Picks: Lavender Gimlet (sub with Tito’s vodka instead of gin), + Queen Margherita (house red sauce, fresh mozzarella, local basil, herb oil)
A Taste of Thai: Since 2000, Taste of Thai has been established in the Downtown Historic Fayetteville Square. With a small patio, off a quaint and traditional dining room, this restaurant encompasses Thai culture, while also serving delicious food. Larger parties may need to notify the restaurant of their arrival, and guests can even order ahead for takeout.
MC’s Picks: A-7 Chicken Pot Stickers (grilled marinated chicken wrapped, served with homemade plum sauce) + 17. Pad Thai, national dish of Thailand (stir-fried thin rice noodles w/egg, bean sprouts, green onions, topped w/ground peanuts)
Maxine’s Tap Room: Named one of the Best Bars in America, 2019 by Esquire Magazine, Maxine’s Tap Room is an almost 70-year-old bar located on Block Avenue, in the heart of Fayetteville’s Historic Downtown Square. 24-year-old Maxine Miller borrowed $10,000 from her parents and with the ownership of her bar, became a surrogate mother to generation of college students missing their own mothers. After Maxine passed, management passed on to a team of local shop-owners and they thoughtfully remodeled the Tap Room with a payphone that still has the recording of Maxine’s last call: “May I have your attention, please! You have ten minutes to drink, then get the hell out!” One of my favorite facts about the bar is that it only has one window, exactly 8.5″x40″, in the front, which was the minimum size allowed by the building codes at the time of its being built.
MC’s Picks: Maxine’s Tap Room changes the menu seasonally, but one of my favorites is a simple cocktail with vodka, lavender syrup, and soda water, sometimes with a splash of lemonade. They have the best retro/classic cocktails, and the seasoned popcorn will keep you there for awhile.
Vault: This fairly new bar is a former bank vault that combines warm palettes of concrete, wood, steel, and leather, inspired by the idea of distillation. Their focus is on bourbon, and they pride themselves in having the best bourbon selection in the state of Arkansas.
MC’s Picks: EJ Highball (bourbon, tea syrup, lemon, house ginger beer)
Cannibal + Craft: Named after a beach bar in the Caribbean, Cannibal & Craft is a dual-bar with one side drawing inspiration from this island vibe, and the other side featuring a warm, earthy, American vibe. The island side focuses on fishbowl cocktails, while the other side features classic cocktails. If you’re a true local, you know that within Cannibal + Craft lies a secret bar called, Ben’s Apartment. Similar to a speakeasy from the 1920’s, this bar is exclusive and not open to just anyone. This secret bar requires a membership and a minimum monthly spend, but each guest is allotted 3 additional guests at no additional charge. But well worth the membership, this bar is for those who want an atypical Fayetteville bar experience.
MC’s Picks: Moscow Mule Fishbowl (or Bee’s Knees at Ben’s Apartment)
Fayetteville Ale Trail: Experience Fayetteville (my old parent-company!) launched the Fayetteville Ale Trail in August 2013. This self-guided tour gives both visitors and locals a glimpse into the unique craft brewery and cidery culture of Northwest Arkansas (it extends past Fayetteville!). More than 35,000 passports have been printed, and after 5 years, the Ale Trail has been recognized nationally and even locals still continue to enjoy it. Passports can be picked up at any of the breweries on the Ale Trail, via mail, or at Experience Fayetteville (Visitor’s Center) on the Downtown Square, located at 21 S. Block Ave.
Featured Breweries: Apple Blossom Brewing Co., Bentonville Brewing Co., Bike Rack Brewing Co., Black Apple Crossing Cidery, Columbus House Brewery, Core Brewing and Distilling Co., Crisis Brewing Company, Fossil Cove Brewing Co., Hawk Moth Brewery, Ivory Bill Brewing, JJ’s Beer Garden & Brewing, New Providence Brewing Co., Ozark Beer Company, Saddlebock Brewery, and West Mountain Brewing Co.
Rick’s Bakery: Opened in 1980, Rick’s has become a staple in Northwest Arkansas. From their classic personal cakes (perfect for birthdays, big-little reveals, congratulation-moments, and more, to their decorative cookies (some even featuring frosting shaped Razorbacks, their baked goods are worth every bite.
MC’s Picks: tie-dye cookies + monogrammed petit fours
Smudgies: Taking a spin on sweets, Smudgies combines donuts, cereal, sweet treats, and more with ice cream. They are most famous for the smudgie itself, a donut stuffed with your choice of ice cream combination from the menu – or a creation of your own!
MC’s Picks: Salty Dog Sludgie (essentially a concrete with vanilla bean ice cream, salted caramel drizzle, + crushed pretzels)
Burton’s Creamery: Opened in June 2014, Burton’s Creamery provides premium (better than just everyday) soft serve to the residents of Fayetteville. Originally served out of a food truck, they now have an additional location in the Uptown Apartments + Shops. Their food truck is still located off Dickson Street in an area called Shulertown – a popular destination after the bars close.
MC’s Picks: Butterfinger Soft Serve on a Waffle Cone
RiffRaff: Kirsten Blowers, a native Fayetteville local, opened Riffraff in February of 2009 at the age of 21. Originally selling refurbished and hand-painted furniture, she quickly expanded to include clothing and small gifts. By 2012, due to popularity and growth of the business from in-store to Facebook, Kirsten took the business online – launching an instant success. Nestled in the Historic Downtown Fayetteville Square, Riffraff believes in shopping local (while still reaching shoppers nationwide). Their style is always touching on the newest trends, and their social media presence (mostly Instagram) is very strong: @shopriffraff + @riffrafffayetteville + @riffraffhq.
Impressions: Built off the power of a first impression, Impressions offers a wide range of apparel to fit any woman’s unique sense of style. Between their physical location in Fayetteville or their online boutique, they are always following the latest fashions to keep their customers leaving lasting impressions.
Maude: The current location is Maude’s second location, but Maude has been in business since 2007. The store prides itself on excellent customer service, and they enjoy the fun within fashion. They believe in fashion speaking to their customers and help their customers feel their dreams come true while being confident in the clothes they sell. They also have the cutest backdrop for photos (you can search #maudewall on Instagram).
The Mustache Goods + Wears: The owner of this store wanted to open a shop where he lived and worked (Historic Downtown Fayetteville), but he wanted it to be and look different than any other store, carrying products that shoppers don’t normally find. Their passion feeds off how the community loves their store, always finding a fun, friendly, and unique shopping experience.
E.Leigh’s: Erin Leigh Hohnbaum opened the shop in 2011 at the age of 26, with the goal to create a space where women felt strong, empowered, and better leaving than when they came in the doors. She is passionate about making customers and visitors feel good, even if they don’t purchase anything – so experience is everything to her. Located on Dickson Street, it’s close to restaurants and other shops in the Fayetteville area.
First Thursday: On the first Thursday of each month May through October from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Fayetteville’s Historic Downtown Square transforms into an outdoor arts district featuring more than 40 visual artists who create items in a variety of mediums. The event also includes live music, street performances, children’s activities, food trucks, a craft beer garden, and more. This event is hosted and promoted by Experience Fayetteville, and parking is available at Fayetteville Town Center.
George’s Majestic Lounge: Opened in 1927 by George Pappas, George’s was originally a restaurant, lounge, and general store. George’s saw many owners in its day, some of which shared their first dates at the bar, but regardless of ownership, it is the oldest and longest running bar in the Fayetteville area. It was also the first to integrate and the first to have color TV in its time. Its current owners, Brian + Day Crowne bought the building and eventually the land – serving as the regions premier showcase venue for concerts since 2004.
Walton Arts Center: In the late 1980s, the Walton family, the University of Arkansas, and the City of Fayetteville each individually realized the need for a venue that could accommodate major touring shows, local and regional performing acts, and even corporate meetings. Located off Dickson Street in Fayetteville, this recently updated venue houses these shows, events, and even more.
Theatre Squared: Reaching 45,000 patrons each year with 230 annual performances, Theatre Squared attracts varying shows by hosting them in an intimate space. In 2011, TheatreSquared was recognized by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation’s ten most promising emerging theatres. Its audience includes more than 18,000 students and their teachers. They believe that all students should have access to live performances and leading arts-based learning tools. Theatre Squared is also Arkansas’ home for professional playwrights, developing scripts through the Arkansas New Play Festival in Fayetteville and Bentonville, producing new works and world premiers each year.
Donald W. Reynolds Stadium: Serving as the home field for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, Donald W. Reynolds Stadium is an American football stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, originally opened in 1938. In 2001, it was renamed from Razorback Stadium to its current name, in honor of Reynold’s being a wonderful businessman and philanthropist. The playing field is named for Frank Boyles, the former head football coach and athletic director.
Mount Sequoyah Overlook: A beautiful spot for visitors to relax, watch the sunset, or picnic, Mt. Sequoyah overlooks Fayetteville with a large cross illuminating the area. Locals go there on dates, to see how wonderful Fayetteville looks at night, or say a prayer. The area is a church and retreat center, surrounded by homes with beautiful views.
Razorback Regional Greenway: A project years in the making, the Razorback Regional Greenway has been a goal of regional planners, cities, and residents of Northwest Arkansas for more than two decades. With a lot of planning, the Greenway became a reality stretching 36 miles from Bella Vista to South Fayetteville. It connects 6 downtowns, 3 hospitals, 23 schools, arts and entertainment venues, the University of Arkansas campus, corporate headquarters, historic sites, parks and playgrounds, restaurants, shopping areas, and more.
Crystal Bridges: Founded in 2005 by philanthropist and arts patron, Alice Walton, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art began as a nonprofit charitable organization for all to enjoy. The building was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and opened to the public on 11-11-11. Their mission is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Its name comes from a nearby natural spring and the bridge that has been incorporated into the structure of the building. Meeting spaces and galleries surrounds two spring-fed ponds, including a glass-enclosed gathering hall. The museum also features a beautiful restaurant, a library featuring more than 50,000 volumes of art reference material, and trails that link the 120-acre park to downtown Bentonville, Arkansas.
The Walmart Museum: Sam Walton and his family moved to the Northwest Arkansas area in 1950, to satisfy his wife Helen’s desire for small-town living. According to Helen, this also allowed them to be within a short distance from Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas, so Sam could enjoy the different seasons, satisfying his passion for quail hunting. With this move, Sam purchased Luther Harrison’s Variety Store. Located in the Downtown Bentonville square, Walton’s 5&10 was the second store opened by Sam Walton, but the first to bear his name. The original ceiling tiles from Harrison’s Variety Store are still seen in the museum today, as are the original red and green tiles that Sam laid down prior to the famous remodeling sale. Some of the tile colors didn’t match; Sam accepted them “as is” for a better price – and this is worth mentioning because it is a part of the foundation for Walmart today. See, Sam was a frugal man, but according to history, not for the sake of frugality. “Sam knew that his customers wouldn’t be looking at his floor – or even care – as long as his prices were low and his shelves were well-stocked. He knew that saving money on expenses meant he could charge lower prices, saving his customers money so they could live better.” And this was the beginning of Walmart and Sam’s Club.
Scott Family Amazeum: Featuring approximately 50,000 square feet of exhibit and learning spaces, Scott Family Amazeum is built to bring families together, inspire curiosity, and bring learning to life using hands-on exhibits. Many of the interactive exhibits are focused on the industries and people who built the Arkansas culture and sustain it today – exhibitors including the 3M Tinkering Hub, General Mills Lift, Load and Haul, Market Sponsored by Walmart, Nature Valley Water Amazements, Nickelodeon Play Lab, Hershey’s Lab, and more. Possibly the coolest activity that Scott Family Amazeum does is at the end of the day, they have a “parade to leave” so the kids can “enjoy” the exhibits having to close.
The Peel Mansion Museum + Heritage Gardens: Built in 1875 by Colonel Samuel West Peel, it is a beautiful model of Italianate Villa Style furnished with authentic antiquities and artifacts. It his home to public and private events for the Northwest Arkansas area from bridal shows to weddings to cocktail parties to charity events.
Slaughter Pen Trail: Attracting visitors from around the country, this Bentonville mountain bike trail hosts one of the top bike events in the state. Featuring over 20 miles, with an easy trail connection via Lake Bella Vista to Blowing Springs mountain bike trail system, this is something that the avid biker does not want to miss.
The Inn at Carnall Hall: Built in 1905, Carnall Hall was the first girl’s dorm in Arkansas, named after Ella Howison Carnall, a beloved English professor. In 1967, it became a fraternity for 10 years, and in 1982, it was placed on the National Register for Historic Places, when it housed classrooms and faculty offices. In 2001, it was saved from demolition, thanks to private and public efforts. 2 years later, it reopened as The Inn at Carnall Hall, with restorations made to the staircase and front porch. In 2004, it was added to the Historic Hotels of America. Most recently in 2018, the Inn had a face lift, with contemporary elements complimenting the history of the building. Perhaps the most significant moment of this hotel’s history to me, is when I had the pleasure of working there. I started my career transition at Inn at Carnall Hall, and I am grateful for my experience there.
21c Museum: Located on the Downtown Bentonville Square, and within a short walk to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is an 104-room boutique hotel, contemporary art museum, cultural center, and home to The Hive restaurant. They are well-known for the iconic Green Penguin, which I’ve mentioned in a previous post.
The Crescent Hotel: Opened in 1886, The Crescent Hotel was built to be a resort for the rich and famous, designed by architect Isaac S. Taylor from St. Louis, MO. Only open for a short time before it became unmanageable, it was reopened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women from 1908-1924. It opened again from 1930-1934 as a junior college. By 1937, Norman G. Baker, converted the building into a hospital and health resort. This is when the history gets a little interesting. Baker was a millionaire inventory and radio personality, but he also presented himself as a doctor (with absolutely no medical training). He claimed to have “cures” for ailments, including cancer. Baker eventually went to jail, and The Crescent Hotel bounced between a few owners, almost being burned to the ground in 1967. Currently, it has been titled, “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places as of 2016. Tourists and guests can go on ghost tours, and even stay overnight experiencing the supposed supernatural.
As I say goodbye to Fayetteville today, I felt that I could best say goodbye by paying tribute to the wonderful places I came to love during my time in Northwest Arkansas. I hope if you have a chance to visit, you can visit a few of these places and grow to love them too.
XO – MC