Food & Drink

Eat Like a Local in Bentonville

Chef Matthew McClure shares his favorite spots in the northwest Arkansas art hub

A little over eight years ago, chef Matthew McClure left Boston, where he had worked his way through such prestigious fine-dining kitchens as Troquet and No. 9 Park, and moved to Bentonville, Arkansas, around two hundred miles northeast of his hometown of Little Rock. “Bentonville is an interesting place, culinarily,” says the six-time James Beard Award semifinalist. “Many of us [chefs] grew up in Arkansas but came back in with skill sets we refined in other cities. Now we’re here cooking food that we’re really proud of.” 

Chef Matt McClure.

McClure became one of the first chefs on the scene when he opened the Hive in 2013 inside the 21c Museum Hotel, serving elevated Southern-influenced fare like hog chops over bean ragout, braised collards with bacon and caramelized onion, and braised lamb campanelle. “When you’re standing outside the Hive, you’re like, ‘Okay I’m in Arkansas,’ but inside, it could be in any big market in the U.S.,” he says. 

Bentonville, with its booming art community, is a uniquely cosmopolitan home base. Between the prestigious Crystal Bridges Museum and its forthcoming satellite, the Momentary; the booming food hall and community hub 8th Street Market; annual film and food festivals; and expert mountain biking trails, the town is constantly strengthening its status as a cultural attraction. “What Bentonville was when we opened to what it is now, people wouldn’t recognize it,” McClure says. “And I can’t wait to see what it’s like in seven more years.” 

To get a taste of the area, here are six of McClure’s must-try spots. 

Oven & Tap
215 South Main Street, Suite 3

“Luke Wetzel, the chef and owner, opened the Hive with me, so he’s great friend and a great cook. They do mainly pizza in a wood-burning oven. It’s a great place to take my kids. We love their meatball pizza—I’m very traditional when it comes to these things. [Wetzel] puts this spicy condiment on it, but we have to get it on the side because it’s too spicy for my kids. The pizza is really fantastic. You don’t find food like that in Arkansas—or the region for that matter.” 

photo: Jenn Terrell Photography
Pizzas at Oven & Tap.

100 NW 2nd Street, Suite 100

“I’ve heard the owners refer to it as a community cafeteria. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and my good friend Travis McConnell is the chef. He used to work out on the west coast, and he takes a refreshed approach to simple, honest food. His wife, Karla, is Peruvian and so he does this Peruvian-style chicken dish for dinner with a great herby arbol chile chimichurri. It’s my go-to.”  

Roasted chicken at Pressroom.

Flavors Indian Cuisine 
211 SE Walton Boulevard 

“We’re a small town of about fifty thousand people, but with Walmart based here, we’re getting major companies setting up offices. I’ve heard that our Indian and Pakistani population is around ten thousand, now, and they’ve brought their culture and food here with them. Flavors is a great Indian place—their buffet for lunch is incredible. I love their goat curry, and their bhindi masala is one of my favorite okra dishes ever. When the Southern Foodways Alliance came this summer for its summer field trip, they hosted one of their meals at Flavors.”

Scotch & Soda
121 West Central Avenue

“Scotch & Soda is a great bar in the square. They have a really good cocktail menu with some fancy stuff, but I think one of my favorite things—especially for [food-and-beverage] industry folks, who work late—is a beer and a shot for five dollars. We don’t have a lot of dive bars around here, so this is special.” 

A Fizzy Lifter, one of Scotch & Soda’s “fancier” offerings.

801 Southeast 8th Street, Suite 41

“The Rios family started with a farm in Northwest Arkansas, then they had a food truck, and now they’ve moved to brick and mortar. The focus is on Yucatán food, but they have traditional dishes people recognize. I love their pozole, their tacos, their lengua. They grow a lot of their own stuff, plus [the restaurant is] run by amazing people. I can’t say enough good things about it.” 

Enchiladas at Yeyo’s.

Onyx Coffee Lab
100 Northwest 2nd Street, Suite 106

“Onyx is one of the best coffee shops I’ve ever been to. It’s won national awards, and they roast beans for [the Hive]. This is one of the places where you feel like it could thrive in any city in the U.S., not just a small town in Arkansas.” 

Inside Onyx Coffee Lab in downtown Bentonville.