We’re back, continuing along our travel adventures in Bentonville, Ark. This time around, we’re delving into the city’s wide range of taste-bud-tempting epicurean options.

Good ‘Que

On our first night while driving along South Walton, the main drag through town, we spied Smokin’ Joe’s Ribhouse, its eye-catching neon sign enticing us to pull over.

Inside we found an immaculately clean, spacious dining room with several flat-screen TVs, decorated in stark white with vibrant crimson accent hues and peppered with Route 66 signs and train replicas everywhere you looked.

It might take you a while to decide what to have, the menu is so extensive, ranging from barbecue plates to ribs, smoked prime, rib, barbecue and combo sandwiches, specialty sandwiches and more. There are also several unique items like barbecue burritos, ‘shroom dogs, pulled pork dip and muffulettas, as well as nine different types of “burgers and such.”

True to its name, Smokin’ Joe’s is known for ribs–big, meaty, succulent and fall-off-the-bone tender. Diners have the option of three homemade sauces–country style, KC style and “Not So Hot Spicy.”

As far as the sides, the wild beans are delicious–tender pinto beans swimming in a rich, flavorful sauce with mild sausage pieces. The baked beans are tinged with a nice hint of spice, and of the sweet onion rings, my tween said they were “to die for.” Fried okra or squash, green beans, Cajun rice and mashed potatoes with gravy are among the other tagalongs. And then there were the sizeable, fluffy dinner rolls that reminded me of the delicious, buttery, homemade versions grandma used to make for holiday dinners!

The portions here–they also have two other locations in town–are sumptuous, the dishes are finger-licking worthy and the service is great, which makes for an outstanding overall dining experience.

Reel ’em in!

If I lived closer to Bentonville, I know I would be spending a lot of time eating at Flying Fish, located just two blocks off the downtown square. The joint is a sensory sensation with its lengthy “Liar’s Wall of Fame,” chock-full of photos of customers with quotes of their fictional “fish tales,” lime green walls with neon signs and humungous fabricated fish.

The menu board–hoisted high above the flurry of activity at the front order counter–encompasses so many lip-smacking items from which to choose that it’s a good thing there is usually a line that snakes through the homey screen door, through the indoor-outdoor front patio and spilling out and down the sidewalk outside. They do gangbusters business and don’t take reservations, but the food and ambiance here are definitely worth the often-long wait.

The food here is amazing, and they offer just about every kind of salad, basket and grilled and boiled plate that you can imagine: grilled salads with salmon, shrimp, tilapia, chicken and catfish; fried salads with oysters, catfish, chicken and shrimp; boiled platters featuring snow crab legs, mud bugs and chilled and hot boiled shrimp; fish tacos and snapper Veracruz, the latter a fried red snapper served with rice and veggies and topped with Veracruz sauce; grilled plates with grouper, oysters on the half shell, salmon filets, barbecue shrimp, rainbow trout; and lots of “Poor Boy Loafs.”

Most everything comes with fries and hushpuppies, and there are a bevy of “additions” as well–pickled green tomatoes, red beans and rice, new potatoes and grilled squash and zucchini, just to name a few.

Although Flying Fish is a chain with other locations in Little Rock, Memphis and several cities in Texas, it still feels like a hometown place where both employees and guests greet each other like friends and family.

Other great places to eat around and within a few blocks walk of the square in this very vibrant dining scene include the Station Cafe, a very casual, family-oriented place and the oldest restaurant in downtown Bentonville, known primarily for its award-winning steak burgers.

Great Latin cuisine with a contemporary twist is served at Table Mesa Bistro, while Tavola Trattoria is popular for its “soul-satisfying riffs on Italian and Mediterranean cooking.” At the Tusk and Trotter American Brasserie, the focus is on sophisticated yet casual meals encompassing Southern favorite, California cuisine, pub fare and James Beard Prix Fixe Menus with a heavy emphasis on using locally sourced produce and ingredients.

Other places to get your foodie fix on in and around town are Fred’s Hickory Inn, Shogun Hibachi Grill, Hapa’s Hawaiian Grill, Bistro 301, Jim’s Razorback Pizza, Beef O’Brady’s, Zary’s Acropolis, Taste of Thai II and many, many others.

The nice thing about dining in Bentonville is that even though some of the restaurants serve mature gastronomic menu options, a great majority of their patrons are families, which lends to the neighborly aspect of the city and area. Likewise, the proprietors are more than happy to “child-tone-down” entrees to suit their tastes.

Next up: day trippin’ in and around Bentonville.

Lysa Allman-Baldwin writes for numerous online and print publications, including as the cultural travel writer for www.Examiner.com and as a senior travel writer for

SoulOfAmerica.com, an Afrocentric travel website. Lysa can be reached at lallmanbaldwin@kc.rr.com.

Resource List

  • Bentonville Convention & Visitors Bureau: 479-271-9153, www.bentonville.org
  • Flying Fish: 479-657-6300, www.flyingfishinthe.net/Bentonville.php
  • Station Cafe: 479-273-0553
  • Shogun Hibachi Grill: http://shogunbentonville.com/index.php
  • Smokin’ Joe’s Ribhouse: 479-254-8383
  • Table Mesa Bistro: 479-715-6706, www.table-mesabistro.com/enter.html
  • Tavola Trattoria: 479-715-4738, www.tavolatrattoria.com/home.html
  • Tusk and Trotter: 479-268-4494, www.tusk-andtrotter.com