Downtown Bentonville continues to develop with restaurant options

by The City Wire staff ( 106 views 

Investors continue to pour money into dining venues for downtown Bentonville, an area that hosts an estimated 500,000 visitors annually. 

Kalene Griffith, director for Visit Bentonville, predicts the city will see between six and eight new restaurant openings this year bringing more world-class chefs to the region. First up are four new culinary venues in the city’s downtown and market districts.

Ramo d’Olivo, a new olive oil, vinegar and wine bar, has opened on the square in downtown Bentonville, at 217 S. Main St. This is retail / wine bar that offers patrons to taste and test their selections of olive oils and vinegar before purchasing them. The store also offers a wine bar where patrons will find a wide variety of domestic and imported wines from Argentina, Italy and California vineyards, according to a press release from owners Laura Brown and Tom Gheen.

The fresh olive oil originates from central and northern California. The vinegar is also made from organically grown fruit from central California. The store also features the 25-year-old Star Balsamic which is cultivated from the Trebbiano grape grown in Modena, Italy, according to the news release. 

It’s the second olive oil and vinegar tasting room to open in recent months, on the heels of Old World Imports, 203 N. College Ave., in Fayetteville.

Barry Furuseth said he plans to open his Fresh Seafood Market on April 14 where he will feature fresh catches daily, flown in from Northwest and the Northeast. The seafood will be on its way to Bentonville within 10 to 12 hours after it comes out of the water, Furuseth has said.

The market opening has been pushed back from mid-February as previously reported, but is on track for a mid-April launch, according to Furuseth.

Among his offerings will be live lobsters kept in a tank where water temperature remains at 37 degrees Fahrenheit; oysters, wild sockeye salmon and king salmon from Seattle; Dungeness crab from British Columbia; shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico; and grouper from Florida.

The store will also feature of 350-gallon tank of catfish from southeast Arkansas and cedar boxes lined with stainless steel filled with crawfish. Plans include a small café next to the retail counter where patrons may order a variety of fish dishes for take out or eat in. Long range plans include a restaurant, with a seating capacity for 150, which will be built next to the market with a target opening date of late summer. Patrick Mosher is the executive chef, backed by his experience at Gladstone’s in Los Angeles and Nobu in Aspen.

Fursuseth signed a 15-year lease-to-purchase option but will spend roughly $700,000 opening and expanding the fresh seafood market. His partner in the venture is is Ed Harizin of Los Angeles. 

In mid-April, Oven and Tap, a new restaurant combining the culture of southern Italy with the southern culture of the U.S., at 215 S. Main St., and the Fresh Seafood Market at 607 S.E. Fifth St., in the new Market District.

A large brick oven with stone made in Italy and assembled in California is the focal point of Oven and Tap, also opening mid-Aptil at 215 S. Main St., said Mollie Mullis, who has partnered with Luke Wetzel and Cash East to own and operate the new restaurant with a seating capacity of 93.

Braised meats, vegetables and “all sorts of things” will be served from the oven, Mullis said. She described the atmosphere and menu as a merging of cultures of southern Italy with the southern U.S. The menu will feature locally sourced food whenever possible.

The bar area will feature wines, coffees, cocktails and craft beer on tap. The staff of up to about 25 will be educated about the drinks to help patrons enjoy their experience at the restaurant. The restaurant will offer Onyx Coffee, roasted in Fayetteville. The business will start with a dinner service and move into lunch and brunch at a later date.

“We want to showcase producers in the area and give farmers a face, she said.

The Belfry Restaurant and Old 71 Club is slated to open this summer and has recruited Mike Robertshaw, a popular chef from Seattle, to downtown Bentonville. The Belfry will be located in a 111-year-old church about two blocks west of the square.

Investors operating as the RopeSwing Group came together to save the building and turn it into another dining option. Rob Apple is heading the massive renovations on the multilevel building. Chef Matt Cooper from Little Rock Cache Restaurant and Robertshaw were recruited to the RopeSwing Group to head up the culinary unit of the new restaurant and club.

In keeping with the “High South Cuisine” movement, the Belfry will focus on clean, fresh and local food, some of which will be grown in an edible garden on site. The group is retrofitting the basement to become club catering to late night eats and entertainment.

Senero LLC that purchased the historic church in May 2010 for $425,000, according to the county records. Renovations on the building are expected to top $425,000 based on permit info obtained from the city.

Also, Paul Esterer, executive manager of Newmark Grubb Arkansas, said he is continuing to find investors for two additional properties in the Market District of Bentonville.

The former Tyson Foods plant, directly across the street from the Fresh Seafood Market and the Ice House, and the old Kraft cheese plant are the two large industrial facilities in the heart of the Market District. More definite plans will be revealed in the coming months, Esterer said.