Last Friday, I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek of 21c Museum Hotel, opening this month in Bentonville. Museum Hotel, you ask? Yes, it is foremost a museum of contemporary art and then also happens to be a hotel and restaurant.
The contemporary art found throughout the building is intriguing, whimsical and sometimes astonishing in its intricacy. The décor is crisp and comfortable, letting the art “pop.” The hotel is scheduled to open to the public on Feb. 11, and hotel reservations are available for Feb. 12 and beyond online now. But I’ll have a future blog on all of that, for now let’s talk about The Hive restaurant that just opened inside 21c Bentonville.
The Hive opened Monday under the direction of executive chef and Arkansas native Matthew McClure. The Hive emphasizes the unique culinary identity of the state while articulating McClure’s approach to refined country cuisine. Since I haven’t had a chance to eat there yet, I’ll let 21c speak for itself; although, I am making a reservation for this week.
According to a press release, “Moving back to Arkansas six years ago gave me the opportunity to reconnect with the ingredients and food culture of my childhood, things like black walnuts and sweet onions,” McClure says. “The menu is my take on the foods and ways of cooking that are familiar to this region. For example, we are doing a lot of pickling and preserving, making jam, and sourcing whole animals whenever possible.”
The Hive is open nightly for dinner. Hours Sunday through Thursday are 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Breakfast, lunch and brunch will be available in the future.
McClure’s menu stays true to the cuisine of the High South and highlights the region’s local purveyors and farmers. Appetizers include: house-made Pimento Cheese, served with bacon jam and toasted white bread; Crispy Chicken Livers marinated in buttermilk and pan-fried; and Pickled Shrimp, accompanied by salt-cured country ham, mustard greens, and crispy cornbread.
“The savory portion of the menu continues with a selection of main courses including Rabbit and Dumplings, braised rabbit served alongside house-made potato gnocchi and roasted mushrooms with parsley, almonds and lemon zest; Ham-brined Pork Chop on top of sweet potato puree, braised greens, and pecan relish; Aleppo Pepper Panisse served with roasted root vegetables, braised fennel and mushroom gravy; and Roasted Local Chicken with farro, grilled cabbage, citrus and chicken gravy. A selection of side dishes rounds out the savory portion of the menu and includes Local War Eagle Organic Grits with mascarpone cheese and Braised Greens, an assortment of mustard greens, collard greens, turnips, and kale braised with onion, bacon, brown sugar, and cider vinegar.
“The Hive will soon offer a bar menu with dishes such as Salt and Pepper Ox Ribs, marinated in soy and chilies and served with spicy young salad greens and cornbread; Pickled Egg Salad with toasted bread; and The Hive Burger, a house-ground brisket burger with pickles, pimento cheese, and house-made French fries.
“The menu concludes with a selection of desserts, including Chocolate Custard with caramelized bananas, roasted banana ice cream and peanut crumble; a classic Pecan Pie with buttermilk ice cream; and a selection of house-made ice creams and sorbets that highlight the region’s local ingredients and rotate seasonally.
“The beverage program places a strong emphasis on bourbon and rye with over 30 varieties of bourbon and 12 ryes, paying homage to the original 21c Museum Hotel’s Kentucky roots. Cocktails will rotate seasonally with drinks such as Arkansawyer with gin, lemon, house-made ginger syrup and lavender; Little Lion Man, with mezcal, cardamom tincture drops, house-made honey syrup, and lemon; and the Corporate Manhattan, a take on the classic Manhattan served with Luxardo cherries. There is also a variety of regional beers on the menu, including selections from Diamond Bear Brewing, an award-winning brewery in Little Rock, AR; Missouri-based brewery Boulevard Brewing Co.; and Marshall Brewing, a brewery local to Tulsa, OK. A selection of biodynamic wines completes the beverage menu and mirrors McClure’s passion for celebrating unique terroir.
“The Hive was designed by New York-based Deborah Berke Partners as a communal gathering place for diners to meet and connect with one other in Bentonville. Polished concrete floors, neutral walls, and natural light create an open and welcoming environment in the 125-seat main dining room furnished with light woods, a white, glazed-brick bar face, and a bar top made of Carthage Marble, a limestone produced in the region. The Chef’s Pantry, which features a 10-seat, counter-height table, six seats at the pass with full vantage of the kitchen, and three additional counter-height tables, offers an intimate and personalized dining experience. Terra cotta tiles line the floor, and the pantry is furnished with a selection of jarred house-made pickles, coffee beans, and other provisions. A 32-seat private dining room overlooks Tree of 40 Fruits, an artwork by Sam Van Aken commissioned for the restaurant’s interior courtyard. The fruit tree, an allegorical sculpture that represents potential and growth, will grow 40 varieties of stone fruits throughout the year.
“Chef Matthew McClure was born and raised in Little Rock, where he realized his passion for food. After studying at the New England Culinary Institute, McClure settled in Boston and worked at a number of restaurants including No. 9 Park under the direction of Barbara Lynch, Troquet and Harvest. After years in Boston, the lure of his home was strong and McClure returned to Little Rock, where he worked under chef Lee Richardson at Ashley’s at the Capital Hotel.”
The Hive restaurant is located in the 21c Museum Hotel, at 200 NE A Street in Bentonville. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 479-286-6575.