"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.”
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."