We have some incredible restaurants in Central Arkansas, but other parts of the state boast very fine dining as well. On a recent trip to Northwest Arkansas, I decided to try the restaurant everyone was buzzing about, The Hive. Located inside Hotel 21c, this clean and modern restaurant is a great addition to the revitalization of downtown Bentonville. Before booking a large table for brunch, my dining companion called ahead to make sure The Hive could accommodate a vegan. We were assured that they could.

Our group was seated at a long table directly in front of the open kitchen. We had a lovely view of the beautiful interior of the restaurant, complete with giant green birds placed at unsuspecting tables by the wait staff. Apparently, this is a common theme of the hotel, but it was slightly creepy, especially to a table of 30 somethings. Had we had some toddlers in our mix, the birds might have been a delight. As it were, they just seemed to be staring at our plates, hoping we would turn our backs so they could steal our twelve dollar cocktails.

When our waiter arrived, I asked him about vegan options. He explained the items on the brunch menu that were vegan or could be made as such, the gazpacho, a few salads, but he quickly suggested that he talk to the chef and see what they could come up with. He returned shortly to suggest a chickpea panisse with seasonal vegetables, an item similar to one they had for dinner. This sounded great, so I ordered that and the gazpacho to start.

As it was the height of the summer, the gazpacho was a bright and beautiful bowl of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers with a drizzle of olive oil on top. The soup was light and completely smooth, which is something I always look for in a gazpacho. It should be blended, because otherwise, you’re just eating a bowl of salsa. The flavors were fresh and complementary, and it was the perfect start to brunch. When my panisse arrived, it was a love dish of pan-fried blended chickpeas, divided into two large slabs and topped with a smoky mix of lettuce and okra. As I was unfamiliar with what a panisse was before ordering my dish, I did not know that it’s typically a Southern French concoction of fries made out of chickpeas instead of potatoes. The dish served at The Hive was not similar to fries, but it was better in slab form in my opinion. The panisse formed a sturdy base to hold up the seasonal veggies on top, which were cooked perfectly.

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All of the ingredients were handled with care, and the meal was very tasty. The price point is the only thing I would have reservations about when recommending The Hive. It’s good, and the portions are large for such a fine dining establishment, but the cost seems slightly inflated. There are many places in Central Arkansas doing food just as well for far cheaper. Part of the price, however, is the ambiance. So, if you find yourself in Northwest Arkansas, and you want to have an upscale dining experience in the company of large green birds, then look no further than The Hive.