Date: November 1, 2023 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Bailey Dougan |
In Northwest Arkansas, flourishing food and cycling scenes entice visitors and residents alike
When taking a break from the kitchen, some folks tend to choose to eat at the same restaurants over and over again, ordering their tried-and-true usual. Joseph Nguyen is not one of those people. His Instagram page, Hangry Pedaler NWA (@hangrypedalernwa), is filled with squares featuring eats around the region, from elevated meals at Fayetteville’s Atlas The Restaurant to bites from the food stalls at Bentonville’s 8th Street Market. He’s always on the hunt for new food experiences, and he started Hangry Pedaler NWA at the encouragement of friends who recognized that his posts might be a resource to those living in or visiting the area.“I love the variety of different ethnic foods that are popping up everywhere around here, especially in downtown Rogers,” he says, listing Southeast Asian restaurant House 1830, Cuban spot Havana Tropical Grill, and The 120 Tapas Bar as current go-tos. Having lived in the area for 25 years, he credits the growth of the region as a whole for the ever-expanding choice of restaurants. “It’s becoming more diverse because there’s a lot of people moving in for Walmart from other big cities, and they’re used to having a ramen shop on every corner. It’s great to have a really good food scene thanks to that,” he says.
Hangry Pedaler NWA might have started as a resource for others, but Joseph’s followers now determine his next night out. “My inbox is full every single day,” he says. “There are always people giving me ideas of where to eat, because they know I’m always looking for the newest thing.”
While “hangry” in Joseph’s online moniker speaks to his identity as a foodie, “pedaler” is a nod to one of his other passions: cycling. He picked up the bike about six years ago while searching for a type of exercise that would stick. “I tried running, but I
hated it. I just couldn’t do it,” he laughs. “And at that time, the cycling scene here was getting pretty big, especially with the [Razorback] Greenway being completed. I got a bike and fell in love.”
Beginning in Fayetteville and extending north to Bella Vista, the Razorback Greenway is 40 miles of trail system that winds its way through the communities in between. Having now traveled out of state for cycling events, Joseph says he’s “spoiled” to live in a region with such great opportunities for his hobby. “Even my friends from Dallas vacation here just to ride their bikes,” he says. “They’re always telling me, You don’t know how lucky you have it living in Northwest Arkansas.”
Whether he’s checking out a new restaurant on the Bentonville Square or riding the trails at Slaughter Pen, Joseph says he’s constantly meeting people from all over—more indication that the area is growing. “Especially when I’m cycling, almost everybody there is from somewhere else,” he says. For those out-of-towners, one of his go-to restaurant recommendations is Conifer, a gluten-free eatery by notable chef Matthew Cooper. As an ambassador for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and The Momentary, he’s also keeping tabs on The Mo’s Tastemakers series, which offers culinary programming. “That’s one of the things I love about this area, is that places like The Momentary are not afraid to bring in up-and-coming chefs and try something different,” he says, citing visits by James Beard Award finalist Jeff Chanchaleune and fermentation specialist Jessica Wang as memorable examples. “I just love that this area is trying new things.” Read on for more of our favorite ways to discover Bentonville and Rogers.
With locations in Bentonville and Rogers and racks of beloved brands such as Free People, Rails, and Show Me Your Mumu, Label (shopatlabel.com) is a must-visit for on-trend women’s fashion and accessories. To outfit your look with the finest jewelry, make a private appointment at Romance Diamond Co. Jewelers (romancediamond.com) in Rogers. Mark your calendar for Christmas on the Creeks, an afternoon shopping event November 25 at Village on the Creeks (villageonthecreeks.com) in Rogers; here, you can enjoy visits with Santa while checking out the center’s many retail offerings.
In Bentonville, Bar Cleeta (barcleeta.com) offers an elevated atmosphere for enjoying craft cocktails and small plates based on fresh, seasonal ingredients. In Rogers, Nola’s Pantry (nolaspantry.com) is a cafe and specialty food shop specializing in small-batch items, bulk spices, and local goods. Their menu lists breakfast favorites, salads, grain bowls, sandwiches, plus a wide selection of coffee, wine, and beer. Stop by Havana Tropical Grill (havanatropicalgrillnwa.com) for a taste of Cuban flavor, including tamales, ceviche, Cubanos, and more.
Mixd Gallery’s (mixd.gallery) mission is to promote creative collaboration, start interesting dialogues, and—most importantly—celebrate the work of artists across the state. Their current exhibit, “Drop 004: By Design,” embraces the intersection of art and design and is on view at the Rogers gallery through December 1. At Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (crystalbridges.com), “Annie Leibovitz at Work,” a collection of the photographer’s portraits, is on view through January 29.