By Wayne Bell
I recently sat down for a business dinner at the delicious Chloe. The halibut was wonderful and the risotto was some of the best I’ve ever had. When I received my bill, I noticed the ease with which my dinner colleagues slapped down their credit cards in sharp contrast to the fear with which I reluctantly put down mine. It’s at times like these that the great contrast between business professionals and young business professionals is at its most evident.
With the number of college graduates and transplanted yuppies on the rise in Fayetteville, you would think that there would be a plethora of reasonably priced dining, shopping and recreational activities. However, pick up a copy of any of the local magazines and all you see are reviews and stories about the outstanding galas, balls and restaurants in the area. The young earner has been largely ignored.
Therefore, in an attempt to prove that you don’t have to be hugely successful (like those people in that one magazine at gala after gala after gala) to have a great time in NWA, I’m taking a page from Rachel Ray (my secret guilty pleasure). It is my mission to have the perfect weekend in Fayetteville (including meals, drinks, shopping and recreation) all for under 100 bucks.
Can it be done without starving for culture, taste and experience?
My friends say no. I’ll give my beloved Fayetteville more credit and simply say…let’s try.
FRIDAY (5 PM…Off work)
There is really nothing better in life than relishing a great new restaurant. In greater Fayetteville, we have seen our fair share of great eateries come and go. Some have closed due to poor management; some have closed due to poor location, while others have closed because of lack of interest. Either way, it makes the notion of going to a fairly new restaurant a bit shaky. That is until you walk into the awesome Wasabi on Dickson Street.
Covered in trendy lime green paint, lime green furniture and lime green tables, you might think this place is overkill. However, the hot newish restaurant is a fantastic spot to start any weekend. Plus, the beautiful newly open patio is an escape from Lime green-ism. The menu offers a variety of moderately priced sushi and teriyaki items. For my meal I choose a classic–the California roll. I think Wasabi has the best one in town. Perfect rice rolled with avocado and tender crab. Dipping this delight in soy sauce and well, wasabi, is perfection. I paired my roll with an order of edamame and some soothing hot tea. This patio location on Dickson Street is really the perfect way to start the weekend and enjoy a great Northwest Arkansas Sunset.
Damage: $9.27. Remaining: $90.73.
When I left Wasabi, I strolled over to Dickson Street Bookshop. Let me preface by saying that I could spend an entire day in this oasis. However, tonight I killed just over an hour. With its endless rooms, top to bottom selection, and awesome finds, it truly is a paradise in the middle of Dickson Street. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Dickson Street Bookshop has been open about as long as some of the chains, and yet the books have so much more life and personality. You could get lost in the winding rooms but my eye took me to some vintage magazine prints that were well over 40 years old. These prints could easily go for well over $30 dollars each on eBay.
At DSB, I picked up four prints for $4. Remaining: $ 86.73.
One of my great budget saving tips is to enjoy the experience without the price. A trendy meal at Bordinos or Theo’s could really set you back. However, you can enjoy a fantastic evening at one of these eateries without breaking the bank.
To cap off my perfect Friday night, I strolled over to Bordinos and sat in the plush bar area and enjoyed some great local musicians. For the price of a drink, I could enjoy a great evening of music and all the ambience of this Fayetteville treasure, without dropping fifty bucks.
My night cap: $5.25. Remaining: $81.48.
ON TO SATURDAY
I’ll tell the truth—if someone put a gun to my head and asked me to pick a favorite restaurant, favorite location, favorite people-watching spot, favorite bakery, favorite amateur art gallery, favorite coffeehouse, favorite reading spot, favorite everything in Fayetteville, only four words would be required to answer all those questions: La Maison Des Tartes.
On any given Saturday morning you will find me there reading over my “New York” or “Vogue.” Why? Simply put, this is my favorite place in Fayetteville. The thing is…everyone else is catching on. Lately, it has been full of people crowding around the dining room. It’s so comforting to sit down with a pastry and see owner and chef Vince come around and greet every guest with a hug or a handshake.
The clientele has turned into a great mix of local parents with kids on the way to the library and beautiful singles starting off their Saturday. Mark my words: The beautiful people are here on Saturday. I don’t just mean physically, I mean the people who are reading and talking about politics and art and music.
Every time I leave, I always think…wow…one day Mr. Right will be in there! Until then, I can enjoy the scrumptious treats that Vince prepares. My favorite is the Dried Fruit tart with a mug of “it’s like crack” coffee. I have seen people line up for 30 minutes to get it. On this particular day, I sat down with mine in my corner table and pondered my day.
My cost: $4.47. Remaining: $77.01. (P.S. the Salmon and Lentils at lunch are amazing).
Perhaps the greatest thing about spring, summer and fall in Fayetteville is the Farmer’s Market. There’s nothing quite like enjoying the live music while strolling the block looking at all the fresh produce and flowers. I’m one of those people who has to do it three or four times to select the perfect purchase. The other thing that really makes me love the Farmers Market is the amount of talented craftsmen that have been setting up camp on the square in the past two years. I can spend hours enjoying the sounds, smells, tastes and spirit that is alive and well there. That day, I had a handful of fresh fruit and ate on it for a bit and just enjoyed the slowing down of life. In Northwest Arkansas we spend a great deal of time on 1-540 and fighting the various malls, shopping centers and grocery giants traffic nightmares. It’s nice to have something to unwind with…something as special as the Farmers Market.
My cost: a whopping $2.25, PRICELESS. REMAINING: $74.76
After I finished the market, I made a beeline for some of my other favorite locations the Square and up and down East Street. My favorite shops: Masons and French Metro. When I finished, I had worked up quite an appetite. I went to another great new restaurant that’s been getting a lot of buzz since it opened last summer: Greenhouse Grille.
Greenhouse Grille does something rather miraculous. They have somehow taken the organic menu that often results in either bland food or over seasoned food found at many similar restaurants and have made it delightful.
The décor at Greenhouse is really charming and the notion that you are actually eating something that is good for you is cool. Plus, the food is awesome. I have had everything from the Shrimp Pasta to the Vegetable Kabobs to the Rosemary Chicken Breast. For this particular day I selected the warm and robust Tomato Pesto Soup and the Free Range Chicken Sandwich. The sandwich is served on toasted bread with a creamy avocado sauce and hickory smoked bacon. I’ll say it—Free Range Chicken just tastes better! It’s true.
The entire meal left me full and satisfied. I had no room for any one of their great desserts.
My damage report for this huge meal was around 16 bucks. Worth every penny. That puts me right at $58.76 for the rest of my weekend.
Okay, I have a big secret. When people ask me where I shop, I tell them at Nordstrom or Saks or another online retailer. And although I do frequent those places—damn that credit card debt!—my favorite little shop in Fayetteville is one by the name of Cheap Thrills. Resale shopping can be a bit daunting, even for a pro, but Cheap Thrills is a great experience for anyone who has a little time to invest. I have been fortunate enough to find amazing stuff from Michael Kors, Lacoste, Proenza Schouler and on this particular day, my favorite of them all, Marc Jacobs. I could have easily spent well over $300 on the lightweight spring sweater I got at Cheap Thrills. However, my find ran me all of $11.17, taking my grand remaining balance to $47.59.
One thing that always surprises me about Fayetteville is our truly amazing public library. With its vast wealth of magazines, books, film and music, you could easily spend two hours there as I did. It is in my humble opinion that the Fayetteville Public Library rivals some of the larger libraries around the country. From its beautiful architecture to its knowledgeable staff, the library is a real treat for guests and residents alike. I make an effort to go in the late afternoon. Saturday mornings there can be a bit much when covered in children; however I would be hard pressed to think of a better way to spend a leisurely Saturday afternoon.
As the sun was setting, I had a hankering for a Fayetteville tradition. My sister-in-law went to the University of Arkansas in the mid ‘80s and many of her stories revolve around memories she has from Hugo’s. When I think back to my college years, Hugo’s played a big role in that time in my life as well. There’s something extremely comforting about going into what my mother lovingly calls a “dive” and enjoying a burger, some fries or even the decadent cheese plate. I always get the same thing when I go to Hugo’s. It is my belief that they have the best salad in Northwest Arkansas. I’m a huge fan of the special chef’s salad with blackened chicken. It’s covered in blue cheese, bacon, avocado, cucumbers, sprouts and mushrooms. Pair that salad with Hugo’s famous Beer-Cheese soup and you have the makings of one fantastic dinner. This entire meal (with drink) will set you back 15 bucks. That brings me to $32.59 remaining.
Speaking of college memories, I have fond memories of sneaking out of class with my friends Randy and Amanda and going down to Jose’s for a margarita. My favorite (and I think it’s the best anywhere) is the Swirl Margarita, half sweet Sangria, half salty margarita. Late spring and summer are the best times to relish the Jose’s Streetside experience. One of my favorite things to do is watch the sun set on Dickson from Jose’s patio. Pair a Swirl Margarita with some chips and salsa, and you get a great end cap for less than 8 bucks. But since it was a busy day, well, I had two (or maybe three) which left me with a whopping $16.59.
SUNDAY and Tomorrow is Monday!!!
I start every Sunday at the Unitarian Service on Cleveland Street. However, it doesn’t really matter what church you go to, or don’t go to. At about 11 a.m. everyone gets the same idea: Common Grounds. Going to Common Grounds on a Sunday morning has become very popular. I spend tons of evenings enjoying the patio at CG, but there’s something very special about Sunday brunch there. First off, they extend their diverse breakfast menu to at least 1 p.m. They welcome a big cross section of Fayettevillians, and have live music in the form of a trendy DJ. Free music to go along with Sunday Brunch! For this day, I opted for the homemade granola with fresh fruit and the bottomless coffee. I was being really good until I noticed their amazing looking Bloody Marys and Mimosas. I chose the orange Sunday Brunch staple and found it to be the perfect mix of orange juice and champagne.
To work off my brunch and take some time to wrap up my weekend, I decided to visit Wilson Park. There is something really awesome about Wilson Park and it’s often hard to explain to people who don’t live here. I love the fact that on any beautiful afternoon, the park is crawling with a huge blend of different types of peoples from single college kids to couples walking with their strollers. I know that there are bigger and newer parks in Arkansas, but I would challenge any one of them to match the class and character of Wilson Park. There are tennis courts, a fantastic pool, a beautiful walking path and of course “the castle.” Wilson Park was the perfect way to end my weekend and gear up for another week in the business world. Ugh.
As I was pondering this article on Monday morning, I began to realize how sappy it could appear. Some people could argue that I was looking at Fayetteville through rose-colored glasses. And to the critics I would say: I don’t care!
In the process of writing this article, I began to realize that my hidden agenda was coming out. I had cleverly hidden my desire to write a love letter to my beloved Fayetteville in an article about budget.
I questioned my intentions and if I’d met the goals I stated earlier. And then I realized how inspiring it truly was that you could have an amazing time in Fayetteville, no matter what your budget.
I go to those fu-fu galas from time to time. I love Theo’s and Chloe as much as the next guy. I relish the chance to see a full production at the impressive Walton Arts Center. But in the end, behind the sap, I hope you realize that you can have both worlds. You can have the galas and shows, and you can also fill an entire weekend on a limited budget. I’m not sure you could say that about many cities, but again, maybe I’m a bit partial.
Oh, by the way. You are probably wondering if I made my goal. Well, I won’t give it all away, but I will say that come next Saturday, I can get my coffee, tart and even a cookie or two at La Maison des Tartes and I won’t even have to revisit the ATM. But then again, I never expected anything less from my— our —Fayetteville!