EATS & DRINKS
Burg der Gustropub
The region’s very first German-style gastropub features pub fare with a High South twist
By Case Dighero
Photos by Meredith Mashburn
Rob Nelson is more than just a celebrity chef. He is an advocate for the community and for a style of cuisine that he has become synonymous with over the last 10 years: High South.
I spot Rob for the first time in nearly eight months through a display kitchen in his latest culinary venture, Burg der Gustropub. He is working the busy line in an apron, surgical mask and signature Razorback cap turned backward.
His speed is aligned with zest and accuracy, and his attentive staff steps in to assist at just the right moments. This kitchen dance is a thing of beauty, and Rob doesn’t miss a beat.
Burg der Gustropub opened in the midst of the pandemic with a fast, casual and from-scratch concept that was downshifted from, but is no less important than, his flagship Tusk and Trotter restaurant in downtown Bentonville.
“Gustropub” is Rob’s adaptation of the modern-day gastropub – a hybrid pub, bar or restaurant notable for serving alcoholic drinks and food. The moniker ‘gustropub’ is suspect to me, and as Rob later reveals, is a completely made-up word. His idea of ‘Burg’ is right on the money, though – signifying a home, city or castle.
There’s no doubt the name is intentional in the way that it captures Rob’s laser-beam focus on locale with a taste of royal whimsy. This is precisely why his reputation for genuine talent and hard work that’s steeped in Arkansas humility is so appealing – both locally and nationally.
Rob has embarked on a culinary odyssey of sorts since opening Tusk and Trotter nearly ten years ago, and Burg der Gustropub is the next stop on an already exciting adventure. He first made a name for himself through his various successes working with the James Beard House in New York City and the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival in Georgia. He also spent time cooking alongside important chef friends and contemporaries such as Digby Stridiron, Asha Gomez and Tank Jackson, to name a few.
At Burg der Gustropub, there’s a distinct European and German backbone to the new restaurant that is dressed up in Rob’s signature High South style. The “Snacks” portion of the menu contains a number of gems such as Lil’ Devils, his version of classic deviled eggs embellished with green tomato relish, as well as the phenomenal Obatzda, with a traditional Bavarian cheese spread that’s elevated with beer, brie and green tomato relish. Other snack staples include a mouthwatering Meat and Cheese Board that boasts bratwurst, homemade braunschweiger, gouda, obatzda and High South ham.
My favorite from this section of the menu is the Chicken Wings – twice cooked, embellished with BBQ rub and served alongside homemade sauerkraut and his signature Yard Bird dipping sauce. Rendering a marvelous “pop” and “spray” of flavor, these wings are undeniably the best, most delicious and interesting chicken wing experience in all of Bentonville.
The “Handheld” section of the menu boasts a gorgeous Gustro Burger, devised as a smash-style beef patty, stratified with pungent obatzda, thick bacon and mustard on a cushiony pretzel bun – a must for burger aficionados; a plant-based Beyond Burger that is manipulated for vegetarians in a way that only Rob could do; and a delectable Schnitzel Club layered with buttery Texas Toast pressed against breaded pork loin cutlets, bacon, spinach, gouda and a cheese spread with tomato relish. I adore this complex sandwich that is somehow simultaneously creamy, crunchy and completely satisfying.
For those of us with a true love of pork, Chef Rob has designed a brasserie archetype called the High South Ham and Frankfurter Sandwich that features house cured ham positioned with a plump German-style frankfurter, green tomato relish, braunschweiger, spinach and Texas toast. Take my word for it – this sandwich is nothing short of extraordinary.
Indeed, the spirit behind Chef Rob Nelson’s food — whether presented on paper plates at Burg Der Gustropub or on fine china at the Beard House in Manhattan — evokes a natural state of mind that makes us happy to climb aboard and experience his exciting and delectable culinary odyssey.
Burg Der Gustropub shares its open and inviting space with Bentonville Brewing Company, so there is no shortage of brew pairings just a few steps away. I am particularly fond of the Salted Cherry Sour Gose that is salty, sweet and sour enough to evoke more than just a gentle pucker to the cheeks.
The two entities are perfect for each another, a craft brewery offering German-style beers nestled against a German-inspired restaurant go together like, well... beer and brats. I especially love the large outdoor patio area that is perfect for imbibing and snacking (and social distancing) as the cool, crisp October weather returns.