EATS & DRINKS

Arsaga's Mill District

481 S. School Ave., Fayetteville | (479) 287-6749 | www.arsagasmilldistrict.com

By Case Dighero | Photos by Meredith Mashburn

Arsaga’s coffee shops have become a staple in the culinary and cultural landscape of Northwest Arkansas. Their iconic locales have peppered our consciousness for over a generation, starting with a coffee shop on Block Street in the early ‘90s.

 

Since then, Arsaga’s has evolved into a relevant force that includes a grab-and-go spot inside the Fayetteville Public Library and a fast-paced restaurant full of life, coffee and good food at The Depot on Dickson Street. The “Arsaga’s” name is indeed quintessentially Fayetteville, but it’s also intrinsically attached to altruism and quality. Its newest endeavor, Arsaga’s Mill District, is no exception.

 

Located on South School Avenue in the accomplished digs once home to other iconic culinary pillars, including Greenhouse Grille and La Maison des Tartes, the new Arsaga’s Mill District quietly opened in November 2020. Not only is it everything I hoped it would be in terms of food, it is also much more – primarily because of the great care taken to keep both staff and guests safe.  

 

Owners Cindy and Cary Arsaga took nearly two years to complete the launch, and it shows – not only in the dramatic renovation of both the interior and exterior of the building, but also in the philosophy of maximizing customer service during a time when personal interaction is limited. Not only is Arsaga’s Mill District one of the best restaurants in town, it’s also unequivocally one of the most pandemic safety compliant.

 

It offers online ordering and curbside pickup for folks who aren’t yet ready to visit a restaurant in person. Moreover, the decision to expand its indoor dining was not taken lightly. The Arsaga’s team devised a comprehensive plan that makes the inside experience almost entirely contactless. Seating is limited and arranged in two directions throughout the shop. Tableside digital orders are also available for those who prefer to order using a QR code in lieu of a face-to-face interaction.

 

All servers and staff don masks, and the only time guests are allowed to remove theirs is while they are seated at a table or after their drinks have arrived. Speaking of drinks, sparkling and still water options are presented to tables in large 20-ounce bottles in order to help cut back on the need to refill glasses.  

 

The interior has been dramatically redesigned to showcase an ergonomic, beautiful display kitchen and barista area – a move that is brilliantly functional for staff and wonderfully entertaining for patrons. 

 

Original works by regional artist Kathy P. Thompson adorn the walls beautifully, and a new liquor bar is an awe-inspiring addition to the space... well equipped for both indoor dining and its outdoor seating area. It also promises to be a prime destination for coffee lovers due to its close proximity to the Razorback Greenway and surrounding bike trails.  

 

Undoubtedly, this part of the city is being groomed as an important arts and entertainment hub for the next generation of residents, and I can’t help but think that the Arsaga’s Mill District is just the seed required to see that plan come to exciting fruition.

 

The menu, designed primarily by chef Patrick Lane, is a thing of beauty, incorporating smart, health-slanted cuisine with familiar comfort food. The Six-Piece Salad is a delicious, crunchy lunch item artfully composed of sweet potato, kale, marinated cabbage, hummus, shredded beets and spicy celery, then topped with peanuts and crunchy buckwheat. I love soup any time of the year, and the daily special offerings have been on point. Two recent standouts include a Spicy Tomato and a Broccoli Cheese Soup, both served with toasted sourdough bread.

 

The Mill District also offers sandwiches, po’ boys and burgers. My favorite from this category is by far the stratified Mufuletta that boasts house-made sesame focaccia layered with olive salad, salami, provolone, mortadella and chorizo with a bag of Zapp’s chips. There are several other New Orleans-inspired items on the menu, including a delicious Boudin Frittata that features rice and pork sausage, marinated cabbage folded into an herb frittata, finished with frisée salad and herb oil.

 

The menu is simultaneously ambitious and accessible, offering something for just about every diner. Vegetarians and health-minded guests will be right at home, especially in regard to dishes like the wood oven roasted Sunny Side Sprouts topped with a runny farm egg, magic sauce and myriad crunchies. I also love this one with a mimosa, just to keep things balanced and harmonious.

The wonderfully vegetarian Kale Tart Flambée is irresistibly my favorite thing on the menu – wood fired flatbread layered with fresh ricotta, marinated kale, paper-thin sliced lemon, herb olive oil and parmesan… makes my mouth water just writing about it.

 

The bar menu is also an important part of the new paradigm. It boasts a series of new and old staples that include the Loof, which is made with mezcal, pineapple, ginger, lemon and cinnamon; a vibrant green-hued Wild Palms boasts gin, light rum, ancho reyes verde, matcha, mint, lime and tonic; and the Raisinette features calvados, vermouth rouge, lemon, green grape and orgeat.

 

Arsaga’s intention to “create a place that pays homage to the history of Fayetteville by preserving some of its iconic infrastructure” has been more than fulfilled. The Arsaga’s Mill District has helped plant an important cultural seed for the Northwest Arkansas community. Now it’s up to the rest of us to help it grow.  

Case Dighero is a culinary and cultural influencer, and contributing food editor for Citiscapes, working and residing in Northwest Arkansas for more than 20 years. Join Case for interactive cooking lessons as he guides participants through these recipes and more ! This virtual experience includes a Zoom link as well as recipes and locations to purchase ingredients. Visit www.edibleculture.net to learn more.

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