Downtown Siloam Springs

Northwest Arkansas town revitalized with retail, restaurants and recreation

Posted: May 23, 2014 at 6 a.m.

Located about 20 miles west of Springdale, Siloam Springs is easily accessed from the Northwest Arkansas corridor by U.S. 412. The proximity of the Oklahoma border and area casinos draws traffic to the area, but downtown Siloam Springs offers retail stores and restaurants that exude the charm of Main Street USA.

28 Springs has a diverse menu that features seasonal ingredients and made-from-scratch dishes. Pictured (clockwise from bottom left) is the bourbon pe...

The growing downtown community has long held the appeal of a southern city, with Sager Creek winding around parks adorned with pavilions, gazebos and fountains. In the last decade, efforts to revitalize the historical downtown have bolstered the attention from the surrounding areas.

A new attraction will call water and outdoor enthusiasts to Siloam Springs with the Whitewater Recreation Park. Currently open, the grand opening will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 28.

The park was developed from a $2 million investment contributed by the Walton Family Foundation. The main attraction is the engineered Class II rapids with a 100-yard run and eddies along the spring-fed Illinois River.

The park also provides paved walking and biking trails along the Illinois river, a climbing boulder, swim area and changing rooms.

There is no admission cost. June 28 will offer a family-friendly event with entertainment, vendors, kayak lessons and complimentary food for the first 500 attendees.

For a review of the park by a seasoned wave rider,

From U.S. 412 in Siloam Springs, take Arkansas 59 south nearly two miles, then turn left on Devor Road. Turn right on Fisher Ford Road.

The city has grown in population and was named one of the 20 best small towns in America in 2012 by Smithsonian magazine, as reported on

The intention of the city to revitalize the downtown has also attracted new retail businesses and restaurants.

Cafe on Broadway was one of the first locally operated restaurants in downtown. Carolyn and Rick Robinson opened the cafe in March 2006.

"At the time, downtown Siloam Springs was mainly offices, lawyers, dentists, stock brokers," Carolyn Robinson said.

She mentioned that the first ad they ran for the restaurant stated their location as across from City Barber Shop, because many residents didn't know the streets of downtown, but they knew where the longstanding barber shop was located.

The Cafe started as a small place with sandwiches and salads, but demand grew and their offerings increased to satisfy the requests of their customers. The menu at the Cafe includes made-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

At the suggestion of one of their employees, they started serving coffee and pastries and now offer espresso drinks, including traditional Italian-style cappuccinos.

Although the offerings and atmosphere have changed over the years, the simple philosophy for success remains the same.

"We feel like if we buy the best ingredients and have the best staff, the product that we offer will take care of itself," Carolyn Robinson said.

The cafe atmosphere features a series of smaller rooms with a long room at one end of the building that has high ceilings and bookshelves. The shelves of books are available for browsing or buying.

Fratelli’s Pizzeria serves authentic, Italian-style, wood-fired pizza. Pictured is the Mangiafuoco (Fire-eater) with garlic and pepperoncini oil...

"I wanted this side to feel like a library that you could laugh, talk and eat," Carolyn Robinson said.

The other cafe in town, Pour Jons, has started with a similar mentality.

"I really wanted to have a third space where people could come and hang out," owner Chris Moore said.

He defined a third space as "a place where you spend your time away from home or work. It's that other place you spend a lot of time."

Pour Jons offers slow-pour, hand-pour overs instead of drip coffee or espresso.

Cafe on Broadway has separate dining areas, including a library room with rows of books to browse or buy. The menu includes pastries, salads, sandwich...

"We weigh each cup, fresh grind it and hand-pour the water over the beans," Moore said.

The beans served at Pour Jons are from a single origin, directly sourced and through fair trade. The attention used to grow and roast the beans is carried through the brewing process and can be tasted, he said.

The coffee, however, is really just a front for his true passion -- vinyl records. The upstairs of the shop offers casual seating and boxes full of records for sale. At one time, there was a record player, but the needle was broken frequently so it was removed.

Moore expects to renovate over the summer and hopes to bring the record player back to have vinyl spinning in the background for guests to enjoy.

Until then, Pour Jons offers its specialty brews and a limited menu of sandwiches and waffles and serves customers wanting to chill in the slow lane for a bit.

Just around the bend, Fratelli's Pizzeria also embraces a specific menu crafted to offer a unique food experience.

This family-owned and -operated pizzeria serves hand-tossed, Italian-style pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven. With many ingredients, as well as the oven, sourced directly from Italy, the authentic flavors of an Italian pizza pie are created.

Co-owner Scott Jones and his family spent seven months in Venice, Italy, and fell in love with Italian food. Shortly after returning to the states, he and his brother-in-law, Tom Leadabrand, opened Fratelli's Pizzeria in a turn-of-the-century building in downtown Siloam Springs.

"Our goal is simple -- if you were to leave Fratelli's, go to XNA, jump on a plane, fly to Chicago, then go to Rome or Florence or Venice and sit down at a pizzeria, exhausted, you would say 'I just ate this pizza 12 hours ago is Siloam Springs, Arkansas,' " Jones said.

The menu offers combinations inspired from pizzerias around the world that feature fresh ingredients. The vegetables are sourced locally when in season, but the base of the dish is made consistently with simple recipes and imported Italian ingredients.

"If you want Italian pizza, you need Italian ingredients," Jones said.

The pizza flour is milled in Naples and the tomatoes for the sauce are grown in central Italy. Even the oven was imported from Florence, Italy.

The menu includes American standards, such as pepperoni and four-cheese, as well as Italian classics, such as Margherita and Gorgonspeck. There are also creations such as the Mile High Salute with chicken, wing sauce, blue cheese and mozzarella; and Chicken Florentine with mushrooms, spinach, provolone, chicken, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan.

Specialty offerings include the chef's choice, dessert pizzas and gelato.

When 28 Springs opened in 2012, Siloam Springs gained another restaurant unique to Northwest Arkansas. Executive chef and owner Miles G. James has expanded his cooking techniques that he refined at James at the Mill, and offers a menu of Ozark-region comfort food influenced by French-style preparation.

The menu features seasonally based dishes, with an emphasis on from-scratch and high-quality ingredients. That manner extends from the plate to the glass.

"We make our own bitters, triple sec, lemoncello, ginger beer, tonic, and barrel aged cocktails. We juice fresh lemons, limes and oranges every day," said Casey Letellier, whose title is Head Drinks Enthusiast.

The restaurant has a modern ambiance with an open kitchen, high ceilings, large windows and a medley of wood, metal and glass. A horseshoe bar is set to one side of the restaurant and has a cocktail area with bar-height seating. An antique brick wall expands the back of the bar and displays black-and-white photos honoring the history of the town.

The dynamic of modern and historic, elegant and everyday, is intentional at 28 Springs.

"People are comfortable here in flip-flops and high heels, wingtips and work boots," Letellier said.

"Our dream was to make 28 Springs a place for locals to meet and celebrate, both the every day and the milestone moments of life, and also a place that was compelling enough that we would invite people in from out of town."

A recent investment by the Walton Family Trust will further enhance the revitalization of downtown Siloam Springs. A steering committee has established a 5-7 year plan to improve urban and traffic design and is using Bentonville as an example, Carolyn Robinson said.

Additionally, a portion of the trust was used to create the Siloam Springs Whitewater Recreation Park.

Siloam Springs is also home to John Brown University, the Sager Creek Arts Center and several annual events including the Dogwood Festival, Siloam Springs Rodeo and 4th of July fireworks presentation.

Downtown Siloam Springs can be accessed from U.S. 412 by heading north on Mount Olive Street.

NAN Dining Guide Cover on 05/23/2014

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