Why We Love It
Tucked into the Ozarks, 21c is a breath of electrified air in a once slumberous town whose claim to fame is the birthplace of Walmart. In 2011 Bentonville welcomed the 120-acre Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, showcasing works from Norman Rockwell to Andy Warhol, and the area's art community reawakened with a thunderous clap. 21c execs, including founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, took notice and picked the unorthodox locale for the third location of its brand.
Sleek but unassuming, 21c captures the curiosities of our time. In every direction there's a piece to reflect on, to ponder over, to giggle about. The rooms are a spacious sprawl of pause-worthy art and playful accents, such as the yellow rubber ducky that awaits in your bath. Whether it stirs emotion or mindless whimsy, exhibits like the fitness room's watchful eye of "Fat Bat" (a hanging sculpture of an obese Batman that stretches across the ceiling—a cheeky reminder that even superheroes sometimes need to use the treadmill) show guests the wonder-land they've checked in to.
On the Menu
In tribute to the plenitude of the High South, chef Matthew McClure, a son of Arkansas, takes familiar ingredients from regional farmers to create sophisticated country cooking. Start with the petite Mason jar of pimiento cheese, glossy with a layer of bacon jam on top and served with white bread toasted just like your mother used to do it. On the seasonally changing menu, find dishes such as the Ham-Brined Pork Chop, surrounded by golden sweet potato puree and speckled with braised greens, highlighted with a sweet note of pecan relish. End your meal with the house mignardise: Green Apple Cotton Candy. Because you can.
Worth the Splurge
Drink up at The Hive's bar (adjacent to the restaurant), where bartenders use the same Arkansas-sourced ingredients to put a Southern tweak on classic drink recipes. The Hendrick's Gin-based Arkansawyer ($10) features lavender, ginger, and lemon. House-made syrups and tangy shrubs rotate with the seasons—think vanilla, jalapeño, and peach.
21cmuseumhotels.com; $199 and up