Excursion: Exploring the Mystical Eureka Springs

view of downtown Eureka Springs
 

It is fitting that Eureka Springs, one of Arkansas’ most romantic getaways, was officially incorporated on Valentine’s Day 1880, but like many tourist destinations that are identified with a particular kind of vacation, there is more to see and do in Eureka Springs.

Photography by Sara Edwards Neal

 

The smoked beef carpaccio is part appetizer, part theatrical performance.

The smoked beef carpaccio is part appetizer, part theatrical performance.

We began our visit with a walking tour called “Hell-Raisers, Hoodlums and Heated History.” We met our tour guide in Basin Park and learned about more than 150 years of town history. We now know several famous outlaws spent time in Eureka Springs and how old the iconic Flatiron Building really is (hint: not as old as you might think!).

After our tour, we wandered along Main and Spring streets, visiting some of our favorite shops and taking note of several new ones.

Eureka Springs has long been associated with artists and creatives working with all mediums. Handmade jewelry, sculpture and fine art can be found in several galleries, including Quicksilver Art & Fine Craft Gallery. Be sure to go downstairs to see and sample their enchanting collection of gongs, singing bowls and chimes. Right next door, Zark’s Fine Design Gallery also offers fine art, pottery and jewelry. You can observe artists at work at Wilson & Wilson Folk Art Co. in the Flatiron Building. Sylvia Wilson and Blakely Wilson Pratt, a mother-daughter team, have filled their shop with delightful pastoral scenes for 22 years.

Clothing boutiques like Magpie, Eureka Hemp Company, Nelson’s, Christopher’s and C’est la Vie offer clothing, footwear and accessories of every style and for every budget. Fun gifts and souvenirs, collectibles, garden accessories and more are available at Tee Rex, Fantasy & Stone, Shoppes at Fleece ’N Flax, Mairzy Doats and The Back Porch.
If you’ve walked by Basin Park around lunchtime, you may have smelled the tempting aroma coming from our lunch destination. New Delhi Café on Main Street has served American and traditional Indian dishes for 15 years. Owner Billo Sarad based all the menu’s Indian dishes on his mother’s recipes.

I love bread of all kinds, but I think our appetizer of fried naan breadsticks served with house-made cilantro chutney may be one of my favorite preparations. Of course, the bread was just a means for getting the tangy chutney to our taste buds.

 Spring Street in downtown Eureka Springs is the place to go to fill your shopping bags.

Spring Street in downtown Eureka Springs is the place to go to fill your shopping bags.

The café boasts the “best burger in town,” putting them up against some pretty strong competition. We also ordered the chutney burger; we’re not ready to crown a winner, but it’s definitely in the finalist category. Served with crispy, hand-cut fries, it’s enough for two people, though you may not want to share.

I had the Indian samosa with a cup of vegetarian soup. The samosa, made with a spinach tortilla rather than the traditional dough, was stuffed with savory, curried potatoes. The flavorful tomato soup had a delicious touch of spicy heat, making it perfect for a summer day.

asian duck breast entree at Le Stick Nouveau

asian duck breast entree at Le Stick Nouveau

After a filling lunch, a visit to a spa is probably one of the best ways to spend an afternoon, and Eureka Springs has a few to choose from, including Spa 1905 in the Basin Park Hotel; Suchness Spa, Palace Hotel & Bath House; and New Moon Spa & Salon in the lower level of the Crescent Hotel.

We couldn’t stay, but we did stop in at New Moon Spa & Salon for a tour of their beautiful facilities. They offer a long list of services, including six massage options, scrubs and wraps, and a sauna, hot tub and pool, along with a full-service salon in the hotel’s renovated bowling alley. If you’re getting married nearby, be sure to check out their bridal packages.
You’ll find live music somewhere in town almost every evening. Visitors may enjoy country, gospel, rock and blues performed by local and national musicians in venues around the city. For a different, and perhaps unexpected, form of musical entertainment, take a look at the calendar for Opera in the Ozarks at Inspiration Point. Now in its 66th season, the Inspiration Point Fine Arts Colony (IPFAC) has earned national recognition for its intensive eight-week training program for vocalists interested in an operatic career. This year’s season began June 17 and ends July 15, and will feature Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Britten’s Albert Herring, Puccini’s Il Tabarro and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

Observant visitors can see echoes of the past in, and on, the buildings all over town.

Observant visitors can see echoes of the past in, and on, the buildings all over town.

We ventured away from downtown to stop in at Keel’s Creek Winery. For 10 years, Dr. Doug Hausler and his wife Edwige Denyszyn have created wine from their vineyards and other Arkansas grapes. The main building houses retail space and an art gallery featuring work from regional artists as well as a tasting room. Recently, Keel’s Vivant, Chardonel, La Row Red and Signature Red each received bronze medals at the 2016 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition. Their Noiret earned a silver medal.

Another great stop off of the main drag is Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Located on 459 acres just west of town, the facility is a wildlife refuge for abused, abandoned and neglected big cats, such as tigers, leopards and lions. Currently, approximately 130 animals live on the grounds. You can also stay at Turpentine Creek in one of their several lodging options.

grilled Caesar salad and the beautiful full bar

grilled Caesar salad and the beautiful full bar

We had dinner reservations at Le Stick Nouveau, so we headed back downtown. Brandon Cox and wife Donna Fontanello helped his parents operate Branson favorite The Candlestick Inn, called “The Stick” by locals. When a 2012 tornado demolished the building, the couple decided to relocate to Eureka Springs, one of their favorite getaways, and Le Stick Nouveau — The New Stick — was born.

Our appetizer, the smoked beef carpaccio, arrived shrouded in smoke and covered with a cloche. The server lifted the dome with a flourish, allowing the smoke to dissipate over the table. Served with a Dijonnaise sauce, the single paper-thin slice of beef was so moist it was more like a spread than a piece of meat. The grilled Caesar salad was also surprising, as its intact head of romaine lettuce was enhanced with housemade pesto between the leaves before grilling. A dollop of roasted red bell pepper coulis was added to the plate, and the dish was drizzled with a balsamic glaze. We finished every bite.

 

Our entrée, Le Stick “Welly,” a deconstructed beef Wellington, is featured on their website, and for good reason. A Midwest 18- to 21-day aged tenderloin took center stage atop a pillow of puff pastry and a spoonful of creamy mushroom duxelle. Brussels sprouts with onion and red bell pepper accompanied, along with a serving of Dauphinoise potatoes that had us swooning with carb-loving joy. For our second entrée, we ordered the Asian duck breast. If you haven’t tried duck, this is a beautiful way to be introduced. The tender coins of duck were drizzled with a housemade plum sauce that was spectacularly spicy and sweet all at once.

Le Stick Nouveau updates its menu often and offers monthly menu tastings; however, we recommend you make reservations as their tables fill quickly, especially on weekends.

As we left the restaurant, the sky was full of sunset-tinted clouds and the lights along Spring Street were aglow. Regardless of what you’re looking for as you plan an excursion, you’ll find excellent dining and entertainment options in Eureka Springs.

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