Best Impressions restaurant tucked away inside the Arkansas Arts Center has always been a bit of a hidden gem. The spot has always been easy to overlook, even when you are browsing the latests exhibition at the Arts Center. Now the spot is getting a bit of a facelift, a new brand, and a menu that deserves to be noticed.
Canvas is now the name of the restaurant, something that fits better into the overall setting of the Arts Center. The transition became official yesterday with alongside a private reception at the Arts Center. If you have been in before you will notice a decidedly brighter and more airy feel to the restaurant, it feels much more on part with the vibe you get from many modern art gallery restaurants. The menu is a mix of styles and variety that plays very well together.
“I wanted to create a menu of food that I love and want to share with people,” Owner Brian Kearns tells us. “We are leaning heavily on local ingredients and products so the menu will change sometimes even weekly depending on what we have available. ”
The menu is littered with ingredients using local products like Kent Walker Cheese, War Eagle Mills, Grass Roots CoOp, along with a number of local veggies. The approach should keep the menu fresh and interesting for the frequent guests and exciting for those stopping in for the first time.
The shrimp and grits are a good example. They combine Kent Walker cheddar, War Eagle grits, along with some fresh gulf shrimp, bacon, and mushrooms. In a town full of shrimp and grits it easily ranks toward the top thanks to the careful sourcing.
You really start to see the diversity of the menu as you move on to find gnocchi with shiitake mushrooms and butternut squash as well as lasagna. The lasagna is an incredibly hearty portion, especially at $12, and incorporates locally produced Grass Roots CoOp beef and pork along with sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes.
For the slightly more traditional lunch crowd the menu also features a handful of salads, sandwiches and burgers like the grilled salmon salad, boursin cheese burger, smoked chicken salad sandwich, and a very solid reuben. The reuben is loaded with house made corned beef and kraut, it was one of the better reuben sandwiches in the area.
Kearns took over the restaurant as well as the well known catering side, Simply the Best, last year. The updates really showcase Kearns’ influence on the menu and signifies the transition of Kearns as owner of the longtime company. It is a nice refresh, and along with the restaurant updates, make it a destination spot for lunch, brunch, and special events rather than an overlooked space.