It’s autumn, which means crisp air, fresh harvest, and warm, toasty flavors. At Hillcrest’s own Ciao Baci, the new fall menu is exactly that and more – an ode to comfort. Chef Jeffery Owen says, “For fall we always push back over to comfort food – we try to include dishes that are a little more substantial and hearty.”
Start with a soup or salad, or peruse the small plate menu. You have to try the Black Eyed Pea salad which comes with pickled onion, avocado, cornbread croutons, and cider vinaigrette. “Once the weather cools down a little bit we’ll actually serve that as a warm salad,” explains Owen, “It’s a throwback to the Capital hotel.”
There’s also a Grilled Pork Belly dish that comes with – you guessed it – a waffle. “We always try to sneak a breakfast-for-dinner option in there somewhere,” says Owen. This particular waffle is more on the savory side, made from cornbread and combined with white cheddar and scallions – all paired with a slow cooked pork belly. Top it all off with a blueberry compote, and we promise you’ll be more than satisfied.
Looking through the mains, the options are as varied as ever, offering a nice mix of vegetarian-friendly and delectable meat-heavy choices.
Pasta lovers – vegetarian or non – should check out the Cauliflower Carbonara. Think smokey and creamy, but on the lighter side. Owen says, “We actually take the heads of the cauliflower and smoke them so you get that smokey, bacon flavor. We then puree the cores so you get that creamy sauce you’ll find in a Carbonara without the heavy cream and egg.”
You can’t go wrong with a baked potato, and Owen’s spin this time around will have your taste-buds dancing. His Chipotle Honey Baked Sweet Potato comes with pickled cabbage, green goddess aioli, and BBQ white beans. Owen says, “It’s definitely something a little heartier – it’s something you might find when you’re tailgating with friends.”
Owen’s favorite, along with the Pork Belly and Waffle, happens to be the Braised Duck Cacciatore, which is definitely worth a try. He explains the dish, “It’s our version of a traditional Chicken Cacciatore. Cacciatore actually means “hunter” – so we’re bringing it all back together making it with the duck in the fall – it ties in with the season and the state. It’s got fresh Arkansas shiitake mushrooms and watercress. We bone the duck, roast it in the sauce with tomatoes and red wine, and it finished with a nice briny, roasty-rich flavor.”
Those highlights only skim the surface of the menu in its entirety, so check out the full PDF below.
Notably different this time around is the option to choose three bar snacks for $10. While Baci has always had bar snacks, this move opens it up for late-night cravings, as Owen says, “If it’s 11:30 and you want something to snack on – we’ve now got a well-rounded selection of snacking.” Choose from Garlic Cheese Straws, Burgundy Mushrooms, Marinated Olives, Cocktail Nuts, Duck Chicharrones, and Beet Pickled Eggs.
Also, if you haven’t tried the Tasting Menu, you should. Born out of restaurant month a few years back, it’s still going strong. If you like to be the first to try the next tastiest thing, then this is for you, as Owen says,
“It’s kind of an inside look at what might be coming up in a future menu or what’s coming up as a special that coming weekend if you don’t want to commit to the whole thing.”
We’re committed – to trying everything on this menu at least once. Check out the new dishes for yourself by heading to Ciao Baci for dinner.