Since opening a little over a year ago, Core’s first expansion into Central Arkansas has struggled to find the same identity that exists in the Northwest Arkansas public houses. It has never been enough for central Arkansas brewery goers to just have beer at a taproom. They have increasingly wanted food, atmosphere, consistency, and experience.
The Argenta Public House came close last fall with the food, but it never matched the atmosphere and experience. Consistency has also been an ongoing issue as Core expands further across the state.
Thankfully they have spent the past several months focusing on all fronts, the result is an all around better effort for the Argenta location. They have made some small but significant changes inside and out, with more to come. The beer has become much better and more consistent all around. Some, like their toasted coconut, are really starting to become a good beer every time.
Now with a major food upgrade, it feels ripe for a better atmosphere that only comes from people enjoying their time at the pub.
“The Little Rock market is far different than what we have in Northwest,” owner Jesse Core tells us. “We are starting to really embrace that and building a unique experience for Little Rock. Our new chef is bringing some quality food to Argenta that matches this location, and we have a number of environment additions coming soon as well.”
The new chef is Rick Garrett, who brings a very diverse background and culinary experience to the pub.
Garrett entered was always interested in culinary. He spent time entering bbq competitions growing up before starting a late career with the military. After eight years of service in the Navy he leveraged his GI bill to attend Le Cordon Bleu culinary school where graduated with honors.
“I love food. Thankfully my time in the Navy gave me a strong first hand experience of food all over the world,” Garrett says. “I really want it to be reflected in the menu. I am looking at combining traditional pub food with flavors from all around the world.”
The initial menu showcases this well. You have loaded fries topped with carne asada and a creamy avocado sauce, or the mac and cheese with a far better than average sauce and topped with bratwurst.
The menu is elevated without being pretentious, it is a balance that fits the space well and is something the Argenta public house has never managed to find. Even better the food is something that makes you want to sit around for a few extra minutes and linger in the space, yet not feel you have to leave the second you finish your dish. The 50/50 burger mixed 50% beef and 50% bacon by raw weight will also win a lot of fans and showcases ways traditional pub food can be elevated without moving beyond something you would eat in a pub.
The menu manages to find something for everyone. The dishes vary in sizes, perfect for sharing or not. Your call. Tacos come a la-carte and there are a number of intentionally sharable dishes. Or if you want to make a full 5 course meal out of it, that is an option too.
There is especially strong attention to the vegan and vegetarian options. The vegan tacos with mushrooms and marinated tofu on a butter lettuce “shell” are perfect to go all in vegan. So is the power salad with fresh berries, quinoa, and roasted kale. Or you can just vegetarian with hummus or try substituting the vegan tacos but using regular street taco tortillas. There are plenty of options here.
Garrett says he will be rolling out most of these items to the other Public House spaces in time. It should increase the overall menu consistency for the group.
Overall it is the food Core needed to be serving all along. It matches the type of crowd they are going to attract in Argenta. Along with a lot of other changes the Argenta Public House shows signs of being a space worth visiting.