HEBER SPRINGS — The restaurants that artist/chef Bryan Sink has been involved with in some way would darn near fill a column of the Arkansas Times’ dining listings. A couple of them have managed to live on after Sink’s departures.
The Getaway Cafe in Heber Springs is one. We planned to stop in after learning that Sink, who moved to Heber Springs to paint, was brought in to help create a menu and cook. We didn’t make it quick enough. Sink got away — to his own art gallery on Main Street, part of Heber’s blooming gallery scene. (The Getaway Cafe hangs the work of Arkansas artists, too.)
These days, the Getaway is run by Holly and Brian Robinson, on a curve of Highway 25B south, heading out of town — hence the name.
The menu still retains some of signs of Sink — such as his herb combinations. Entrees include pasta, pork and beef specialties, and there are plenty of choices on the appetizer and salad menus, along with a couple of sandwiches. The restaurant’s slogan is “the art of casual dining”: No need to dress up.
While we frankly don’t think the Getaway Cafe merits a drive from Central Arkansas, we do think it gives Heber Springs — generally overflowing this time of year with folks enjoying Greers Ferry Lake — a nice dinner choice. We’re also going to guess, judging by the filled parking lot during a recent lunch hour, that people find the midday offerings pleasant enough, too.
We would put the Getaway Cafe’s lobster ravioli entree up with any we’ve had. We haven’t seen as creamy and bright red a tomato sauce since the old Italian Couple was operating on 12th Street in Little Rock. The sauce accentuated the large round pillows stuffed with lobster and cheese. An ample amount of sauteed vegetables completed the plate.
The night’s special was a 12-ounce ribeye and grilled shrimp that was supposed to be accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes. The flattened-out steak was nicely seasoned but tasted more like flank than ribeye. The potatoes had been replaced with what our waitress told us was “winter rice” — a starchy serving that would have been better left off the already crowded plate of meat, seafood and vegetables (the four large grilled shrimp were the hit of the entree, cooked perfectly). The pesto shrimp and pasta with pesto cream sauce entree also didn’t come as advertised. There wasn’t a whiff of basil or pinenuts anywhere to be found. It was a decent presentation of steamed shrimp, but the cream sauce was rather bland, even for a cream sauce.
Appetizers and salads were middling. The two corn crab cakes were impressive on delivery as large ovals ($6.95) accompanied with wasabi mayonnaise and tomato-basil-and-garlic dipping sauce, but they proved to be mostly corn and breading, with little crab. What won the night, though — even garnering a “this is the best thing on the table” from one of our party — was the black bean hummus and fresh homemade bread that came gratis.
This may be normal for the small Arkansas fine-dining restaurant, but our salads came in salad bowls rather than on a salad plate. The Caesar dressing didn’t seem homemade, either, but we did like the vinaigrette with our house salad, and the blue cheese dressing on another salad was good, and the lettuce was fresh. Oh, and one more strike against the Caesar: It wasn’t made with romaine.
A pleasant surprise was the buttermilk pie, which we can’t recall seeing on anyone’s menu. One of our more experienced diners informed the younger crowd that this was a traditional Southern pie similar to a chess pie, or somewhat like a karo pie without pecans. So, won over with that description, we gave it a try and loved it. The pie measured up to hopes with a rich sweet filling and graham cracker crust. We passed on a double-layer chocolate cake monstrosity that looked terrific, with sauce dripping over the edges. We’ll have it on our next visit.
There are a few restaurants in the Heber Springs area with private club arrangements to serve alcohol. The Getaway Cafe isn’t one of them, but we still enjoyed the dining experience.
Highway 25B South
You’ll get fresh bread and black bean hummus complimentary with your meal, so consider that when you order. We weren’t told it was coming until it arrived, a pleasant surprise.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Moderate to expensive prices. Credit cards accepted. No alcohol.