Racegoers who visit Hot Springs, Ark. for the 2019 Oaklawn Park meet have new dining options in Spa City. Here are establishments that entered the scene during the offseason and are filling their tables during their first live meet.
The opening of The Vault in the downtown historic district was much anticipated and delayed. The building originally housed First Federal Bank beginning in 1909, and it is one of the few in Arkansas that features Tiffany brick. It had been vacant for 28 years.
The full-scale renovation took three years, and The Vault opened May 1.
The centerpiece and namesake of the restaurant is believed to be where Al Capone kept his money. Now, it is an intimate dining space that hosts up to four people. A 7-foot tall, high-backed blue velvet settee adds vertical dimension to the 9x9 vault, along with the sunset sky painted on the ceiling by local artist Patrick Cunningham and the 88-piece hand-blown glass chandelier created by Ed Pennybaker from Clinton, Ark.
The restaurant’s ambient features go beyond the vault. The vintage lights above the bar are from the porch of the Park Hotel. Repurposed medallions from the former Knickerbocker Hotel hang on the patio. The restaurant also showcases an old gasolier from J.C. Penney.
The downstairs prep kitchens include lobster tanks, oysters tanks, and clam tanks. Chef’s row, six booths adjacent to the open kitchen, allows patrons to view the excitement of the kitchen, and separate menu choices are offered in this area.
After 10 years at the helm of the popular Central Park Fusion, Matt Fuller opened 501 Prime in September. This larger restaurant is located on Grand Avenue on the site of a former tile store and residence. It backs up to the Pleasant Street Historic District, just southeast of the city’s famous Bathhouse Row, in a neighborhood that has a past rooted in jazz.
The first floor is wine-themed and includes a wine lounge, wood-fire grill, and oyster bar. One dining space is tucked in a giant wine barrel. The East Coast oysters and seafood are overnighted to Hot Springs.
The upstairs space is more casual with a whiskey theme, offering more than 150 whiskeys and bourbons, which Fuller believes to be the best selection in Hot Springs. A large fireplace anchors a spacious upstairs patio.
Fuller repurposed wallpaper and reclaimed wood from the house that was on the property.
“We wanted to preserve as much as we could and pay homage to the neighborhood,” he said. “There has been a push to beautify the area. It is becoming a gateway into downtown.”
In addition to the oysters and seafood, the 501 Prime serves USDA prime beef. Fuller will soon offer specials like octopus as he did at Central Park Fusion and has plans to open a high-end market in the adjacent space offering cheese and seafood.
Although DeLuca’s has been in business since 2013, a move to 831 Central Avenue prompted the inclusion on this list. DeLuca’s earned a name for itself with dough made fresh by hand every single day topped with the finest natural ingredients, including crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and parmigiana, exceptional meats, and farm-grown basil, arugula, and Portobello and shitake mushrooms.
The new location, which opened on Oct. 13, is at the beginning of the historic downtown district.
“It’s in a great location. It’s a place people can walk to and walk in. We are the first restaurant you see when you head into the historic district of Central Avenue,” owner Anthony Valinoti said.
Valinoti was involved in the build-out and included fashionable garage doors at the front of the restaurant, which he opens when the weather is nice.
“They create a really wonderful atmosphere. People flow in and out,” Valinoti said.
The new location doubled the capacity of the kitchen. DeLuca’s has expanded the menu, adding more options beyond pizza, including Valinoti’s grandmother’s 100-year old recipe for ravioli and macaroni and cheese. On Sundays, DeLuca’s serves meal-in-a-cup Bloody Marys and breakfast pizzas.
“It’s a wonderful area of town to be in,” Valinoti said. “People come and stay and enjoy themselves. It’s loud. It’s boisterous. It’s fun. That’s what DeLuca’s is all about.”