UPDATE APRIL 13, 2020
There are two new restaurants that opened in Benton during the arguably the worst time to do so. This article has lots of links and also previous stories and photos below. If you check it all out, you’ll know a lot more about the past and present of the Palace – and some of its planned future.
It’s been over a year since property developer Shawn Hipskind and his wife, Denise, a real estate broker, bought the Palace at 224 W. South Street in historic downtown Benton. Finally, just days ago and during a time when many restaurants wonder if they will be able to sustain their business at all, Valhalla Restaurant and also Baja Grill opened inside the Palace.
If you know me, you know I had to get a sample right away. I’ve been watching the renovation of the building, I watched the purchasing deal with the City of Benton, I even served on the board of the non-profit to save the Palace when the City was pursuing plans to demolish the legendary structure. And yes, I visited when it used to be the Saline County Library. The library offered some great services even back then, but they never offered the type of items I’ve ordered recently.
On my first trip to Valhalla, I tried the pepperoni pizza (pictured above), which sounds a little run of the mill, but not only was it delicious, it was also huge. One slice covered a plate at home. The bubbles in the crust made this pizza. It’s a good thing it was tasty, because it lasted several meals.
A couple of days later, I returned to pick up one of the Cuban sandwiches Valhalla had been touting on their social media. The call it the Cuban Raider. Growing up in Little Rock, I was a Mabelvale Red Raider, but that has nothing to do with this sandwich. Hipskind says the name comes because it’s a tribute to the classic Cuban sandwich, with roasted pork butt, thin sliced Petit Jean ham, and a slab of Swiss, topped with a pickle and mustard and then grill pressed inside a Cuban roll. The raider part of the name is thematic to the Viking flavor of the restaurant, complete with an axe throwing range on the second floor above the dining area.
You can enter Valhalla from the right side of the building or there’s parking in the rear on Ashley street and a corresponding back door like any self-respecting raider would use.
Baja Grill has its entrance in the front of the building, facing South Street, but you could also enter through the side or rear doors, since it shares a hallway (and restrooms) with Valhalla on the west side of the building. Baja began as a food truck on Military Road in Benton but moved to the Heights in Little Rock and grew to a full-size restaurant. Now the owners have returned to Benton to make this their second location.
Baja is owned by Craig and Heather Roe. Having been at it for a few years, they have a large menu of gourmet Mexican cuisine, including margaritas of course, as well as these very excellent (and immediately gone after this photo) Blackened Shrimp Tacos and fresh guacamole and chips.
Future offerings will take advantage of Valhalla’s axe throwing, Baja’s semi-private meeting area, and both restaurants will have a bar and they share a large two-story patio. The Palace also boasts three future bed and breakfast apartments for rent. And when can you sit down to gathering, eat and drink? The pandemic has put a lot of question marks over that issue, but MySaline will keep the public updated.
UPDATE MARCH 22, 2020
See new photos and plans from the Palace renovation in Benton
It’s been two months since MySaline gave readers a glimpse at the renovations going on at The Palace, the now 100-year-old historical building at 224 W. South Street in Benton. There wasn’t a lot to take a picture in January, but developer Shawn Hipskind has made a ton of improvements since then.
The two restaurants inside had hoped to open around April 2020, but the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced them to re-evaluate plans. We’ll keep you updated.
Below is a gallery of what will become Baja Grill – a Mexican restaurant, Valhalla – pizza restaurant and axe throwing lanes, and also three lofts apartments for b&b use. In addition, there’s a large patio downstairs and up. After the gallery, see a couple of social media posts from the owner, then pics from January, and finally a link to pics I took in 2015 when city administration was this close to tearing the whole thing down.
PREVIOUSLY – JAN 20, 2020
It’s been a minute since I’ve walked inside The Palace – okay about a year. When I did go inside to see it, it was dark, dirty and stinky from years of neglect since the Saline County Library moved to a newly built property in 2003. But all that yuck inside in 2019 was just her tattered looks. Her bones were still solid, and it just took the right people with vision to get her fresh and back in the game.
Downtown Benton real estate developer Shawn Hipskind has been renovating the historic property at 224 West South Street since summer 2019, after purchasing it from the City of Benton. His plans include two restaurants – Baja Grill & Valhalla – with indoor and outdoor seating as well as an axe throwing range and up top are b&b spaces along with more patio.
There is not a set opening date for either restaurant just yet, but there is drywall, a grease trap, as well as ventahood in place for each restaurant. Both restaurants will be cozy. Baja Grill will be accessed from the front of the building, while Valhalla customers will come in the side entrance. Hipskind plans to install a lit sign on the side, in the shape of an arrow pointing toward the door.
The Palace is 100 years old, so it’s very special to have its rebirth during this time. It says “1919” on the face of this historic structure, but the first official use was the showing of a film called “In Walked Mary,” in 1920. Scroll to the end of this article for a list of links to more about the history of The Palace and see pictures of its past.
PREVIOUSLY – NOV 20, 2019
If you have driven around historic downtown Benton the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed that The Palace at 224 W South Street has changed colors.
Owner Shawn Hipskind says he and his crew have been working non-stop to get the property ready for two restaurants, Baja Grill and Valhalla, to move in and serve the community. See more pics and read about more plans for The Palace below.
PALACE PHOTO GALLERY FROM 2015:
A Brief History of the Palace Theater MAY 1, 2019