It was June 21st, 2021 when we first started telling you about the newest restaurant in town, RŌBER Cocktails + Culinary. There’s nothing else like this in Saline County. It’s adult fare – upscale, like the subject person of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” should walk in any minute with his apricot scarf. And I was able to attend their practice night to get a sample of what’s to come.
More about that. First, some basics:
This restaurant is named after its owners, Heather Baber and Craig Roe. It rhymes with sober. They are the married couple who also own the Valhalla Kitchen + Bar (downtown Benton), as well as both locations of Baja Grill (downtown Benton & Little Rock). You’ll find RŌBER at 302 W South Street, right next door to Valhalla & Baja – a convenient cluster of businesses for the pair of entrepreneurs. While the other two restaurants are casual, family restaurants and menus, RŌBER is the sophisticated, tall, dark and handsome cousin of the family.
With carefully chosen décor, including stately furnishings, leather bound menus, and surprises of whimsy like leopards walking on the wallpaper, and lighting fixtures that look like… neurons, the ambiance is both upscale and warm without taking itself too seriously. From the charcuterie and extensive cocktail menu (with bourbon and wine flights) in the Mary Ellen Lounge named for Heather’s grandmother – to the main dining area with oversized white booths, stark against midnight navy walls, lit by thoughtful fixtures…
Oh my gosh, those are all the fancy words I know. I’m trying so hard and this restaurant is just going to have to teach me how to be proper and refined as I continue to remit my patronage! I have more to say but these gallery photos below from the RŌBER social media say a lot:
I haven’t finished talking about the different areas of this restaurant. There’s also the intimate terrace with a fire table, sofas, cocktail tables, and a live wall. Unfortunately, on this evening, the universe was working on filling up rain gauges instead of terrace seating, so I’ll try that area soon and maybe I’ll see you there.
Now let’s talk about the food. Oh my goodness the food! *Clutches at the sky with passion* They have been working on the menu all this time, tweaking a main dish, or adding an apropos appetizer, or just studying on the right pun for naming a specialty cocktail. For example, the “Beach Slap” has Absolut mandarin, watermelon, pineapple and lime… and the “Yippie Cayenne” with James E. Pepper bourbon, IPA simple, lemon & cayenne.
Let me just give you the drive-by tour for the food according to what my table ordered, and then you can see the full menu below: “Gorgonzola cream gnocchi” was a melt-in-your-mouth potato pasta appetizer that can pass for entrée status if you’d like, but it’s also shareable for starters.
Then there’s the “wood.water.whisky,” salmon on a whiskey-soaked cedar plank with sweet whiskey glaze, wild rice and roasted carrots. The “rober gumbo” is smoked sausage, chicken, shrimp, bell peppers and onion on a bed of white rice and topped with crispy, melty fried okra.
Do see the full menu👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼 below, do visit them on Facebook and Instagram @roberbenton, and I do recommend you make time soon to come in person. Opening Tuesday, November 29, 2022. According to the restaurant:
“Please note, the reservation link is allowing only tables up to 4 at this time (we don’t have an answer as to why, but it’s probably for the best at the moment… so we’re rolling with it). The Mary Ellen Lounge and The Bar open at 4pm for boards & bar drinks [walk-ins only]. Dinner is served in the dining room at 5pm [reservations recommended].”
Reservations available here: https://tabit.us/online-reservations/create-reservation?step=search&orgId=635fda7574e2e06f5f607723
PREVIOUSLY, ON NOVEMBER 16, 2021:
So what had happened was…
Whenever there is an article about a new restaurant opening, you can get the details, but they are almost always subject to change. The previous version of this article had Craig Roe and Heather Baber-Roe opening RŌBER in Bryant. (Thusly, the city name in the url of this page.)
The couple are the owners of Baja Grill in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood and Benton’s flourishing downtown community. Since June when we first reported on RŌBER, they also purchased Valhalla Restaurant and Axe Throwing, rebranded it to Valhalla Kitchen+Bar, and reorganized it with table service.
So why not keep everything right together, I suppose? Next, they leased the building next door and will open RŌBER in downtown Benton.
To recap, Baja & Valhalla are located at 224 W South Street in historic downtown Benton. RŌBER will be next door at 302 W. South Street. If you are standing in the street looking at the buildings, RŌBER is to the right, but the sign isn’t up yet, as of this writing.
The building has a beautiful modern railing out front and a garage door opening for fair weather, but you can also enter through the regular door. It’s fair to mention the boutique in the same building – a cute home decor and accessories shop called 501 Faire.
Now that we’ve established where it will be, allow me to remind you what and when it will be. Heather says they hope to open in February of 2022. There will be a tasting menu, charcuterie bar, rotating chef’s menu, extensive spirit list, cocktails, high end wines, wine flights and whiskey flights.