The mockingbird, Arkansas’ state bird, remains local year-round just like its namesake restaurant, Fayetteville’s Mockingbird Kitchen, has done since opening in March 2016.
Mockingbird Kitchen’s menus, the creations of Chef Chrissy Sanderson and co-owner Leigh Helm, involve locally sourced, seasonal ingredients that allow Sanderson to create “fun, Southern comfort food with a twist” in great culinary fashion. The restaurant’s sleek modern décor adds a café-style ambiance that accentuates the dining experience. Images of Arkansas’ birds adorn the walls, as Helm loves to birdwatch in addition to handling the business aspect of the restaurant.
Chef Sanderson, a veteran of popular northwest Arkansas restaurants, attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. She and Helm opened Mockingbird Kitchen to share family recipes that have been favorites for generations.
“The goal of our menu is to showcase local, seasonal items that appeal to everyone in a creative fashion,” Sanderson said. “We serve the best that Arkansas has to offer.”
Mockingbird Kitchen offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch menus loaded with diverse dining options, ranging from appealing appetizers, sandwiches, hamburgers and salads to an array of creative main courses.
The shrimp cakes are made from scratch daily and are very popular. They feature diced shrimp, green onion, red bell pepper, panko bread crumbs and herbs that are baked to a golden brown with a slightly crispy texture and served with a tasty roasted pepper aioli. The shrimp cakes are packed with a smorgasbord of flavors.
The cobb salad is a Mockingbird Kitchen signature item. The leafy creation features locally sourced lettuce, homemade buttermilk dressing, sliced ham from Arkansas’ Bansley Farm, chopped turkey, bacon, edamame, carrots, cucumber slices, a soft-boiled egg and topped with delicious blue cheese crumbles. The salad is huge, and the ingredients result in a unique flavor with each bite, highlighted with the creamy buttermilk dressing.
Sanderson’s take on fried chicken tastes as wonderful as the plate’s presentation. She brines two Crystal Lake Farm chicken thighs, then fries them to perfection. The Southern-fried poultry is served over perfectly seasoned sautéed greens that are positioned atop a parsnip-potato smash and pepper gravy. This dish tasted of layered, Southern heaven for me.
There are several desserts, including a crumble with seasonal fruit, buttermilk crème brulée, homemade seasonal cheesecake and homemade ice cream, but the star of the dessert menu is the Mockingbird Pie.
According to Sanderson, the Mockingbird Pie is the restaurant’s take on another Southern favorite, possum pie. However, the Mockingbird Kitchen takes it to the next level with a salted pecan crust, chocolate pastry cream, whipped cream and candied pecans. I felt inspired to sing like a mockingbird when I tasted this wonderful Arkansas creation.
“I’m here to have fun and be creative,” Sanderson said. “The result of our effort is a great restaurant that provides great food, excellent presentation and a great dining experience for our guests.”