Last week while traveling across the country, we stumbled upon a hidden gem — Hot Springs, Arkansas. We decided to make a day of it and explore what such a quaint location had to offer!
Quapaw Baths & Spa
Just as the name suggests, Hot Springs is primarily known for, well…hot springs! Though most of the springs have been capped by now, you can still enjoy their rejuvenating effects at one of the historic bath houses still in operation, all located on Central Ave. We decided on the Quapaw Baths & Spa for a relaxing soak in the late morning after hearing it’s the most affordable option.
As you can see, the building’s architecture has a southern european vibe. According to the owner, people come from all over the world to experience this location, and often comment about its similarity to those in Europe.
In fact, the city shares a more official bond with another town on the other side of the world known for its mineral springs as well — Hanamaki, Japan.
After feeling refreshed from our soak, we decided to check out Rolando’s Restaurante, which also sits on Central Ave just a short walk away from the spas and the historic Arlington Hotel. Specializing in Latin American cuisine, this place has many familiar dishes like quesadillas and burritos but with unique ingredients like goat cheese or mango sauce.
Below on the left is El Plato Cubano, and on the right is the Quesadillas de Chivo. Beautiful presentation with a taste to match!
Though we were quite full from our plates, we could not pass up the opportunity to try Rolando’s Bananas, a similar dish to Bananas Foster but baked and served in a bowl with the bananas and ice cream mixed together. We cannot recommend trying this dish out enough, regardless of how much of a sweet tooth you have. 10 out of 10.
After finishing up, our server, Tom, told us a bit more about the place. Rolando’s is named after a man named Rolando(of course) who moved to America from Ecuador. He met his wife, Sherri, a native of Arkansas, and they decided to use their collective experience to open up a restaurant.
Tom also took us up to the outdoor patio behind the restaurant so we could get the full picture of this amazing place! Apparently the outside seating is so popular with locals that some refuse to sit anywhere else and will simply leave if the area is closed off for the day.
Once we took a look around, we could see why! It was as if someone built the perfect patio setting and then added even more nuance and character to complete it. Needless to say, when you come to Rolando’s, be sure to ask if the patio is open!
Beyond the amazing food incredible patio ambiance, Rolando’s also offers a larger dining area in the upstairs portion of the building. The coolest part is the area was once a Prohibition-era speakeasy, and the restaurant has embraced the location’s history with the decor!
Make sure to fit Rolando’s into your schedule next time you’re in southwest Arkansas — you won’t regret it!
Kollective Coffee & Tea
Later that evening, we needed a place to sit down and do some editing, and that’s exactly what we found in Kollective! Situated right by the intersection of Central and Whittington Ave, it was the perfect environment to grab a cool drink and set up shop.
We settled on a couple of award-winning teas(served with ice, of course, to counter the heat and humidity). Pictured below is the “Just Black” tea in the foreground with the “Green Pomegranate” in back. We are certainly making another stop here next time we’re in the area to try their food on the menu as well!
But that’s not the end of the story! Kollective happens to have a Wednesday Night Poetry reading, and, sure enough, we were fortunate to be there at the right time. Before long, a substantial crowd had filled the room with eyes toward the stage on the far wall, and beautiful, original poetry from local poets filled the air for the rest of the evening. It’s a must-see experience if you’re in the area and one you are encouraged to participate in with your own material as well. Who knows — maybe we will bring something next time!