21c Museum Hotel Trifecta – The Plan and the Results

The MagoGuide Team scheduled a trip from Arkansas to Virginia and we tried to take this opportunity to try out each of the three 21c Museum Hotels and their restaurants.  Due to weather, we were only able to make two out of three, but fortunately the one we missed was Proof on Main in Louisville that we’ve visited several times.  We were therefore able to build a review of Proof within the context of the trifecta.

So why did we select the 21c Museum Hotels to visit?  What’s so different about these hotels and restaurants? Just about everything.  The decor is interesting as well unusual with  fascinating works of modern art scattered throughout the hotel lobby, rooms, and restaurant. Here’s a quote from their website to explain how the concept of the 21c Museum Hotel came about:

“Troubled by development encroaching upon rural Kentucky’s farmlands, preservationists and contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson sought to reverse the trend toward suburban sprawl by making a considerable contribution toward revitalization efforts in their hometown.  Pairing this desire with a second of their passions, to make contemporary art a part of more peoples’ daily lives, the couple embarked on a journey to create both an economic driver for the community and an oasis where art challenges and amuses, stimulates conversation and provokes new ideas.”

First, we visited The Hive restaurant for dinner at the 21c hotel in Bentonville Arkansas, the newest of the 21c hotel family.  This is a 104 room hotel right off the square in Bentonville just across from the original store owned by the Waltons (now a museum).  The Hive restaurant is under the direction of executive chef and Arkansas native Matthew McClure.  Chef McClure is focused on taking advantage of all the local ingredients that Northwest Arkansas can provide including buying from our nephew Ryan Craig who has an organic farm – Adams Acres on Clear Creek.

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Next, we drove to Cincinnati on the 26th of February to stay the night at their 21c hotel.  Located in the center of the action in downtown Cincinnati, this is a 156 room hotel with the Metropole restaurant led by executive chef Michael Paley.

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Finally, on our return trip we had planned to revisit the original 21c hotel in Louisville, a 90 room boutique hotel in the downtown area.  We have stayed at the 21c in Louisville a couple of times (see MagoGuide Winter Tour 2012) and have always enjoyed eating at their restaurant, Proof on Main.  We were heartbroken when winter storm Titan prevented us from getting there.

Buffalo burger and fries

So, below is how these three restaurants stack up and a link to each of the reviews:

  1. Metropole in Cincinnati, Ohio
  2. Proof on Mail in Louisville, Kentucky
  3. The Hive in Bentonville, Arkansas

Here are some of the reasons why we thought the Metropole the best of these three restaurants…

  • The charred octopus at the Metropole out shown that of Proof’s but just a bit.
  • The wagyu beef tartar at the Metropole edged out Proof’s by virtue of including an unctuous raw egg yolk to complement the exquisitely marbled meat.
  • The Metropole had the best french fries ever, even outshining those at Proof on Main and The Hive, which we liked a lot.
  • The beef marrow bones at The Hive couldn’t begin to compare to those at the Metropole.

This was a tough decision, though.  For example, The Hive’s 25 minute egg got voted the best bite of the competition.  And Proof’s butter bean salad came in as the second best bite.  So although the Metropole came out in first place, this was really, really close.

Each of these restaurants are excellent and if you are ever visiting one of these fine cities, don’t hesitate to make reservations for brunch, lunch, or dinner.  You’ll be in for a treat.

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Morgan Hart

MagoGuide.com was launched in 2011 as a website and virtual storefront to showcase Patti's software and Morgan's content. Dedicated to slow travel, culinary excess, and ripping good yarns, MagoGuide is the digital scriptoria for the Mago Scrolls, Morgan's historical fiction series about the Punic Wars in general and one Mago of Syracuse in particular. Although Morgan has written a great deal of non-fiction over the years in the form of specialized journal articles, book reviews, op-ed pieces, and (his personal favorite) the most unpopular coffee table book in the history of the planet, he always viewed himself as a happily frustrated novelist. Get more information about Morgan's novel and travel writing at our Products page.