by MOLLY MINTER
It’s not every day one can experience gourmet cuisine in an intimate, peaceful setting. Located in a small, quaint renovated barn just outside of Hope, Arkansas, in a small community named Oak Grove in Shover Springs, sits Dannie’s Café. Gracious owners, Bob Long and Flora Lombardo, opened the café on May 24, 2015, and they pride themselves on greeting diners as they enter this ranch style bistro.
Guided by our waiter to a cozy table nestled next to a warm fireplace, which was nice on this chilly evening, I couldn’t help but notice all the vintage music-themed trinkets hanging from the walls and nestled on the shelves. An antique dollhouse with Beatles figurines sat in the windowsill next to our table. It really caught my eye, and I pondered the significance of this music- themed décor. After speaking with Flora, I realized that the café’s namesake was her late brother, Dannie Flesher, who was a music promoter in Chicago, hence the musical theme carried throughout the dining room.
The colorful wildflowers on the table were a delicate detail that added more romance to the atmosphere, but it is the skilled chefs and unique dishes that set this establishment apart. Bob, the executive chef, completed a culinary education at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, while Chef Monica Leeper-West completed her studies at Le Cordon Bleu making her an excellent addition to this kitchen’s all-star culinary team. The two of them, along with their extensive resumés, keep the customers coming back.
While the menu is fairly diverse leaving something for everyone, I asked Bob for his recommendation, and took it without question. “The Salmon Oscar-style it is,” I replied. I was even more impressed after the dish was prepared. A beautifully-presented salmon topped with asparagus, crab cakes, and béarnaise sauce was placed in front of me while my fiancé, Justin, had the pan-seared bacon-wrapped scallops and spinach. After my first bite, I was already thinking of our next visit and planning what I would choose off the diverse menu.
My experience at Dannie’s was more than worth the drive, and I cannot wait to go back to experience a completely different entreé (and dessert, too). Sometimes the best things in life are just off the beaten path, and Dannie’s Café proved to be one of those places.