Food Review: Valhalla Restaurant in Benton

I recently heard of the new pizza and axe-throwing place in Benton that was getting rave reviews for their food. I made sure they had a patio space and then took my mom for dinner to try it out.
We didn’t even go upstairs to the axe-throwing area, so this is strictly about the food and restaurant.  Let’s break it down:

The Environment

Valhalla is located just off the center of town, in the previously antiquated Palace building. This building has been around about 100 years and has seen its days as a theater, library, and more. Now, this building hosts the very modern Valhalla Restaurant and Axe Throwing AND the delicious Baja Grill!

Just follow the signs into Valhalla’s restaurant, which is a great wide open space with a bar.

To the right, you’ll find where you order your food. This is set up a lot like Zaza’s, where you order and pay here, get a number, get your drinks, and then sit wherever you’d like.

We chose the patio, which had two large TVs  and a couple Big Ass Fans. (I’m not cursing, that is literally their proper name.)

However, there’s also a HUGE patio area in the back with plentiful seating and cute lights. There’s even a ping pong table.

The whole environment seemed fun and full of life by the time we left around 6:30 on a Wednesday. The bar had MANY options on tap and there was space for plenty of people to spread out. I love it!

The Menu

I’m going to be honest, I did not come here for the pizza. I saw a picture of their Cuban sandwich and saw they had a banh mi (my favorite sandwich across the board) on the menu and THOSE were what I came here for.

So, you can imagine my disappointment when I see the menu on the wall and all of the sandwiches were marked out. The Cuban and Banh Mi weren’t even on it anyway. I asked about them and they aren’t currently selling sandwiches.

Instead, there are some appetizers, pizza of all sorts, and salads.

Their current menu can be found here.

The Food

I’m going to preface this with everything was so good, I can see why they don’t care to focus on sandwiches, when their pizza and appetizers are so perfect.

Raider Roll- $4 (or 2 for $7)

This roll is made like a cinnamon roll, but with savory ingredients. With their fresh made pizza dough, a LOT of butter, plenty of garlic, and fresh herbs, this massive raider roll will be famous. I didn’t even try the marinara, it doesn’t need it.  The crispy, buttery crust on the bottom and the gooey middle is full of flavor! If you love butter and garlic, this will be a favorite.  I think this is definitely the best deal on the menu as well.

Thai Raider: $11
Description: Mixed greens, spinach, green onions, house picked carrots, edamame, fresh bell pepper, pickled onion, wonton crunchies with a garlic ginger peanut creamy dressing

This salad was very enjoyable. There was nothing too spicy or sweet or sour in it like many Thai salads. It was pretty muted flavor-wise, but very tasty with crisp veggies and a creamy dressing. I don’t know if I would spend $11 on it when it comes with no protein, though.

Pepperoni Pizza (with no cheese): $22

Before I make any other comments, I must say that this is the most perfect crust I have had outside of NYC. In fact, it tasted just like the best pizza I had in NYC. The crust is their house-made dough, aged for 48 hours. They say on their website they have a limit of dough per day. It is perfectly crispy with still having just a bit of chew. With just a few nearly-burnt areas, it was perfection for me.

The only issue I have is I’m paying $22 for this pizza. All pizzas are 18 inches, so they are massive. Though I ask for no cheese. If you want extra cheese, it is $2. Usually, I get a discount or an unspoken addition of extra toppings to make up for not getting the fresh mozzarella and shredded mozarella. I got neither here, not that I asked. I’ll ask next time, because there will be a next time.

The pizza overall was great. The crust is a must! The pepperonis, though not overflowing, are thick and delicious. The rest is in my fridge, in Ziplocs, because the box was too bit to fit in it, covered with extra pepperonis from my stock and ready to be reheated for lunch. I can’t wait for lunch!

Overall

This place is cool. Modern, full of activities, a great bar, fantastic pizza, wonderful outdoor spaces. This is the perfect hang out spot.

They are open for a fantastic looking brunch on Sundays. Does an eggs benedict pizza sound good to you, because it does to me!  They are closed Monday and Tuesday. Open for lunch and dinner and the time in-between otherwise.

If you try the place out, let me know what else is a must-try and if they have brought back any sandwiches yet.

Food Review: Verona in Benton, Where We Lay Our Scene

There is a cute little log cabin right off of I-30 in Benton that has housed a few restaurants by now. While I never got to try Mo’ Betta Gumbo or any of the previous businesses, I got to try the new Vernona, an Italian restaurant. Here’s the breakdown.

 

Environment

The log cabin theme is not limited to the outside of the restaurant, but carries inward as well. The space is a little dim with only a few tables, though more could easily fit. Log columns protruding through the middle of a few of the tables make talking to your table mates a little tough. And loud Frank Sinatra music didn’t help conversations either. In general, this environment certainly does not transport you to Italy.

 

The Menu

The menu looked very promising. Besides the classic dishes with marinara or alfredo sauce, there were plenty of other delicious sounding dishes with chicken or shrimp. Other than that, there is one veal parmigiana and one lobster ravioli.

 

The Food

I was dining with my mom and once we sat, we were immediately greeted with a basket of five large rolls. Individual butter packets were already on the table. So far, so good!

While the rolls were hot and very pretty, they really lacked flavor. So much so, my mom and I both added salt to the top of them. Adding butter to each bite helped, but they really needed a little garlic butter or something to make them good. There is so much potential with these rolls!

I ordered the Chicken Verona, which came with a tossed salad, with which I ordered the house dressing.

Tossed Salad

While the salad was tiny and lack-luster, with only tomatoes and red onions (though I ordered mine without cheese), the house dressing made it delicious. This tomato basil vinaigrette is unique and full of flavor. It made the tossed salad ($2.99 if ordered separately) enjoyable. Though, it was such a small amount, I’m not sure I’d want to even pay $2.99 for it if it did not come with my meal.
My mom, on the other hand, loved that it was small because she said she hates filling up on salad before her actual meal comes. So, there ya go.

Chicken Verona: ($13.99) chicken breast sauteed w/ fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, and sherry wine pink sauce sauce over spaghetti. Comes with a tossed salad.

First off, I love a restaurant that serves dishes like this. Ones you don’t see on every Italian menu. Ones that have bold ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes. Ones that come in a sauce that isn’t marinara or alfredo. And this dish was delicious. And huge. I couldn’t even eat half of it, though I wanted to.
With two pieces of chicken (I think they were one large chicken breast, just butterflied and separated) and LOTS of spaghetti, I was afraid the sauce wouldn’t be enough to make each bite tasty. I was wrong. After cutting the chicken and mixing everything around, there was the perfect amount of sauce and other ingredients that each bite was flavorful, saucy, and delicious. I recommend this dish.

Baked Tortellini: ($8.99) There are no descriptions in the menu on this dish, but it is cheese-filled tortellini and the waiter asked if she wanted marinara or the house “pink” sauce. She chose the pink.

While I didn’t try this dish (no cheese for me, please) my mom said it was very good. She said “The tortellini was delicious on its own but the sauce made it a double hitter.” She also explained that if a basic dish like baked tortellini is good, then she can bet other options will be good as well; therefore, she plans to come back.

Limoncello Cake: Free for my mom!

You must go up the counter to pay your bill, which seems a little odd for a sit down Italian joint. However, as soon as I saw the glass- door refrigerator holding all of the desserts located behind the counter, I understood their method.
It was my mom’s birthday, so I asked her which dessert she wanted. Out of options such as tiramisu, different cheesecakes, red velvet cake, Italian cream cake, and more, she went for the turtle cheesecake.
The owner asked if she was certain that’s what she wanted and he had a suggestion for her. He suggested the limoncello cake instead. He said it was light, lemon-y, full of mascarpone cheese and topped with white chocolate icing. He then opened the container and let her smell it. My mom changed her mind and went for it!
She took this one home to enjoy but gave me a full report. She said “The dessert was just like he said, light enough to eat after a big or heavy meal and the lemon was perfect. Not too faint and not bitter.” I think its safe to say it was a winner!

The Service

Everyone was very nice, and the restaurant seemed to work more as a whole group for the whole restaurant rather than separating waitresses into sections. So, we had about four different people taking orders, filling waters, taking plates, etc. Which is fine! We were well taken care of.
The owner (or maybe just the manager?), was very hands on. He checked in on everyone to make sure the food was good, he helped deliver dishes, and so forth. Some may think he was a little much? But that just shows me he really cares about the success of this place. Plus, I really appreciated all of the extra time he gave us when choosing a dessert…oh yea, and giving it to my mom for free for a birthday gift!

Overall

I enjoyed this place, I would definitely come again. If they would just add a little salt and some flavor to the rolls, I would LOVE this place. There are definitely other dishes I want to try, and have full faith they will be as good as the Chicken Verona.
Would I suggest this restaurant for  a romantic dinner? Nah, the ambiance isn’t quite there. But for a tasty Italian dinner with the family and leftovers to take home? Oh yea.