Chef Liz Huff of Catalpa in Arrow Rock, Missouri, has become highly adept at pivoting during the pandemic era. From shifting her fine dining restaurant to an outdoor burger and boozy shake joint to opening in a new location – with a totally new vibe – just a few blocks away, innovation has kept her and Catalpa on their feet through this dubious time.
In February, she opened Catalpa’s third installment on the boardwalk in Arrow Rock, serving up burgers, pizzas, apps and boozy drinks in a fast-casual setting. With four dining areas – including a loft space with its own tiny food elevator, along with a heated screened porch – there’s seating for 90 plus patrons, a jump from her previous location’s 40-some max.
If you’ve been following Huff's renovation journey on social media, you’ve seen bits and pieces of the modern interior décor come to life, but if it’s your first time in Arrow Rock, the contrast from the rest of the town might be unexpected. The historic village of Arrow Rock – which feels sleepy during the week but comes alive on a Lyceum Theater show weekend – dates back to 1829, and many of the homes and businesses along its main street reflect these historical roots.
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From the outside, Catalpa is no different, but once you swing open the antique doors, a modern culinary experience awaits. Lunar fixtures light the kitchen, and gold-leafed walls, live-edge counters and the restaurant's famous gold bathroom give the space its own unique vibe. Above all, the space is welcoming, something Huff made a priority, even more so than the fare.
“It’s always been about creating memories for people first – and then the food,” she says. “That's what you get when you walk in here.”
The ambiance matches the menu, which is filled with a variety of sandwiches, salads and pizzas, such as the Chef Liz: mozzarella, grilled chicken, dried figs, sour cherries, apricots, ginger and fresh spinach on a bed of creamy garlic alfredo sauce, finished with shaved parmesan. Sandwiches includes your choice of a beef patty, pork patty, Impossible Burger or grilled chicken, finished with a smattering of toppings; try the sweet ginger with roasted peppers, onion, and fresh ginger teriyaki sauce or the German with brown sugar sauerkraut, Havarti cheese and pink sauce.
Don’t just stick to the mains; pair your sandwich with a crab-and-jalapeño garlic loaf or a boozy milkshake, like the Pink Squirrel, made with amaretto and white chocolate liqueur. If you’re feeling extra thirsty and up for some fun, go for the Pink Pig Punch cocktail – served in a pink ceramic pig, of course – along with some required costuming for the consumer: a fireworks headband.
As Catalpa begins a new era on the boardwalk, Huff is thrilled to see her customers continuing the journey with her.
“Right now, we're just trying to keep our heads above water, and I'm thankful for every person that has come here,” she says. “The fact that you have people that believe in you enough, and customers that believe in you, and it's kind of what keeps you going, right?”
Many of her patrons find themselves in Arrow Rock for the first time after seeking out her restaurant and keep coming back for meal after meal.
“There were people sitting at that booth this week, and they were from the fine dining days years ago. They brought their families and had celebrations with us and all that," she says. “Then when I had the thing in the yard, they came, and when I couldn't get this open and I had the food cart, they came. And then they came here and they were like, ‘this is completely different – but we’re good with that.’”
Discover the reimagined Catalpa in Arrow Rock for yourself Thursday through Sunday. No reservations are accepted, so be sure to arrive with plenty of spare time if you’re planning to catch a show at the Lyceum.
Catalpa, 302 Main St., Arrow Rock, Missouri, 660.837.3324, www.catalparestaurant.com