Joe Fennel

Bordinos, Joe Fennel

Joe’s first restaurant was Jose’s on Dickson, which he opened at a time when many businesses were closing their doors and fleeing to more upmarket locales on North College and near the Northwest Arkansas Mall. 

“It was 1980, and nobody wanted to be down here but me.  North College was too expensive, so the only place I could afford was on Dickson Street. I’ve always liked the energy of this street.”

Today the Dickson Street entertainment district is a go-to destination for live music, trendy bars, upscale shops and restaurants. Bordinos has been a fine dining and drinking choice since 1996, making it the district’s oldest dining establishment.

Much of the menu reflects Joe’s love of Italian-American food and his passion for keeping it local.  The menu is peppered with locally sourced foods, such as produce from the nearby Fayetteville’s Farmers’ Market, breads from Ozark Natural Breads, and grass-fed lamb shank from Wynn Farms. A daily happy hour brings in regulars, as does wine flights and original recipe cocktails. Bordinos’ extensive wine cellar has earned the restaurant an Annual Award of Excellence form Wine Spectator every year since opening.

Joe’s name is synonymous with Jose’s and Bordinos, but many people came to know him through his love and promotion of running. He is co-founder of the Chili Pepper Cross Country Festival, which has raised and donated more than $400,000 to high school cross-country programs across Northwest Arkansas.

“The restaurant business is how I’ve made my living, but the running community has been a big part of my life. I’ve made life-long friends from around the state and region through my involvement with ultra running and the Chili Pepper.”

Favorite Bordinos entrée: “Joe’s Pasta, which is basically a red sauce pasta with grilled boar sausage. It hasn’t been on the menu for a long time, but they’ll make it for you. “

Favorite Bordinos beverage: “Wine, mainly Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Grigos from the west coast.”

Favorite thing about Bordinos: “The opportunity to work with young people, and not just be their boss, but hopefully their mentor as well. The magic of this business is putting a team together that supports each other through good and bad, and enjoying the good times together and being there for each other when it may not be so good.”