I'm making it my personal mission to single-handedly eat my way across the nation, one delicious animal at a time.

Fire up the pit, here I come!!!!!

Search The Blog

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Casey's Bar-B-Que (Little Rock, AR)




A long-standing Little Rock barbecue institution, Casey's Bar-B-Que, re-opened its doors in a brand-new location just a few weeks ago. Of course, I had to go investigate and see if all of the hype was justified.


Casey's closed up shop in 2005 after twenty-two impressive years in business. I'm not sure of the exact reason for the closure, but, needless to say, many Little Rock residents are plum tickled to see them back in business. I've awaited their opening for a while now, which got delayed because of permit issues and other unfortunate events. With newness comes long lines, and in order to avoid such, I arrived promptly at their 11:00am opening time.

The new location is in the home of the former Arkansas Burger Company, but Casey's doesn't feel like a burger joint whatsoever. It actually has kind of an indoor-outdoor vibe with all of the brick and white shiplap. I liked the exposed beams, too. The place is clean, welcoming, and open, with wall-length windows making the place feel even larger. Casey's has a nice patio space out back, even if it is a tad small. They also made good use of the existing drive-thru on the building, which I'm sure will get a ton of traffic.


At Casey's, just order at the counter and plop yourself down anywhere you like. I got their regular combo plate with sliced brisket and pulled pork, plus potato salad and bbq beans on the side. There is a large combo plate available, but apparently it just comes with an extra side, not an extra meat. So I stuck with the regular size and added on a half-pound of pork ribs to round things out. After all, I wanted to get the full Casey's experience. Service was fairly slow, even though I was only the third table through the door. I had my food in about fifteen minutes. Hopefully that's just some growing pains while the new employees figure out a rhythm.



The potato salad had a pleasant amount of mustard. It was also very tangy, with a good crunch from the veggie mix-ins. I found big hunks of meat scattered throughout my beans. They were very sweet, and only slightly peppery despite all of the visible black pepper.

My requested slices of brisket came out chopped. Maybe the cashier misheard me. The beef was a little chewy, though not dry. Casey's super-vinegary barbecue sauce was definitely front and center here. I could taste some good smoke through the sauce, which surprised me. It was difficult to find things like a crust or a smoke ring in this form, but at least the flavors were on point.

The pulled pork, although a little less smoky than the brisket, was very tender. I received a few pieces of bark in my helping, which were well-seasoned. With all of the sauce, the pork tasted pretty much the same as the beef, just a different texture. I'm not suggesting that this was a bad thing, it just wasn't unique enough to detail further.

Despite placing a dine-in order, the ribs arrived in their own carry-out container because "they're very messy." Yes, I would agree. The ribs were swimming in a literal pool of sauce that rose about halfway up each bone. My half-pound order amounted to four ribs, which was probably more than plenty. I found a deep reddish crust and juicy pork beneath. The meat came off with ease, but did manage to stay put until I was ready for the next bite. A heavy dusting of spices coated the ribs on all sides. The sauce probably paired best with the ribs, since it simply coated them and rolled off instead of soaking in.

If you're going to grab a two-meat combo here, go for the ribs and pulled pork, since the beef/pork combo ended up being a little superfluous. I'm glad that Casey's Bar-B-Que is back in action, and I wish them well. My in-laws want to try out their new 'que as well, so I'll probably be eating there again in a few days!

UPDATE (May 19, 2018): As predicted, we grabbed a Casey's to go order for our family dinner on Saturday. I went with a family pack (of course) with a pound of pulled pork and sides of bbq beans and potato salad. For my kiddo, I also ordered some of their smoked turkey. I had initially wanted an additional side of mac and cheese, but since they were out, a few orders of their spiral cut fries had to suffice. The sauceless pork was even tastier than before, at least to me, since I prefer my meat au naturel. The real winner, however, was the turkey. Our slices had just come off of the smoker, so they were as fresh as could be. It was exceedingly smoky and really, really tender. In my opinion, if you like the smoked turkey from nearby Burge's, this was at least twice as good.

**********

Casey's Bar-B-Que
7410 Cantrell Rd
Little Rock, AR 72207
(501) 615-8522

Monday, May 7, 2018

Felix's BBQ with Soul (Oceanside, CA)




I managed to take my family on a bit of a wild goose chase out to Oceanside, California for some barbecue. We came to San Diego for a week-long vacation, and I picked Felix's BBQ with Soul as my one customary barbecue indulgence. Our afternoon activity already put us up in Carlsbad, so I figured this would be an easy addition to the itinerary. Not so much, given both the traffic and the distance.


Felix's has more of a casual, bistro-esque interior than I was anticipating. It was comfortable and clean, without much decoration to speak of really. Some cool blues music might have been a better choice for ambiance than the old crooners, but that's a personal opinion. Either way, it was still pleasant.


We ordered an appetizer of fried green tomatoes for no real reason in particular. Barbecue joint aside, this was a little far from the Mason-Dixon line, so I had some reservations about them.


The tomatoes had a well-seasoned batter, and their tartness paired well with the zesty remoulade accompaniment. That said, they were kind of falling apart at the seams, which made them fairly difficult to eat.

I initially had my eye on sharing a four-meat, four-side sampler platter, but the wife was more interested in chicken tenders for some unholy reason. Without her to help eat at least a little of my meat, I settled on a custom two-meat combo of tri-tip and St. Louis ribs with macaroni and sweet potato fries. When eating barbecue in California, tri-tip is pretty much a given.



Our complimentary cornbread was slightly sweet and not the least bit dry. Big elbow pasta was a good choice for the macaroni. The cheese was a little grainy, though still very gooey and tasty. My fries were sufficient, but nothing special at all.

The tri-tip was a little chewy, but not dry. It was an interesting texture. The fattier slices were more tender, and their fat was also nicely rendered. I found a moderate smokiness without the usual smoke ring. The crust, though seasoned well, didn't really add that much to the flavor profile. All in all, I liked it just fine.

Both the tri-tip and the ribs were served over lettuce for some bizarre reason. My ribs were big and meaty, but St. Louis ribs they were not, since the rib tips, etc. were all still attached. I appreciated the deep red crust. The meat came off with zero effort, a touch overcooked. Their honey glaze was fairly sweet, while the peppery rub was a good contrast. A third-rack was as many ribs as I needed today.

Felix's BBQ with Soul was a little hit or miss. It was also pretty expensive. Besides my custom order, we had the tomato appetizer, an order of chicken tenders, and a kids PB&J. All of that, with tax and tip, ran an astonishing $80.00! The food was ok, but certainly not worth that much. While I'm grateful to my wife for indulging my hobby, I wish that I had picked someplace else.

**********

Felix's BBQ with Soul
3613 Ocean Ranch Blvd
Oceanside, CA 92056
(760) 439-7072
http://www.felixsbbq.com/

Felix's BBQ With Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, April 21, 2018

B Street Rib Off 2018 (North Little Rock, AR)

A few weeks ago, my wife gave me the morning off from stay-at-home-dad duty, with explicit instructions to leave the house and go scratch my barbecue itch. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't quite as cooperative, and with sleet coming down I decided to stay put. Today, however, the skies were clear for the annual B Street Rib Off across the river in North Little Rock.


There wasn't much specific info about what to expect from this event aside from the obvious cook-off part. I knew there were supposed to be food trucks, but which ones in particular I'd just have to wait and see. The amateur barbecue cook-off benefits the American Cancer Society of Central Arkansas, with competitors simply taking home bragging rights and the inherent satisfaction of philanthropy, since 100% of the proceeds go to the local ACS chapter.


Well, having Disney on Ice only a half-mile down the street made getting to this event a freaking princess-filled nightmare. Once my son and I arrived, there were no food trucks anywhere, and nothing really for kids to do despite the advertised "family friendly" nature of the cook-off. Great, just great. Luckily, I've been doing the dad thing long enough to have packed some chicken, cheese, and applesauce for my little guy just in case, so he ate his lunch in the stroller as we walked up and down Main Street.


Then, by the grace of the barbecue gods, the "People's Choice" sampling started up at 11:30am instead of the scheduled noon time. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we went in for twenty minutes, and I shoved as much meat in my gullet as my toddler would allow. I found quite the motley assortment of barbecue, as well as other things approximating barbecue.

Boston butt "nuggets" and pork tenderloin were both a tad dry. I got some jambalaya that was very tasty but seemed out of place in this setting. The brisket was juicy, though a little too much like pot roast for my liking. The pulled pork egg rolls were awesome and had an excellent flaky wrapper. I wish I had also tried the kind with coleslaw for some added crunch. Bologna and sausage were both seasoned well, and I thoroughly enjoyed the smoked cheese. I also found room for some sweet peppers stuffed with cream cheese and Italian sausage. The pork belly really hit the spot, as it always does. Nicely charred bacon-wrapped watermelon rind was one of my definite favorites, but in the end I gave my "People's Choice" token to the Blind Mullets team for their spicy smoked chicken wings with Alabama white sauce. They had a magnificently crispy skin, blackened nicely from the pit, and the creamy white sauce tempered the heat nicely. Superb.

I sincerely apologize for the lack of food pictures in this post, but once the sampling kicked off my fingers were too full of meat grease and toddler spit to risk handling my phone. Getting outside and spending the day with my son is always worthwhile, I'm just sorry that it was so much of a struggle this time. It wasn't until the very end of our morning that things seemed to start going according to plan, although I suppose that's often what makes an adventure worthwhile.

**********

B Street Rib Off
512 N Main St
North Little Rock, AR 72114
http://www.bstreetriboff.org/

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Jo-Jo's Bar-B-Q (Sherwood, AR)




I needed a little bit of a break today, so I thought I might treat myself to some smoked meat therapy. Jo-Jo's Bar-B-Q up in Sherwood, AR opens their doors early at 10:30am, which made it perfect for my schedule this morning.


It's a pretty simple setup they've got going on here. Jo-Jo's occupies half of an older slant-roof building, with some sort of salon sharing the rest of the space. The joint looks about like you'd expect from a small town diner, unassuming both inside and out. Clearly not the place to go for ambiance, but then again most folks who come here probably couldn't care less.


Even though my waitress was obviously a new employee, she was very sweet and seemed to be a fast learner. I asked for a custom two-meat combo plate, but luckily for me they actually had a three-meat ribs/brisket/pork sampler on special, complete with beans and coleslaw. Sold!


The beans were nicely peppered and pleasantly acidic. I found a good crunch of onion, not to mention a spiciness that hit my tongue now and again. Not being the biggest coleslaw fan in general, I appreciated that they went a little easy on the dressing. The slaw was tasty enough for those who enjoy it, and fresh cabbage and carrots added a crisp texture.

My brisket came out chopped, even though I was told beforehand to expect slices. The waitress asked if I wanted to send it back for sliced brisket, and even though I did, I told her that it was fine as is. The brisket was loaded up with delicious, salty bark. I also noticed a decent smoke level in each bite. I couldn't see a smoke ring, but I'd rather taste smoke than see it. The beef was very tender, which you would certainly expect in its chopped form, so I can't speak to the tenderness of their sliced brisket.

The pork was also served chopped, but here I could see some pink smoke-kissed bits mixed in. Most of the pork struck me as sufficiently smoky, and I found it to be both moist and juicy. Although I didn't receive a ton of bark in my portion, what little there was I enjoyed immensely. Some well-rendered fat was a nice addition, too.

A deep reddish-black crust made me salivate at the sight of Jo-Jo's ribs. They were visibly smoky, to say the least. Minimalist seasoning allowed the natural pork to stand out, which I generally prefer. The ribs were a little overcooked, though not quite falling-off-the-bone, and still juicy. Three bones were plenty, considering how much other food there was on my plate.

Jo-Jo's is the kind of place where the food speaks for itself, no frills offered or needed. That's just what you want from a barbecue joint. With tax, my three-meat combo and a sweet tea only ran me $12.00! It's hard to beat that kind of a deal.

**********

Jo-Jo's Bar-B-Q
117 Country Club Rd
Sherwood, AR 72120
(501) 834-9696
http://www.jojosbbq.com/

Jo Jo's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, February 26, 2018

Round 2: Whole Hog Cafe #2 (Little Rock, AR)




I had swung through Whole Hog Cafe last week to pick up a gift card for someone, and, while waiting my turn at the counter, I had an epiphany. Somehow, in all of the times I've eaten Whole Hog, I'd never had their pork loin. This would not stand!

Since I was already in West Little Rock today, I thought I might try out their location on Highway 10. But sadly, pork loin isn't a part of that branch's menu, nor the other spot on Cantrell. North Little Rock would have been the next closest location that I hadn't yet sampled, and that was a bit far out of the way. So even though the Markham Whole Hog isn't my favorite, I wanted that pork badly enough to give them a second run.


I arrived right at opening time, which meant there were only two other customers between me and the counter. This location is always clean and bright on the inside, with a yummy smoke-filled aroma. Super friendly employees and some great blues music also add to the fun, welcoming atmosphere.


While I've eaten the pulled chicken from Whole Hog on several occasions, I've never had their full bird either, so a half-chicken was definitely on my radar today as well. The most economical way to get my desired meats was with a half-chicken plate, plus an a la carte helping of pork loin. I picked cheesy corn and potato salad as my sides, going the safe route with one and exploring with the other.


My potato salad was definitely heavy on the mayo, but that added to its flavor and its creaminess. The skin-on potatoes were finely diced, and I saw a lot of green bits that I couldn't identify by sight or by taste. I'm thinking maybe chives or parsley? Either way, there was plenty of seasoning and plenty to like about this dish. The corn, on the other hand, confused me a little. It was basically corn tossed in their macaroni cheese. Not that it was bad by any means, but my brain kept anticipating, and therefore wanting, actual pasta. I'm also not sure that the flavors meshed together as well as they had hoped.

The pork lacked any real smoke ring, and it looked sort of gray and lifeless if I'm being completely honest. Looks aside, the tender pork tasted great. I couldn't pinpoint any smoke, but there was a hefty, savory spice blend on the crust. The best way that I can describe this as thin slices of a pork chop. Although I liked it in general, I wouldn't exactly call it barbecue.

Nice grill marks made the hunk of poultry very appetizing. The crisp skin had a slightly sweet marinade on it, and the chicken below was very juicy, especially the dark meat. In my opinion, this was more grilled than smoked though, and it certainly tasted that way. The chicken was good in its own right, but it was not the barbecue chicken I had hoped for.

I'm glad that I tried the rest of Whole Hog Cafe's offerings, but I guess I should stick to their ribs and pulled pork from now on, preferably at the Cantrell location.

**********

Whole Hog Cafe
12111 W. Markham St
Little Rock, AR 72211
(501) 907-6124
http//www.wholehogcafe.com/

Whole Hog Cafe - West Little Rock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Breitweiser's (Benton, AR)




This weekend I needed a little "me time," and what better way to accomplish that than with some "meat time"? I set my sights on Breitweiser's down south in Benton, Arkansas. I couldn't find much info about this butcher shop, but I knew I'd find barbecue there, and that's really all the info that I needed.


I arrived right around 10:45am, assuming that this kind of place would have things ready to rock by then. Sure enough, I smelled the sweet aroma of pit smoke through the morning rain. Breitweiser's is a classic small town meat market, plus they have a decent selection of deli meats and cheeses (although the latter two sadly aren't homemade). These guys also sell quite a few barbecue sauces and rubs, and beer, of course.


As you might expect, Breitweiser's sells their barbecue by the pound, but they were kind enough to make me up an awesome four-meat feast of brisket, chicken, sausage, and ribs with beans and potato salad. All this plus a Coke only ran me $18.00, which wasn't bad at all. The meats came from warming pans, and were then further heated up on a flat iron griddle. There isn't really a great spot to dine in here, so I ate things out in my truck.


I started lunch off with some pretty standard baked beans, likely canned. There was a slight spiciness here and there, but it didn't linger. My potato salad was a mustard-based variety. They also have mayo-based potato salad available if you're so inclined, although my options were presented as "white or yellow." Flecks of dill and intermittent pickles and pimento made this an enjoyable side dish. It wasn't nearly as mustardy as its bright yellow color suggested, and that's a good thing.

The brisket had some great bark and an adequate smoke ring. I found good hits of salt and smoke in each bite. The beef was also tender and super moist, despite the leaner cut. What fat there was had been rendered down nicely and oozed flavor. The griddle added a good char as well, but I would have rather just had my brisket sliced fresh.

I don't know if Breitweiser's makes their own sausage, but I would guess not. It tasted more like Eckrich to me, and considering that all of their deli meats come from this brand, that's probably a safe bet. The meat was also finely ground, with no visible fat or seasonings. There was a good sear to the sausage at least, and a very snappy casing.

At first I had trouble discerning what part of the chicken I'd been served, but I'm about eighty percent sure that it was a breast. The chicken skin was nicely charred, so you can imagine my disappointment when I didn't taste much of anything beyond pit smoke. I did appreciate the smokiness, which is often lacking in barbecue chicken. It could have definitely used a good dusting of salt and pepper at a minimum though. The meat itself was cooked well and was fairly tender. Maybe dark meat would have fared better.

There was a great crust on my ribs, and they were incredibly smoky. A rosy smoke ring was also instantly visible. Not much seasoning here either, but the other flavors made up for things in this instance. The pork was very juicy and quite tender. While I couldn't stand to eat more than a few bites of the chicken, I found myself wishing I had several more ribs.

Needless to say, Breitweiser's was a bit of a roller coaster ride. Four-star brisket, two-star sausage, one-and-a-half-star chicken, and ribs somewhere between a three and a four. I'm not entirely sure what to do with all of that, so I'll just call this place "average" and move on.

**********

Breitweiser's
1113 W South St
Benton, AR 72015
(501) 776-0391

Breitweiser's Meat Market & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Capitol Smokehouse & Grill (Little Rock, AR)




I had tried to visit Capitol Smokehouse & Grill during my previous barbecue outing, only to find them closed due to lack of heat. Winters in Little Rock due tend to be a bit on the chilly side, so I didn't mind postponing my visit until today.


This place could seriously use a complete design makeover, or a fresh coat of paint at the very least. And that's coming from a guy who regularly eats at dives and shacks. Capitol Smokehouse has all of the knickknacks of a small, rural diner shoved into a relatively tiny space downtown. Well, downtown-ish anyway.


Here everything comes cafeteria-style, which means that all of the meats are pulled from warming trays rather than being cut fresh to order. I initially ordered their combo plate, slated to come with brisket, pulled pork, and baby back ribs by default, along with potatoes and "meaty beans" as my sides. Except today they didn't have any brisket, and for some reason they wouldn't let me substitute their barbecue chicken for the beef. So after much deliberation, they suggested that I take a two-meat "half and half" plate of pulled pork and ribs and add on the poultry for a $3.99 upcharge. All together, my lunch was almost $20.00, which seemed a bit steep.


The beans were both sweet and spicy, and nicely seasoned to boot. I didn't notice much meat in there, but at least they were tasty. My skin-on potatoes were crispy and loaded up with big hunks of onion. Although I tend to prefer my potatoes in salad form, these were a worthy and comforting side dish. The cornbread, however, was dry and crumbling at every touch.

My local Kroger generally sells chicken quarters for around $1.99 per pound, so for more than double that price I was expecting to be blown away. The skin was crispy and seasoned well, and the dark meat was juicy enough. There wasn't any discernible smokiness, but there was at least a good char from the pit. Something slightly sugary in the rub was also a welcome flavor contrast.

While most of the food at Capitol Smokehouse came from visible warming trays, my pulled pork came from a plastic baggie. It was sort of dry, though astonishingly tender. There was just a touch of smoke, and otherwise it was fairly bland. I didn't find any real bark to speak of, at least not in my portion.

I couldn't see where they pulled my ribs from, but it sure wasn't the pit. Their soggy crust suggested that they too had been "warming" for quite some time. The crust did showcase a surprisingly savory blend of spices, but there was only a hint of smoke, and it faded quickly. At least the meat was cooked well, it just needed to be served a lot fresher.

The ladies running Capitol Smokehouse & Grill were some of the friendliest you're likely to find anywhere, but sadly that only does so much to make up for mediocrity, especially considering the price tag. Even though I really wanted to give this place a higher rating, they don't deserve it.

**********

Capitol Smokehouse & Grill
915 W Capitol Ave
Little Rock, AR 72201
(501) 372-4227

Capitol Smokehouse and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Hawgz Blues Cafe (North Little Rock, AR)




My first choice for lunchtime barbecue was unexpectedly closed today. Apparently their heat went out, and since it was all of 19 degrees overnight, they felt like this might be problematic. Good call. I made a snap decision to check out Hawgz Blues Cafe in North Little Rock instead.


Best I can tell, this joint opened sometime in Spring 2017 or so. There was a surprisingly limited interior dining space, which is odd given the enormity of the building itself. A large group of customers had most of the tables gobbled up when we arrived, so maybe there's really more seating than it seemed. High ceilings and large open spaces made the room feel even more empty. It has kind of an old Nola house feel to it, and I assume that's what they were going for. Food aside, this is surely a great spot for live music and evening cocktails. Their big outdoor patio looked like it gets rocking quite often, at least in warmer weather. The bar area I saw probably has plenty of traffic as well.


Hawgz Blues offers a Southern Smoked Dinner with either brisket or pulled pork, but I was bold enough to request both. This combo automatically comes with baked beans and potato salad. Good enough for me. For the little guy that I had in tow, I ordered the kid's chicken tenders with mac and cheese instead of the standard french fries. All requests were happily accommodated.


I ended up with a side of unexpected coleslaw, too. There were nice hits of mustard and crunchy cabbage in each bite. I'm no fan of slaw in general, but this was almost enough to change my mind. The beans were pleasantly seasoned and had some sizeable hunks of meat throughout. Although their potato salad wasn't quite mashed, it was close. The creamy mayo base had plenty of veggies mixed in for texture. Each side had merit, and I was happy to have them all.

The brisket was sliced thin but still had evidence of bark and a rosy smoke ring, though the thin slicing didn't offer too much of either. The thinness did help keep things tender at least. A moderate smokiness was the most I could find. Their sauce added both acidity and a sweetness, but wasn't overpowering at all. It was actually a nice combination of natural and added flavors.

My pulled pork was even better. Big chunks of tender pork were a welcome change of pace from the stuff that's chopped into oblivion. I found it much smokier than the brisket, but I wished for more bark. Hawgz Blues uses a different sauce on the pork, and it had some definite heat to it. The spiciness lingered on my lips and tongue, as did the smoke.

Although chicken tenders and macaroni aren't exactly a gourmet meal, my son seemed to enjoy them both. That may not seem like a ringing endorsement, but he has a pretty discerning palate for a one-year-old. Take that as you will.

I like to read reviews from other customers both before and after trying out a new barbecue joint, mostly to see how my personal experience measures up. Yelp in particular has a fair amount of negative reviews for Hawgz Blues, criticizing both the food and the service. Honestly, I found neither one lacking all that much. I've already given my two cents on the food. As for service, every employee I saw was hustling hard, and two others besides my waiter checked to make sure that everything was ok at various points during the meal. I appreciate that kind of work ethic. Perhaps there were just some growing pains early on, but whatever the case may be, Hawgz Blues Cafe seems to have things under control now.

**********

Hawgz Blues Cafe
5524 John F. Kennedy Blvd
North Little Rock, AR 72116
(501) 478-6300
http://www.hawgzbluescafe.com

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q (Maumelle, AR)




I'm getting a bit low on new barbecue joints to investigate in Little Rock proper, so my one-year-old wingman and I ventured north across the river to Maumelle to check out Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q for lunch.


The faux log walls at Smoke Shack were reminiscent of an old-timey cabin, which is what I assume they were going for. Most of the decor is just old license plates scattered about, but the place was also decorated for Christmas this time of year. Don't let the small primary dining room fool you: there's a larger room in the back, as well as an outdoor patio. Maumelle tends to be a little short on restaurants, especially non-chain restaurants, so I bet Smoke Shack gets packed frequently.


I grabbed a brisket dinner plate with potato salad and tomato relish, plus a half-rack of pork ribs to round things out. I also ordered a quarter-pound of smoked turkey for my son, who is pretty much obligated to share with Daddy. A half-pound was the minimum that they would sell me, so leftovers were sure to be plentiful.




Smoke Shack's chunky potato salad was full of veggies and definitely full of mustard. Normally I'm a huge fan of potato salad, but this one wasn't really my style. The tomato relish, on the other hand, was superb. Big hunks of green tomato were bursting with sugar and spice, plus a tart acidity for balance. I had initially considered pinto beans as my second side dish, but I'm really glad that I went with the tomatoes instead.

This was sort of an odd presentation for brisket, particularly the half-bun accompaniment. I was also a little saddened by the mass of sauce-covered chopped beef rather than the Texas-style slices that I've grown so fond of over the years. The tender brisket was piping hot, a good sign. There was plenty of bark and plenty of smoke, which shone through nicely despite all of the sauce. I couldn't find a visible smoke ring, but I'm sure that it was there somewhere.

The pork spare ribs looked absolutely gorgeous. Their rosy black crust glistened with delicious grease and pork juice, beckoning me to dive right in. These guys were seasoned just right and had a great smokiness. The meat came off easily with a slight tug, none of this falling-off-the-bone nonsense. As expected, each bite was spectacularly juicy. A half-rack wasn't nearly enough.

My son's turkey came out deli sliced, rather than the thick pieces I had envisioned. Nonetheless, it was very juicy and well-smoked. The seasoning around the edges was even tastier. We both enjoyed it thoroughly, even though his less-than-dexterous fingers dropped half of it on the floor.

What the brisket lacked the ribs made up for in spades, and the turkey was no slouch either. Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q will definitely become part of our regular rotation.

**********

Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q
20608 Hwy 365
Maumelle, AR 72213
(501) 803-4935

Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

H.B's Bar-B-Q (Little Rock, AR)




I seem to be on a bit of a barbecue shack kick lately. That's ok, these humble joints often have unexpectedly phenomenal food. Today's smoked meat adventure took me to H.B.'s Bar-B-Q down in south Little Rock.


You'll find H.B.'s in a converted house smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood, where it's lived for over fifty years. The neighborhood is a bit sketchy, but there were quite a few signs inside and out which suggest that the owners and employees are all packing heat here. This place looked super old, from the wood-paneled walls to the country cow decor. Most of what I could see was also fairly dusty and grimy, especially the dish sink right behind their register. Frankly, I'm surprised that this joint passes health inspections.


There's only a small dining room, packed tight with a dozen or so tables and chairs. To-go orders would be more advisable here, so that's what I did today. Even then it took forever to order, and I was only third in line. By this point my one-year-old was as visibly exasperated as the overworked cashier/waitress/owner (I think). So I made a snap decision to forgo any questions or any attempt at a multi-meat combo. Instead, I simplified things down to a pork and beef sandwich duo with a side of potato salad. If I'm being completely honest, neither of these sandwiches looked particularly appetizing.


The potato salad was bright yellow, though less mustardy than I imagined. Pimentos didn't add much in either the flavor or the texture departments. It was creamy and tasty, but not my favorite.

I started the main course with the brisket sandwich, or at least the one that I thought was brisket. There was actually some nice charred bark mixed into the mass of chopped beef, with a nice crunch from the slaw as well. I found just a mild smokiness, but it was there nonetheless. The meat was also quite tender, although in its chopped form it would be hard not to be. The sandwich was only slightly sweet, less so than I expected given the heavy dose of sauce, which also happened to be somewhat spicy.

My pork sandwich came topped with slaw as well. The meat was juicy and tender, but chopped into oblivion and somewhat less seasoned than its beef counterpart. There was plenty of rosy bark beneath the surface at least. The sauce was poured on a little heavier here, such that that's pretty much all I could taste without really concentrating and focusing my tastebuds.

In retrospect, the sandwiches likely would have been much better without sauce, a request that I should have taken the time to make.

**********

H.B.'s Bar-B-Q
6010 Lancaster
Little Rock, AR 72209
(501) 565-1930

H.B.'s Bar-B-Q Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato