Saturday, November 24, 2012
Whole Hog Cafe (Little Rock, AR)
My wife's family lives in Little Rock, and I've been dying to try out the Whole Hog Cafe for a while now. They affectionately describe their food as "World Champion Barbecue," but as a Texan, I was understandably a bit skeptical. I finally got the chance to go during Thanksgiving weekend, and it did not disappoint.
The ambiance was par for the course: rows of picnic tables lined with plastic checkered tablecloths, rolls of paper towels, and all the saucy accoutrements any good BBQ lover needs. A great smokehouse aroma filled the whole restaurant, which made the whole experience all the more enjoyable.
Naturally, I went for the Whole Hog Platter: pulled pork, beef brisket, baby back ribs, beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.
The sides were about the typical average fare what you would expect from a local BBQ joint, but that wasn't the reason I went, so we'll give a pass on that. Now, on to the main course.
The ribs were perfectly cooked, and the meat almost fell off the bone. They were already pre-covered in a moderate amount of sauce, which had a good mild sweet flavor. I'm not a huge fan of sauce on BBQ in general, but it worked here. The brisket and pork were also both phenomenal. Perfectly tender and seasoned just right. The brisket had just the right amount of fat laced across, which kept it from being too dry. For these two, I decided to sample all 6 options in the sauce array set before me at the table:
- Sauce No. 1: Classic barbecue sauce
- Sauce No. 2: Tangy tomato
- Sauce No. 3: Same as #2, but spicier
- Sauce No. 4: Traditional Southern vinegar and spice
- Sauce No. 5: Sweet, dark, and bold molasses flavor
- Sauce No. 6: Rich mustard and vinegar
The Whole Hog also has a Volcano Sauce (no description necessary) available upon request, but I thought I'd give my gastrointestinal tract a break for once. All of the different sauces were uniquely tasty in their own way. I ended up buying an extra six-pack sampler of the sauces as a Christmas gift for a friend, as well as a t-shirt to commemorate my trip. As an added bonus, my t-shirt smelled like a smokehouse for days afterward until I finally gave in and washed it.
Despite growing up instilled with a natural contempt for anything other than true Texas barbecue, the Whole Hog Cafe satisfied my carnivorous yearnings without fail. Well done, Little Rock.
Whole Hog Cafe
2516 Cantrell Road
Little Rock, AR 72202