Saturday, November 29, 2014
Shorty Small's (Little Rock, AR)
I've driven past Shorty Small's every time we have come to Little Rock to visit the in-laws, but the group consensus for dining out is typically in favor of Whole Hog Cafe or Larry's Pizza. As much as I love our usual eateries, I was itching to try someplace new. On this trip I managed to coax us out of our comfort zone and into Shorty Small's.
Whoever decorated Shorty Small's seems partial to garage sales and flea markets. This place is more along the lines of a TGI Friday's or a Chili's rather than a true barbecue joint, but it seemed worth a shot nonetheless. The interior was dimly lit, covered in wood from floor to ceiling, and all in all a little divey. For some unknown reason, their menu is in the form of a newspaper. In terms of ambiance, the only saving grace was a small gameroom with a skill crane and Street Fighter.
There were several barbecue combos on the menu, but nothing beyond a two-meater. I picked their Ribs and Brisket Combo, which the menu describes as "shorty's favorite combination! jumpin' off-the-bone tender. ribs and bbq brisket served with all the fixin's!" According to our waiter, the default "fixin's" consist of coleslaw, beans, and fries. I politely requested loaded mashed potatoes instead of slaw and also asked for my sauce on the side. Potato salad would have been my first choice for a substitute, but it was nowhere on the menu. Oh well.
My combo ended up being an absolutely huge plate of food, the majority of which was non-meat. The loaded mashed potatoes were quite good. They tasted like a baked potato for all intents and purposes. The seasoning was decent, but nothing exotic. My baked beans were pretty basic. Aside from the onion and a very slight spiciness, they were sort of bland. The fries were of the standard frozen variety and not worthy of further description.
The brisket came sliced razor thin, with no bark or smoke ring to be found. In my opinion, such thin slices are much better suited for a sandwich than a knife and fork. I could taste only minimal smoke, but at least I could taste it. The brisket was decently tender, so I suppose that's something. These slices weren't exceptionally fatty, although they weren't particularly thin either. I tried it with the sauce, which was way too thick and incredibly artificial, like bottled Sweet Baby Ray's or KC Masterpiece.
As advertised, the rib meat was somewhat falling off the bone, but I was pleased to find a little remaining bone retention. The crust was decent enough, and there was a nice char as well. I couldn't pinpoint any visual signs of smoke. The meat was juicy enough, but it could have been a little more tender. Like the brisket, the ribs were only minimally smoky. I did, however, enjoy the slight sugary aftertaste from the glaze.
I'm sure the enormous portions are how they justify making this a $17.00 entree, but I would rather have a smaller portion of better food. Shorty Small's wasn't world class barbecue, but it was somewhat better than I anticipated. On Tuesdays they have $5.00 off of ribs and $1.00 Pabst Blue Ribbon drafts, which I suppose might be worth coming back for.
11100 N Rodney Parham Rd
Little Rock, AR 72212