Saturday, July 29, 2017
I'd officially been an Arkansas resident for nearly three weeks, but hadn't yet been out and about for a barbecue sampling. Despite the mountain of boxes still cluttering our new house, I hopped down the street to nearby Sims Bar-B-Q to grab some lunch for us.
Sims is a small old joint in a small old shopping center, competing for olfactory dominance with the donut shop next door. It's a simple table and chair setup with little to decorate the place except for some beer signs and a few out-of-place fishing tournament trophies. There was also a jukebox in the corner that didn't look like it gets much action. I've eaten great barbecue from places with far less ambiance, which I hoped meant that their focus was simply on the food instead of the atmosphere.
My inlaws came over to help watch the baby while we unpacked and organized things, so I made sure to order up a nice size feast for us. A pound of pork and a pound of brisket in the meat department, with sides of potato salad, bbq beans, and coleslaw. The waitress ended up giving it to us as one of their large combo specials, which was certainly easier on the wallet.
The mustard-based potato salad came with lots of pickles and other veggies for both flavor and crunch. Maybe a a little pepper would have jazzed things up a bit though. The slaw was creamy and crisp, with fresh vegetables all the way through. I'm not normally a slaw fan, but I really did enjoy it. Sims' beans were sweet and ketchup-y, and they were also a little on the mushy side. Overall, the flavor was good.
Our serving of pork came finely chopped with a fair amount of bark in the mix. It was moderately smoky and seasoned just right. Each bite was tender and very juicy. In its chopped form, the pork was probably more conducive to sammiches, although it was also the perfect size for my nine-month-old who is still practicing with finger food.
The brisket was very thinly sliced, but there was still plenty of yummy bark to go around here as well. The smoke ring was also immediately evident. It was exceptionally good, which I must admit surprised me somewhat. I found a prominent smokiness, and the brisket was as tender as could be, likely helped by the thin slicing. The fat could have been a rendered a little better, but I still ate it with gusto.
At only a five minute drive from my house, I can see Sims becoming a regular part of my barbecue rotation.
1307 John Barrow Rd
Little Rock, AR 72205
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
The wife and I came back to Destin for a few days of fun and sun before she started her new job, this time with our eight-month-old little man in tow. Barbecue was obviously on the non-beach part of my agenda. I had thought about trying someplace new, but with Buck's Smokehouse just across the bridge, what would be the point in that? A bird in the hand, as they say.
As soon as we hit their parking lot, the smell of delicious pit smoke was welcoming me back. Buck's covered patio is a perfect spot to sit and chill while still taking in as much beach air as possible. We got there just after opening time, so things were still a little slow in the customer department, but I have no doubt that business would be booming for Independence Day. After all, the Fourth of July and barbecue are about as much of a patriotic combination as apple pie and, well, barbecue!
I wanted to mix things up a little and sample some of Buck's offerings that I didn't get to try last time. Ribs were a no-brainer, so I snagged a half-rack with a side of fries. They were completely out of poultry during my first encounter, which made a two-meat combo of barbecue chicken and sausage an easy decision as well. Plus, chicken would be great for my son who just this week started trying out table food! For the combo, I picked mac and cheese and bbq beans as sides. Last but not least, I tacked on some smoked tuna dip for fun. It is the beach, after all, making seafood almost obligatory.
Skin-on handcut fries were a worthy accompaniment to our lunch. The fries didn't stand out per se, but I was glad to have them nonetheless. The mac and cheese was about average, the same as I found it last time. That said, it was perfectly comforting, and loads of gooey cheese is always great. As for the beans, I found them both sweet and flavorful. There were also big pieces of pork scattered throughout. My preference is generally for ranch-style beans over baked, but my son loved these sugary legumes.
My big St. Louis-style ribs were certainly meaty. Buck's dry rub was nice and salty, with plenty of crusty bark to top things off. There was a great smokiness, exemplified by a prominent smoke ring. The meat came off the bone with only a slight tug, just as it should.
The chicken, not to be outdone, was also tender and moist. I found a decadent skin full of seasoning, and the meat beneath wasn't the least bit dry. That was quite the feat considering the big white meat quarter-chicken I received. I also took notice of the moderate smoke level, which isn't something you taste in most barbecue chicken out there. Despite only having one tooth, my son wolfed down his tiny bites of chicken with gusto!
Just like before, Buck's sausage was outstanding. The crisp casings snapped well, and the coarse-ground meat inside was soft and tender. I noticed plenty of meat juice trickling down my chin, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Their sausage isn't exactly what I would call spicy, but there's definitely enough black pepper to make things interesting.
I'm a big fan of meat salads in general, and the tuna dip did not disappoint. The tuna had hints of smoke here and there, which was an interesting flavor profile to find in fish. It was sweet and savory at the same time, and I loved the raw white onion. There was also a spiciness that crept up on me with each subsequent bite. Forget the crackers and just shovel this stuff in by the forkful!
Buck's met all of the expectations I had from my previous visit, and in some ways even exceeded them. If you need a little break from seafood, this place is by far the best choice you could make.
303 Harbor Blvd.
Destin, FL 32541