Thursday, December 7, 2017
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