Sunday, July 29, 2018
Rivertowne BBQ (Ozark, AR)
Rivertowne BBQ in Ozark, Arkansas was to be my final stop on a whirlwind barbecue road trip. To be honest, I was pretty ready to be home by this point, and some weird part of me (possibly my digestive tract) was starting to crave a few vegetables. Heresy, I know.
This place looked just like I expected: a nice Main Street-style store front right near the river. It was an interesting combination of fake brick, sheet metal, wood paneling, and raw wood. Old metal signs and pig-themed decor make up the rest. Half of the dining room is a little dimly lit, and the other half is burdened by harsh track lighting.
I'm not sure what part of me thought I needed an appetizer of "Possum Dumplins," but I found it impossible to resist. These are essentially pork meatballs fried in racoon fat. I overheard my waitress explain to some other interested customers that the meatballs are made from the trimmings of their ribs. Spectacular.
These meatballs were, in a word, enormous. There was an interesting sweetness to them and a pleasant seasoning blend. Each bite was very juicy, although I'm not certain if that surprised me or not, since I had literally no idea what to expect from this appetizer. They came served with a creamy white barbecue sauce that was just phenomenal. Upon inquiry, I was told that it's their house barbecue sauce mixed with ranch dressing. That sounds about right. Be careful, there is cartilage in the rib trimmings, quite a bit actually. I didn't realize just how much I would enjoy these dumplins.
For the non-roadkill portion of my meal, I ordered the combo dinner of brisket, pulled pork, and ribs with spicy pinto beans and potato salad on the side.
Their beans were definitely spicy, but not overpowering. In my opinion they needed more salt to round things out a little better. The potato salad had a hefty dusting of paprika that didn't add much to the flavor. Crunchy, undercooked potatoes and far too much dill didn't help either. I found a few black olives in the mix for some reason, too.
Rivertowne's tender pork had a moderate smokiness, but very little else. There was barely any seasoning, at least not that I could taste. No bark either, and none of the red smoky bits that I love to find. I didn't see much reason to finish my helping of pork.
The brisket had a nice reddish bark and was much smokier than the pork. But, sadly, there still wasn't much in the seasoning department. The lean slices were tender and moist, so that's something I suppose. Good, not great.
My ribs had a light brown crust that didn't look all that appetizing. There was a slight smoke ring beneath, which corresponded pretty well to the mild smoke level that I tasted. The ribs came with more salt than I found elsewhere on my plate, as well as hints of sugar. Here again, it's like they started off well but got stuck on second base.
Interestingly enough, the only part of this meal that was above average came fried in coon fat. That's also the only part of my meal that I took home with me, so I hope my wife appreciates her souvenir.
205 S 3rd St
Ozark, AR 72949