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Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Casey's Bar-B-Que (Little Rock, AR)
A long-standing Little Rock barbecue institution, Casey's Bar-B-Que, re-opened its doors in a brand-new location just a few weeks ago. Of course, I had to go investigate and see if all of the hype was justified.
Casey's closed up shop in 2005 after twenty-two impressive years in business. I'm not sure of the exact reason for the closure, but, needless to say, many Little Rock residents are plum tickled to see them back in business. I've awaited their opening for a while now, which got delayed because of permit issues and other unfortunate events. With newness comes long lines, and in order to avoid such, I arrived promptly at their 11:00am opening time.
The new location is in the home of the former Arkansas Burger Company, but Casey's doesn't feel like a burger joint whatsoever. It actually has kind of an indoor-outdoor vibe with all of the brick and white shiplap. I liked the exposed beams, too. The place is clean, welcoming, and open, with wall-length windows making the place feel even larger. Casey's has a nice patio space out back, even if it is a tad small. They also made good use of the existing drive-thru on the building, which I'm sure will get a ton of traffic.
At Casey's, just order at the counter and plop yourself down anywhere you like. I got their regular combo plate with sliced brisket and pulled pork, plus potato salad and bbq beans on the side. There is a large combo plate available, but apparently it just comes with an extra side, not an extra meat. So I stuck with the regular size and added on a half-pound of pork ribs to round things out. After all, I wanted to get the full Casey's experience. Service was fairly slow, even though I was only the third table through the door. I had my food in about fifteen minutes. Hopefully that's just some growing pains while the new employees figure out a rhythm.
The potato salad had a pleasant amount of mustard. It was also very tangy, with a good crunch from the veggie mix-ins. I found big hunks of meat scattered throughout my beans. They were very sweet, and only slightly peppery despite all of the visible black pepper.
My requested slices of brisket came out chopped. Maybe the cashier misheard me. The beef was a little chewy, though not dry. Casey's super-vinegary barbecue sauce was definitely front and center here. I could taste some good smoke through the sauce, which surprised me. It was difficult to find things like a crust or a smoke ring in this form, but at least the flavors were on point.
The pulled pork, although a little less smoky than the brisket, was very tender. I received a few pieces of bark in my helping, which were well-seasoned. With all of the sauce, the pork tasted pretty much the same as the beef, just a different texture. I'm not suggesting that this was a bad thing, it just wasn't unique enough to detail further.
Despite placing a dine-in order, the ribs arrived in their own carry-out container because "they're very messy." Yes, I would agree. The ribs were swimming in a literal pool of sauce that rose about halfway up each bone. My half-pound order amounted to four ribs, which was probably more than plenty. I found a deep reddish crust and juicy pork beneath. The meat came off with ease, but did manage to stay put until I was ready for the next bite. A heavy dusting of spices coated the ribs on all sides. The sauce probably paired best with the ribs, since it simply coated them and rolled off instead of soaking in.
If you're going to grab a two-meat combo here, go for the ribs and pulled pork, since the beef/pork combo ended up being a little superfluous. I'm glad that Casey's Bar-B-Que is back in action, and I wish them well. My in-laws want to try out their new 'que as well, so I'll probably be eating there again in a few days!
UPDATE (May 19, 2018): As predicted, we grabbed a Casey's to go order for our family dinner on Saturday. I went with a family pack (of course) with a pound of pulled pork and sides of bbq beans and potato salad. For my kiddo, I also ordered some of their smoked turkey. I had initially wanted an additional side of mac and cheese, but since they were out, a few orders of their spiral cut fries had to suffice. The sauceless pork was even tastier than before, at least to me, since I prefer my meat au naturel. The real winner, however, was the turkey. Our slices had just come off of the smoker, so they were as fresh as could be. It was exceedingly smoky and really, really tender. In my opinion, if you like the smoked turkey from nearby Burge's, this was at least twice as good.
7410 Cantrell Rd
Little Rock, AR 72207