Some of the most lively discussions ever held are when people debate who has the best barbecue. There are enough secret recipes to make Fort Knox explode if they were stored there. The Arkansas Trail is blessed with a wealth of barbecue restaurants, dives, joints…whatever you want to call them.
You can choose from mustard and tomato vinegar sauces, dry rub, and thick or thin tomato based. Ribs, pulled or chopped pork, beef tenderloin and chicken are on most menus along with the familiar sides. Here’s a list to get you started on a tasty tour of the Natural State.
Marianna — Believed to be by the Southern Foodways Alliance to be the oldest black-owned restaurant in continuous operation in the South; a neighborhood barbecue joint that has been in business for over 100 years; meats are smoked on-site; served on plain white bread with thin, vinegar-based sauce and cole slaw. Featured in Saveur Magazine and on CBS This Morning. Named by the James Beard Foundation as an American Classic in 2012.
Hot Springs — Legendary Arkansas barbecue restaurant established in 1928; meats pit smoked daily on the premises; sauce, cole slaw, beans and hot tamales made with old family recipes; famous for the “hot tamale spread;” featured in Southern Living and Gourmet Magazines and on “The Best of…” television show on Food Network.
Little Rock — A Little Rock tradition since 1961; various barbecue sauces to choose from, hickory-smoked meats; chili, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads, soups. In addition to barbecue, Chips is known for the homemade pies and spicy cheese. GROUPS: off-premises catering available
Brinkley — Family restaurant serving four kinds of barbecue — pork, beef, ribs and chicken; fish, steaks; breakfast available all day; coleslaw, baked beans, fries; catfish, biscuits and gravy; fried pies. GROUPS: free meeting rooms.
Little Rock — Legendary Arkansas barbecue restaurant that has been around since 1937. Features mustard based vinegar sauce. Selected by Southern Living Magazine as a recipient of its ” ‘cue” awards in 2012. Menu includes pork, beef, ribs, chicken, smoked sausage and bologna; burgers, salads.
Blytheville — Barbecue chicken, ribs, pork, baked beans, cole slaw, hushpuppies, catfish, wings; homemade and fried pies.
Little Rock — Little Rock-based chain competes on the Memphis-in-May and the Kansas City Barbeque Society Barbeque Championship Circuits as the Southern Gentlemen’s Culinary Society. Pork, beef, chicken; seven levels of barbecue sauce ranging from #1 (mild) to Volcano. Listed in Fodor’s “Travel America Guide: Don’t Miss in Arkansas.” Also featured on the Food Network’s Rachael Ray’s “Tasty Travels.” GROUPS: banquet room seats up to 120.
North Little Rock — Opened in 1956 serving home-cooking and barbecue for lunch; chopped barbecue beef, pork, ribs, smoked links and chicken; fried chicken, catfish; variety of side items including mixed greens, pinto and baked beans, potato salad, onion rings, cabbage; homemade pies including egg custard, sweet potato, fried pies. GROUPS: facility can handle up to 350 guests on-site; no size limit off-site.
Little Rock — Quaint legendary barbecue “dive” located in a residential area; seats only 32; great slabs of meat with fiery barbecue sauce, ribs are served on Tuesday only; pork sandwich on an onion roll; featured in September 2006 Vogue Magazine. A descendent of the legendary Shack Barbecue run by members of the original Slaughter family.
North Little Rock — Preparing and serving hickory pit smoked meats since 1920; oldest barbecue restaurant in central Arkansas. Menu includes pork, beef, ribs, chicken, sandwiches, sides; home-made fried pies. GROUPS: On- and off-site dinners available. Accommodates any number for off-site events, up to 60 guests at the restaurant. Three catering options available: food only, on-site buffet delivery, set-up and service for large groups.
Blytheville — Third-generation-owned restaurant, serving smoked barbecue since 1923; famous for its chopped pork sandwich known as “the pig sandwich,” homemade onion rings and fries, beans; additional sandwiches, barbecue and chicken plates; salads.
Ozark — Meats smoked daily on the premises; dry rub, barbecue sauce, potato salad, baked and rivertowne beans, cole slaw and some salad dressings all handmade on the premises; daily lunch and dinner specials; catering and gift certificates available.
Fayetteville — Serving hickory-enhanced, slow meats since 1993; barbecue ribs, chicken, pork, beef; smoked ham, sausage, ham, bologna, hot links; appetizers, salads, side items, sandwiches, desserts.
Texarkana — Barbecue plates, sandwiches, ribs, fries, baked potatoes; vegetables, desserts; kid’s menu; catering available; daily specials; special pricing for groups of 12 or more.
Russellville — Serving Southern-style, award-winning barbecue since 1979; beef, pork, Polish sausage; smoked ham, turkey, chicken; variety of sides including Mac N Cheese, corn on the cob, potato salad, fried okra; homemade banana pudding, cobblers.
Carlisle — Barbecue chicken, pork and beef; seafood; catfish with all the trimmings; homemade fried green tomatoes, onion rings; cheese dip and salsa, salads; homemade fried pies (including coconut) and cobblers for dessert.
Heber Springs — Smoked pork and beef, ribs, sides including potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, fries, corn on the cob; barbecue nachos.
Stuttgart — Ribs, beans, slaw, home-made fries; wings, burgers, chicken.
Cedarville — Dinners with two sides, sandwiches, side items; pork, brisket, bologna, chicken, ribs; smoked beans, fried okra, mustard potato salad, baked potato salad, fries, cranberry coleslaw; free private club membership.
Fort Smith — Award-winning barbecue beef, pork, ribs chicken, sausage; salads; side dishes; desserts; winner of Kansas City Barbecue Society grand championship; the Pink Flamingo barbecue team has won over 150 different BBQ awards since 1998.
Fayetteville — Traditional Southern barbecue with signature sauce developed in 1895; salads, appetizers, sliders, paninis, wraps, sandwiches; pork, brisket, chicken, ribs; steak, catfish, burgers; children’s menu; daily drink and food specials.
DeValls Bluff — Barbecue sandwiches, plates, ribs, burgers; a true Southern barbecue shack that dates back to the 1940s. Slow-smoked meats, fiery sauces, savory coleslaw.
Little Rock — Barbecue, catfish, chicken, burgers; plate lunches; uses fresh Arkansas grown produce; breakfast; outdoor dining area available; dine in or take out. Named in the July 2010 issue of Maxim as one of the “Top 10 Temples of ‘Cue in the World.”
Conway — A “descendant” of the legendary Shack Barbecue in Little Rock; opened in 1958; features “The Old Shack” barbecue sandwich; six sauces including Fire in the Hole and Last Rites; Southern barbecue, vegetables, onion rings, salads, specialty sandwiches, milkshakes; dinners and platters; desserts include fried, meringue, apple, pecan and sweet potato pies; daily specials. GROUPS: driver eats free.
Paragould — Pork, ribs, slaw, beans, chicken, fresh crinkle fries, hamburger steak, catfish, potatoes, gravy, wings; country breakfast.
McGehee — Barbecue pork, beef and chicken, burgers, sandwiches, seafood, steaks; bakery features homemade pies, cookies, outdoor seating available; live entertainment in the bar.
Magnolia — Beef, pork barbecue, potato salad, slaw, barbecue baked potatoes; homemade coconut cream, pecan, cream cheese, Oreo, and banana pudding pies.
Fayetteville — Meats are smoked with hickory and apple wood; made-from-scratch daily side orders; state-of-the-art barbecue food wagon; based on family recipes from the original Sho’nuff barbecue which was in Fayetteville during the 70s.
Mabelvale — Family-owned; pork and beef barbecue, burgers, chili dogs, onion rings, fries, chili; homemade desserts including peanut butter, strawberry and lemon ice box pies.
Hot Springs — Award winning barbecue; beef, pork, ribs, sausage; plates, sandwiches, side items.
Huntsville — Ribs, brisket, pulled pork; coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, mac and cheese side items; grilled cheese; tomato and vinegar sauce; chili, cobblers.
— Arkansas Tourism & Southern Foodways Alliance