Southern Stories
May 17/13

Six Underrated Little Rock Barbecue Joints Posted by: Melissa Tucker | 0 Comments

Everybody loves Whole Hog, and that venerable old pig-cooker’s got the trophies to prove it. On, its locations command the top four out of five spots under the “Best” barbecue category. (Proof.)
But this is Arkansas, land of sauced-up pig-eating, and we reckon there’s more to it than a dining room full of shiny awards. On top of that, we know you’ve been to legendary spots like Lindsey’s and Sims, and rightfully so. No doubt all of those places have a reputation for a reason, but in the interest of experimentation and saving you sweet time, here are the best Little Rock-area barbecue joints you probably haven’t tried, but totally should.

It’s not barbecue, we know. But look at it. Just LOOK at it!

1. Three Sam’s, Mabelvale
If you visit no other place on this list, go to Three Sam’s. It’s a little shack next to the train tracks in Mabelvale consistently serving up great food at even better prices. Any place that has a visible trail of smoke outside the building is right by me. Everything has a fresh-tasting, cooked-with-love sense about it from the pulled pork to the massive, footlong chili dog dressed with slaw, homemade chili and cheese. And save room for dessert because they do it right here.
Open for lunch on weekdays. Dinner hours vary.
Don’t miss: The daily special or pulled pork

2. Smokin’ Buns, Jacksonville
There’s a reason you haven’t visited this one. If you don’t live near the Air Base, it might be considered destination dining. But if you do, consider yourself lucky. Smokin’ Buns has a reputation for portions as big as your head as well as Southern favorites like fried green tomatoes and fried pickles.
Open for lunch and dinner.
Don’t miss: The Boss Sandwich

3. Jo-Jo’s, North Little Rock
This little family-owned spot near the corner of Country Club and North Hills near the Sherwood border is a well-kept secret. Those North Little Rock ninnies don’t want you to know about it because you’ll rush in and ruin everything. But Jo-Jo’s has a big menu, and after roughly 10 trips, I have yet to be disappointed with anything. The barbecue is the star, but the side of sweet potato fries with honey dip are also worth a try.
Open for lunch and dinner.
Don’t miss: Ribs or smoked chicken.

4. Smoke Shack, Maumelle
Hopefully, you’ve been to the Smoke Shack. If not, what are you waiting for, son? If we’re being perfectly honest, Maumelle doesn’t have too many restaurants to write home about, so if you’re in that neck of the woods and hungry for something smoked, make a beeline for this shack. The meat is great, but Smoke Shack sets itself apart with the sauce. The sauces are nuanced and not overpoweringly sweet or spicy. Just the perfect complement to the smoke-flavored meat.
Open for lunch and dinner.
Don’t miss: Ribs are particularly good here.

5. Capitol Smokehouse, Little Rock
(pulled pork sandwich pictured at the top of the page)
The smokers are nearly always running at this downtown Little Rock joint, and if you haven’t been, I have to wonder under what rock you’ve made your residence. It’s in town, it’s delicious and it’s the most well-known of any place on this list. Just in case anyone in your party isn’t feeling the ‘cue, Capitol Smokehouse also has plate lunches. You could even take your vegetarian friends, but that might be a stretch. Get the ribs or the pulled pork, the creamy potato salad and the homemade squash casserole and go to town.
Lunch only.
Don’t miss: The mustard-based Froggy Bottom sauce (pictured). Squash casserole.

6. Mick’s, North Little Rock
What would this list be without a barbecue dive in Levy? Mick’s is not really a restaurant, per se, as it’s the sort of place that delivers your sandwiches wrapped in white paper through a window. But it is the kind of place that douses its meat in a rich sauce, sort of like a Sloppy Joe. Don’t wear white, and expect to throw down a small tree’s worth of dirty napkins, but when it’s said and done, this place is worth a trip out of your way.
Open for lunch. Closes at 8 p.m. for dinner.
Don’t miss: Pulled pork sandwiches



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