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RIGHT

ON
CUE
WHAT IS ARKANSAS BARBECUE? ITS NOT TEXAS BRISKET, AFTER ALL. AND ITS NOT MEMPHIS DRYRUBBED RIBS. ITS NOT KC BURNT ENDS OR SOUTH CAROLINA WHOLE HOG. ITS SIMPLE. UNASSUMING,
EVEN, WITH A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND A LITTLE BIT OF THAT. AND ITS UNABASHEDLY DELICIOUS. WHICH
IS WHY WE OFFER THIS CELEBRATION OF TRIED-AND-TRUE ARKANSAS BARBECUEFROM THE FIRST
MORSEL OF HICKORY-SMOKED PORK TO THE LAST CRUMBS OF THAT FRIED ELBERTA-PEACH PIE

PHOTOGRAPHY BY RETT PEEK


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JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 49

LEGEND
HAS IT
WHATS IN A NAME?
A LOT, ACTUALLY. IN THE
CASE OF THESE FIVE LOCAL
INSTITUTIONS, A NAME
MCCLARDS, SIMS, WHAT
HAVE YOUMEANS
GENERATIONS OF FINE
BARBECUE FINESSE

The key to
McClards
decades-long
success, Scott
stresses, is
consistency. The
menu, for example,
has remained the
same (save for
the sausage added
last year).

YEAR FOUNDED: 1928


FOUNDERS: ALEX AND ALICE McCLARD
CURRENT OWNERS: PHILIP AND SCOTT
McCLARD AND JOHN THOMASON
GENERATIONS: 4

IT

M cCLARDS
HOT SPRINGS

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The story that


a traveler gave
Alex McClard
the recipe for his
famous sauce in
exchange for a
place to stay? Its
not a hoax, Scott
says. The recipe
is still in a bank
lock box.

would be nice to turn this over


to the kids and go live my life, but theres
no way it would succeed without us being
here. My uncle Philip comes in at 2 a.m.
every morning. He makes the sauce, gets
the fire going, gets the meat on. When he
leaves at 11 a.m., my other uncle, John, and
I step in. We trim the meat, make sure the
food is cooked right, the plates look good,
and the employees are happy.
We also take care of the pit all day. Its
OK in the wintertime, but around July and
August, the temperature can get to about
115 degrees. So my uncle and I take turns.
Its an arduous task.
People tell me, Oh, you own McClards.
I say, Noit owns me. There is a huge
sense of pride. This was my great-grandfathers. It was my grandfathers. It was their
whole life. Im just doing my best to keep it
going. My greatest pride is when a longtime
customer comes in, sits at the bar and says,
You know, this sandwich tastes just like
when your grandfather used to make it. It
doesnt get any better than thatkeeping
things consistent with who we are. People
tell us to branch out, to get bigger. If we got
bigger, we wouldnt be McClards. Scott
McClard, as told to Mariam Makatsaria
JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 51

THE BBQ ISSUE

SIMS
BARB-QUE
LITTLE ROCK

YEAR FOUNDED: 1937


FOUNDERS: ALLEN AND AMELIA SIMS
CURRENT OWNER: RON SETTLERS
GENERATIONS: 2
WELL , Ive always been told by

Although many
hands come
together in
making Sims what
it is, cook Leroy
Williams (shown
here), whos been
with the restaurant
since 1984, kicks
off the process
each morning
at 7 a.m.

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my mother and everybody that this place


was started back in 1937 by my uncle Allen
Sims. He bought this little shotgun building
down here on 33rd, and he started it like a
cafe: Sims Cafe. Uncle Al used to get to work
around 11, 12o clock, and hed stay open till
12 at night, five days a week. More or less,
it was labeled as a beer joint that sold good
barbecue.
Back in the 40s, 50s, part of the 60s, black
people were contained to their own areas. And
even back in the 50s, Sims was the hot spot on
Friday and Saturday nights. You know, people
would be down there dancing and drinking
beer, andwhat do they call itbrownbagging. You couldnt hardly get through the
little streets before they widened it out and
everything.
Then in 1976, Uncle Al and Aunt Amelia
decided they wanted to retire. And at first,
didnt anyone want to take it over. I went
and asked about it, and told em thats what
I wanted to do. And we reopened on Oct. 2,
1976, a Saturday morning. And its been rolling
ever since.
Its a challenge because youre given
something on a silver platter. I was given an
already-established business, just had to restart
it. And keep up the image and keep up the
quality and stuff. Thats a job. Thats something
you have to have in your heart, something
that kind of grows in you, that you want to
do. Ron Settlers, as told to Jordan P. Hickey

Being featured
on the Travel
Channels BBQ
Crawl has brought
even more
customers to the
joint, Chris says.
To this day people
say, Hey! We
saw you on TV
and came!

LEGENDS

STUBBYS
BAR-B-QUE
HOT SPRINGS

YEAR FOUNDED: 1952


FOUNDER: RICHARD STUBBY STUBBLEFIELD
CURRENT OWNER: CHRIS DUNKEL
GENERATIONS: 2
BACK

when it first started in the


50s, Stubbys was north of the Arlington Hotel.
My family bought it in 1976. I was 3 years old.
In 1978, we changed locations and opened up
on Central, right across from the Oaklawn
racetracks.
But my first memories were probably at the
original joint. Thats where I first cut my teeth.
I was just this fat little kid running around with
an apron bussing tables. Thats where I first
learned how to prep, make slaw and beans,
and chop meat. I did cut myself a few times.
It was there that I honed my skills, saw how
the pit worked.
Theres not much thats changed since.
Our recipes are the same as they were back
then. The cafeteria line, too, is a tried-andtrue concept that originated in the 50s, and
we continued with it. If youre a vegan or a
vegetarian, youre going to hate us. You walk
in, and you see what we have right thereall
this meat. Its simple. And thats how Stubbys
began. Chris Dunkel, as told to Mariam
Makatsaria

JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 53

THE BBQ ISSUE


LEGENDS

WHITE PIG INN


NORTH LITTLE ROCK

MY grandfather didnt have any

The folks at White


Pig Inn use a
mix of green and
cured hickory to
smoke their meat,
believing that
pecan is too acrid.
Luckily, they have
a reliable source
for the hard-tocome-by wood.

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set hours back in the early days. He closed


when people quit coming, and many, many
times, when someone would pull up and
beat on the door, he would open up again.
You have to understand, Highway 70
was a major east-west corridor back then.
So for anyone coming from the East Coast
to California, its very likely they passed by
the old White Pig Inn. It was an interesting collection of people passing through
over the years.
In 1984, we moved into the new building. It probably took 30 minutes to bulldoze the old one. I say that with a chuckle.
The old building actually had a barbecue
pit in the dining room. It was quite a dining experience with the hickory smoke in
the air. You could watch my grandfather
or my father come out and turn the meat
right next to your table. It had a lot of
characterand I still have dreams about
itbut its day had come and gone.
Youre talking to the end of the road, as
far as I know. The restaurant business has
been really good to me and my family, but
I am going to encourage my girls to go on
and seek and do something else.
The average life span for a restaurant is
8 months, so I think White Pig has done
very well. At times, it has not been easy,
but the restaurant has given me a life of
experiences. I have friends from the restaurant Ive accumulated over the years
that are justthere is no value that could
be put on that.Greg Seaton Jr., as told
to Nicholas Hunt

YEAR FOUNDED: 1920 (PURCHASED BY THE SEATON


FAMILY IN 1940)
FOUNDERS: THE BOYER FAMILY
CURRENT OWNER: GREG SEATON JR.
GENERATIONS: 3
JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 55

THE BBQ ISSUE


LEGENDS

RIGHT: Though
Buddy Halsell
can still be found
at the restaurant
daily, his son,
Bob, now runs the
show, opening
and closing
the restaurant
each day.

DIXIE
PIG
BLYTHEVILLE

WELL,
YEAR FOUNDED: 1923
FOUNDER: ERNEST HALSELL
CURRENT OWNER: BUDDY HALSELL
GENERATIONS: 3

56 ARKANSAS LIFE

of course,
my dad started all of this back
in 1923. It was a log cabin with a
sawdust floor in it. Hed moved up
here from Mississippi about that
same year. People were moving
into this part of the country for
the new farm land. He just knew
how to work. You can know a lot
of things, but if you dont know
how to work, you cant do nothing.
He built this place in 1950, and

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when I got out of the service four years later, I started working for him.
We had car hops out there, and we used to stay open till 11, 12 and 1
oclock at night. We close about 8:30 p.m. now.
We cook our meat with hot fire. Personally, I dont like the smoked
taste. Youll belch it for three days! People always say, How do you make
that hot sauce? And I say, Well, Ill tell you how I make it. I make it by the
gallon. Dad developed it. The only thing its not good on is ice cream.
We send it all over the country.
Im 86, and all I do around here now is try and keep out of everybodys
way. I might clean off a few tables and greet people when they come in
the door. But I am out here every day, and I am just happy I have a place
to go. Buddy Halsell, as told to Nicholas Hunt

ABOVE: Bob
Halsell puts a
days worth of
Boston butt in the
pit each morning
at 8:30 a.m. Itll
only be turned
once during its
8-hour cook.
JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 57

ODE PIG

THE BBQ ISSUE


PIG SANDWICH
Blytheville, home of
the Pig Sandwich,
has at least nine
barbecue joints
thats one for every
2,000 residents.

TO THE

OUR ASSOCIATE EDITORS NEWFOUND BARBECUE LOVE

IVE ALWAYS

avoided picking sides when it


comes to barbecue. From Texas brisket to Memphis pulled pork to
Alabamas wonky mayo-based sauce, its all good to me. So when I
first heard of Blythevilles Pig Sandwich, claimed by a reputable source
to be Arkansas only home-grown barbecue style, I wasnt expecting
to fall in love.
It was an accident really. Id made the 3-hour drive from Little
Rock to that tiny Mississippi County town to interview Buddy Halsell
about the history of the Dixie Pig (see page 56), and, as a sort of side
excursion, to sample a few Pig Sandwiches and see what was what.
It didnt seem all that impressive as Buddy broke down the Pig Sandwichs component parts for me on the line in the Dixie Pig kitchen.
Chopped or sliced pork cooked over charcoal (some around town
will do pulled, but Bob Halsell, Buddys son, insists its a foreign influence: Thats what they do in Tennessee. This is Arkansas!). Theres
slawthough in this case, its dry, with just a hint of vinegarand
a plain bun, a short stint in a sandwich press and, finally, the sauce.
Thats where the magic is: that sauce.
Turn back now ye lovers of molasses-, tomato- and mustard-based
sauces; youll not find what youre looking for here. But for those of
you of a certain persuasionlovers of salt-and-vinegar chips, sauerkraut or a swift kick in the pants
youll never look back. Similar in concept to whats
whipped up in eastern North Carolina, Blythevilles

signature sauce is a thin, sharp mix of pepper and vinegar. It runs like
water. Sampled straight, the taste is a curious explosion: equal parts
spicy, sour and savory. But combined with slow-cooked pork, the two
are greater than the sum of their parts. If this werent an ode, Id say
the fat cuts the spice and tartness while the vinegar in turn opens up
the pork. But because it is, Ill simply say this: Tasting this culinary
alchemy was akin to a first kiss. For me, in the kitchen at Dixie Pig,
it was love at first bite.
Its a beautiful chemistry not lost on Jeff Wallace, owner of Kream
Kastle and son-in-law of its founder, Steven Johns. After leaving Buddy
behind, Id walked into the tiny office-slash-kitchen at Jeff s drive-in
unannounced, and he was kind enough to chat barbecue with me over
the constant buzz of orders coming in through the ancient intercom.
We talked of his 31 years in the business and how even though hes
added plenty of things to the menu, the Pig Sandwich is still the best
seller. Its not even close.
[Blythevilles] got the best barbecue, he told me without a hint of
jest. You will hear people tell you that in Kansas City.
Not ready to make the three-hour trip back to Little Rock, every
mile taking me farther and farther from my now beloved Pig Sandwich, I made one more stop a little ways down the
road at Penns Barbecue, planning to take home its
version for dinner. I ate it in the parking lot with
the passion of a convert.

BY NICHOLAS HUNT

PIGGING AND CHOOSING

A GUIDE TO THREE OF OUR BLYTHEVILLE FAVORITES

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DIXIE PIG

KREAM KASTLE

PENNS BARBECUE

As the only one of the three


barbecue joints listed here to have
chairs and tables and, well, indoor
seating, Dixie Pig is the kind of
place where you will rest your
elbows on the hardwood as you
devour your sandwich. You can get
the pork chopped or sliced, white
or outside brown, depending on
your preference. Just dont ask for
it pulled. (701 N. Sixth St.;
(870) 763-4636)

Located in a retro drive-in (and


boy do we mean retrojust take
a look at that intercom), Kream
Kastles 12-hour-charcoal-smoked
chopped or pulled pork is topped
with a slightly thicker, less tart
sauce, but otherwise features
that trademark dry slaw and a
light squeeze in the sandwich
press. Order some onion rings,
and youre set. (122 N. Division St.;
(870) 762-2366)

Smaller even than Kream Kastle,


this simple drive-through is the
definition of a pig shack: everything
you need and nothing you dont.
Served in the traditional whitepaper wrapping, Penns version
of the sandwich boast choppedto-order pork, a toasted (but not
pressed) bun, slightly saucier slaw
and a little more spice. (367 S.
Division St.; (870) 762-1593)

JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 59

AWESOME SAUCE
UNRAVELING THE HISTORY OF ARKANSAS MOST BELOVED BARBECUE CONDIMENT
1934:

1.

1967:

The Shack is
bought out by
investors.

The Shack closes


and reopens under
the ownership of the
Carpenter family and
Charlie Morgan Inc.

1988: The original location


CLOSES FOR
GOOD.

JOE FINCH

BUYS
BRAND.

2.
TALK OF

barbecue
in central Arkansas, and sooner
rather than later, someone will
bring up that most legendary of
Little Rock pig joints: The Shack.
And legendary is the key word
here. Founded in 1934 by Kessler
Casey Slaughter and his wife,
Iris, the original Shack closed its
doors 54 years later. And though
its been gone almost three decades,
if even half the stories told about it
are true, the world is worse for its
absence.
But the thing is, The Shack didnt
die. Not quite.
What people remember most
when they think of The Shack is
that vinegary, black-pepper-infused
sauce. And that very sauce, as luck
would have it, lives on. There are at
least four central-Arkansas barbecue joints that name-drop the condiment on their menus. And with
Tim Chappell, owner of Gusanos
Chicago-style Pizzeria, recently
launching a commercial version
from a recipe he received from Joe
Finch, an Arkansas barbecue legend in his own right, we thought it
was about time we did a little culinary archaeology.
So, after delving into news
clippings, filling a white board with
diagrams and devouring our fair
share of chopped pork, were finally
ready to present the definitive*
history of The Shack Sauce. nh
*Editors note: Definitely not
definitive. In fact, email
nicholas@arkansaslife.com to
report any tips or leads.
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SHACK SAUCE

P HOTOGRAP HY BY ARSHIA K HAN

1984:

Casey and Iris


Slaughter found
The Shack.

THE BBQ ISSUE

RECIPE
RECON
1.

JOE FINCH FOUNDS


J.B.s Barbeque in
Conway using Shack
sauce.

FINCH SELLS

to Don
and Cletus Smith,
who rename the restaurant Smittys.

FINCH OPENS

THE SHACK

FINCH SELLS THE SHACK


TO DAVID THOMPSON,
who renames it
the Smoke Shack.

in Maumelle.

FINCH SELLS
the recipe to
TIM CHAPPELL.

Joe Finch acquired


the recipe from
someone who was
a Shack employee
during the Slaughters
ownership.
2.

THE SMITHS SELL

3.

Smittys
to Darrell W iley, who keeps
a version of The Shacks
sauce on the menu.

THE SMITHS OPEN


The Smokehouse in
Conway.

Cletus Smith was


the manager of the
original Shack after
the Slaughters sold
out, and brought the
sauce recipe with
him to both Smittys
and the Smokehouse.

4.

THE TAYLORS
TAKE OWNERSHIP
in 2015.

3.
The North Little
Rock Whole Hog
compared a customers hand-written
Shack sauce recipe
against one published
in the Arkansas
Democrat. They now
make a batch three
times a week.
4.

WHOLE HOG
CAFE NORTH
LITTLE ROCK

SMITTYS
BAR-B-QUE

SMOKEHOUSE
BAR-B-QUE

SMOKE SHACK
BAR-B-Q

(5107 Warden Road, North Little Rock;


wholehogcafenlr.com)

(740 S. Harkrider St., Conway;


smittysbarbeque.com)

(505 Donaghey Ave., Conway;


(501) 764.4227)

(206080 Arkansas 365 N., Maumelle;


(501) 803-4935)

SHACK
SAUCE
(theshackisback.com)

In a 2010 Sync
Weekly article, David
Thompson claimed
his Shack sauce
recipe comes from
a little old lady he
worked with at Blue
Cross who claimed
to be involved in the
original Shack since
its founding.
JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 61

THE BBQ ISSUE

SIDE
WAYS

SIDE DISHES

P HOTO G R A PH Y B Y A RS H I A K H A N

AT AN ARKANSAS BARBECUE
JOINT, ITS NOT ALL ABOUT
THE MEAT. HERE ARE 25
DISHES WORTH SIDESTEPPING THE MAIN COURSE

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

1. GREEN BEANS, SIMS BAR-B-QUE IN LITTLE ROCK; 2. BLACK-EYED PEAS, LINDSEYS HOSPITALITY HOUSE IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK; 3. SWEET POTATOES, C APITOL SMOKEHOUSE
& GRILL IN LITTLE ROCK; 4. FRIES, SMOKE SHACK BAR-B-Q IN MAUMELLE; 5. C ANDIED YAMS, LINDSEYS HOSPITALITY HOUSE IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK; 6. COLESLAW, C APITOL
SMOKEHOUSE & GRILL IN LITTLE ROCK; 7. TAMALE SPREAD, M c CLARDS IN HOT SPRINGS; 8. COLESLAW, JO-JOS BBQ IN SHERWOOD; 9. TAMALES, SMITTYS BAR-B-QUE IN
CONWAY; 10. TOMATO RELISH, SMOKE SHACK BAR-B-Q IN MAUMELLE; 11. BAKED BEANS, MICKEYS CMB BBQ IN HOT SPRINGS; 12. FRIED OKRA, JO-JOS BBQ IN SHERWOOD;

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13. FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, SMITTYS BAR-B-QUE IN CONWAY; 14. ZESTY ITALIAN SALAD, MICKEYS CMB BBQ IN HOT SPRINGS; 15. ONION RINGS, SMOKEHOUSE BAR-B-QUE
IN CONWAY; 16. CORNBREAD, SIMS BAR-B-QUE IN LITTLE ROCK; 17. GREENS, SIMS BAR-B-QUE IN LITTLE ROCK; 18. POTATO SALAD, C APITOL SMOKEHOUSE & GRILL IN LITTLE
ROCK; 19. DEVILISH EGGS, MICKEYS CMB BBQ IN HOT SPRINGS; 20. STEAMED C ABBAGE, LINDSEYS HOSPITALITY HOUSE IN NORTH LITTLE ROCK; 21. BARBECUE NACHOS, JOJOS BBQ IN SHERWOOD; 22. POTATO SALAD, HBS BAR-B-Q IN LITTLE ROCK; 23. SQUASH C ASSEROLE, C APITOL SMOKEHOUSE & GRILL IN LITTLE ROCK;
24. BAKED BEANS, HBS BAR-B-Q IN LITTLE ROCK; 25. SWEET POTATO FRIES, JO-JOS BBQ IN SHERWOOD

JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 63

THE BBQ ISSUE


FRIED PIE

HUMBLE
PIE
YOU CAN KEEP YOUR TRENDIFIED KOLACHES. HERE AT HOME, WE PREFER OUR SWEETS ON THE SIMPLE SIDE

WASHINGTON, D.C.,

is not the South.


This may not be a fact argued in many circles west of the
Mississippi, but inside the Beltway, its actually up for discussion.
Lack of door holding and a penchant for brushing past people
without an excuse me aside, the truth about D.C.s Northern vs.
Southern status is revealed in its kitchens. No Nashville hot chicken
sandwich from whatever hip D.C. bistro or kolache from the latest
Texas pastry pop-up can convince me that our nations capital city
is an authentic source for all things pickled and fried and holy.
Sit down in a Washington restaurant, and theres no need to
specify that youd like unsweetened tea with your lunch because
there is no pitcher of sweet tea waiting. And lord help you if you
ask for an extra glass to go.
In the spring, this is a land of crabnot crawfishwhere Old
Bay beats Creole seasoning to the boil pot every time. Then theres
the experience of watching the food you love be cannibalized by
restaurant trends. At a restaurant on the D.C. waterfront, I was
served a neon-yellow whipped pimento cheese so thin and runny
you didnt even need a knife. Bless it.
Southern classics have fascinated chefs well beyond the
borders of Arkansas for years. Chicago, New York and the
like are no strangers to fried chicken, biscuits and cornbread.
Washington, too, has more than its fair share of Southern
restaurants, each with varying degrees of success. After all,
D.C. is a transient city, with plenty of Deep South transplants
bringing their carefully honed taste buds with
them with each new political wave.
But still, some Southern dishes are rarely

attempted. You can find shrimp and grits, but boiled peanuts are
scarce. Savory cornbread and Delta-style tamales arent exactly
fixtures in the area. And then theres dessert.
In a city of steakhouses, its no surprise that cheesecake abounds.
So do thick slices of fudge-frosted chocolate cake. And yet, for all
that sugar and decadence, I find myself searching for fried pie.
When I lived in Arkansas, I never really cared for the stuff, not
enough to seek it out specifically, anyway. But if I needed something
sweet after a lunch of barbecue or catfish, fried pie would often
satisfy me.
I can remember my first fried-pie encounter, at a gas station
somewhere in Missouri, my dad opening the wax-paper wrapper
and pulling out a palm-sized turnover shellacked with glaze. Im
sure it was one of the Hostess-branded fruit pies, with sticky-sweet
filling and crust stiffened with time and shelf-stable ingredients.
Was it a true fried pie? Not really. But it was unfussy. And thats
essential.
Fried pie, if anything, is a humble dessert. It should follow a
casual supper and be served with paper napkins. It should be
available by a cash register, with dark-brown crust and an uneven
shape. Maybe a little filling spilling out.
Southern food is at its best when its casual and delicious. When
it tastes better than it looks and you didnt need a reservation or
special occasion to get your hands on it. Goat-cheese-topped friedgreen tomatoes and pork-belly-studded grits are fine, I guess. But
given the choice, Ill take my tea in a plastic cup
to go, my pimento cheese spread thick on white
bread and my fried pie in a wax-paper wrapper.
With a little filling spilling out.

BY EMILY VAN ZANDT

Want to get your


hands on some
Elberta peaches?
Theres no better
place than this months
Johnson County Peach
Festival in Clarksville
(page 13).
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JULY 2016 ARKANSAS LIFE 65