Wednesday, May 4, 2011

McClard's Bar-B-Q

ARKANSAS: McClard's Bar-B-Q
505 Albert Pike Rd
Hot Springs, AR 71913
Open Tues-Sat 11-8

Since I began planning a road trip from Dallas to Memphis, I had been looking forward to a stop in Hot Springs, Arkansas to get the "Ribs & Fry" platter at McClard's. A pound of saucy spare ribs are covered by another pound or so of fries. It's a simple plate that was described as near perfection from BBQ lovers everywhere.

Leaving the hotel on a gray and foggy morning, we made our way through town to the historic whitewashed building on the corner. The smell of wood smoke was thick in the air as we arrived just as they were opening. A few tables were taken, and we found a booth with a window view. Within minutes our order had arrived, and the smell of vinegar began clearing our nostrils. The sauce at McClard's is thin and tomatoey with a heavy dose of vinegar and black pepper.

The fries were hot, fresh and delicious. A dip into the sauce made them even better. After I'd devoured enough fries to expose a few ribs, I grabbed one to dig in. The ribs had a good smoky flavor from the brick pits and the hickory wood, but the meat was a bit tough and stringy. The fat needed more time to render, but the addition of the sauce created a great overall flavor.

A chopped pork sandwich was less successful. The finely chopped meat had almost no flavor on its own, and had a dry sawdust quality. Rather than slaw, the sandwich is topped with a thick layer of mayo and fresh chopped cabbage. Altogether, the sandwich was enjoyable, but it was really in spite of the meat. Beans were meaty enough to pass as chili north of Texas, and they had a great smoky flavor. As our check arrived (cash only), there was already a line forming for tables. Get there early and bring some cash.

While it may not have lived up to the high expectations I'd set in my mind, I really enjoyed McClard's. I won't pretend to have a great understanding of what constitutes great Arkansas barbecue, but I would expect moist pork and tender ribs to be high on the list of requirements. A huge pile of those incredible fries might cure many ills, but here's hoping that the rest of Arkansas and Memphis has more to offer.

Rating ***
McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant on Urbanspoon


DrillerAA said...

You are right, in most cases, great BBQ in Arkansas means pulled pork and ribs. Another location you might try is Whole Hog Cafe. They have locations in Little Rock, Conway, and Hot Springs, as well as Fayetteville, Bentonville, and Ft. Smith. One of the Little Rock stores is the original and supposedly the best.

Anonymous said...

So just on the basis of the delicious fries, you gave them 3 stars? Dan, you're slipping!

BBQ Snob said...

3 stars simply means it's worth going out of your way for as compared to some other Arkansas BBQ joints. Is it worth driving from Texas just to go? No. That would be 4 or 5 stars.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a barbeque aficionado, and I have ranked quite a few here in Hot Springs for the ribs. I'm not surprised at your disappointment at McClard's, but I am surprised that you thought Stubby's so good. Maybe the non-rib items are, but my last rib experience there (see Urban Spoon review; I'm Yoda's Dad) caused me to rank it next to bottom.

My favorites are Smokin in Style, Roland's and Harold's Midway Barbeque. The McClard ribs were quite good, little fat and pretty moist, but I dislike the McClard's vinegary sauce with a passion.

With a daughter in Dallas and one in Austin, I am most pleased to find your site, and I have posted in on my Facebook wall. Are you on Facebook by any chance?

BBQ Snob said...

Here's my Facebook page


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.