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Barbecue in North Arkansas | Nomming off the Bone


The barbecue culture in North Arkansas is influenced by the region’s history, geography and climate. The area has a long history of agriculture, and many early settlers were farmers who brought their barbecue traditions with them. The region’s climate is also ideal for barbecue, with long, hot summers providing perfect conditions for continually smoking and grilling meats.

As we shared in our barbecue history last week, the most popular barbecue meat in North Arkansas is pulled pork. This dish is made by smoking a pork shoulder or butt until it is fall-off-the-bone tender. The pork is then pulled apart, shredded, and served with various sauces and sides.

Any weekend in Sept. or Oct., tailgaters gather on the grassy hills and parking lots around Don W. Reynolds stadium to speculate and celebrate the razorbacks. Still, the foothills of the Ozarks are where the authentic tastes of roasting pig wrapped in spices began.

Whether it’s thick-cut bacon, short ribs or smoked butts, these tastes are authentic to the hills. But don’t let them kid you; butcher shops and meat markets provide plenty of options for various types of meat, and a fresh weekend catch straight from the White or Little Red rivers will have anyone licking bones!

Used with permission from Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Favorite Barbecue Spots in Northeast Arkansas

The Dixie Pig BBQ | Blytheville

Known for its mouthwatering ribs, pulled pork and catfish, The Dixie Pig has been a local favorite for over 100 years. The ribs are slow cooked to perfection and fall right off the bone. The pulled pork is also excellent, with a smoky flavor that will leave you wanting more. The catfish is lightly fried and served with a delicious tartar sauce. The food is delicious, the service is friendly and the prices are affordable.

Foodie Favorites: vinegar sauce, cabbage slaw, pig sandwich, “bigly” salad

Holy Smokes BBQ | Mountain Home

The best BBQ in the Twin Lakes area, where no group is too big for catering or dinner! As far as they’re concerned, anything is fair game. Check out the smoked meatloaf, burgers, meatballs, corned beef Reuben turkey melts and Philly cheesesteaks. Customers always say they are reliable, reasonable and delicious.

Foodie Favorites: smokes meatloaf, mac and cheese, St. Louis-style ribs

Used with permission from Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism.

Craig’s Bar-B-Q | De Valls Bluff

A must-visit destination for barbecue lovers straight from the Arkansas Delta, serving legendary smoked meats for over 70 years. Craig’s is known for its slow-cooked, hickory-smoked ribs, which are fall-off-the-bone tender and basted in a tangy BBQ sauce. The restaurant is a local institution decorated in a nostalgic, rustic style, with wooden floors, exposed brick walls and vintage Coca-Cola signs.

Foodie Favorites: coleslaw, BBQ sauce, sliced pork sandwiches, cheeseburger, coconut pie

Ray’s Rump Shack | Trumann

The signature Rump Steak, renowned for its tenderness and juicy flavor and the flavorful Ribs, slow-cooked to fall off the bone, satisfy every craving. But what truly sets Ray’s Rump Shack apart is its commitment to providing guests with an exceptional dining experience and the elevated flavors locals expect from Memphis barbecue.

Image provided by Talya Tate Boerner.

The Hog Pen Barbecue | Osceola

A local dive where the menu is wide enough to eat there three days a week! It’s everything you want in a local BBQ place: casual, friendly, and the food is duh-licious! Don’t let the nondescript building throw you off or make you miss your turn! It’s a registered historic site and the place where many have eaten a historic bite! The rub is the right balance of spice and sweet, and the meats are perfect. And the walls are covered with lots of local memorabilia, including autographs from local favorites who’ve moved to the big leagues!

Reids Hometown | Booneville

This destination-worthy ‘que treats brisket like a Texan, where the fatty pieces hold the juices for the best bite. Ask the waitress for her recommendation, and then trust her to bring you the best barbecue bites with the perfect smoke ring and deep flavors on any smoked meat.

Foodie Favorites: Karly fries, burnt ends, fried okra

Other barbecue restaurants in NEA you may enjoy:

Image taken and used with permission from Beau’s Bayou Smokehouse.

Favorite Barbecue Spots in NWA

Beau’s Bayou Smokehouse | Farmington

Beau’s Bayou Smokehouse (food truck) menu is a carnivore’s paradise. There’s something for everyone, from smoke-crusted ribs to succulent pulled pork, juicy brisket and housemade sausages. Their homemade sides are equally impressive. Every bite is a delight, from creamy mac and cheese to crispy coleslaw. And they don’t play around with desserts either. Come on. It’s always worth the drive.

Foodie Favorite: creamy mac and cheese, the sampler, banana pudding cheesecake

Wright’s BBQ | Johnson, Bentonville, Rogers, Little Rock

As they say, it’s always the right time for Wright’s. I’m sure owner Jordan Wright can tell you what makes it so right, but Northwest Arkansas friends will tell you it’s by far the best! Wright’s resembles those famed Texas barbecue flavors, taking it to the next level with the perfect sides and “all the meats.” It’s also the ideal barbecue setting, where friends sit at picnic tables with juice dripping down to your elbows that you wipe away with a roll of paper towels on your table. And, Yelp just named them the #1 BBQ in America!

Foodie Favorites: sliced brisket, macaroni and cheese, Rocketman mashed potato bowl, Big John Frito bowl and that spicy sauce

Image provided by Talya Tate Boerner.

Girls Gone BBQ | Fayetteville

This woman-owned and run barbecue stop offers a new take on Arkansas-Delta BBQ with a Northeast twist. The Pink Plate Specials, Sugar Snackin’, customized vegan and Alpha Gal Menu, and salads honoring the queen of blues keep customers returning repeatedly!

Foodie Favorites: smoked duck breast, serrano rye honey-soaked cornbread, the Hot Southern Mess and banana pudding

Sauced Barbecue & Brews | Eureka Springs

The award-winning chef of Grotto Wood Fired Grill brings you his heart project, a barbecue joint serving the finest quality meats smoked in red oak and hickory wood. The restaurant’s rustic-chic decor creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, featuring exposed brick walls, wooden beams and vintage accents. Sauced Barbecue & Brews offers an extensive selection of craft beers from local and regional breweries to complement the delicious barbecue.

Foodie Favorites: smoked pork belly bites, coleslaw, local beer

Penguin Ed’s BBQ | Fayetteville

This Fayetteville classic, serving since 1962, started in a borrowed tent before moving to a no-ventilation trailer. Today, football weekends and family reunions keep the sacred tastes of Penguin Ed’s serving generations at the same tables. Ed smokes meats in a hickory wood by the old-fashioned way, and many original employees still stand around the pit!

Foodie Favorites: brisket potato, triple play meats plate, housemade meatloaf. Fried pies, Audrey’s cookies

Sassy’s Ribhouse | Fayetteville

The “redhouse,” as I’ve always heard it called, serves up a great bite and is the perfect place to watch the Hogs play any sport. All the meats on the menu are just a conduit to the sauce, developed by Sassy’s grandfather in 1895. It’s a casual place to meet friends and fill your belly!

Foodie Favorites: Irish Nachos, catfish plate, smoked turkey, burgers, those baby back ribs!

Ridgewood Brothers BBQ | Russellville

Ridgewood Brothers BBQ offers a variety of meats, sandwiches and sides. It’s run by best friends who use high-quality meats and authentic wood live-fire cooking. Customers can watch the meats being sliced fresh from the smoker.

Foodie Favorite: smoked turkey and brisket

Other barbecue restaurants in Northwest Arkansas you may enjoy:

You may also be interested in these other articles about Arkansas Barbecue.

To learn more and celebrate Arkansas Barbecue, visit the Arkansas BBQ Trail.

The article cover image was provided by and used with permission from Beau’s Bayou Smokehouse in Farmington.

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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