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Social media can make me do crazy things when it comes to food, like drive two hours each way after seeing a scrumptious-looking picture of smoked brisket posted by the newly-opened Ray’s Rump Shack in Lake City.
Ray’s is a true BBQ joint.
I would say owner and pitmaster Seth Simmons’ digs are rustic at best, which is no knock, just an observation. What many of the top BBQ joints around the country lack in aesthetics, they make up for in great food. With that said, those unfamiliar with the restaurant will most likely drive right past it (as I did) on the first attempt. Keep an eye out for a sign-less, stone-walled building with a massive smoker out back. The glass front door is complete with pertinent information, including Ray’s logo and slogan: “Worst BBQ in AR.”
It is, in fact, not the worst BBQ in Arkansas, but rather, some of the best. That’s thanks in large part to the beforementioned peppery-barked, smoked brisket sliced right in front of me by Seth himself. The protein resides near the top of my Arkansas brisket mountain, along with Wright’s Barbecue, Ridgewood Brothers BBQ, and Knightfire BBQ. Great brisket aside, Arkansas will always be a pig-centric state and Simmons has mastered that as well, including a juicy ball of pulled pork that only made me yearn to try his ribs. Sadly, those weren’t ready at 11 a.m. on a Friday morning. Next time.
The smoked chicken quarter was also a winner, as was the pork sausage with a crispy casing. The sliced turkey was a touch dry, but that was easily corrected with a dip into the sweet BBQ sauce. Sides of slaw, red-skinned potato salad, and mac & cheese were also delightfully gobbled up in the confines of my car, but it was the bowl of well-seasoned, slightly soupy pinto beans that proved to be our overall favorite. Wish I could report on the banana pudding, but my car mate finished it without offering a bite. Seems like a glowing dessert endorsement to me.
Speaking of glowing endorsements, I’d say Ray’s Rump Shack is not only a fantastic addition to Northeast Arkansas’s BBQ scene, but also one that is worth getting in your car and checking out, no matter where you live in Arkansas.
As is the case with any great BBQ joint, I recommend arriving early.
Did You Know?
Ray’s Rump Shack’s menu includes plates, sandwiches, and meat by the pound (pulled pork, sausage, chicken, brisket, turkey, ribs. Other specialty items to keep an eye out for, include BBQ nachos, burnt ends (on Saturdays after 5 p.m.), Island Sliders with pulled pork, King’s Hawaiian Buns, and sweet chili sauce, along with corned beef brisket and POPS (potato, onion, peppers, and sausage, all smoked together). Catering is also a big part of the business, so inquire about Ray’s food trailer. And once again, I recommend arriving early.
Ray’s Rump Shack
918 AR-16 (Lake City)
Hours: Thursday-Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
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