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Classics: Half Spread from McClard’s Bar-B-Q

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In terms of dishes here in Arkansas, it does not get any more iconic than the Half Spread at McClard’s Bar-B-Q. But before we delve more into this plate, it first should be noted that the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame restaurant, which has been going strong since 1942, recently sold to an outside group. While the food remains the same and the Hot Springs location is still going strong, expansion has taken place in the form of a food truck that has been churning out many of the restaurant’s classics while meandering throughout Central Arkansas.

The McClard’s food truck was recently stationed off Cantrell Road in Little Rock, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to partake in the Half Spread. A dish like that just calls you. For those who have been living under a rock, the Half Spread is a glorious gut bomb concoction composed of a tamale topped with Fritos, beans, chopped BBQ beef, cheddar cheese, onions, and McClard’s signature, vinegar-based sauce. Everything about it is both right and wrong. It elevates the Frito pie I remember eating in Texas to a whole new level. And yes, you can also get the Whole Spread, which comes with two tamales, but unless you’re feeding a small army, I suggest sticking with the Half Spread.

This dish’s magic rests in the sum of its parts—the crunch of the salty Fritos, the tanginess of the sauce, the slight smokiness of the beef, and the soft texture of the tamale. The flavors and textures all just meld so harmoniously. At the brick-and-mortar restaurant, you’ll find Half Spread’s presentation to be a bit more majestic. A mountain of tiny cheddar shreds tends to have that effect, but there is something to be said for what the food truck has accomplished, meticulously wedging all the ingredients into a Styrofoam container. It ends up looking like a cute casserole made for one (or two).

And yes, I will always prefer devouring this dish while sitting on one of the stools at McClard’s bar but chowing down in the confines of your car is pretty darn sweet as well. Thankfully, the kind staff provided plenty of napkins. And here’s the thing, you might be surprised to read this, but I wasn’t able to finish the Half Spread. Surprisingly, it reheats very well the following day. Yes, the Fritos lose their crispiness, but overall, the dish still tastes great.

In the end, I am so thankful for McClard’s new food truck. This mobile eatery provides a true service, bringing the taste of a beloved restaurant to a base of adoring fans that grew up eating their barbeque. Keep an eye on their social media, as the truck moves around and is even available for catering and special events.

McClard’s Half Spread is a dish unlike any other, a true Arkansas classic.

Did You Know?

The McClard’s food truck features a more limited menu than the restaurant. Expect to see beef and pork sandwiches, tamale spread, and loaded fries, along with an offering of sides. Cash and cards are accepted, and there is only in-person ordering (no advance) available.

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Kevin Shalin is a food writer living in Little Rock with his wife, Sara, and two daughters, Natalie (12) and Sydney (7). He started his own blog, The Mighty Rib, seven years ago while living in Houston. Six months later, he began writing for Eating Our Words, a Houston Press food blog. After a year in Boston, he moved to Little Rock, where he’s been for almost five years. During that time, he’s written for Little Rock Soiree, Rock City Eats, Treatsie, and Bourbon and Boots.

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