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I love bacon, and, in my humble opinion, no one in Arkansas does bacon better than Coursey’s Smoked Meats in St Joe. High praise, I know, but what else would you expect from a place that has been open for 76 years and has an 8-item menu?
The little spot located a stone’s throw off Highway 65 is Arkansas royalty, joining food institutions like Spudnuts Shoppe, Craig’s Bar-B-Q, McClard’s Bar-B-Q, and Venetian Inn, just to name a few. The original smoke shack still stands with its rustic, weathered sign that lets folks know they’ve arrived at the right spot.
But just what makes Coursey’s so special? In a word: simplicity.
What they do, they do quite well. Along with the world-famous bacon (I just came up with that), Coursey’s also carries smoked cheddar and Swiss cheese, as well as hickory-smoked, bone-in ham, boneless ham, turkey breast, summer sausage, and deer sausage. If they are open, to drive past the shop and not stop is the ultimate food sin. In fact, if friends and family catch wind of a Coursey’s visit, there is a high likelihood you will become a smoked meats mule for the day.
Walking into the shop is always a joyous occasion, as that unmistakable aroma of smoked meat permeates the air. There is nothing like it. Two ladies are behind the counter, ready to take your order and have it butcher-papered within a minute’s time. It is a beautiful sight to behold, and before the pandemic, you could even order some of the sliced turkey or ham and cheese as part of a simple sandwich. While I long for those days to return, the overwhelming joy of Coursey’s just being open suffices. Heck, I can make a sandwich at home, which is what did after my most recent visit. You have never seen someone race home so fast (no, I didn’t speed).
And guess what? As much as I brag about the bacon, the smoked cheddar and turkey are just as impressive. Both are deli-sliced in-house and pair well with white bread and a slather of mayonnaise, both of which were waiting for me on my return home to Little Rock. The turkey is sliced paper-thin, while the cheese is thicker. If you are trying to cut down on carbs, consider using two pieces of cheddar as a bread substitute and piling some turkey in between. Like the bacon, the turkey has such a subtle smoky flavor, enough to let you know it is there, but not so much as to dominate the meat. I imagine getting this process right is a work of art, mastered over decades of hard work and dedication.
Here is hoping that Coursey’s Smoked Meats continues to be around for another 70+ years.
In season (March-May and October-December), Coursey’s ships its bone-in ham, boneless ham, bacon, and deer sausage nationwide.
Coursey’s Smoked Meats
152 Courseys Drive (St. Joe)
Hours: Thursday-Monday 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Closed Tuesday and Wednesday
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