It’s Friday, and it’s been tradition for us in the past to do a special post for everyone to discuss what they’ve eaten over the week. I basically stopped doing that because the last couple I posted got exactly zero discussion.
This is not your fault. It’s mine. If things aren’t compelling, who is going to care to comment?
But the Friday feature has never left the back of my mind — it’s been gone-but-not-forgotten for these many months. Unfortunately, since Eat Arkansas was my part-time job, there just never seemed to be enough time to pull some ideas together and make it happen. The good news is this: come January, Eat Arkansas will still be a “part time” job for me, but it will be in the context of working full time for the Times, expanding Arkansas Food and Farm and launching a new publication, Arkansas Made. This will allow Eat Arkansas to speed up and post more often — we probably won’t ever match Arkansas Blog post rates, but that’s only because Max is a mad genius who owns blogging.
So, back to Fridays — we’re launching a new feature called “Top 5 Friday.” Each Friday, one of us will post a five item guide to something food-related like restaurants, menu items, Arkansas made products, local blogs, or other delicious info. This will give us some great launching info for our traditional Friday open line, where we can either discuss the list or any other dadgum thing we want.
Today, since this is the first one and since we left Eat Arkansas high and dry for a week and a half, I’m giving you a three-for-the-price-of-one bonus from Dana, Louis, and myself. Enjoy, and get on down there in the comments and give us some feedback. We’ll start with five Arkansas products you should have in your pantry right now, move on to a discussion of Spa City BBQ joints, then end with a list of tasty sandwiches from around Central Arkansas.
Top 5 Arkansas products you should be using:
*Riceland Rice: There’s just no list of Arkansas products that could possibly be complete without a mention of rice, and Riceland makes a lot of the stuff — as well they should, since they are the largest miller of rice in the world, and their Jonesboro plant ranks as the largest rice mill in the world. Think rice is just another starch? Check out these recipes from Riceland’s website and start steaming the basis for a beautiful dinner.
*Townsend Spices: Melbourne is a small town up in Izard county where I once spent a lovely weekend exploring the surrounding hilly terrain. It’s also home to Townsend Spices, a company that has a plethora of spice mixes, dry rubs, butcher supplies, and raw spices. Delicious spice mixes made in Arkansas is deserving of its own post, but in the meantime, check out Townsend’s online store.
*Arkansas-roasted coffee: Whether it is Westrock, Mylo, Guillermo’s, or Arsaga’s, you should have some beans roasted in Arkansas as part of your supplies. Why? Because these beans are fresher, don’t have to travel nearly as far, and are replenished regularly. Small batch = tasty coffee.
*Wicked Mix: Available now in Spicy Original, Chocolate Laced, or Chipotle, this line-up of Arkansas-made snack mixes is out-of-control good. Holiday time is snack time, and a bowl or three of this stuff will make for some very happy holidays indeed.
*Geek Eats Granola: I’ve sung the praises of Geek Eats before, but it bears repeating. Good as a snack, good with milk, good in yogurt, good with fruit, good with ice cream, and just good all around. This is the best, most flavorful granola I’ve ever had, mostly because it isn’t just oats and sugar with a little crunch. There’s real heft to this stuff, and it’s kept me going more than once when I didn’t have time for a formal meal.
When it comes to barbecue, everyone has their favorite cut of meat, favorite side dish, and favorite place to enjoy it all. Here in Arkansas, we love our BBQ ribs. In Hot Springs, there are 5 great places that cook up some of the best ribs around. Whether its the legendary dive, or the relatively new kid on the block, the Spa City offers plenty of places to enjoy great BBQ ribs. So who are the players?
*Smokin’ in Style: Back in 2004, Daniel Johnson opened Smokin’ in Style BBQ at 2278 Albert Pike. Since then, the word has spread about his barbecue, especially the ribs. Whether you get a rib plate, or a whole rack, you will not be disappointed. Pair them with one of a variety of sauces, and sides, and enjoy.
*Rib Cage BBQ: Just south of the Hot Springs mall at 5429 Central sits Rib Cage BBQ. Boasting a signature Sweet Heat barbecue sauce, Rib Cage is serving up delicious fall-off-the-bone ribs. Operating out of a 30 foot concession trailer, Rib Cage is quickly becoming a go to place for Spa City rib lovers. Have them dry, or with their Sweet Heat sauce. No matter how you have them, they are some of the best around.
*Mickey’s: If you ever find yourself in downtown Hot Springs with a craving for moist and delicious ribs, take a short drive to 1622 Park Avenue and see the folks at Mickey’s BBQ. Since 1990, the crew at Mickey’s have made their mark on the Hot Springs food scene with some of the best hickory smoked ribs around. Being just off the beaten path hasn’t stopped folks from frequenting Mickey’s and enjoying their racks of delicious ribs.
Mickey’s is one of the oldest places in the Hot Springs BBQ scene, and they’ve been offering up moist and tender ribs for decades.
*Stubby’s: Sitting at 3024 Central Avenue close to Oaklawn is Stubby’s BBQ, one of the most recognized places to offer up hickory smoked meats. It’s popular for a reason, and is definitely a place to go to satisfy your cravings for BBQ ribs. I believe the thousands who have visited Stubby’s over the years would also agree.
*McClard’s: If you live in the South, chances are you have heard of McClard’s, even if you don’t eat barbecue. The Hot Springs classic at 505 Albert Pike has been in the business for a long time, serving up barbecue and selling their well-known sauce. Through over 80 years in operation, McClard’s has fed generations of locals its hickory smoked ribs. There are numerous menu options to choose from, but when you visit McClard’s, be sure to get a rib plate, and enjoy some of the South’s most celebrated BBQ.
No matter which place you choose, you will not be disappointed with the BBQ ribs that Hot Springs has to offer.
Top 5 sandwiches in Little Rock that you are probably overlooking:
There may be no easier or more delicious food delivery form than the sandwich. The beauty of a great sandwich is not designated to the realm of meat eaters. Vegetarians and vegans can concoct epic creations of hand held delight, too. In fact, there are places all over the city making mean hoagies, wraps and melts for the vegetable lover, and I would like to share with you five of my favorites.
*Veggie Melt at Izzy’s: Fresh food and wonderful teas can be found in West Little Rock at Izzy’s, and one of my favorite items on the menu is the Veggie Melt. This simple sandwich packs some powerfully comforting flavors. The bread is toasted using their soy based butter, and sauteed spinach, avocado, sunflower seeds, zucchini and tomato top the sandwich. For vegetarians, you have your choice of cheese. For vegans, leave it off, and the avocado will act as your creamy binder. Get it with a side of their vegan or vegetarian soup for just an extra $2.49.
*Fried Avocado Torta at The Fold: What could be better than crispy fried slices of avocado, topped with spinach, citrus slaw and pico de gallo, all placed on a huge, crusty loaf of bread? Nothing, that’s what. This sandwich is excellent. Leave the cheese off to make vegan, and cover with Mexican hot sauce if you dare.
*Grilled Veggie Wrap at Bar Louie: Yes, this is technically a wrap and not a sandwich, but I included it because it’s a really fantastic wrap. This isn’t a dainty, health-conscious wrap. This tortilla is jam packed with roasted carrots and zucchini, fresh spinach, hummus, avocado and red pepper. Leave off the queso fresco and mayo to make vegan. You won’t miss these at all, because the hummus and avocado blend together to make a creamy counter part to the rich, roasted vegetables. Get with a side of broccoli and feel good about yourself.
*Portobello Reuben at Mellow Mushroom: This massive sandwich delivers some powerful flavors, and because it’s at Mellow Mushroom, you can easily make it vegan. The sandwich comes with grilled portobellos, sauerkraut, Swiss and thousand island dressing, all piled high on a crunchy rye hoagie roll. To make vegan, sub out vegan cheese for the regular and avocado for the thousand island dressing. You will get a delicious combination of earthy mushrooms, creamy cheese and tart sauerkraut. Warning: You may need a family of 4 to take down this beast.
*Veggie Sandwich at Arkansas Ale House: By far my favorite sandwich in all of Central Arkansas, the veggie at the new Diamond Bear restaurant, is one of a kind. The flavor combination of grilled zucchini, tomato, caramelized onions and olive and fig tapenade set this way apart from the rest. These deep flavors are slathered on a crusty hoagie roll, soaking the bread. Leave the cheese off to make vegan, and come back and order it again and again.
These are just a glimpse of all the great veggie sandwiches being offered in Central Arkansas. They are huge and bursting with flavor, and they would satisfy the appetite of veg heads and meat eaters alike and shouldn’t be overlooked.
So that’s it from us. Have a top five you’d like to read? Want to tell us how awesome/terrible we are? Want to go completely off topic? Go for it in the comments.