I travel quite a bit for business. One of my favorite things about business travel is finding local Mom & Pop restaurants and trying some local fare. Tonight I thought- What would Little Rock, Arkansas be known for? So after a little Google action, I discovered Whole Hog Cafe, a local chain of BBQ restaurants owned by a World Champion Memphis in May BBQ chef. Chef Ron Blasingame, Mike “Sarge” Davis, and Steve Lucchi founded WHC in 2000. To date, other than boasting award winning BBQ, they have several claims to fame: Two Presidents have eaten there, they’ve been featured on Food Network and Fodor’s Travel America “Don’t Miss” in Arkansas, and President Bill Clinton has their serving utensils in his time capsule!! I wasn’t ever a big Clinton fan, but that’s majorly cool! They have four Memphis in May trophies (see the pic- those are some fine trophies!!), and a slew of other awards. And….drumroll…..all are very very well deserved.
Being a trained and previously certified Memphis in May judge, I took this meal seriously. I ordered the Whole Hog platter, which had ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, beans, coleslaw, and a roll. The picture of my meal doesn’t do it justice.
They also boast seven different sauces, all made on site. The picture lists the different sauces. The sauce not shown in the pic is their Volcano sauce, their hot BBQ sauce. The sauces range from mild and sweet to mustard based. More on sauces in a minute.
In short, my meal was outstanding! The baby back ribs (they give you 3 or 4 bones on a platter) were tender, but kept their texture and separated from the bone with a gentle tug. Perfect! The pork was tender, smokey, and delicious. The brisket was good, and definitely tender, but if I had to choose, the pulled pork and ribs would win, hands down. The portions were generous, and I was stuffed at the end of my meal. Now about the sauces.
I tried them in order – The classic #1 sauce was mild and sweet, and smooth. An easy 3 fiery worlds. The #2 sauce, with it’s touch of vinegar, was a little tangy, but just a “normal” sauce. The # 3, touted as #2’s evil twin, was okay. Both 2 & 3 get 3/5 fiery worlds. Then we come to #4-Their Traditional Southern vinegar and spice sauce – it was delicious! a little smokey, tangy, and playful. It had just enough bite to be interesting, and I could discern multiple layers of flavor. It scored 3 1/2 fiery worlds. After trying #4, the dark, sweet, bold molasses #5 sauce was a nice contrast. If you like thick and sweet, this is your sauce. A solid 3 fiery worlds. Their #6 is a mustard based sauce and I can sum it up in two words…..Loved It! it was my favorite of the 7 sauces by themselves. It also earned 3 1/2 fiery worlds. Their hot offering doesn’t have an assigned number. It would be #7, but it’s called the Volcano sauce. I was able to learn that it uses cayenne powder and Dave’s Insanity Sauce, among others. They only provide it by request, and in small little containers. I asked for 2, and the staff was shocked!! It had some heat, but for a true Chilehead, it’s a medium heat. But the flavor reminded me of #4, and I really liked it. Another 3 1/2 fiery worlds. So I bet you’re thinking, “Okay, Ken, if this place is so good, why didn’t the sauce rate a higher ranking?” Simply put and in no way a slap to Whole Hog Cafe, but I’ve been blessed to taste a lot of good sauces, and I’ve had better. Volcanic Peppers LAVA Scorpion BBQ sauce and Jac’s Tailgaters Bayou Blaze Habanero BBQ sauce are my current favorite hot BBQ sauces. But Whole Hog’s were good, too. AND…….if they were to combine their Volcano and #6 mustard & vinegar sauce, the combo would come real close to 4 fiery worlds!!
My platter was topped off with a serving of BBQ beans that were slap yo momma good, a mayonaise based potato salad (a little bland…my least favorite part of the meal), and an outstanding North Carolina styled vinegar cole slaw. When I left, I had a smiling belly and a happy plate!!
So, the next time you find yourself in Little Rock, Arkansas, check out Whole Hog BBQ! Your stomach will thank you!! And besides….being an LSU fan, the thought of eatin a little butchered hog kinda felt good!!!! ;-). Have a good one, ladies and gents, and thanks for stopping by. And remember….It’s a Fiery World!!!