McClard’s Bar-B-Q and Fine Foods

Historically famous and a hot spot for anyone visiting

By Brad Hudgens, photography by Mara Kuhn

By Brad Hudgens, photography by Mara Kuhn

6:45 p.m. … Watching the news channel on the upcoming elections.

There are probably as many barbecue styles as there are pizza styles. Everyone has their favorites and when you find yours, there’s no turning back. Memphis style, Texas style, Carolinas style and Kansas City style. I think I’ve covered all of the famous BBQ styles; well, except one: McClard’s style.

McClard’s Bar-B-Q and Fine Foods truly has a style of its own. I love trying different barbecue, and enjoy many BBQ restaurants in Hot Springs, but I regularly crave McClard’s. My cravings are usually for the tamales, the beans, slaw, fries and a chopped pork sandwich. But there’s much more to McClard’s menu that will have you yearning for a trip to this historically famous restaurant. McClard’s smokes their competition. …

MCCLARDSMuch of the accolades for McClard’s starts with the sauce. The sauce is vinegar based with a decent black pepper hint. It has a nice consistency and a bold flavor. The sauce is sold worldwide to fans everywhere. Everything at McClard’s is made in-house. A lot of time and effort goes into every menu item, from the chopping of slaw cabbage to cutting potatoes for the fries. No shortcuts are taken to assure perfection in everything they serve.

McClard’s beans are delicately smoked and have a gentle flavor that is addicting. The texture of the beans is unique, with almost a creaminess. These are different from any other BBQ spot, in a great way. Try them, you’ll be the beanifactor. … Also different from others is their coleslaw, which is very finely chopped. The slaw also has a delicate flavor, and the beans and slaw combination is outstanding! Beans, slaw and a tamale is a superb meal. The tamales here are fabulous and only a third cousin to a typical Mexican tamale. These hand-rolled tamales, wrapped in parchment, have a very high meat content. Also with a black pepper hint, these are a must, especially with sauce on top. I like them alone or on an order (with beans and a side of slaw), but another awesome option is the McClard’s Tamale Spread. The spread, also available as a half spread, is crazy-good. The full spread is two tamales with Frito’s, beans, chopped beef, cheese and onions. You can customize your spread if you don’t go too crazy. I skip the Frito’s and onions, then substitute the beef for chopped pork. Yum!

A word about McClard’s meats. The pork and beef used at McClard’s is of the highest quality. Attention and care is used during the smoking process to infuse as much flavor as possible. The meats are not going to be laden with a high fat content nor will they be artificially pushed with liquid fillers. This quality will be a bit denser, but will be tremendously flavorful. Of course, the exceptional ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, and the chopped beef and chopped pork are incomparable. When I eat McClard’s BBQ, I know (and can taste) the quality in every bite.

MCCLARDSThe ribs are a cross between wet and dry ribs. They seem to be cooked as dry, but then sauced well at the end, and possibly additionally cooked. Whatever their process, it keeps the meat intact, as not to turn mushy, but the sauce still gets cooked into the ribs. These are some of the best in the state. A new menu option is McClard’s Around the Barn. This is a sampling of all of McClard’s meats with their dry spices added (available for purchase), and includes a new menu item: Smoked Sausages. After searching the world, proprietor Scott McClard found the best Black Oak sausages in Arkansas.

The JD’s Sandwiches (named after Scott’s late grandfather) are near perfect, and available in many combinations. I prefer the Chopped Pork Sandwich, no mayo. Many Plates are a great option, and are served with two sides. Beyond the beans and slaw, McClard’s has some of the best hand-cut fries on the planet. Loaded fries are also available with meat and cheese, and is stunning.

Milkshakes here are as good as you can get, particularly the chocolate or strawberry. For dessert, the Peach Cobbler with Ice Cream is as beautifully served as it is delicious. The Pecan Pie, served warm, is as good as I’ve tried anywhere. I would love to be abandoned on a dessert island. …

Several beers are served, including Lost 40 Brewery beer. The sweet tea is just right. Actually, most everything is just right due to the love that the McClard family puts into
this establishment. Scott, Phillip and Phillip’s wife, Linda McClard, along with John Thomason are the working proprietors who collaborate to keep McClard’s Bar-B-Q and Fine Foods on top. They foster long-term employees, such as Elenor (36 years). The ultracasual atmosphere feels like the way things used to be, and if there is a crowd, it’s so worth the wait. The pick-up business is brisk, just call ahead for your order.

McClard’s is an institution in Hot Springs that we shouldn’t take for granted. I will continue to support them, not just because of what the business means to Hot Springs; I will continue to go because I love the food! I’ll see you at McClard’s Bar-B-Q and Fine Foods.

8:15 p.m. … This will be interesting!


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