by Kat Robinson
The Arkansas standard for barbecue, traditionally challenged by people on all sides of the argument, is for a beef or pork sandwich on white bread or bun with coleslaw and a peppery sauce. Variations therewith are sometimes challenged on the tiniest variations, such as Sim's vinegar-soaked meat, Old Post's slug of sweetness in the sauce, and McClard's use of chopped cabbage and mayo instead of a pre-mixed coleslaw.
However, I have yet to find anyone else who's tackling the same variation on a theme like Chip's. The local favorite is all but unheard of outside of town, but has been operating non-stop since 1961. The Chipman family's eatery adheres to most of the unwritten rules of Arkansas barbecuteries: meat is served smoked with sauce on the side, sandwiches come with coleslaw, and the store's closed on Sunday. Like other smoke-and-sauce restaurants, Chip's has its own specialties, such as a magnificent cheese dip and a restorative potato soup well known around this neighborhood for its curative properties. It also has its eccentricities, such as the above pictured Muffin Special ($5.35), barbecue meat served up on a toasted English muffin with American cheese in addition to slaw and sauce. Miracle Whip as a condiment is also a possibility. I tend to make sure to go for sauce on the side; while a good and typical example of Arkansas-style sauce, it's a bit too strong for my taste, and I'd rather lay on a thin layer with a butterknife than take the gob they normally dollop under the bun.
But there's another reason to visit this time of year... more on the jump.
The big reason to visit Chip's this time of year is to round out the Christmas buffet at your own home. And I do mean "round." As in pies. Chip's makes hundreds this time of year in all sorts of great flavors... coconut, chocolate, sour cream lemon, pineapple, chocolate walnut, banana walnut, pecan, and banana cream (pictured here). There's also an incredible housemade cheesecake that's more on the hearty fluffy side than sweet -- which can be served up plain or with strawberry or cherry toppings. Slices run $3.49-4.29, but you can take home a whole pie starting at $16.35. Whole cheesecakes are a bit more -- $34.50, but they're huge. You can also grab that in a half-size for $18.50.
You'll find Chip's at 9801 Markham, about a block west of the Markham Street Baptist Church. The restaurant is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday - Saturday (it'll close at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve) and they do take call-ahead orders at (501) 225-4346.