by Kat Robinson
In this job (as you can imagine) I encounter a lot of barbecue. Most of it is pretty good. I’m fortunate enough to really be able to enjoy a good smoke on a quality piece of meat. I taste barbecue sauces like some folks taste wine… looking for notes and echoes, except I’m looking for spice and whether there’s honey or brown sugar in sauces rather than a peaty or mossy tone. And I’m always a sucker for a restaurant that has a BBQ meat filled baked potato. No, it’s not high cuisine, but it’s a favorite of mine.
Found all three in a little place in a small town in Arkansas this week. Good, smoky pulled beef; a tangy, honey-sweetened peppery sauce; and that sought-after potato. Found them all at a little place called Allen’s Barbecue and Grill in Gurdon, the little burg south of Arkadelphia on Highway 67. The building seems a lot neater than many of the shacks which serve as barbecue temples around this state. There’s a posting of The Ten Commandments in the window and photos of cheerleaders in frames inside. You know where you stand when you walk in.
The food, after the jump.
We were offered Cheese Queso with Salsa and Chips ($4.89) when we came in. The queso was a white cheese dip that was on the plain side. The salsa, on the other hand, was a wonderful affair, sweet and onion-tinged, sort of like what J.R.’s used to serve up here in Little Rock. The chips were hot, salsa was cold, and there was plenty of fresh iced tea.
My companion went for the Open Face BBQ Pork Sandwich dinner ($8.95), with beans and potato salad as the two sides. I chose, of course, the BBQ Potato ($5.50), just smoked beef and a little sprinkling of Cheddar cheese under a light twirl of that barbecue sauce. We both agreed the meat was done very well, nicely smoked and well companioned with the sauce. The potato without the meat was easily a pound, and it was all I could do to eat it… it was good, so I did eat it all, but I sure didn’t want to roll out of the booth from being so full.
Did pick up a Chocolate Fried Pie ($1.69) to eat later. They’re offered by the register, and weren’t hot. Weren’t bad, though. Buttery crust, normal chocolate custard filling. Maybe a little short on generosity with that filling, but it’s one of the less expensive fried pies I’ve been offered.
Allen’s also serves up fried catfish, ribs, smoked chicken, chicken fried steak and a span of burgers. I wasn’t quite brave enough to tackle the Ultimate Potato ($5.95), which includes meat, butter, beans, slaw, and shredded cheese… but maybe one day I might be tempted.
You’ll find Allen’s Barbecue and Grill on Highway 67 in Gurdon, across from Calley’s and right before Highway 53 splits off downtown. (870) 353-6600.