There is something very comforting about eating at a barbecue joint…the dense aroma of smoke, the hustle and bustle of employees chopping, slicing, and weighing out meats, the promise of a big slab of animal flesh drenched in sauce. It’s a primal instinct to enjoy such ventures. Most good barbecue restaurants are unpretentious, welcoming, and make their patrons feel like they are among friends the second they walk in the door. No matter how you spell it, (barbecue, BBQ, BAR-BQ, or bar-b-que) it all means happiness. There is no shortage of good ‘cue in Arkansas, and attempting to crown a single establishment as “the best” leads to as hot a debate in this region as anywhere else in this meat-loving nation. Determined to make as large a dent as possible in the Arkansas barbecue scene, I took a trip to Terri Lynn’s Bar-BQ and Delicatessen.
Terri Lynn’s is a little heavier on the deli items than most other barbecue restaurants I’ve enjoyed. Their menu board is a giant sprawl of sandwiches with various protein options including smoked turkey, corned beef, salami, bologna, and ham. Additionally, some items on the menu are likely to make BBQ purists turn their noses upwards in disgust, items such as nachos, tamales, pitas, foot-long hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. I’ll admit to a bit of BBQ snobbery, but I just avoid such items and keep to the classics.
All meats at Terri Lynn’s are smoked in house over hickory, a tradition they have held to vigilantly for over 50 years, so immediately I have to give them my sustaining vote. While it’s common to opt for the more manageable gas powered smokers, the heathen in me enjoys the thought of cooking animal parts over tree parts. It just feels right.
Figuring the best judgment of any BBQ joint lay in beef and pork, I ordered up a pork sandwich and a side of sliced beef. Again, Terri Lynn’s takes a bit of a detour from tradition. Their meats are more reminiscent of the kind of offerings you’d find behind the deli counter than in the clutches of some legendary pitmaster. The sliced beef comes out looking more like a traditional deli sliced roast beef after passing through the giant rotating circular blades of a commercial deli slicer. Additionally, it is not served hot, as I expected, essentially making it a smoked cold cut. Nonetheless, it was tasty, the hints of hickory smoke permeating the moist, tender beef, but I would have liked a bit stronger “meaty” flavor overall. It would have made a more satisfactory sandwich filler, rather than bare beef as I ordered it. It was, however, made more enjoyable when doused in their vinegar based, mildly sweetened sauce.
The sliced pork is given the same treatment, deli-sliced rather than pulled or chopped as you might expect from other BBQ joints. I did order this as a sandwich with coleslaw and drenched in sauce. Though, the sandwich bun was quickly soaked and nearly soggy with the runny sauce, it was a tasty product, one that I would not hesitate to repeat in the future.
Next time, my sights are set on a slice of their chocolate chess pie, as I’ve heard it deserves honorable mention. And next time, I’ll be able to enter Terri Lynn’s knowing it’s not the traditional barbecue experience I’ve grown accustomed to from my time in the glorious South.
10102 Rodney Parham Rd.