- RIGHT ON 'CUE: Walker's.
For years now — whenever the jones for a big ol’ burger or a plate of fried green tomatoes has hit us — we’ve been making the jaunt to Scott to dine at the venerable Cotham’s Mercantile. Though it seems like Scott is a thousand miles away from Little Rock proper, it’s actually one of those tricks of Arkansas geography: that you can drive less than 15 minutes from the downtown core and find yourself surrounded by farmland, trees, and mud-banked bayous that look straight out of “Swamp Thing.”
It seems we’ll have to find even more reasons to make the short trip to Scott in the future, now that Walker’s Barbecue has set up shop there. Tasty, friendly and with barbecue and desserts that could make a grown man cry, Walker’s is positioned as a strong contender for the Little Rock ’cue crown.
The building just off U.S. Highway 165 that has housed Walker’s since May (they used to be in a Warden Road strip mall just off the freeway in North Little Rock, until the change to one-way access roads and an explosion of restaurants in that corridor sucked their business dry — take heed, NLR city fathers!) isn’t much to look at: a shed-type affair, dressed up with faux-country trim. On the inside, it’s clean and all business, with a big, chow-down hall layout and a roll of paper towels on every table. Ordering is done at the window, which we liked, and the menu is as spare as it ought to be at a backwoods barbecue joint: two appetizers, ribs, sammiches in regular or jumbo, a couple of catfish items, a paper sign listing the side items, some stuff for the kiddies, and tamales that they buy from Doe’s and cook on site.
As purists, our crew stuck to the basics: a half slab of ribs ($10.49) for one companion, jumbo sandwich plates for another friend and myself ($6.29 for the pork, $7.29 for the beef). Though the kind woman at the window had told us they were running low on some items due to the flow of traffic in there that day, the food that hit our table didn’t look anything like leftovers. Though the sides were served in little cups, which always bothers this reviewer for some reason (how long does it take to pop off the lid and dump the stuff onto my plate? At least give me the illusion that there’s some decrepit old sage in the back, dishing up the goodies from a black iron pot), they were tasty, with a nice, tangy flavor on the beans. The tamales were a split decision, with some of us enjoying the heavy cornmeal wrapper and liberal sheen of red grease (takes us back to days stopping in the old Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, where we’d buy them by the dozen in drippings-filled coffee-cans capped with wax paper), while others thought the texture was a bit off and the filling too bland for anything calling itself a tamale.
The barbecue was what we had come for, however, and we weren’t disappointed by the main event. The sandwiches were indeed jumbo; big buns spilling over with moist chopped meat, topped with slaw and a tangy, peppery house sauce (there are others on the table if your heart desires, including a very fine hot variety). The ribs, too, were pretty much perfect: a generous half-slab of similarly moist baby backs, with a nice, smoky flavor and a superb amount of outer crust. There may not be a table full of trophies honoring Bill Walker’s ribs, but we’d give him one.
Once everything but the bones and the forks had been consumed, we shuffled a bit in our seats to make room for dessert. Passing up the store-bought pecan pie (though a later visit found it to be serviceable), we went for the homemade banana pudding and the homemade key lime pie (both $2.29). What we got were horse-chokingly big shares of both, though we didn’t have any trouble demolishing either. The banana pudding was indeed homemade; sweet and tasty, chock full of soggy vanilla wafers, with the whipped cream folded in Southern style. The key lime pie was what this reviewer really got into: a fluffy little masterpiece that would fit right in at the local church social; heavy on the Cool Whip flavor and without the wincingly tart flavor key lime pies can sometimes have.
In short, while it does take some forethought to make a lunch at Walker’s if you’re a cliff dweller downtown, it is well worth the trip. In return, you get a relaxing drive out into the hinterlands, with a finger-licking great meal at the end of it.
15235 Highway 165, Scott
For the competitive-eaters-in-training, might we suggest a dinnertime trip to Walker’s on Tuesday night, when they clear the decks (and, no doubt, the leftover ribs from weekend smoking) with their all-you-can-eat rib dinners. For just $12.99, you get all the ribs, toast and side items you can eat. Please note: We are not responsible for gastric distress, ruined clothing, or your family disowning you in embarrassment.
10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Inexpensive to moderate prices. All credit cards accepted. Full bar.