States west of the Mississippi and east of the Red River blend Eastern and Texas traditions with their own unique styles. Our Tom Marshall, Vice President of Marketing, swears by Joe Cobb's Barbecue, a landmark in his native Bossier City, Louisiana, since 1952. Joe and Sue Cobb's devoted following love the beef gooseneck round cooked above wood coals.
Arkansas feels the tug of Southeast and Southwest. It's a state divided between beef and pork and colored with clear, yellow, and dark red sauces. How can true Razorback fans eat pork? I ask Senior Photographer and University of Arkansas alumnus Art Meripol, who shrugs and replies, "You are what you eat."
In northeast Arkansas, Blytheville's Dixie Pig serves a clear, peppery vinegar sauce you'd expect in eastern North Carolina. In the southwest corner, Magnolia's Backyard Bar-B-Que drizzles brisket with a dark Texas-style concoction.
Six sauces slapped me around one afternoon at Whole Hog Café & Catering in Little Rock. Elsewhere in town, I got a sandwich to go from Sims Bar-B-Que. The mustard sauce, however, had so thoroughly soaked the bread that I couldn't extract sandwich from wrapper. Glancing around and finding no one watching, I stuck my face in it and lapped it up like a dog.
McClard's Bar-B-Q, a Hot Springs institution since 1928, satisfies with a dish called the Whole Spread. That hugely popular barbecue plate consists of two hot tamales covered with chopped beef, corn chips, beans, cheese, and onions. Scott McClard, fourth generation of his family to work here, nods at the next table where a patron dives into the dish. "It's a real gut bomb," he admits.
Oklahoma welcomes bologna to the plate. It accompanies beef and pork at Bad Brad's Bar-B-Q in Pawhuska, Dink's Pit Bar-B-Que in Bartlesville, and Earl's Rib Palace in Oklahoma City. It also forms one layer of the Badwich, a sandwich piled high with sausage, beef, ham, and chopped pork, served at Elmer's B.B.Q. in Tulsa. After finishing a Badwich one day, I realized just how far the barbecue table stretches across our South. From the kitchen came the regular beat of a cleaver on a wooden block--an echo of Carolina in these Osage Hills.
Love barbecue? You'll find dozens of delicious recipes in our Bar-B-Que special issue, on newsstands now!