Very few places in Arkansas have as much history tied to their favorite barbecue joints as Hot Springs does. The Spa City, when it comes to barbecue, has something for everyone. The two oldest, and most well known are McClard’s BBQ, and Stubby’s, with McClard’s being the elder by 30 years. Along with those two are The Rib Cage BBQ, Mickey’s BBQ, Smokin N Style, Chuck’s BBQ, Midway BBQ and The Rollin Pit BBQ. The last year and a half has been great for some of these places, and not so great for others. As we all know, change is inevitable.
Everyone across the south, as well as other regions of the country, know the name McClard. When a restaurant has been open for close to a century, they will have a following of faithful customers. Those customers know the history, and the family that runs the place. Recently the McClard family lost J.D. McClard, a patriarch of the family and business.
The end of 2014 brought about a loss for the Smokin N Style family. Daniel Johnson, owner of Smokin N Style, passed away, and the Hot Springs BBQ community immediately felt the loss. Daniel not only was the owner, he was also a very accomplished barbecue competitor.
Chuck Lecompt, of Chuck’s BBQ, was a true pitmaster in every sense of the word. He started working for the original owner of Stubby’s BBQ as a young man, and eventually opened Chuck’s BBQ over 30 years ago. Taking an old school approach to cooking, Chuck made everything from scratch, from his fried pies and signature rub, to his flavorful and smoky sauce. His death a few short months ago has brought about the closing of Chuck’s BBQ, and the end of some of the state’s best hickory smoked barbecue.
There is no chain barbecue in Hot Springs. All of these places are family owned and family run. Each place supports the other, and it should be that way. The losses that each place has endured takes away from the barbecue family, but the state of the BBQ scene in Hot Springs is strong. Although Chuck’s, Midway, and Roland’s have closed their doors, there are others who are getting stronger. Mickey’s has been around since 1990, and is a hidden gem in our town. The Rib Cage BBQ and Catering is becoming a go to for more and more locals, as well as visitors. Some say we have too much barbecue around Hot Springs, but judging by the long lines and packed restaurants, I say the food is speaking for itself.