A CHANGE OF PLANS
When you click through the pictures below and notice all the tables are empty... don't be fooled. Less than an hour before I arrived this place was packed. Located in the heart of downtown Little Rock, Capitol Smokehouse & Grill has been a big hit with the lunch crowd for over two years now. Recent articles in Sync Weekly and Maxim magazine are now drawing in more than just the local downtown business women and men. Folks from all over the state are driving in to see what all the fuss is about. That's exactly what I did on a hot and humid afternoon in July. I had been running errands around town and had been putting lunch off. Not because I wasn't hungry, but because I couldn't decide on what I wanted to eat. I had actually pulled into a Long John Silver's parking lot just moments earlier. I sat in my vehicle with the engine still running thinking to myself, "What am I doing here? Do I really want to eat at this place?". There is no excitement going into a fast food chain. More often than not, I usually regret wasting my time and money by dining at such a place. You don't get the same experience from a kid behind the counter making minimum wage as you do with a married couple who are pouring out their heart and soul in order to keep the family business afloat.
As I sat there in the parking lot, I slowly placed the gear shift into reverse. With my foot still on the brake, I instantly began scanning through the long list of restaurants that resides somewhere in my cluttered brain. Unable to pick one over the other, I decided on trying something totally different. A place I never had been. I suddenly remembered my cousin Wess talking to me over the 4th of July weekend about a barbeque joint not too far from where he works downtown. It was the exact same restaurant I had read an article about just a couple of days before. I eased off the brake, backed out of the parking spot and proceeded to drive back over the river bridge toward downtown. Within just a few minutes and a half dozen stop lights later, I parked my truck and walked inside. According to the hours of operation posted at the entrance, they stop serving lunch at 2:30pm. Luckily for me...I had made it with thirty minutes to spare. I was greeted by a friendly lady behind the counter who helped guide me through the menu and began taking my order. Just as I had begun to glance around to admire the pictures and all the decor, my tray of food appeared over the counter. I grabbed a cup, filled it full of ice and made a selection from the soda fountain. Once I was seated, my attention was immediately drawn to a barbeque sauce bottle labeled Pig Trail. It is named after the famous scenic byway that twist and turns throughout the Boston Mountains region of the Ozark National Forest. I love it when a restaurant lets the customer decide what flavor of sauce to put on the barbeque. Too many places mix the sauce right in with the meat, making it hard to distinguish the flavor of the meat. If the sauce isn't that great then it may very well be ruining a perfectly good piece of meat that spent the better part of a day hanging up in a smokehouse. I prefer my sauce on the side. I usually will grab a small bowl or an extra plate to sample the sauce from. I have been to some establishments that have as many as eight different bottles to choose from. The more choices the better. Perhaps all of the sauces were so good upon creation that they couldn't decide on which one to use. I am always happy to make that decision for them. I like to dip my sandwich in the sauce, one bite at a time, until I find my favorite flavor. Sometimes I use potato chips and other times, if no one is looking, the tip of my finger.
The flavor of the meat from my pulled pork sandwich was sensational. It was some of the best barbequed pork I had ever eaten. My sandwich could have easily been finished off without the aid of any bbq sauce. It was that good! However, I had four different bottles of sauce staring back at me from across the table. The Froggy Bottom sauce caught my eye because the color is unlike anything you would expect to find on a sandwich of any kind. It had a very unique flavor. After sampling a bite with the pork, it reminded me of Hawaiian style barbeque. Somewhat similar to kalua pork that is served at a luau, complete with Tiki Torches and Polynesian dancers. It was so good that when I do go back I plan to eat my entire pulled pork sandwich drenched in Froggy Bottom sauce. But on this visit to Capitol Smokehouse, my sandwich was devoted to the Pig Trail. An excellent barbeque sauce that ranks right up there with the best. I enjoyed every bite of my meal. The potato salad was outstanding. The atmosphere warm and inviting. I guess my only real complaint would be that there wasn't any root beer. If you know me, you know how much I like drinking root beer with my barbeque. To me there is just no better combination than BBQ & Root Beer. The two were made for each other. If you don't know what I'm talking about, try it sometime. Get it in a bottle when you can. Avoid the soda fountain machines whenever possible, as most are nothing but high fructose corn syrup. Try out one of the brands like Boylan, Hank's, Saint Arnold or my personal favorite 1919 (draft root beer). Remember, if it contains high fructose corn syrup, it isn't real root beer. And when you're in the mood for some fabulous BBQ, come to Arkansas and be sure to check out Capitol Smokehouse & Grill. I had the pleasure to meet and visit with the owners Candy and Doug Wilkerson. They are both down to earth, sweet as can be and just all around genuinely nice people. Break free from those big national chains and go out and support America by visiting a family run restaurant. You'll be glad you did.
CAPITOL SMOKEHOUSE & GRILL
RIP - DOUG WILKERSON
I was heartbroken to learn that Mr. Wilkerson had passed. I didn't know him personally, but I do know that he was loved and is missed dearly by those who were graced by his presence. I am pleased to hear that Mrs. Wilkerson is still carrying on the tradition and that the doors to the family business remain opened wide. The next time you are in downtown Little Rock, please make a point to stop by and say "hi". Let's show our support for Candy and help her carry on the legacy of her beloved husband.
Read more about Doug by visiting his memorial page here.
(1951 - 2016)