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RESTAURANT REVIEW + PHOTOS: How to spell great BBQ: Casey's

By Jennifer Christman

This article was published June 21, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

a-rib-plate-is-plated-with-slaw-and-potato-salad-at-caseys-bar-b-q

A Rib Plate is plated with slaw and potato salad at Casey’s Bar-B-Q.

Casey’s Bar-B-Q

Address: 7410 Cantrell Road, Little Rock

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Cuisine: Barbecue sandwiches, plates and salads; burgers; hot dogs

Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V

Alcoholic beverages: Domestic and craft beer

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Carryout: Yes

(501) 615-8522

tinyurl.com/caseysbarbq

Cue the "Hallelujah Chorus": Casey's 'cue is back.

Call it Casey's Bar-B-Q as we usually refer to it in the paper. Or Casey's Bar-B-Que, as it appears on the menu. Or Casey's Bar B Q, as it appears on its main sign. Or Casey's Bar - B - Que, as it appears directly under its main sign on a marquee. Or Caseys -- no apostrophe -- Bar-B-Q as it appears on Facebook.

At Casey's, now on Little Rock's Cantrell Road in the former Arkansas Burger Company location with the red-and-white checkered pitched roof, they're too busy smoking spectacular meats to be too concerned about spelling.

Although I can visualize its old location on Reservoir Road (and don't be fooled by the Facebook page that says it's still there) and I have encyclopedic food recall, I truly can't remember if I ever dined there back in the '90s. If I did, I surely didn't appreciate it much; I was a recovering vegetarian from the East Coast who had no clue about good 'cue.

But I'm grateful to be acquainted -- reacquainted? -- with one of Little Rock's beloved old flames.

Our first trip to fragrant Casey's -- we could smell the aroma from Edwards Food Giant across the street -- was a dine-in trip on a Saturday. Having read some early online reviews about service concerns, we prepared ourselves for a wait. But this day, we walked right into the empty restaurant, placed our orders with the friendly counter staff and found a booth in the clean, comfortable dining room; it was too warm to take advantage of the shaded patio tables out back.

It wouldn't be long before other customers, mostly carryout, would come. And, contrary to those online reviews, it wouldn't be long before we got our food. Maybe my date was given my sides -- we blame ourselves for causing confusion when we ordered -- but no matter, we wanted to try a bit of everything anyway.

Barbecue plates come in two sizes, regular with two sides and large with three. He chose the large rib plate ($12.99; $10.99 regular), and I chose the large sliced beef plate ($11.99; $10.99 regular). Chopped was another option.

The barbecue places we usually frequent serve sauces -- sometimes in a variety of flavors -- on the side, so we were a bit surprised to see both entrees soused with the same sauce.

But surprise gave way to satisfaction. We relished Casey's confident one-size-fits-all, thin, tangy, peppery sauce that clung to the meaty ribs, cut individually, as opposed to served in a rack, and the tender, plentiful portion of sliced beef. Both dinners were served with buttery, browned pieces of Texas toast.

We shared bites of all the sides (regularly $1.99 per serving or $5.99 per pint) -- the standard coleslaw and potato salad that were satisfactory, though nothing special, and the zesty baked beans that had chunks of meat.

The standout side at Casey's has to be the fries ($1.99). We've never encountered potatoes cut quite like this -- thick, and somewhere between potato wedges and a curly fries. They're not only flavorful, they're fun to eat.

It was early afternoon, so we didn't try Casey's limited domestic ($3.99) or craft ($4.99) beer selections, opting for Coke products. We also couldn't manage the dessert of the day ($3.29), a dreamy-sounding pie.

Other plates include pork, turkey, ham, chicken, a combo and chicken fingers ($5.99-$16.99). Barbecue is sold "by the pound," ranging from $8.99 for a whole chicken up to $18.99 for ribs; it also comes in a Family Pack ($29.99 for 1 pound of meat, 6 ounces of sauce, two pints of sides and four buns) and Party Pack ($99.99 for 4 pounds of meat, 24 ounces of sauce, four pints of sides and 12 buns). Sauce is $1.99 for 6 ounces and $5.99 for a pint.

Other sides include macaroni and cheese ($1.99, $5.99 per pint), sweet potato fries ($1.99) and an onion loaf ($4.99).

Our second visit was a call-in carryout order that we went in to retrieve; Casey's is not making use of the Arkansas Burger Company's old drive-through window, at least not yet.

Everything was ready when we arrived. But not everything was in the bag.

The order taker seemed to understand on the phone that I wanted both a BBQ Salad ($8.99) with turkey and a pint of prepared Turkey Salad ($7.99) -- two totally separate things. And I was charged for both items. But when I arrived home, the pint was missing.

I'm pleased to report that Casey's made that up to me. About a week later when I wanted to pick up some Turkey Salad (not to be confused with the BBQ Salad with turkey) for the lake, I explained what had happened, and they graciously comped me a pint. And the salad -- smoky and full of unexpected puckery pickle and bitey onion that could have been more finely diced -- was the hit of our afternoon spread.

The BBQ Salad with turkey (not to be confused with the Turkey Salad) featured iceberg lettuce, red tomato, diced onion, shredded cheddar and plenty of tasty turkey, as well as sides of signature barbecue sauce and the requested ranch dressing. I savored the meaty salad so much I ordered the same salad for lunch another day, and my co-worker could smell it from her desk: "What are you eating?" Though I'm quite sure she, a vegan, didn't enjoy it as much as I did.

Also in the quasi-vegetable category, we sampled the fried pickles ($2.99), listed as a side. The lightly battered chips served with ranch dressing were the right amounts seasoned, sour and salty.

We also ordered a pleasing pork sandwich ($6.49; $5.49 regular), giving Casey's props for serving the carryout sandwich with a dry slaw and sauce on the side to prevent sogginess. Other sandwiches include beef (chopped or sliced), ham and turkey ($5.49-$9.49).

From the "Burgers & Such" menu, we tried a true-to-its-name Foot Long Chili Dog ($6.49). The bright pink dog was coated with chili and cheese and requested onions, though we would have preferred finely diced to sliced; requested jalapenos were thoughtfully packaged separately.

Other "& Such" selections ($2.99-$8.99) are burgers, grilled cheese, a regular Foot Long Hot Dog, Pork Tacos and a Smoked Potato.

One would expect to find the BBQ Nachos ($8.99) in that miscellaneous category, but Casey's files them under "Salads."

How totally 'cue-t.

Weekend on 06/21/2018

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