The Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q in Maumelle, situated at the Morgan/Maumelle exit off Interstate 40, is an unassuming little place among gas stations and fast-food restaurants. It's one of those jump on/jump off locales and usually sees a lot of rush hour traffic as people take the back roads into Maumelle proper, or head on to Conway and beyond.
Designed to look like, well, a shack, the restaurant is attached to a pizza joint that does not share the same exterior design scheme. The brown wood exterior gives the Shack a backwoods feel, so much so you could imagine it in Dogpatch with Mammy Yokum smoking a pipe on the front porch.
Smoke Shack Bar-B-Q
Address: 20608 Arkansas 365 North, Maumelle
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V
Alcoholic beverages: No
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Upon entering, diners find the counter, which fronts the kitchen. The dining area is to the right, and a rack to the left holds items for sale, such as barbecue sauce, jelly, honey and sorghum. The menu is rather small, but choices should appeal to any barbecue lover.
We visited on a weekday around 5 p.m. Traffic was a bit of mess, but the restaurant wasn't crowded when we arrived.
Our orders arrived in a short time. I had chosen a BBQ dinner plate ($8.99), which comes with two sides and toast. The meat choices are pork, sausage, beef and turkey.
There was a good amount of food on the disposable plate but the pork and beef were dry. The potato salad, a standard mustard version, went well with the flavor of the meat. And considering that the beans were being served at a barbecue restaurant, one would expect the same smokiness, but there was not a pronounced flavor of any seasoning. The toast was a hamburger-style bun cut in half, split open and toasted; it could have benefited from a bit of butter.
A companion went with the plate dinner too, choosing turkey, pork, slaw and green beans. The turkey looked like lunch meat; it was very uniformly sliced, then cut into squares and put on the plate. It was tender, but without a smoky flavor. The green beans were tender, but underseasoned; bits of meat in them didn't add to the flavor there either. The slaw was also the standard version, with large shreds of cabbage mixed with mayonnaise.
Two at our table got the rib special of the day ($10.99), featuring a half rack of ribs (five to seven bones), two sides, toast and a drink. Along with the ribs, one chose fries and corn on the cob, the other chose tomato relish and potato salad.
The smoky ribs had the thing many barbecuers treasure -- the smoke ring. The interior of the rib meat was light brown, the exterior had a reddish ring of tender meat, which signifies the meat was cooked low and slow. While the meat didn't fall off the bone, it came off easily.
The fries were hot and there were plenty to share. The corn was cooked to just the right tenderness. The tomato relish was a little spicy and tangy, but the green tomatoes were cut in such large pieces that they were tough and unwieldy.
The Smoke Shack offers three sauces -- original, sweet and spicy, and hot. I tried the sweet and spicy but found it too peppery. The original also was still too much for me. I dabbed my finger into the hot, probably not the best idea, and needed to chug some of my drink. My son, lover of all things hot, found it a little much.
We ended the meal with peach and apple fried pies ($1.99). The crust was golden brown and crisp. In the peach version, there was hardly any filling and it had all run down to one end of the pie so half was just empty crust. The apple was better and the filling seemed more plentiful.
The Smoke Shack sells meat by the pound. It's $10.99 for pork and sausage, $14.99 for beef and turkey. A full rack of ribs is $18.99, half is $9.99, and sides can be added, two for $2. Extra sauce and condiments cost 50 cents. There is also a jumbo sandwich special ($7.49) that includes two sides and a drink.
A family-size pack ($25 for pork, $29 for beef) features two pounds of meat, eight buns, two pints of side dishes and a pint of sauce. A Rack Pack featuring a rack of ribs, two pints of sides and a half pint of sauce is $25.
A rib dinner special is served with potato salad, tomato relish and a toasted bun at the Smoke Shack in Maumelle.
Weekend on 08/09/2018
Print Headline: Call dibs on the ribs at Smoke Shack