Adventures in Arkansas

There is a secret thrill I get when I find great food in unexpected places. Based on the popularity of shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, No Reservations, and Man v. Food, I suspect I’m not the only one. There is a fascination with the idea that looks can be deceiving — that even gas stations can serve great tacos. It’s the food experience of Russian roulette.  The exciting part of eating discovering great food where you least expect it is the potential for the meal to go exceedingly well or horribly wrong.

I recently visited a dear friend of mine in Bentonville, AK. Bentonville, in the 2010 Census, had an estimated population of 35,301. Compare this to DC’s estimated population of 601,723. Despite its relatively small size, Bentonville also happens to be the home of Walmart, my dear friend’s new employer. She asked a few of her co-workers for recommendations of places to visit and sites to see for an out-of-town tourist. Eureka Springs, “the extraordinary escape“, was suggested more than once. The entire town is a recognized historic landmark, and includes such fun features as a hotel that has “ground level” entrances for each of its 8 floors, and an outdoor staircase that is considered its own street by the US Government.

Eureka Springs is also lodged in the Ozark Mountains. The map below highlights our journey from Bentonville to Eureka Springs. Please note the windy roads and mountainous topography. Also important to note: I get motion sick very easily.

My dear friend is an aggressive driver, especially when there is no traffic and no guardrails on the side of the road. After a few turns and steep drops at NASCAR pace, I demanded she stop and pull over into a tiny parking lot. The parking lot fit at most 10 vehicles, and we took the last available spot. Pig statues studded the ground by the road, pig decorations adorned the building, and a massive pig sign welcomed us to Bubba’s Barbeque.

Not entirely willing to play food Russian roulette in the middle of the mountains, I cheated and looked up reviews on Yelp. 4/5 stars. We sat down at the counter and were greeted by this lovely display:

If the menu wasn’t delicious enough, the smells coming from the kitchen were mouth-watering. We ordered pork shoulder sandwiches, otherwise known as pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, and cole slaw. Bubba’s offers two different sauces: a vinegar-based hot sauce, and a thicker, tomato-based barbeque sauce (almost a Kansas City-style). Obviously, I doused my sandwich in hot sauce. The meat was juicy and tender, and I probably would have eaten 10 more if I hadn’t still been reeling from our perilous drive.

It was a great find in the midst of the Ozark Mountains, somewhere between Bentonville and Eureka Springs. Where is a “great food in an unexpected place” that you’ve experienced?

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5 comments

  1. How fun! I love exploring new places, too. I went to Kansas City a couple of months ago and everyone was raving about this BBQ place located in a gas station called Oklahoma Joe’s – http://www.oklahomajoesbbq.com/. I never got a chance to try it but it is on my to-do list for next time! (Although I have to admit that I did try a more conventional BBQ joint in KC – http://www.jackstackbbq.com/- and it was phenomenal!)

  2. Lynn Evans

    There is definitely a secret thrill when you find great food in unexpected places. I went to college at the University of Virginia and one of the best places to get delicious sandwiches was at the Bellair Market, a shop attached to a gas station. I remember the first time I heard about it my eye brows formed a deep arch as a look of skepticism consumed my face at the prospect of getting delicious food at a gas station (it like expecting to get a good meal on an airplane), but one day as I was driving by I decided to give it a try. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Check it out: http://tigerfuel.com/markets.html.

  3. This is such a great post! It made me start thinking of all the good food I have had a little hole in the walls. I went to school in Oxford, Ohio (Miami Univeristy) and there’s this incredible little sandwich shop named La Bodega. Whether you order their Holy Cow sandwich or pasta salad, they never disappoint. Because Oxford is such a small city, we had a lot of gourmet restaurants run by families that have lived in the area their entire lives. If you ever have a chance to visit this beautiful campus, make sure to stop by La Bodega! https://secure.oxonet.com/uptownbucks.com/php/menu_test/menu.php?id=9112&cat=The+Details

  4. Love this photo of the pigs. That’s just…awesome. I was just in Atlanta this weekend, and before my flight home I stopped at a place called the “Silver Skillet” for an AMAZING breakfast. The biscuts were so good that my friend and I asked for some to go and took them home with us. http://www.thesilverskillet.com/

  5. I am amazed that you actually found a Yelp review for this. I was in Charleston WVA looking for restaurants and couldn’t even find Yelp reviews. This reminds me of my trip to Arkansas – it is truly a state filled with hidden jems!

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