julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

When You’re On Vacay, It’s Okay to Go Whole Hog

Whole Hog Cafe

In the mood for some really good barbecue? I mean, REALLY good, award-winning, rock your socks off barbecue? Take a little trip to Whole Hog Cafe in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I’m not a big fan of internet acronyms, but even I have to give a big O.M.G. to this place.

Featured on Food Network’s Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels and located on Central Street, we actually found it by accident – it was in a strip shopping center next door to the day spa where we treated ourselves to a much-needed couple’s massage (jealous yet?). We came spilling out of the salon in a puddle of relaxed goo on rubbery legs with grumbly tummies, and happened to glance over and see this place called Whole Hog Cafe – but the real eye-catching thing was the collection of huge trophies in the front windows of the restaurant. Award-winning barbecue? Um. Yes, please!

Award-Winning indeed!

We walked in and were immediately impressed with the cozy feel of the restaurant – much nicer than the outside would have us believe. There was no line, and we walked right up to the counter to place our order. Ben got the Whole Hog Platter (ribs, pulled pork, brisket, beans, cole slaw and potato salad with a roll) and I got a brisket sandwich (I asked for the cole slaw on the side, though it would normally be served right on the sandwich itself).

Barbecue Sauces

When our number was called, we took our food to a booth where a roll of paper towels and a carton of six barbecue sauce options awaited us. The carton gave a description of each sauce so you could decide which one to try – all were good, but my favorite was the “traditional” sauce #1. The cole slaw wasn’t bad – it was a vinegar base, which isn’t my favorite, but tasty nonetheless. But the BRISKET. Holy smokes, it was good! The meat was cut the perfect thickness, and it was so tender and full of flavor – Ben and I agreed that this could be the best brisket we’ve ever had. And we’ve had a lot of brisket. (Ben also had the ribs, which he claimed were “okay” – but even “okay” food at this place was pretty darn good!)

Whole Hog Platter

While the chopped brisket was clearly the star of this meal, the biggest surprise of the meal was Ben’s potato salad. I had never had anything like it. It was super creamy (maybe based in a sour cream and cream cheese mixture?) with big chunks of potato – it was amazing. If you don’t like potato salad, I beg you to try this before you write it off forever. Whole Hog potato salad might just change your mind.

After only one visit, it’s easy to see why this barbecue place is award-winning. Friendly staff, excellent food, good atmosphere – I highly recommend you add this to your list of places to visit the next time you’re in the Hot Springs area. And if you aren’t planning a trip to Hot Springs, now you have a reason!

Happy travels!
-Jessica

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