Hot Springs, Arkansas
Arkansans might not want to admit it, but Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee have a lot in common besides hailing from the same state.
They both love big government and high taxes – and they’ve both had problems maintaining a healthy weight.
Why? Because with all the good food around, it’s doggone easy to get fat in Arkansas!
And the number-one food to chomp on down here is barbecue.
Unlike Texas where beef is always what’s for dinner, or the Carolinas where “the other white meat” is slow-smoked to a light tan, Arkansas citizens have refused to allow themselves to be boxed in with BBQ restrictions.
Pork, beef, chicken, ribs, armadillo, road kill. It doesn’t matter. Arkansans will smoke it and sauce it.
And for all those reasons, I was flat-out excited to visit McClard’s Bar-B-Q in Hot Springs.
And as I got closer to the restaurant and could smell the smoke, so did my tummy.
First opening in 1928, this barbecue joint has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s finest.
The walls are adorned with Arkansas heroes like Jerry Jones and politicians like Blanche Lincoln and Bill Clinton.
Of course, sometimes such public recognition becomes a double-edged sword—where the reputation stands on name alone.
Would this be the case with McClard’s? Well, there was only one way to find out.
I ordered the pulled pork platter with coleslaw and beans. Also, because I noticed a small number of Mexican-themed dishes on the menu, I went ahead and ordered a tamale.
To drink? Come on, I’m eating BBQ! I’ve got to have sweet tea.
But . . . “We only have unsweet.”
When the waitress said those words, it was like she told me Hillary was going to run for President again.
I was shocked, angry, worried, and disappointed.
No sweet tea?!?!?!
Was this not Arkansas? Did I make a wrong turn somewhere?
I ordered a Coke and began writing a scathing review in my head.
But it turns out, McClard’s unforgiveable sin of not serving sweet tea was forgivable.
Because they do HEAT. Not sweet.
And they’re not shy about it. They have only one type of sauce, and it is spicy.
They pour it all over their meat and dare you to add more.
Turns out, although it is tomato-based, it’s very similar to Carolina-style in flavor. It’s vinegary, salty, spicy, and no hint of sweet. Whoever was in charge of the sugar container must have taken it out back and run it over like a poor armadillo.
The beans were also top-of-the-line. Again, they weren’t sweet like typical baked beans. They had an infusion of Mexican spices that worked very well with the barbecue.
The coleslaw was probably the sweetest thing on my plate.
The hottest was the tamale. Beefy and full of heat, this tamale had me downing my second Coke before I was even finished.
In total, my bill was about $15. But it actually ended up costing me more.
It was a rookie mistake. I briefly forgot I was living in America and bought a bottle of their barbeque sauce to take back home.
Barbecue sauce, of course, is a liquid. And I was headed to the airport.
Obviously our heroes in the TSA frown on such things because they can and because they get paid to do so.
I decided to risk it and take my sauce through security instead of paying $25 to check my bag.
The sauce was great, but I wasn’t paying $25 to keep it.
Unfortunately, I got the extremely serious TSA agent instead of the mindless government worker I was so hoping for.
My TSA screener was that forehead-vein bulging white guy, probably ex-military, and still in denial about that lawless punk Uncle Sam still being “basically a good person.”
Well, I hope his wife gives him an extra gold star when he gets home because he found my sauce.
Not only that, but he beamed with self-satisfaction as he took it and threw it in the trash—he knew he had been a good, good boy!
I played dumb like I forgot it was in there and sarcastically thanked him for his dedicated service to our Great Nation.
The TSA agent actually thought I was serious and nearly teared up with honor.
But in reality, gratitude is the last thing I feel when I watch these TSA agents toss everything that once made this country so great into the trash—along with my bottle of McClard’s Barbecue Sauce.
Rating: Bought the Shirt.