Road Trip Report: McClard’s Bar-B-Q

D executive editor Tim “Timmy” Rogers has been on vacation with his family for a week. He must really be bored. He sends a restaurant review, with pictures, for your enjoyment.

The family and I are in Hot Springs for spring break. Driving back to our hotel, we spotted this tiny white stucco BBQ joint by the side of the road. It exuded authenticity, so I whipped in for dinner.

The lore of McClard’s Bar-B-Q is that the McClard family used to run a small hotel. In 1928, a guest didn’t have the money for his $10 bill and instead offered to pay with the recipe for the best BBQ sauce in the world. This story would be very difficult to fact check. But I can confirm that the sauce is worth stopping for. Maybe even worth ordering from their website. (Jump for the good part.)

I had the “half spread” (pictured): a nontraditional tamale (wetter, looser, not made with corn husk) topped with chopped beef, aforementioned sauce, onions, white Navy beans, Fritos, and cheese. Saltines served on the side. It was far more than I could eat, unless
a dare was in play. It was delicious.

The service was the friendly type that led to pleasant post-prandial chitchat with the waitress. Oh, and the slaw was maybe the beat I’ve ever had (with green peppers and not too much mayo). It was a perfect cool complement to the spicy BBQ sauce.

If you’re in Hot Springs, check it out. And, also, if you hit a trifecta at Oaklawn, the horse track down the street from McClard’s, don’t get too excited until the inquiry is concluded, because one of your horses could be disqualified. Dammit.

McClard’s Bar-B-Q – McClard’s barbeque restaurant has been a Hot Springs, Arkansas dining tradition since the 1920’s. Buy McClard’s barbeque sauce and bbq products online.


  • N

    The “half spread” reminds of the “Gut Pack” at Vitek’s in Waco. Except we had Mrs. Baird’s Texas Toast, not saltines. Ah, the joys of being a Baylor student and popping in for the most food possible for $5. Once they ran out of the chopped brisket for the day, that was it. Your choices got slimmer…literally, turkey, chicken, etc.

  • luniz

    funny, I was there last Saturday as well, that place gets packed but if you cut out after the 6th race you’ll beat the crowds. The ribs were decent this time (last time they weren’t that great), a bit oversauced and undersmoked for my tastes, but tender and meaty with the fat mostly rendered. I usually get a tamale on the side, pork’s my preference but these are good dirty fun.

    Shoulda put it all on Mylilmoneymaker…*sigh*

  • Luniz, you sure get around. Thanks for the report.

  • cecil mcdermit

    Timmy forgot one other thing about this famous BBQ joint is that its is cheap eats. Other favs in Hot Springs include the ham streak and buckwheat pancakes at the Pancake Shoppe, the corned beef sandwich at the track, and pizza at Rockys Corner. Nothing better than drinkin Lite beer with the jockeys at Rockys.

  • Don in Austin

    I’m still puzzled why its designated a National Park. Might as well have a Mineral Wells National Park.

    McCards is indeed tasty and cheap, but is it bar-b-que? No matter, Pasqual Manales in New Orleans has bar-b-qued shrimp and its damned tasty also…but not so cheap.

  • Hiccup

    I’ve been to McClard’s a few times. Still crave their cole slaw. But were you disturbed by the shape of the tamale’s too? Yikes! Did NOT look edible. But, of course I snarfed them down and loved every bite.

  • Eric Celeste

    Two things:

    1. Odds that Tim would use “post-prandial”: Vegas took it off the board.

    2. Level of enjoyment I take knowing that if he saw how screwed up the coding/line breaks are on this post, he’d go insane: off the charts.

  • D Martin

    D must be struggling if Hot Springs is now a spring break destination.

  • Amy A

    Ohhh I LOVE McClards! When I lived in Fort Smith I had a friend that swore it was the best BBQ ever. As a Texan, I had my doubts. While I won’t go so far as to say it’s the best ever BBQ, the tamale spread is heaven on a plate.

  • EC: Fixed. Sure could use a web editor.

  • luniz

    Nancy, you’ll find that I’m in high demand all over the world. I’m just trying to keep ’em all satisfied.

    Don, did Al Capone ever vacation at Mineral Wells? You and D need to get in touch with your inner redneck.

    Agree with the corned beef at the track. Sunday lunch buffet at the Whistle Stop is fun. There’s another bbq place in town that’s supposed to be good, but I haven’t tried it yet.

    McClard’s might not touch Smitty’s, but it’s better than anything north of Memphis, that’s for sure.

  • Don in Austin

    Al Capone? Shall we designate Leavenworth(or which ever prison he vacationed at) as a Nat’l Park too? Its a worthwhile place to visit, but Nat’l Park designation seems questionable is all. Perhaps I shouldn’t compare to Big Bend, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, etc.

  • Al Capone vacationed in Palm Desert at Two Bunch Palms, my ex-home away from home. I am in deep in touch with my inner redneck. I am barefoot in East Texas scratching the fire ant bites on my feet.

  • Marty Cortland

    I was hoping that I could get through the first quarter of 09 without hearing Tim use “post-prandial” (and had mostly avoided his company in hopes of realizing my fantasy), but, alas, it was not to be.

    I’m comforted, though, knowing how much Tim is kicking himself seeing the typo “beat” when he meant “best” in reference to the cole slaw (which, as he knows, totally killed the flow of the narrative and ruined the piece in its entirety).