Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two-fer: Big Jake's BBQ and Original Fried Pie Shop

Posted By on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 10:34 AM

LARGE PLATE:  Big enough for two at Big Jakes BBQ.
  • Kat Robinson
  • LARGE PLATE: Big enough for two at Big Jake's BBQ.
I don’t get down to south Arkansas enough, else I’m sure I’d have already enjoyed some of the smoky flavor of Big Jake’s before. I made a point to stop in on my way out of state the other day to check out one of the several locations around these parts.

We stopped in at the Texarkana, AR store on a Monday afternoon before the evening rush to grab some grub and get us back on the road. After looking through the offerings on the menu, I decided to give the Large Plate Dinner ($10.99) a try, thinking if it was enough food great, and if it wasn’t we could order something else. After all, leftovers weren’t something we were prepared to handle.

After placing the order, I looked around while the hubster got the girl child seated. There were a lot of interesting things to note. For one, there’s a little condiment bar on the side with pickles and onions (something I wasn’t accustomed to in a barbecue restaurant) and a big box of two slice to a package zip top bags of white bread. On the other bar, there were drinks, including sweet and unsweet tea and “lemon syrup,” which I thought was a nice touch.

There were also two different sorts of sauce available, mild and spicy, along with ketchup in dispensers. There was also a big pot of pinto beans a-stewin’ with a couple of pepper floats in it. I wasn’t sure if they were for the general consumption of everyone or that’s just where they’re served from, so I left them alone.

Our platter was readied and I took it over to the table. We’d ordered an extra side of corn on the cob ($1.49) for the girl child, who had specifically asked for it. Our other two sides were macaroni and cheese — which tasted a bit like it could be made fresh right there — and potato salad, a sweet mustardy potato salad that reminded me of devilled eggs. Very relish-sweet, in fact.

And then there was the meat. The sliced beef brisket on first look didn’t seem so fantastic — it looked dark and overcooked and only had an eighth to a quarter of an inch smoke ring to it. On sampling, though, I was shocked to find it completely fell apart — didn’t matter if you tried to grab it with your fingers, a fork, a spoon or a piece of bread, it just disintegrated. And there was a lovely smoky flavor throughout.

The turkey… now that was something else. You could see the smoking process had permeated well into the meat. It was a sweet brining and smoking, sort of like what Burge’s does, giving the turkey breast an almost hammy flavor. It was nicely dense-packed and still very moist.

But the chicken… the chicken was hands down my favorite. Served up in chunks, the pepper seasoned breast kept that smoky flavor and enhanced on it, juicy and a little salty at that.

The sauces… weren’t thick and weren’t thin. Somehow they were right in the middle of the road, and that was fine. They were a little vinegary and not hardly sweet at all, strong on the paprika and the pepper. I didn’t care for either one on its own but when added to the meat they were both good. The hot version seemed to have a good whap of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce in it… I could be wrong there, but it had that particular flavor.

The white bread, though… that worked out so well. I appreciate the little extra effort to go about bagging up slices each day to make them available.

So… the pie. We had just enough room left over for pie — which says something about the large plate. It fed two adults and one ravenous child just fine. I went over and ordered up one of the chocolate Original Fried Pies ($3.49) and brought it back over to the table. It was cold, but I figured that was all right. For the record — cream pies like chocolate and coconut cost a bit more. Fruit pies are $2.99.

The verdict? Hrm. The crust looked golden but the pie seemed a little flat. The crust was a biscuit dough. The filling? I hate to say this, but it tasted almost exactly like Jell-O Brand Chocolate Instant Pudding. I guess I’ve become accustomed to freshly fried pies made from scratch. I just wasn’t impressed.

So score one for Big Jake’s, at least. I did like the barbecue and will likely drop in next time I pass through Texarkana, Ashdown or Hope. The one I went to can be found at 1521 Arkansas in Texarkana (on the Arkansas side, of course). More information about all four locations on the website.

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