I love the readers of the Arkansas Times, and being able to talk to you all about food here on Eat Arkansas has been one of the best jobs I've ever had the privilege to do. But as great as I think you all are, it's my duty to come to you when you've made a mistake and let you know about it, and such an occasion has just presented itself to me: in our 2013 Restaurant Readers Choice poll, a majority of you voted Whole Hog Cafe the winner of "Best Barbecue" over Sims Barbecue, a mind-boggling miscarriage of justice only slightly less foul than Bush v. Gore. I drove down to Geyer Springs today to have lunch at Sims, because I wanted to make sure that their barbecue was better than Whole Hog. And it was, in every way.
First up at Sims was the Rib Dinner ($9.25), a massive plate of succulent pork ribs that we paired with turnip greens and potato salad. Meaty and tender, the moist ribs were redolent of a hickory smoke flavor that was made perfect by the thin, vinegary sauce poured lightly over the top. What little fat was on these ribs had been melted through slow-smoking, and each bite was a fall-off-the-bone experience of pure, meaty bliss. The sides, often an afterthought a barbecue joints, were almost as good as the main course: home-style mustard-based potato salad and a pile of greens dotted with tender salt pork that were as good as any I've ever had anywhere — so good that I contemplated adding a pint of them onto the side to take home for later.
Dish two was the Chicken Dinner ($8.75), a half of a smoked chicken served up with more of those excellent greens and a large spoonful of barbecue beans. As smoked chicken was the last thing I ate at Whole Hog, it was here that the differences were most obvious. Sims' chicken was juicy, with a crisp skin and a smoked flavor that penetrated the bird right to the bone. The Whole Hog version was dry, with little beyond surface flavor to keep things interesting — which makes me understand why Whole Hog gives you six different kinds of sauce as a distraction. Sims doesn't play those games, giving the chicken the same slight wash of vinegar-based sauce so that from breast to leg, this bird has the crisp, great skin of a roasted bird with just the right amount of sauce. With both the chicken and the ribs, Sims' meat speaks for itself, something that can't be said for the winner of this year's poll.
So why does Sims only rate second place? Maybe it's because Arkansans like to have multiple sauce choices on the table, something Sims doesn't provied. Maybe it's because there's some folks who don't feel comfortable heading down to locations on Broadway, Geyer Springs, or John Barrow Road. Whatever the reason, I'll hope you'll take this friendly public service announcement to heart and give the place a try. Or another try if you haven't been there in awhile. Sims is serving up some barbecue good enough to make any meat-lover proud — and a damn fine plate of turnip greens to boot.
Sims barbecue is located at 2415 Broadway, 7601 Geyer Springs, and 1307 John Barrow Road. Be sure to take advantage of their beer selection — it's all domestic, but it comes out ice cold with a frozen mug to keep it that way.
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