Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
Restaurant pioneers continue to push further west, where real estate speculators have built up an extraordinary amount of lease space. The Cross-Eyed Pig is the latest to jump on the wagon, with the restaurant’s first franchise opening in a shopping center on the southeast corner of Chenonceau and Highway 10, next door to NYPD Pizza.
Cross-Eyed Pig was the creation of Anthony Michael and Rick Freeland, who parted ways some time back. Freeland now owns Bare Bones BBQ, also on Highway 10. Michael’s Cross-Eyed Pig is in a converted cigar shop in Riverdale. The new Cross-Eyed Pig is owned by Hallie and Ron Krueger.
The Kruegers, like Michael, seem to be focused on catering ’cue, though their restaurant offers plenty of seating, including sectioned booths and two televisions (usually tuned in to Fox News, if that means anything) mounted on the north and south walls. Above each table area is a red lamp fixture, red being the Cross-Eyed Pig’s color of choice.
As ’cue restaurants go around here, it’s as comfortable as any to sit in.
The owners bought the recipes and use the excellent sauces that Michael sells from his Rebsamen Park location. What they haven’t seemed to have nailed down, however, is how to barbecue really good meat. The equipment is there; they have one of those heavy-duty stainless steel convection ovens you find at all the other big-time barbecue joints around town, the kind that can get a mess of ribs ready in less than three hours, so we figure they’ll eventually get their product closer to ’cue perfection.
Right now, though, we’d rate the ribs OK at best. They’re spare ribs and big and meaty, to be sure, but they lack smokiness and the flavor that dry rub brings. The ribs are served up without sauce and with some spice sprinkled on. We needed the sauces (the 50-50 half-mild, half-hot is the best) to liven them up. A great rib doesn’t need sauce, in our view.
Smokiness might be an issue worth addressing here, as the beef brisket also was missing that pink around the outside of the meat that we’ve been taught denotes the perfectly smoked brisket. Still, the brisket was tastier than the ribs.
The jumbo chopped pork sandwich got a significant thumbs-up from our group. We can’t say it was anything special, but it surpassed our other choices.
As at its sire’s place, the western Cross-Eyed Pig serves up a smoked potato salad, a mayonnaisey concoction that has found imitators around town, and we love it. The beans can be improved with the 50-50 sauce. The cole slaw, with a hint of sweetness, was much too creamy for our taste. We like creamy cole slaw, but this went over the top.
You order from the counter, get your drink (their sweet tea needs a tad more sugar) and the wait staff brings your food to the table when it’s ready. On our two visits, the ribs got a zapping in the microwave, which brings us to our two biggest complaints. One: The microwave heats the bone so intensely compared with the surrounding meat that a warning is in order to patrons. Two: Warmed-over spare ribs, even if they were cooked the night before, aren’t near as good as warmed-over and meatier baby backs (not that we’re big fans of warmed-over ’cue anywhere). The amount of fat in spare ribs, when they’re reheated from the fridge, makes for less tasty and very greasy ribs. We’re going to guess that you’ll get a better rib dinner here on a Friday or Saturday night, with fresh-smoked ribs, than on a midweek lunch visit.
As for desserts, Cross-Eyed offers an array of cobblers that are bought frozen from a supplier and baked in their oven. We enjoyed the blackberry version a la mode, but who wouldn’t? They’re well-crafted cobblers, whoever is doing them. The only desserts made in-house are cookies, baked by the owner.
The folks are friendly, the food is ready fast, and it’s open even on Sunday, which is a plus.
(across from the Ranch on Highway 10)
There’s a daily special, which on our two visits was the pork sandwich with a couple of sides for $6.45.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Inexpensive to moderate prices. Credit cards accepted. Beer available.