There is perhaps no Southern food more hotly debated than barbecue. Enthusiasts will vehemently defend their preferred regional barbecue style, whether it hails from Texas or Tennessee, from Kansas City or the Carolinas. There are passionate folks in every barbecue camp. The argument for "best barbecue in Arkansas" is no less stimulating, though it gets a little muddy when trying to definitively determine a few frontrunners. Recently, there have been whispers about a new establishment that many feel could be a contender. It's only been in operation for a few months now, but this Forrest City joint is already putting out some impressive 'cue.
Delta Q, like most other Arkansas barbecue restaurants, is pork-centric, but its menu plunges a bit deeper than many ancient barbecue joints, offering a sizable selection of sandwiches, wraps, interesting appetizers, salads and catfish, as well as a number of old-fashioned sodas, bottled beers and wines. But make no mistake, it's pulled pork and ribs that will put this place on the map. And don't expect to find yourself eating in a ramshackle hut, either. Everything at Delta Q is clean, fresh and new. There's a long, winding bar; crisp, well-designed menus, and youthful, but friendly table service.
One should not overlook Delta Q's appetizers. We started with the Delta Q Loaded Fries ($4.99). Despite the ordinary name, these are essentially a Southern version of that French-Canadian classic, poutine. Poutine doesn't get nearly enough attention in the South, and there was no way we could pass it up here. It was composed of crispy fries topped in brown gravy, chopped pork shoulder and chewy cheese curds. Most American knock-off versions of this dish forgo using actual cheese curds and just use ordinary melted cheese. But Delta Q did it right with bits of squeaky white curd. Overall, a wonderful dish.
We didn't have the appetite to sample them this trip to Delta Q, but on future visits we'll explore a few other appetizer items. The BBQ Nachos ($7.99) — tortilla chips with chopped chicken or pork, melted cheese and BBQ sauce — will likely be first on our to-do list, but we also got a look at Delta Q's fried cheese bites ($3.99) and they were equally enticing. And true to the spirit of Delta dining, hot tamales with chili in sets of three, six and 12 are also sold.
But the classic barbecue items left the greatest impression on us. We started with the half rack of ribs plate ($12.99), which came with two sides and a hot roll. The ribs were just fantastic; a finer rack we've yet to find in Arkansas. The tender meat pulled clean off the bone and there was just enough sauce to support the smoky pork flavor. Every rib was licked clean. Even the sides were impressive: wonderful baked beans that were thick and saucy with chunks of pork shoulder incorporated throughout, and a nicely done potato salad with a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing and chunks of red potato.
Our pork sandwich ($4.99) was impressive as well. The chopped pork was flavorful and tender and plentiful on the sandwich. It was lightly sauced, but we added a bit more from a tableside bottle of house-made barbecue sauce. We ordered ours topped with crunchy, creamy slaw — in all, a wonderful sandwich. For an extra $2 you can make it a combo and add fries or chips and a drink.
Delta Q is a fresh face within Arkansas barbecue, one that's already making waves among barbecue fanatics. Barbecue devotees should plan to make the trip to Forrest City to see what Delta Q has to offer.
1112 N. Washington St. Forrest City
Delta Q excels at traditional 'cue, but it has plenty for those who aren't huge fans of smoked meat — grilled chicken, salads and turkey sandwiches. We hear the catfish is top notch, too.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards accepted, beer and wine.