Like Abraham Lincoln, White Pig barbecue was born in a log cabin. And — in restaurant years — about as long ago.
The White Pig Inn opened for business in 1920, in what its web site calls “a log structure,” on U.S. Hwy. 70 in North Little Rock. That date makes it at least one of the oldest restaurants in the state. Furthermore, the Inn is still in the same location, though not the same building.
Highway 70 has changed more than the restaurant has. The road stretched coast to coast before the interstate system came along in the 1950s. It doesn't go nearly as far or have nearly as many travelers today. Most of the White Pig's former roadside neighbors, restaurants and otherwise, are long gone.
The Inn, on the other hand, still cooks meat over an open fire, still uses hickory only. It's been owned by the same family, the Seaton family, since 1940. Greg Seaton Jr. is the current owner. Long-time customers remember the carhops that were part of the White Pig experience until the late '60s.
Interesting, but most diners will be more interested in knowing whether the White Pig still serves good barbecue. Yes, it does.
The ribs we had were many and meaty. There's no question about getting your money's worth. The sauce is mild, a little sweet but not objectionably so. Some people will do as one of us did — add Tabasco sauce. You won't have to ask; the bottle is on the table.
What was said of the ribs could be said of the pork sandwich too, except that it wasn't quite as generous, at least the regular size wasn't. But it comes in a jumbo version too.
The side orders weren't bad, if not especially memorable. The beans seemed pretty much like pork and beans out of the can, but with barbecue sauce added. The slaw was lightly creamy. The fries were the familiar kind found in thousands of burger places, but they reached the table warm here, and that cannot be said of many of the other places. Incidentally, burgers are available here, and catfish too. And a “giant stuffed potato” — stuffed with beef or pork, cheese, slaw and barbecue sauce.
Fried pies, one peach and one cherry, reached the table very warm indeed. They're made elsewhere but fried to order at the Inn. The crust is light and flaky; we thought the filling a little skimpy.
Like many of its customers, the White Pig is a blue-collar sort of place. Clean but plain, solid but unspectacular, equal to the task. A barbecue place doesn't hang around 90 years without good barbecue.
White Pig Inn
5231 E. Broadway (Hwy. 70), North Little Rock
Satisfying barbecue in plain surroundings.
In the winter, it's 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday. In the summer, it stays open until 8 p.m.
Beer. Credit cards accepted.