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Casey's is reborn on Cantrell 

It's a barbecue revival.

click to enlarge FALL-OFF-THE-BONE GOOD: The ribs at Casey's Bar-B-Cue.
  • FALL-OFF-THE-BONE GOOD: The ribs at Casey's Bar-B-Cue.

"Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it's a start."

— Anthony Bourdain

"Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it's too sweet, it's bound to be hiding something."

— Lyle Lovett

Ahh, barbecue. The great uniter.

Sure, folks around here can fight about barbecue, but it's a happy fight. It's not about "should we, shouldn't we" barbecue. Barbecue fights are about sauces and dry rubs. About pork vs. beef vs. chicken. About hickory chips vs. mesquite vs. charcoal or gas. About Memphis or Kansas City or North Carolina styles. Preferences, really. Not deal-breakers. Fight all day, but when it's ready you know you're gonna eat it, with gusto and a heap of napkins.

Here in Central Arkansas, that quiet "hoorah" you heard a couple of months ago was likely attributable to meat fans saluting the return of Casey's Bar-B-Que to Little Rock. Casey's has taken over the familiar red-checkered rooftop building that formerly housed Arkansas Burger Co. on Cantrell Road. If the rooftop doesn't grab your attention, the meaty aroma billowing from the building will do the trick. When your car windows are down at just the right spot, you may find yourself making a snap decision and turning in to Casey's parking lot for a quick bite.

Casey's offers both counter service (with inside table seating and a patio) and a drive-through. Every barbecue restaurant worth the name had better be good at ribs, and we gave the rib plate ($10.99 regular, $12.99 large) a try on our first visit. Five hot and pre-sauced ribs were soon in front of us, and the smoky, tender meat literally fell off the bone each time we picked it up. Casey's has a signature sauce that is zesty and thin, not too messy and a great companion to the meat. Our plate came with two sides — potato salad (ordinary but good) and barbecued beans (delicious).

On a return visit, our companion ordered up Casey's Barbecue Pork Sandwich Combo ($8.99), piled with chopped pork and slaw, and pronounced it delicious. He ordered fries as a side, and they were a treat worth mentioning. They weren't potato wedges, they weren't curly fries, but they were somewhere between those neighborhoods — plump, hot and thick, they disappeared quickly.

click to enlarge SALADS, TOO: Like all the offerings at Casey's, the BBQ Nachos is generous.
  • SALADS, TOO: Like all the offerings at Casey's, the BBQ Nachos is generous.

The big hit from this visit, though, was the two pork tacos ($6.99). Served in soft tortillas, the tacos were utterly jammed with seasoned pork, lettuce, tomato and onions, and served with sides of jalapeno peppers and sour cream. We ordered a mustard-based sauce, but our waitress also brought a side of Casey sauce to try — each was wonderful, and the helpings were large enough that we did not clear our plates.

A final visit featured four downtown workers escaping for a lunch break and exploring the rest of Casey's menu. Companion No. 1 bravely ventured into the world of BBQ Nachos ($8.99), a large pile of tri-colored chips, pork, cheese and peppers that he raved about (and finished quickly). Another lunch date ordered up the BBQ Salad with turkey ($8.99), a large offering that she really loved, although she was puzzled that it came in a take-out container instead of plated like the rest of our party. Nevertheless, she said she'd likely order it again — and she had plenty left over.

Our table's order was rounded out by a delicious and plentiful BBQ Beef Combo ($11.99) and a Chicken Plate ($7.99) that stole the show. The half-chicken was hot, crispy-skinned and delightfully tender. Adding some Casey's sauce raised the flavor even higher; this plate was soon reduced to bare bones.

Casey's offers an array of non-barbecue items as well: burgers ($6.99-$7.99), footlong hot dogs and chilidogs ($4.99 and $6.49, respectively), a grilled cheese sandwich ($2.99) and a smoked potato ($8.99). For those who want to order for home and parties, Casey's sells its meats by the pound: beef, ham, pork, turkey and ribs. Sides such as beans, slaw, potato salad and macaroni and cheese are also available by the pint, as is the barbecue sauce. Casey's also offers a selection of domestic and craft beers ($3.99-$4.99).

The staff at Casey's is friendly, and the delicious food arrives quickly — a plus for those on a tight schedule who want a good lunch that's not in a paper bag. Judging from the crowds that arrive around noon, you'd do well to get there a little bit early.

So why fight about it? Good barbecue is what you want, and good barbecue is what they've got at Casey's. Bring your friends, order liberally and don't forget the extra napkins.

Casey's Bar-B-Que
7410 Cantrell Road
615-8522

caseyslittlerock.com

Quick bite

Try a side of Casey's barbecue sauce. The fries are unusually delicious, and the pork tacos are a surprise treat.

Hours

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.

Other info

Credit cards accepted, beer.
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