People ask us what we think about Art’s, and we always start to say something along the lines of, “Well we think they’re definitely an important part of human expression and an invaluable component of education to promote the continued success of our species by instilling an appreciation of the intangible, metaphorical and some might say purest realms of human experience, while fostering the collective and individual creative spirit of our people in our constantly changing and challenging world, today and ever forward.”
Then, they say, “No, Art’s BBQ. On Rogers. Any good?”
Oh, Art’s. Not arts. No one ever pronounces the apostrophe, so you can see why we’d get confused.
Adding to the confusion, is that every time you go there, right inside the door of Art’s is bona fide Art. Not the owner — he may be there too, but it’d be sort of creepy if he ALWAYS was, you know?
No, Art as in “a painted work on canvas that is an important part of human of human expression and an invaluable component of education to promote the …” Oh, whatever. It’s not actually good enough to warrant a capital A.
However, being a Painting of a Place that Hangs within the Place Itself, said painting IS mos def good enough to make us go, “Hey, meta, dude…” and stop and appreciate it each time. Admire, boys and girls, the art of Art’s:
Seeking that classic lackadaisical (or should we say classickdaisical?) BBQ vibe, Art’s wide-open dining room with the big windows and institution-style paneled ceiling has installed many barbeque-ish decorations on the cinderblock walls. Posters of blues musicians show you that this place is legit. The musical instruments and vintage signage help, too.
One corner of the restaurant is set up for live music. Every so often we’ll wander into Art’s and there will be someone playing. Confession: Once it was a fella that was really, really good, and we felt bad because we didn’t have any cash to tip him, only credit cards, and we still needed those, so all he got was hearty applause. We didn’t even catch his name. But if you’re a really good musician who played there once and got a nice amount of applause from someone who sheepishly snuck out without tipping you, then yeah, that’s why. Feel better?
Let’s talk barbeque, though.
We like all manner of barbeque, but the most basic thing a joint has to be able to do right is the pulled pork sandwich. Whole Hog Cafe, it’s already been established on these pages, does a mean one. Art’s, by comparison, isn’t probably going to win any Miss Pulled Pork Sandwich – Sebastian County beauty pageants. In fact, when the nice lady behind the counter brought this one to us, we first had one of those Clara Peller moments — where’s the PORK?
Never fear, we found the meat. There was a decent amount of BBQ-smelling pulled pork on the sandwich, once we opened her up and took a peek under the hood.
And, you know, it was good meat. People say Art’s is too much of a general caterer, not a BBQ specialist, that they aren’t national barbeque champs like Pink Flamingo or Whole Hog or beloved Fort Smith institutions like Jerry Neel’s, or an undiscovered hole in the wall place like Al’s Pit BBQ or Lambert’s or even Big Al’s. They say that Art’s isn’t as good as these other places, for people who really know barbeque.
They may be right. What do we know? That said, our sandwich tasted mighty fine.
We do wish they still had the Mississippi Sweets, otherwise known as sweet potato fries with honey. They said they’d discontinued those (why God, why?), so we ordered the loaded twice-baked potato. Soft and fluffy and completely riddled with bad fatty salty things, it did not disappoint.
Then we got slaw. It’s always good to get some sort of roughage, Mama always said. It was more sweet than tangy, but less sweet than KFC’s, if that tells you anything. Perfectly fine slaw.
So far, the meal’s been about as satisfactory a lunch as we’d hoped to find here. But let’s talk about the sauces for a moment. Barbeque sauce is important to us. There’s an art to it (okay, we’re wearing that joke out now aren’t we?). At Art’s, the table comes with this set-up, complete with the two styles of BBQ sauce they offer:
We’re going to skip over the obvious Marketing 101 faux pas of calling anything you want to entice people to eat by the English language’s single most undescriptive culinary word: “Regular.” We’re not even going to mention how much more appealing that same sauce would seem if the label said something like “Art’s Original Smoky Molasses BBQ Sauce” or “Blue-Ribbon South Carolina Style BBQ Sauce” or “We Don’t Know How to Describe This BBQ Sauce But It’s Pow’ful Good Stuff.” Those sauces, we’d be excited about trying.
Sigh. No, we’re not discussing good ol’ Regular’s name. We’re going to talk about its consistency.
Maybe watery sauces are all the rage in this new 2010 decade. Kinda doubt it, but we don’t claim to be experts. What we do know is that those BBQ sauces we see in other local BBQ restaurants, on TV, in pictures, and heck, even coming out of the bottle of K.C. Masterpiece we bought at Wal-Mart may have subtle or bold variations in taste, but they’re all, without exception, thick. That’s what we want in a sauce, thickness. Something with some viscosity, something that looks like you could pour it in real time and make your kid brother think it was slow-mo. We don’t want something with the same fluidity and transparency, of say, Windex.
Granted, these two sauces at Art’s tasted fine, and duly coated the pork on our sandwich, and we’re sure to eat at Art’s many more enjoyable times. But if they continue having such thin and watery sauces, we may have to sneak in a bottle of Bulls-Eye.
Speaking of, did we hit the mark, or go way off-target? What do you think of Art’s? Give us a holla down in the comments and speak your mind.