Review No. 24: Almost Famous Smoke House and Grill
258 Highway 64 East
15.1 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
He Said: We’re visiting every restaurant in Conway, and that includes those with a Conway address that are somewhat beyond what we think of as Conway. We took a trip to the southern limits of our target area a couple of months ago when we reviewed Taylors’ Made. For this review, we went to the extreme eastern edge of our territory to Almost Famous, away east on Highway 64 (Oak Street). It’s an unobtrusive little place that you might find yourself driving by without noticing it (I know I have every time I’ve gone that direction), but keep your eyes open next time you’re looking for barbecue—it’s worth a stop.
She Said: Like Ruud, I’d never heard of this place, or noticed it when heading that direction, but one of our dear readers suggested we review it, so I put it on the short list and did a little research. I like barbecue, but I try to watch my intake of it for various health, weight and animal reasons, but I was glad to have a reason to indulge in some great Arkansas BBQ, which I do about once a year. It seemed like a good lunch outing after a workout, so that’s when we visited. I get hungry pretty early, as I eat a small breakfast around 6:30 a.m., so we hit that dining room around 11:15 a.m.
He Said: This is the epitome of a small town or country diner, with a fairly small dining area, friendly service, witticisms on various signs on the walls, and a lot of regular customers. This is the kind of place that workers in the area come for lunch, and that is clearly what was happening as we sat there watching men come in in T-shirts and blue jeans. There is a kind of fast-food feel to this place, though, since you get the entrees in a plastic basket with plastic silverware. Or I guess in that case, it would be “plasticware.”
She Said: Yeah, this is a very pleasant barbecue “joint,” Ruud. Your comments make me realize I was the only woman dining there for awhile when we were lunching. I noticed one man eating alone, which is something I enjoy occasionally, and I think I’d feel comfortable coming here alone for lunch or dinner. The inside is small, but there is a covered outdoor dining area that looks very pleasant as well if the weather is cooperative. I think the main thing I noticed overall was that everything was super neat and tidy and attention had been paid to every square inch of the dining area. That made it a pleasure to for a dine-in experience.
He Said: Pepsi products. Hence, Mountain Dew. And they were quite willing to refill it and even give me a drink to go if I had wanted one.
She Said: I had unsweet iced tea with lemon, and it was delicious, so I took our waitress up on her offer to take one to-go.
He Said: At a barbecue place like this, it’s not so easy to find the low-fat options. Pork is not really a low-fat choice, so I opted for the barbecue chicken sandwich, with cole slaw and a side of baked beans. The full-sized sandwiches here come on Texas toast, which was a very tasty, if messy, choice. The mild sauce is delicious, and the barbecue was at least as good as I’ve had in any of the other barbecue places in Conway. The beans were also rich and tasty—and low fat, as baked beans always are. We also decided to give dessert a try, and ordered the Peach Cobbler, which was quite a delight, but I’ll let Jones tell you about that experience.
She Said: The beans were probably low-fat, Ruud. We don’t know what they put in them, but your “fat-dar” is pretty honed by now, so you’re likely right. I will give you that they had less fat than the side I chose, the baked potato salad, which differs from traditional potato salad as it has as sour-cream base. Yes! That was potato goodness through and through! The sandwiches come with chips and pickle spear, but you can add on as many sides as you like, but I stuck with this one, and it was plenty. I also chose the “small” pork BBQ sandwich, which didn’t include the Texas toast you got. The menu isn’t huge, but has a lot to offer, and I had trouble choosing. I was looking at the shrimp po’ boy, but it seemed a little big (1/2 pound of shrimp!). There were also some interesting appetizers, like boudin eggrolls, and crawfish pie was on the specials board. Our readers who frequent this place can probably advise us on some other things to try when we return.
But I wanted to be able to compare Almost Famous’s pulled pork sandwich with my limited knowledge of BBQ in Arkansas, so I went with the classic. It was really delicious and exceeded my barbecue expectations: The pork was tender and rich, with the sauce, which comes on the sandwich in the perfect amount. I also opted for the coleslaw on the meat, and the tastes and textures of the bread, the meat, the sauce and the salad were perfect and hit all the right notes together. The sandwich comes with the house’s mild sauce, which is slightly sweet and exactly what I was craving, and I noticed a squeeze bottle of spicy sauce on our table, which I didn’t try. I was just so completely happy with what I got. I couldn’t quite finish the potato salad, though I ate all of the just-the-right-size small sandwich, because I wanted to save a little room for the dessert of the day, the peach cobbler you mentioned. That cobbler was a wise, wise choice of calorie allocation: it was warm, with flavorful peaches and a rich (not low-fat) crust. We didn’t have ice cream, but I can’t think of how anything could have improved this delightful, very home-made tasting dessert. Interestingly to me, I gained a pound the day I ate at Almost Famous. I gained 1 ½ pounds from Wendy’s, where I ate less food that wasn’t as tasty.
We should also note that Almost Famous, which seems to have started as a smokehouse selling meats sells meat by the pound, so you can make your own sandwiches and BBQ plates at home if you like.
He Said: Jones, you sound a little bit OCD on that weight thing. But I digress. Service was extremely friendly, prompt and courteous, and professional. The server and the cook (who was, I assumed, the owner) seemed to be happy to see customers, and particularly happy to see a number of regular customers—who were regulars, no doubt, because they find the food and service excellent as well.
She Said: I wish I could be a regular here, Ruud, and still fit into my clothes… though I guess Almost Famous won’t be offering a tofu option soon. Yes, the service really made the experience for me: They were happy we were there, mostly because they seemed happy to be there, and that kind of service is always the most enjoyable.
What We Got and What We Paid: A regular BBQ chicken sandwich with a side of beans, a small BBQ pulled pork sandwich with a side of baked potato sandwich, an unsweet iced tea and a Mountain Dew (with to-go drinks offered for both) for $25.27.
He Said: I’d rank Almost Famous at least as high as other barbecue places in Conway, for quality of food as well as service. I suspect we’ll be returning here. Maybe after we finish our reviews of the other 150 restaurants in Conway.
She Said: Oh, I’ll be back, especially with visitors looking for a great, all-around Arkansas BBQ experience.
So…He Said and She Said: Come here hungry and enjoy all Almost Famous has to offer.