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Mixed Bag at Smokin’ Buns

Mixed Bag at Smokin’ Buns
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Smokin’ Buns in Jacksonville comes up a lot on the blog. Folks often mention the fried catfish and BBQ, so I figured it was long overdue for me to check out the restaurant. Kibbey and I headed up there for a Friday lunch and ended up ordering a variety of items.

The menu is pretty enormous, comprised of wings, fried catfish, BBQ staples, quesadillas, chicken tenders, Frito chili pie, fried shrimp and even blackened salmon. There is also a variety of desserts like pecan pie, fried pies, chocolate molten cake.

We started things off with an order, each, of “Pig Skins” and fried green tomatoes. Both were excellent appetizers. The super traditional, cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes ($6.99) were crispy, not greasy, and absolutely shined with the remoulade. And while the tomatoes got the thumbs up,  the “Pig Skins,” a playful name to describe potato skins topped with pulled pork, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese ($6.99), were even better.  Everything about this appetizer worked, from the thicker potato skins to the smoky, tender pulled pork.

Pig Skins

Truth be told, this pulled pork was some of the very best I’ve eaten at a Central Arkansas restaurant, and it got me fairly excited to try the other BBQ options. I got that opportunity with my entrée, a Combination Plate with two meats, two sides, and Texas toast. Kibbey did the same but with different items. I went with the ribs, fried catfish, fries, and potato salad ($11.99), while he opted for the sausage, fried catfish, onion rings, and slaw.

First the good news … Smokin’ Buns isn’t stingy. They give you a mountain of food and the fairly full restaurant tells me folks like the heavy hand of stick-to-your-ribs delights. Highlights for me included the fried catfish and onion rings, the former being perfectly fried, meaty pieces with a flavorful cornmeal coating. Unfortunately, the ribs and sausage were as disappointing as the pulled pork was exciting. The over-processed chunks of sausage had a greasy sheen and a forgettable taste, while the thin ribs were overcooked and dry with a fairly chewy crust. Being my first visit to Smokin’ Buns, I’ll chalk this up to an off day.

Combination Plate

Overall, Smokin’ Buns strikes me as possibly a restaurant where you find a few items you like and stick with them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. For me, the fried catfish, “Pig Skins,” and fried green tomatoes were all keepers, and definitely good enough to inspire a return trip. If I lived in the area, I could see Smokin’ Buns being in the regular rotation of restaurants, but seeing as I live 35+ minutes away, my next visit might not be for a while. As great as the fried catfish was, we have plenty of comparable options right here in Little Rock.

Smokin’ Buns
25401 AR-107 (Jacksonville)
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10:45AM–8:30PM; Closed Sunday-Tuesday
Phone: (501) 988-2867