Friday, March 8, 2013

Burl's Country Smokehouse: Cinnamon Rolls As Big As Your Head.

This is one in a series on historical restaurants in the state of Arkansas. For a look at the Arkansas restaurant timeline, click here.

Early Arkansas travelers knew a thing or two about "fast food."  While drive-thru restaurants wouldn't appear in the state until the 1970s, the earliest travelers were usually prepared for a meal along their route.  It would usually include shelf-stable items such as hard biscuits and jerky.

A traditional meat counter inside Burl's. (Grav Weldon)
Once the automobile became king and our highways saw pavement, long-distance travelers got used to having a stopping-in place.  Almost every major highway traversing the state through the wilds and the forests had at least one smokehouse to stop at.  And at these you could always find some marvelous baked goods, made-to-order sandwiches and of course... jerky.

There are plumbed facilities
within the store. (Grav Weldon)
Burl's Country Smokehouse didn't start up til 1981, but it's still carrying on that roadside tradition.  The complex on the north side of US 270 between Hot Springs and Mount Ida on the outskirts of Royal in the Ouachita National Forest is a strange collections of buildings that include old cabins, barn-like structures, an apparent depot, a "jail" and even an outhouse.  Inside the main building, under wood-beamed rafters, there hangs the scent of smoke.  The residue of more than 32 years worth of smoking fine meats has left an indelible mark here.  Wander the store and see everything you might wish out of a country cupboard:  Amish jellies, sundries, souvenirs and... jerky.

Ham hocks, hog jowl and smoked bologna.  (Grav Weldon)
That jerky I keep mentioning is different at Burl's than just about anywhere else.  Unadulterated with a traditional marinade, the folks at Burl's instead let the smoke do the talking.  Without that addition of pepper or spice before the smoking itself, the jerky retains a flavor of nothing but smoke and meat, much like you'd encounter at fireside all so many years ago.The sandwiches come piled high with your choice of meat -- pork loin, beef brisket, Genoa salami, turkey, Canadian bacon, pastrami, corned beef and roast beef.  There are cheeses involved, and you would be well advised to choose one that has had its smoking treatment.  The Swiss and the cheddar are both of impeccable quality.

Yes, that big.  (Grav Weldon)
But Burl's big claim to fame might come in the cinnamon rolls offered at checkout.  Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, the rolls are compact spirals of pastry and sugar and spice in a package as big as your head -- or at least as big as mine, as you can see here.

Burl's ignores the conventions of a traditional roadside attraction with seasonal hours -- instead, it's open throughout the year.  Drop in on your way to dig crystals next time you're in the area.

You'll find Burl's Country Smokehouse at 10176 Albert Pike (Highway 270) way out from Hot Springs.  No website, but you can always call them at (501) 991-3875.


  1. Burl's is a must-stop anytime I'm in the area. The summer sausage is delicious. The cinnamon rolls are just as good as they are big. Yum! Now, I'm hungry for Burl's!

  2. I would like to purchase a picture you have forsale. Can you contact me?
    Elizabeth Spinnato

  3. We've been stopping at Burl's since 2001. Every time we visit from Missouri, we put it and Albert Pike on our list of must stop. My kids grew up on those cinnamon rolls and jerky.


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