Friday, April 19, 2013

Brothers B-B-Q: Larry's Place in Heber Springs.

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

Brothers B-B-Q's barbecue beef sandwich with mayo slaw
and sauce, served under pickle with two sides. (Kat Robinson)
Sometimes fate puts you where you need to be. For Larry Cordell, that place was Heber Springs. And for Heber Springs, that’s a blessing paid out in barbecue and good will.

Larry runs a place called Brother’s B-B-Q. But he started out in aviation. After runs with an airline in Dallas and a similar aviation situation in Memphis, he ended up managing a tool store in Heber Springs. That didn’t work out so well.

But why Heber? Because the place had a hold on his heart. His family used to come to Heber Springs for vacations, for the beauty of the place and the excellent fishing. He jumped into that new career for the opportunity to spend more time there.

Pork ribs! (courtesy
Larry Cordell)
As I said, the tool franchise didn’t work out for Cordell, so he ended up taking another job at the Eden Isle marina. That job worked out all right for a while, and on the weekends he’d grill out with his fellow co-workers. Thing is, Larry Cordell had a gift for creating some gastronomic grilling goodness, and within a short time the folks that ran the Eden Isle resort started throwing money his way to help him supplement the pork butts and ribs he threw on the barbecue with shrimp, frog legs and crab.

Larry Cordell of Brothers B-B-Q. (Kat Robinson)
Cordell will tell you a couple of different things in conversation, if you get the chance to sit down with him in his restaurant today. One of those things would be how breathtaking the Heber Springs area happens to be – and I agree with him on that. The other would be just how hard it is to start a business in the community. Sure, for five months each year from spring to early fall, the town booms with folks coming in to fish and relax along Greers Ferry Lake and the Little Red River. But those other seven months can be harsh, with just the locals available to drop on in. He related to me during my visit how hard it was, and mentioned a running stream of individuals who had sold everything to come run a store or a shop in town, only to lose their shirts when winter came.

Strangely enough, that’s how Larry Cordell ended up back in Heber Springs. Word of his grilling and smoking expertise got around, and a couple of brothers who barbecued heard that word. They owned Brothers B-B-Q, and had not the success they had hoped for. They contacted Cordell and asked him if he’d like to buy their place. He refused – but they wouldn’t take no for an answer, and they showed up on his doorsteps with the keys and told him Brothers B-B-Q was his.

They were generous – they left him with enough money to get started, to keep the power on and to make his first food order. So in 1989, with no previous restaurant experience and a lot of goodwill from family and friends, Cordell took on the job and got started.

It's in the store.  Ask Larry.
You know what? He did just fine. He was smart, too – playing to his constituency, which happened to be heavy on people who fished. He printed his menu on the back side of a map of the lake, and he’d share with his customers the best places on the lake to go, when to go and what to expect when they got out there. Add in the fact that he did a superb smoke on his meat, and never made up that ‘cue before it was ordered, and a fine reputation was born.

Brothers B-B-Q today. (Kat Robinson)
For 14 years, Cordell’s place did great business. But a fire took it down to the ground. That didn’t stop him. He got a trailer and continued selling barbecue for a couple of years, before finding the place the restaurant’s set up in now, along the bypass. Inside today, the place looks like a lot of other good old-fashioned barbecue joints – rustic, tin, photos on the wall and sauce on the table.

Sandwiches come with slaw or naked; add the sauce
of your choice at the table. (Kat Robinson)
It’s a good ‘cue, too. The pulled pork has notoriety around these parts, hickory smoked and delicious. The ribs are legendary, and the other offerings just as good. Some swear by the slaw – I found I really liked the mayo version, but the tart and vinegary version is also fantastic. Lots of sides are offered, including potato salad, baked beans, fries and corn on the cob. The menu hasn’t changed much in all that time. Cordell says the newest thing on the menu is nachos – tortilla chips piled high with shredded cheese and barbecue meat, sauce and sour cream. It’s popular.

Specials at the door. (Kat Robinson)
And he’s popular. Cordell makes time to offer the restaurant out for folks who need a place to meet, and gives barbecue out for good causes. He’s quiet and kind, and as I said, he knows a thing or two about fishing.

Smokehouse out back. (Kat Robinson)
Cordell shared the recipe for the coleslaw with ArkansasOnline a few years ago, and I offer the link for it here. But you should consider a drop-in if you are in the area. The tea is cold, the ‘cue is smoky and the sauce is packed with spices. Nearly 25 years down and heaven knows how many to go, Brother’s B-B-Q is like to stay on as a Heber Springs mainstay for years to come.

Brothers B-B-Q
301 Southridge
Heber Springs, AR 72543
(501) 362-5712
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This article brought to you by First Security Bank. For more great Arkansas stories on food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.




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3 comments:

  1. Cordell tenacity!!! Perseverance runs deep in our blood!! Love you cuz!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love his BBQ,listen to lots of stories through the years. The the about Larry through his trials he loves now to share his faith. God continues to bless!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great BBQ! I would like to see a sign on the road near the two hwys intersecting, Hwy 25 bypass and Hwy 110. I forget it's there when I am driving past it to go eat elsewhere. Mental note: near Mack's which is more visible. Across Hwy from Nail City and Pizza place. I could eat at Brothers more often for sure!

    ReplyDelete

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