The sweet scent of hickory greets me floating within a cloud of Robert Johnson’s sultry mellow riffs, playing his blues away. I know this sound; I know this smell; and I recognize those bricks at the corner of 4th and Walnut. I’m in downtown Rogers sitting with my feet up at Pop’s Hog Wild BBQ. This popular you-can’t-miss-it red food truck serves as the gateway to the culinary scene that is becoming historic downtown Rogers, Arkansas. What could be more apropos? Barbeque always has been the starting point and reliable friend we can count on in our Ozark food heritage.
What’s more comforting on a bad day than a bowl of baked beans or more decadent than a creamy bite of homemade potato salad? Screw that diet, girl, a little taste ain’t gonna hurt ya! Here at Pop’s you’ll not just find the standard pulled pork sandwich (which is anything but standard in flavor), but you’ll also taste smoked pork ribs to coax your carnivore into submission. You’ve got the fixin’s of potato salad, baked beans and coleslaw, but you can also step outside your culinary boundaries to try some tri-tip. Now, for you novices “tri-tip” is just the name of a special cut of beef, popularized in California barbeques that Don Bonwell wanted to try here in the Natural State. It’s a great cut - tender and seasoned just perfectly with some smoky barbeque sauce served on its own, no bread.
When Brad Vandris, local entrepreneur, understood and tasted Don’s vision two years ago for on-site smoked barbeque the two quickly joined forces to make Pop’s what it is today. It’s not just great barbeque; it’s the beginning of something big for the culinary scene in Rogers.
Business is personal here, where people are welcomed like family to their street-side covered patio tables, with seating for twenty. Everyone here seems to know each other’s names, from local business people to guys working on sites around town. Even tourists, according to manager Garrick, feel at home. “One lady from Ohio found us on Yelp the other day and had not tried southern barbeque ribs before. We set them down in front of her and she was asking me (with pleading eyes for a knife & fork) how to eat them. Being a northern lady like she was, I politely let her know that she would and I quote, just have to get after it ... like a caveman. When I looked back later at the table she had pulled off every last scrap on the bone. She left happy. We like that!” You know, I like that too! People need to expand their culinary horizons sometimes to see the beauty of food.
So whether you want a great plate of ribs, pulled pork sandwich or tempting tri-tip you might just find that the sun hasn’t set on superb local flavors. It’s more like the dawn of a burgeoning downtown Rogers culinary scene. Start at Pop’s first, open Tuesday through Saturday, lunch and early dinner.