For whatever reason, whether it’s small size, an out-of-the-way location, or just a lack of publicity, some restaurants tend to fall under the radar with a larger audience. This series takes a look at these Underrated Places.
Where: Three Sam’s BBQ (10508 Mann Road, Mabelvale, AR)
The Restaurant: While the dining options in Mabelvale are not exactly plentiful, there are some very solid options if you know where to look. One joint is packing in the lunch crowd day after day, and remains one of the most popular eateries in the area. Three Sam’s is serving up satisfaction from inside an old, weathered wooden building. The paint’s peeling off, the signs are all faded at this classic establishment…but that only proves just how long they’ve been keeping customers happy and coming back for more.
The Atmosphere: The interior is casual, yet far from contemporary…just as it should be. Several scattered plain wooded tables, surrounded by brown vinyl chairs, food served on plain white plastic plates. It’s not fancy, but it’s comfortable.
The Service: Pull up a seat and a waiter or waitress will come round and take care of you. Half-jokingly, they list a number of “Rules of the House” on the back of the menu…and they’re worth looking over. Rule #1: “BE NICE!!!” The rest are semi-serious suggestions on how to behave properly at a restaurant. They range from “reading the menu carefully before ordering to avoid mistakes” to “treating your server like a decent person” or “don’t even think about asking for our family recipes.” These are loose interpretations…but that’s the overall idea.
The Food: Of course, barbecue is a mainstay at Three Sam’s, and it’s the reason they’ve got a steady stream of regulars. You’ll find sandwiches and various combination platters stacked with chopped pork or beef and half or full racks of ribs. Sides mean some of the standards…baked beans, coleslaw, and skin-on potato salad.
Beyond barbecue, Three Sam’s features a wide selection of items that seem to be quite popular, as well. Adventurous types may consider their enormous “Loaded Footlong Hotdog.” It’s a massive undertaking…and jumbo link topped with mounds of onion, cheese, a thick, meaty chili, slaw, jalapeños, mustard and pickles. You had better be hungry if you’re taking a stab at this one. Look for chicken fried steak, burgers, chicken tenders, fries, tater tots, and onion rings.
But here’s what you really need to know. What really makes Three Sam’s an “underrated” joint? Their pies. Their pies are pretty darn spectacular. They’re probably best known for their sensational peanut butter pie topped with crunchy, roasted and salted peanuts and peanut butter candy bits. But their coconut cream is no joke, either. It’s got a mile high meringue and is loaded with chewy shredded coconut. Their Oreo pie is not to be missed either…trust me.
The Price: For the amount of food you get with each order, Three Sam’s is a sensational bargain. Most plates will leave you with leftovers and everything’s extremely affordable here. Sandwiches clock in at $5-7, platters will run you $8-12. Most other non-barbecue meals (burgers, chicken, hot dogs) will only run you $5-7.
The Verdict: If you’re dedicated to dessert, and if you have a passion for pie, Three Sam’s cannot be missed. You need to go…plain and simple. Their ‘que is respectable in its own right and surely worth dropping in for at lunch time during the week. You’ll get filled up fast for not much coin.
The Info: Three Sam’s BBQ — 10508 Mann Road, Little Rock, AR. (501) 407-0345.
Hours: Monday and Tuesday: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Wednesday thru Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 pm, Closed Saturday and Sunday.