Good barbecue isn’t easy to find in Central Arkansas. Yeah, I know, those are fighting words for some who have BBQ restaurants they cherish, but let’s be honest: nobody is driving from out of state to Little Rock for barbecue. And while there are plenty of reasons for that, the fact is that barbecue lovers here are usually relegated to out-of-town jaunts or backyard smoking to get their fix. So it was with some reservation that I went to downtown Benton to check out the new Flyin’ Pig BBQ Joint. I’ll just go ahead and spoil the ending for you: this place is legit.
Flyin’ Pig is the latest restaurant from Mike Groves, previously the owner of Krazy Mike’s in Little Rock. When Groves sold Krazy Mike’s, he took a year away from the restaurant business.
“To be honest, I just got burned out,” said Groves. “This business can run you instead of you running it, if you let it.”
Through it all, Groves says he kept his passion for barbecue, even when he stopped running a restaurant. That’s what eventually made him realize he wanted back in the restaurant business. And so, Groves prepared his comeback, getting ready to purchase a food truck that he would use to make his barbecue available. But just before he did, another opportunity popped up.
“I was just about to pull the trigger (on the truck), when I saw an ad for this space,” says Groves. “So I came by, and instantly I saw the red roof and the dining room, and I thought, ‘This is a barbecue place’.”
Groves moved in to the space formerly occupied by The Sifted Flour Bakery and opened Flyin’ Pig BBQ Joint a few weeks ago. Groves does two things that I have found are essential to running a top-notch barbecue restaurant. He arrives early every day to cook, as early as 3 a.m., and he only makes enough for that day. When it’s gone, it’s gone, ensuring every bite is as fresh as possible.
Groves let me try a few bites from his menu, and I came away impressed. He first brought out the “Flyin’ Pig” plate, a massive feast with ribs, smoked Andouille sausage, chopped pork and two sides. The pork was quite good, though I usually prefer pulled pork instead of chopped, and the sausage had a great balance of smoke and spice. But the ribs were really impressive. Groves uses a rub packed with black pepper, which was unmistakable, but it was the tenderness and texture of the ribs that will have me coming back. Ribs should not just “fall off the bone,” and the way these clung gently to the rib before coming off clean showed me that Groves knows what he’s doing. I also tried the rib sandwich and the chopped pork sandwich, both of which used the very good meat I’d already tried. Sides are typical barbecue fare, each made with a unique twist. The pepper in the baked beans was a pleasant surprise, as was the mild sweetness of the potato salad. The coleslaw’s pop of vinegar was also memorable.
Right now, Flyin’ Pig BBQ Joint is only open for lunch Monday through Friday, though Groves is considering expanding those hours in the future. Flyin’ Pig is also available for catering events, though Groves does request you give him at least a 24-hour notice to prepare for the extra volume. You can place your bulk order by calling 501-860-6407. But the best way to enjoy this food is to roll in at lunchtime and dig in. Flyin’ Pig BBQ Joint is off to a great start. Check it out next time you’re in Saline County for lunch.
Flying Pig BBQ
120 N Market st