Since Richard “Stubby” Stubblefield, Jr. opened it in 1952, Stubby’s has become a benchmark of great barbecue, not only in Hot Springs but in all the South. Now in the capable hands of Chris Dunkel, whose parents bought it from Stubby in 1977, it is a restaurant where everything is done the old-fashioned way. Sauce is brewed daily in the back room. Meats are slow-smoked over hickory and carved to order as you watch from the short cafeteria line.
Ribs are big and meat-laden; ham is sweet and swanky; ruggedly-hacked pork ranges from velvet-soft white meat to chewy bark. Even the brisket is Texas-tender and dripping juice. Chicken, which in our book of barbecue tends to be a secondary consideration, is absolutely first class here, its skin glazed dark, its meat moist and ludicrously tender.
No matter what meat you choose, two side dishes are essential. The smoked pit potato is a massive spud that emerges from a long, slow heat bath with insides that are fluffy and delicious even before butter and sour cream are applied. (It is possible to get the potato loaded with barbecued beef or pork — an awesome meal.) Stubby’s pot-o-beans is larded with hunks of smoky ham and blanketed with sauce. The sauce is one of the nation’s best: tangy, peppery and so beguilingly spiced that even after the meat on your plate is only a glowing memory, you may find yourself using white bread to mop the last of it from the bowlful that comes with every meal.