EATS & DRINKS
Girls Gone BBQ
2630 E. Citizens Dr., #20, Fayetteville | (479) 879-8222 | www.girlsgonebbq.com
By Case Dighero | Photos by Meredith Mashburn
Dana Neely, owner of Girls Gone BBQ in Fayetteville, is a trouper. Marching into the restaurant after a night of frozen pipes and a chimney fire, her voice raspy from smoke, she calls out, “Who’s in charge here?!” Everybody in the kitchen responds almost in unison, “You are!” Welcome to Girls Gone BBQ, the newest joint to grace an already crowded barbecue genre of eatery in Northwest Arkansas, but as the sign says, “…this isn’t yer good ole boys bbq…” and that might just be the understatement of the year.
The ambience is an homage to Craig’s BBQ in De Valls Bluff in eastern Arkansas — faux wood paneling accented by vintage kitsch including a 1960s television, an 8-track player complete with a collection of tapes from artists that include Roy Clark and George Jones, and wall art that must have been either stolen or inherited from somebody’s grandmother. Still, for those of us who grew up in the High South, everything about the decorative vibe at Girls Gone BBQ promises all the good, familiar feels even before we’ve tasted the food.
Neely, flanked by Chef Lisa Stuart and General Manager Nicole Sexauer, has churned out a completely unique and utterly delicious experience culminating from her Arkansas Delta beginnings and a long stint working and cooking in the Pacific Northwest. Her barbecue style is as inclusive as any in the region, a welcoming beacon for all no matter their taste preference, sporting a dual system of smoking animal and plant proteins separately, ensuring no potential for cross contamination — an absolute virtue and draw for those purists residing in either camp.
But the barbecue at GGBBQ is the true star, and the inclusive nature of Neely’s vision is never more evident than it is on the menu, boasting traditional smoked meats alongside purely vegetarian and vegan offerings. The “Smokin’ Sammiches” section of the menu is full of impressive barbecue standards stacked on local Rockin’ Baker buttery brioche buns, such as the Pulled Pork ($11.50), drenched in sauce and topped with Arkanslaw, or one of the best, most juicy Briskets ($16.50) anywhere in the natural state. But it’s the Girls Gone Vegan ($11.50), featuring smoked soy curls exquisitely stratified with vegan slaw and vegan sauce on a vegan bun, that truly mystifies…ALL vegan, ALL day, EVERY day.
Dana Neely, Nicole Sexauer, Lisa Stuart
Still, for those with a healthy appetite for meat, there are several combination plate options — perfect for either sharing or exercising gluttony, two meats ($16.95) or three meats ($19.50) that come with a hunk of cornbread and a choice of two sides. Or, of course, the vegetarian Hippie Plate ($10.50), featuring cornbread and four sides.
Of course, you can also procure all the meats by the pound: Pulled Pork ($17), Pulled Chicken ($17), Smoked Sausage ($20), Brisket ($32) and Ribs ($35) for special occasions and parties, along with an interesting list of sides that includes Pepperjack Mac-N-Cheese, Vegan Baked Beans, Bacon and Pulled Pork Baked Beans, Smoked Black-Eyed Peas, Grilled Greens, Potato Salad and Apple Arkanslaw for $8 per pint or $15 per quart.
Too often, because of my own gluttony, I’m too full to consider dessert when enjoying barbecue, but somehow after my time at GGBBQ, I feel energized enough to indulge in their sweet conclusions. Both the Nana Puddin’ ($4.50) and the Whiskey Bread Puddin’ ($6.50) are exceptional and worthy of a to-go box even if you don’t feel compelled.
Dana Neely and her team have devised something quite exceptional, barbecue with a heart and all the warm, fuzzy feels that includes everyone from vegan to meat eater. It’s also some of the best barbecue in Arkansas.
In January, GGBBQ launched Sunday brunch, offering a plethora of standards perfect for weekend hunger, like the Brisket Benedict ($20), with strips of springy smoked beef layered with gouda, smoky greens, hollandaise, jammy poached eggs and an English muffin, truly one of my favorite dishes in all of Northwest Arkansas…and perfect alongside the hair-of-the-dog Mimosa Pack ($18), complete with a bottle of sparkling brut and orange juice. I’m also a big fan of the Put That in Yer Pepper and Smoke it ($16), a whole smoked poblano pepper stuffed beautifully with barbecue quinoa, sweet red pepper coulis and house made ricotta cheese; or perhaps the Braised Rib Raviolis ($18), devised with slow cooked rib meat stuffed in homemade pasta with ricotta, and then smothered in ethereal mushroom cream sauce. GGBBQ might be the first restaurant ever to make me seriously contemplate the hidden virtues of barbecue as a serious destination for brunch.