Jordan Wright at Wright's Barbecue in Little Rock in August. Brock Hyland

Some time ago I found myself scanning Reddit for “Arkansas BBQ” hoping to come across something new or different. What I quickly found was a subreddit called r/ArkansasBBQ. The description reads: “A place for funny memes and photos of ruined BBQ, known jokingly as ArkansasBBQ.” Accurately described, the page is filled with photos of charred-to-carbon ribs on a kettle grill, kabobs wrapped around wrenches cooking away in a garage, the remnants of a charred whole chicken on a rotisserie, raw chicken wings being touted as “Arkansas Style,” and a backyard grill totally engulfed in flames which was described as an “Arkansas style BBQ pit.” Apparently, Arkansas-style barbecue is known in some circles as bad barbecue.

Perhaps that changed this week. Wright’s Barbecue, of Johnson, Bentonville, Rogers and Little Rock, was named No. 1 on the “Top 100 Barbecue Spots 2024” list by Yelp. The national list was compiled and voted on by analysts at Yelp with rankings based largely on reviews and ratings by Yelp users. For us Arkansawyers this is, of course, no surprise.

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Wright’s has been smoking barbecue in Northwest Arkansas since owner Jordan Wright opened up shop as a food truck in 2016. I met Wright sometime around then when I was a student at the University of Arkansas, following his rolling barbecue stand all around town from Joyce Avenue to the Fayetteville Farmers Market and all points in between. Being a native Central Texan myself, Wright’s little food truck was the only place I could find a properly prepared slab of brisket in my newly adopted state.

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Since then, Wright’s has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in Arkansas and beyond.

He’s even attracted publicity from Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor, who traveled up to Northwest Arkansas back in October 2019 to write a feature about his barbecue. Vaughn found the brisket at Wright’s to be “the best brisket I’ve ever found in Arkansas,” which is pretty high praise coming from the brisket authority of Texas.

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In 2023, Robert Moss, barbecue editor at Southern Living magazine, featured Wright’s in his article, “8 Restaurants That Prove Arkansas Barbecue is Here to Stay.” Moss again featured Wright’s Barbecue in January of this year, noting the restaurant as the top joint in Arkansas in “The South’s Best Barbecue in Every State 2024.”

Yelp’s review had this to say about our state’s esteemed barbecue joint:

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“At this Arkansas favorite, the pecan wood — sourced from local forests — never stops burning, and barbecue fans never stop coming. Fans say Wright’s offers “absolutely A+++ BBQ every time,” including the “best brisket in the world” and raved-about Bacon Burnt Ends (which are “like candy”). Sides like collard greens with “a spicy kick,” green beans, and Loaded Mac & Cheese are “often just as good, if not better, than the meat itself.”

Owner and pitmaster Jordan Wright started out serving barbecue at the Fayetteville farmers market, opening this brick-and-mortar location a year later in 2017. By 2020, Wright’s landed on Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in America, and later on our list of the Top Brisket Spots. Like most “true no-frills BBQ joints,” it’s counter-service only, with a large outdoor patio where “[kids] can run around.” Even those with special diets can enjoy the food, since much of the menu is gluten-free (exceptions include the Mac & Cheese). If you’re like many customers, you may decide to eat at the restaurant and “spend another 100 bucks on takeout.”

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