We talk a lot about Hillcrest Artisan Meats here on Eat Arkansas, and there’s a good reason for it: Brandon Brown and crew have created the foodie equivalent of Disneyland here in Little Rock. From wonderful sandwiches to high-quality cured meats, the Hillcrest butcher shop has struck a nice balance between house-made charcuterie, imported delicacies, and locally sourced products that make it one of the finest temples of the carnivorous arts in the country — and that’s no exaggeration.
Their latest culinary masterpiece comes in the form of a savory meat pie, a food item seen regularly on menus in Europe and the upper Midwest but not so much in Arkansas, where we tend to think of anything termed “pie” as either coming deep-fried and filled with fruit or consisting of pecans drowning in Karo syrup and eggs. This is a pie of another sort, though, the sort of thing that can be eaten for a quick lunch-on-the-go or savored slowly as an afternoon treat. H.A.M. intends to make these meat pies a Saturday special, with a rotating variety of fillings wrapped up in a tender, flaky crust made with lard from Arkansas’ own Falling Sky Farm.
This week’s filling was shredded pork shoulder confit with caramelized onions, served with a cup of house-made creme fraiche. The pork was succulent and tender, blending with the sweet onions and crust to make each mouthful a delight. The creme fraiche, like sour cream but slightly more viscous and much more delicately flavored, added a cold, tangy element to the pie that took what was already excellent to an even better place. I’d head back to grab one of these pies even if this was the only available filling, but a promise that H.A.M.’s fabled braised beef cheeks might make an appearance in the middle of one of these pasties sealed the deal. Saturdays at Hillcrest Meats are usually a fun time to run into everybody you know — or at least run into people that are worth knowing. With the addition of these pies, it’s just gotten that much better.