McClard's BBQ: The secret's in the sauce

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) – Chances are you've heard of McClard's BBQ in Hot Springs. It's become very well known. But in our 'Made in Arkansas', we tell you what you didn't know about the sauce that's become a favorite of many, including Hollywood stars, a president, and a well- known journalist.

"It's a lot of hard work, but it's a tradition," says Phillip McClard.

Long before the sun comes up, he's busy smoking dozens of pounds of ribs, beef and chicken. He explains, "It's been good to the family."

"It's a joint. It's not a restaurant. It's a joint," says Scott McClard.

Their last name is one of the most recognized in Arkansas. "It all started with a recipe," says Scott.

It's a recipe filled with 86 years of success. That's five generations. He adds, "I know most people think it's a made up story, but it's not a made up story."

It was 1928. Alex and Alice McClard ran a tourist court, complete with a gas station, a diner and a few rooms to rent. Scott said, "It was my great grandfather and my great grandmother."

When a traveler couldn't pay his bill, he offered up a secret recipe for "the world's greatest hot sauce" After a few adjustments, the BBQ sauce became an instant hit with the couple's customers.

Scott says, "That's the first thing question from everybody. They want to know what happened to the traveler, and did he ever come back and want 'my claim to fame back'? But we never heard from him."

Pictures, awards and articles adorn the walls. They've been featured in everything from USA Today, to Playboy to Southern Living Magazine. "It's pretty neat that people have eaten here from all walks of life," adds Scott.

Just to name a few; Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham, journalist Dan Rather, Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, comedian and actor Jerry Van Dyke, Soprano's actor the late James Gandolfini and President Bill Clinton.

Scott and his family have been on Air Force One countless times.

"He [President Clinton] and Hillary came here and ate right after they got married before they left on their honeymoon," remembers Scott.

Each week the restaurant serves 7,000 pounds of hickory-smoked beef, pork, and ribs. In those handy bottles is the famous sauce that started it all. The $10 recipe sits locked away in a safe deposit box in downtown Hot Springs.

"They are like can you tell me [the recipe]? And I'm like no I can't," laughs Scott.

As for Scott's great-grandparents, he said, "I know they would be proud. I know that."

The McClards say they've been approached several times over the years about opening other locations throughout the state. For now, they say they have no plans of expanding the success of their little family business on Albert Pike.

"You start looking around and you see a lot of people that have hurt themselves by expanding and they have hurt the name and there is nothing special anymore," explains Scott.

Keep in mind you can get some of the famous barbecue sauce at grocery stores in Arkansas.


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