Arkadelphia has been full with the aroma of smoked ribs for weeks, and the source is Drifters BBQ.
Angelo Hempstead is the owner/operator of Drifters. Hempstead calls himself “a cowboy kind of guy,” and said, “I came up with the name ‘Drifters’ ten years ago.”
Hempstead grew up learning to cook from his parents, and attributes his success to his father. Hempstead grew up with his parents catering in El Dorado. Their daily operations were once a the capacity of feeding 4,000 men a day. “I know how to handle a big crowd of people,” said Hempstead.
After helping a friend move to Henderson this past fall, Hempstead got his eye on the location, behind Walgreens. According to Hempstead, the building used to be a coffee and donuts shop. He parked his car one afternoon just to watch the traffic flow for an hour. After he liked what he saw, he began seeking out the owner of the vacant building. That owner, joined with one other partner, became part of the three-way partnership of Drifters.
The interior is cozy, and decorated with an appropriate cowboy theme. Hempstead did all the construction and decorating himself. He plans to add on to the building soon, enlarging the dining room space.
On a recent evening visit to Drifters, the dining room size was not an issue. “The majority (of business) is take out and drive-thru,” said Hempstead. Drifters is busy at lunch, with their $6.99 buffet drawing heavy crowds. His team changes the buffet menu daily, claiming “it’s always something good.”
The Drifters team was assembled from all backgrounds, all containing restaurant experience. Calling Drifters would likely result in speaking to Jade, a friendly voice backed with ten years in the restaurant business. Dining in at Drifters opens the opportunity to see Chris, the man behind the kitchen doors, pulling it all together. Hempstead found Chris working one night at Waffle House. Hempstead was looking for a man who knew his way around the kitchen, “I was watching him, but he didn’t know it.” Chris moved over to Drifters, where he as worked since they opened their doors in January.
The key to a good Bar-B-Que place is the smoke house, according to Hempstead. After working in heavy construction for over 18 years, he was comfortable building the smoke house personally. The hard work paid off with a capacity of 2500lbs of meat. Drifters keeps things fresh by smoking new meat every two days. The smoking process for ribs alone takes over 18 hours.
Most Bar-B-Que can be chopped into two categories, Texas and Memphis. Drifters doesn’t slice into these though, they do it all. With a very unique taste, Drifters mixes Memphis style with Texas techniques to create a one-of-a-kind hybrid meat taste that’s tender and flavorful.
Drifters opens every morning at 11:00 a. m., and keeps the door open until 9:00 p.m., except for the earlier 6 p.m. close on Sundays.
With Drifters specializing in take-out, they know how to be fast. Phoning in an order gets the meat ready when you get there, by calling (870)-245-2533. Even for a dine-in experience, the food can be out in under ten minutes. Although the majority of their business is not in the dining room but in the window, they always treat their dine-in customers first, offering free refills and quick service.
In addition to expanding the 26th street location’s dining space, the partners look to open up more locations throughout the state. It will take more investors, but dreaming big they hope to have the plan in place in under five years.
The prices at Drifters go easy on college students, with free refills on $1.25 drinks, and jumbo sandwiches at $4. The restaurant is located one block behind Walgreens, on 26th street. Get near Little Italy and Sheffield Music, and the smell of ribs on the smoker ought to be all the directions necessary.