EAST HELENA — If you love BBQ, then East Helena’s new Helen’s might just be the place for you.
Located off of West Main and Cleveland Avenue, Helen’s takes its name from the owner's grandmother.
Helen imparted her love of food and comfort cooking to her grandson, the owner of Helen's Barbecue, Erik Sundquist.
Sundquist says growing up, food was just about as important to the family as church on Sunday.
“My grandpa, he loved food, but he was, he just wanted to eat it and garden so he was that guy. My dad loved to grill, you know, my mom loves food. So yeah, it's always just kind of been a food thing in our family. There’s always been food, and growing up in the South too, I mean, not only that, you know, but all my friends and everything like that. Like everybody that I knew, everything we ever did was food-based. Every Sunday, go to get food after church or you just skip church that day and go get barbecue,” says Sundquist.
As this reporter learned, there are a lot of different types of BBQ, and what you get depends on where you are.
As for Helen’s, Erik takes inspiration from many of his favorite BBQ places back home in Tennessee.
At Helen’s, they use local Hutterite pork to serve up Lexington style BBQ. This style of BBQ is mainly pork-based with options like pork shoulder, pork belly, and homemade ketchup-based Rocky Top sauce. But they also offer a jackfruit BBQ dish for vegetarians.
While the newly established restaurant is miles away from its roots, Sundquist says that East Helena feels more like home than most other places.
“The restaurant itself, it was just a good time to do it. I mean it was a really good opportunity to come down to East Helena. East Helena reminds me of where I came from in Tennessee. It's very small town. I like that. It reminds me of home, so it feels comfortable,” says Sundquist.
The restaurant is in the midst of a soft opening this week, but Sundquist estimates they will open permanently in early December once their industrial size smoker ships in from Oklahoma.