What originally started as a pretty simple barbecue chain in Illinois has evolved into a unique Midwestern experience known as Hickory River Smokehouse. This barbecue chain, which has eight locations across the country, including Ohio and Florida, draws in major crowds with its unique brand of smoked barbecue. The Midwestern palette has a very specific taste for barbecue, and even as many more chains look to dominate the market, Hickory River finds its way to the popular forefront. Among its accolades, the 2012 Ohio State Fair Pork Rib Off — which I had the great pleasure of judging.
The key to the menu is the meats. And they’ll blow your socks off. Try these in a sandwich, on nachos, or just plain — they’re guaranteed to impress:
- Pulled pork: The pulled pork is cooked extra soft — until it falls right off the bone. What sets this pulled pork apart is how it’s distinctly got a bit of a sweetness but the bark on the edges keeps a smoky tang. Served with a mile sauce, which is definitely on the sweeter side, and goes well as a sandwich or on nachos.
- Baby back ribs: Of course, a perennial barbecue favorite. These ribs share the distinct smokiness with the pulled pork, but also benefit from being cooked a little firmer, not fall-off-the-bone soft. In competition, that’s considered the right way to treat the meat lest it be overcooked.
- Chopped brisket: The brisket is tender and when it’s chopped, it has a really fine cut but the brisket is itself a very soft and smoky texture. I highly recommend this one with some of that nice spicy sauce, which really elevated a little of that flavor.
- Pulled pork nachos: A crowd favorite at festivals and as an app. Lots of beans and pulled pork, drenched in sauce. Fantastic.
- Barbecued chicken: Half a chicken smoked and topped with pepper and cajun spice. It doesn’t need barbecue sauce, but that’s a plus, too.
- Fries: Cooked to order with every barbecue dish. The best thing? They add a little seasoned salt and some spices. Surprises you.
Also pay mind to the fixin’ menu, like the very meaty Texas-style chili. The sides are great too; ranging from the crunchy, vinegar-based coleslaw with a little bit of bitterness to it. I also like the scalloped potatoes, a perfect counterpart to some of that sweet barbecue sauce.
The spot totes its love of Texas barbecue. There’s so much here to try and enjoy. It’s a spot with a great mix of barbecue meats and plenty of good sauces to match. All told, this is a spot which really has a ton to offer, and it’s one that is definitely worth a visit.
- The spots have a very popular lunch special with a $10 plate with a sandwich and two sides, definitely a good deal for this delicious meal.
- Some locations have a very interesting special: one-dollar ribs night on Tuesdays. These nights tends to be extremely crowded, so it’s highly recommended you come with a group (saving tables is not allowed) and also that you bring cash.
- There is also a drive-through with some locations that makes the barbecue that much more convenient.