Food review: Hickory’s Smokehouse, Kingswinford
If you’re after delicious platters of juicy meat cooked in a traditional Deep South way, then Hickory’s is the place. Jessica Labhart tucks in. . .
An authentic taste of the American south, but in an unexpected place.
I had toothache, which was less than ideal. But the smooth, hot sauce served with my food at Hickory’s Smokehouse helped take my mind of it, as did watching my other half sample the so-called psycho juice . . . but more about that later.
What I was really there for was not just to sample the food, but to experience the place. It had burned down almost 12 months ago, and greatly missed by the community, has been rebuilt again from the ground up.
Hickory’s in Kingswinford is now every inch the typical Deep South American smokehouse, but with a few unique differences. Entering the restaurant you can’t help but notice the homage to the fire that transformed it; a stencilled phoenix takes pride of place, painted on the centre wall.
Cosy red leather-clad booths accommodate parties of up to 12, and we were seated in one that gives us one of the best views in the house. The snazzy bar to the right gives customers the chance to sample the cocktails, while the small cinema gives children the chance to watch a film before their food arrives. Table tennis is on offer in the garden – the perfect antidote to the abundant portions and there’s an open-pit cooking spicy sausage. Fire is definitely still at the heart of this homely restaurant.
Though it’s one of a chain of six restaurants around the country, it doesn’t feel like one. The décor is kitsch and fun. It’s comfortable and cheerful, like somewhere you’ve been visiting all your life.
We werespoilt for choice when we check out the menu. For starters, I go for the home-baked American pretzel with garlic dip, while my boyfriend David goes for the Louisiana seafood gumbo. When both dishes arrive we (by that I mean I) decide we’ll share. The gumbo was a spicy paella-esque bowl of goodness, just the right size, complete with prawns, mussels, perfectly-cooked rice and a sauce with a spicy kick.
It goes well with the pretzel, which we used primarily to mop up the remaining sauce, and sets us in good stead for what’s to come.
The waiting staff, attentive and pleasant can’t do enough for us, and advise to have the Smokehouse Platter. Three different types of ribs, brisket, pulled pork with beans and in-house smoked sausage, it’s served with skin-on-fries, coleslaw and pickles.
When it came out on a board almost as big as our kitchen worktop, we momentarily regretted ordering the starters. But the brisket was so tender, the Kansas-style barbeque glazed spare ribs so flavoursome, we couldn’t get enough of them. The wood-fired smoked sausage is our favourite – and was authentic as it comes, inspired I’m told by a staff-trip around Texas before the new premises opened.
The smoked jumbo beef ribs are such good quality and so tasty it was like eating a prime-cut. I’ll be going back to Hickory’s for those alone. Indeed, we couldn’t quite finish the wealth of meat on offer, and at £40 it was such good value. David assures me he will be returning with his mates who could polish them off with ease.
It may not of been for the faint-hearted, but the platter was the perfect way of sampling the different techniques involved in cooking the meats. With more than 30 chefs in the kitchen at any one time, you could be forgiven for thinking that maybe too many cooks spoiling the broth. But not here.
The staff are also very knowledgable in not only where the meat comes from – a family butcher based in Flint – but also the best kind of hot sauce to go with it. David is braver than I am, trying the searingly hot psycho juice that immediately turned his face pink, while I stuck with the CaJohns sauce. There’s so many to choose from, I lose count. But if condiments aren’t really your thing (which they aren’t to me) then the meat itself was tasty and tender enough to go without.
We asked for a break inbetween courses, and the staff were more than happy to oblige, praising our attempt to finish off the main. But there’s a dessert I’ve had my eye on from the start and already my teeth are aching with the thought of ploughing through the sugar.
In the interim, David sampled a cocktail (I’m driving) and opted for the Tennessee Date Night. Served in a tin can with a paper cone pegged cutely on the side filled with popcorn, it’s an usual presentation. But it tasted (of course I had a sip, or two) like a light, alcoholic milkshake that slipped down far too easily.
For dessert we ordered the cinnamon sugar-coated churros and I go for the S’mores. This is described as a crushed ginger nut biscuit base topped with melted chocolate and toasted marshmallow. Upon first bite, it seems incredibly rich, almost sickly. But three bites in and I was addicted. I wish I wasn’t so full from the main course. I can’t get enough of it, and even David used his churros to scoop up some of the toasted, gooey goodness.
As we ate our final course, the restaurant got busier and busier, but its layout means it thankfully doesn’t get noisier and noisier. Families, couples, groups of friends and work mates just after a quick cocktail or pint are all welcome here. It feels friendly, warm and cosy, despite its large size and there’s plenty to look at too.
Next time I’m there – and there will be a next time – I think I’ll opt for a smaller main, just to make sure I fully enjoy it and finish the other sterling courses. But then again, they do offer doggy bags. So you can take away a bit of Louisiana with you. The bill came to £60.95 excluding the cocktail and three beers. Not half bad for more than half an animal and two other courses besides.