December 12, 2008

Hickory River Smokehouse

By Eric Shangraw

July 13, 2010 Updated Jul 13, 2010 at 2:30 PM CDT

Hickory River Smokehouse is where you get authentic eats from the Lone Star State.
Copper Steers and cowboy hats.
–A picture of "The Duke" on wood plank walls.
–Country music blares in the background.
These are the nuances, which accompany Hickory Rivers' fancy flavors.

"It feels like you're down in Texas. The atmosphere. It is real Texas barbecue. –There are no pulling punches. It is perfect," said one customer who's a waiter at a nearby restaurant.

"I'm originally from Missouri. Barbecue there is really, really heavy. And this is the best place I've tried in Peoria. It is the messiest.
That's the reason I like it," said customer Jayson Peacock.

No matter which state you hail from, you'll enjoy the smells of this roadhouse.
Hickory River brisket in its original form is not a piece of meat ranking up there with the T–bone or Ribeye, but owner Mike Johnson turns it into something special.

"Just going to ladle some of this dry spice rub on here. I'll rub it in and get a nice good coat. Flip it over and do the same thing on the fat side," said Johnson.

I love the fat side of any piece of meat, that's where the final flavor is fist conceived.
After the rub–down its' into the smoker. It usually happens before you or I have even had breakfast.

Those big pieces of beef spend 14 hours cooking in this rotisserie smoker. –All the juices and flavors mixing together. These guys are just finishing up. They look perfect. I can't wait to sink my teeth in them. I'll show you what it looks like in a second.

Somebody get a lens cloth! The brisket steam fogged up our camera.
Back to the task at hand.
A gentle push of the hand is all it takes to rid the brisket of its' fat side.
(I wish shedding a pound or two from my own fat side was so easy)
What's left is sliced into manageable pieces of goodness.

(Eric eating and talking) "Here's some fresh cut brisket. This is fresh as it can get. It's been out of the smoker for maybe three or four minutes. Little sauce there on top. Oh boy! It is hard to believe that is not one of the finest pieces of meat on the cow."

"I got the mixed sauce. The mild and hot mixed together. It has a good tang to it," said customer Bill Siliskie.

My photographer with the foggy camera, Warren Brinegar, orders the Cue Shoe. Not a choice for anyone on Weight Watchers.
The menu says it starts with Big Bread. My mamma calls it Texas Toast.
On top of it comes barbecue pulled pork, smothered in sauce and topped with French fries. It's then finished off with a special white cheese sauce.
Warren digs into the Cue Shoe madness like a pent up steer. He washes it down with a Flat Tire beer.
–Warren is whipped by the Shoe.
If you're counting calories, there's another option, which fools some, not others.

I order a baked potato covered in brisket and then head to the condiment bar for more additives; cheese and sour cream.

A little dollop will do ya!

I choose a Red Stripe beer from Jamacia for my beverage.
What does Red Stripe have to do with Texas barbecue?
Who cares?
The point is they do a terrific two–step on your palate.
Our bill $21.89. No need to tip, your order at the quick–service counter.
Hickory River is Texas barbecue at its' best.
Hickory River is on Holiday Drive in Peoria.
They start serving barbecue daily at 11am daily.
If you are going to feed five or five hundred, they cater.

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