Tuesday, 15 July 2014

BBQ Trail: And so it begins

The Old Hickory House Bar-B-Q restaurant
We at the BBQ Collective are setting out on a two-week tour of the BBQ trail in the US. Why? Because we love barbecue. Because we hate working for the man. Because we want to expand membership in the Collective. Because we want to bring to the UK better barbecue. Because we in the Collective think we can do it better!

So we are hitting the road, starting in North Carolina and winding our way to Kansas City to visit the barbecue meccas, talk to as many barbecue masters who will meet with us, learn as much as we can comprehend and eat as much as our bodies will take. A tall order no doubt, but nothing that the Collective and our merry band of travelers (and a few vegetarians) can’t tackle. The BBQ Collective 2014 Tour begins!

First stop: The Old Hickory House BBQ in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Old Hickory House Bar-B-Q restaurant was an 'Editors' pick' in Local Eats website when I was searching for top barbecue joints in this locale. I am not sure when that was written but I think the Old Hickory House’s time has come and gone. Which is not to say that the place is bad – it clearly had a charm at one point, which it had lost along the way and it’s customers soon followed.

Now, it is possible they have a large lunch crowd and we simply got there too late but the meat seemed a little sad. I ordered the pork and pork rib platter, with two sides. The pork was fine with some nice bark but lacked a certain flavour that I was craving on my first meal. The ribs actually were incredibly tender for pit-smoked ribs. I was impressed. But it was the tomato-based sauce that turned me off. Now, you all know that I love a ketchup and vinegar-based sauce but this seemed to be tomato juice or tomato paste-based. I was not a fan as it detracted from what could have been nice meat.

Of course, like all good BBQ, sides were offered and it is here that we were quite satisfied. The slaw was finely chopped with a perfect vinegar and mayo sauce. Not wet, perfectly dressed. This was a revelation. The hushpuppies were very nice, as was the dish of pickles. The pit beans were fine and simple.

As I said, the Old Hickory House was not without it’s charm.  Our waitress was a perfect intro to North Carolina BBQ (“Ours is the best, honey” – not the first time I will hear that phrase on this trip I am sure).

All in all, the Old Hickory House was a fun start into our next two weeks and was worth the journey through the Charlotte evening rush hour traffic, which seems to be just as bad in every American suburban metropolitan area. We look forward to more of the same.

The Old Hickory House BBQ
6538 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28213

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