A wave of new barbeque restaurants have opened up in the past six months- mainly in Chicago. But Hickory River Smokehouse in Glendale Heights slow-smokes just like in Texas.
Skeptical at first, ABC7's Hungry Hound said he could tell after a few bites that the Midwestern-based chain meant business. And the stack of hickory wood out back only confirmed his suspicions.
Hickory Smokehouse takes an old-school approach to a fast-food concept.
"Part of that is the sauce that we use; it's more of a smoky flavor type of barbeque sauce, which we think is definitely more like you see in Texas," said owner David Huff. "We are smoking overnight, typically 13, 14 hours, slow and at a very low temperature, using only hickory wood."
In addition to chicken, there are two primary proteins in play here: enormous pork butts and gargantuan briskets - both of which are lightly dusted in a homemade dry rub and then placed into the rotating Southern Pride smokers overnight. When they emerge, they are charred, but incredibly soft. Excess fat is discarded, and in the case of the brisket, it is offered both sliced and chopped. The pork gets a final shower of seasoning, then a superfluous ladle of barbeque sauce before it's summarily pulled apart and torn into shreds. There are decent sides on offer -- macaroni and cheese, baked beans, slaw and mashed potatoes -- but nothing stellar. One highlight is a recent menu addition that sausage lovers will appreciate.
"We just started offering, about a week or so ago, Mikeska sausage, which comes out of the Austin area, and we are the only restaurant in the Chicagoland area - other than one other - that offers that type of sausage," Huff said.
Sandwiches are massive, and while a lot of the items come with sauce already applied, try ordering them with sauce on the side; better to appreciate the signature pink smoke ring that requires a lot of patience to produce.
"What has been really gratifying to us is just the amount of people that have been coming back, saying how much it reminds them of back home down in Texas, and they can't find our kind of food anywhere else," said Huff.
By the way, the "one other place" in the region Huff mentioned that carries the smoked Mikeska Texas sausage is Smoque Barbeque on Pulaski, so you know it's going to be good.
Hickory River Smokehouse
2130 Bloomingdale Road, Glendale Heights
3800 N. Pulaski