American style meat-fest
For some time now, I’ve been told that I should check out Hickory’s Smkehouse after glowing recommendations of their original venue in Chester, so after a crazy few weeks we headed to the Castle Bromwich site in search of an easy, yet satisfying dinner.
I was impressed with the decor (leather wingbacks are a favorite of mine) and amount of space available and whilst it was busy, I didn’t feel that it was overcrowded or too noisy but did have a little bit of a Harvester vibe.
We ordered quickly and although tempted by the specials sampler menu which is put together based on a recent trip taken by the owners we decided to go for the more obvious options for our first visit. We shared a plate of chicken wings to start with served with a Bourbon glaze, both noting that they had the desired crispness to the skin whilst still being tender. The sauce was excellent and I regretted not asking for more of it later on.
Unsure of what we wanted, we took the easy option and ordered the Smokehouse Platter with a side of corn on the cob to lighten things up a little. Arriving on an enormous slab and presented on a stand which we didnt quite understand, it came served with two portions of fries, pickles and some coleslaw. It became immediately apparent that we shouldn’t have had a starter no matter how good the wings were. The mountain of meat is £40 and includes:
- Memphis Style Dry Rubbed Baby Back Ribs
- Wood-Fired Smoked Sausage
- Barbecue Pulled Pork & Pit Beans
- Thick Cut Pork Belly Ribs
- Kansas Style Barbecue Glazed Spare Ribs
- Texas Style Beef Brisket
I have to be honest at this point and say it was a little overwhelming and I would have loved something green not just for visual appear but at least to trick my mind into thinking it was a lighter meal than it appeared. Whilst intended to serve two people, it can easily provide for four as we both had the leftovers for lunch the following day. I was particularly keen on the pork belly and although I wasn’t overly excited about the idea of the smoked sausage to begin with, it was very tasty and provided a contrasting texture- I hadn’t considered it would be more like a frankfurter than my favourite Cumberland style sausage so that was a pleasant surprise.
The Kansas ribs were so tender that as we cut tried to cut through it, the meat fell completely off the bone, I was particularly fond of the glossy sauce covering them too. Overall, I would have liked more pickles (sliced onion and half a dill pickle is not enough for the volume of meat on offer) and some sauces to go with it other than BBQ that was on the table as the brisket was very dry albeit tasty so something ‘wet’ would have made it more palatable. This is indeed a plate of classic smokehouse items but it was all a little too similar for my liking, more variety would be welcome and swapping out one of the items for some chicken wings or corn would have been preferable in my opinion and the beans would have been fine on their own, the addition of pulled pork seemed excessive.
The past few years has seen a huge rise in the number of smokehouse/US style venues popping up in Birmingham and I have to say that in terms of taste, the meat here is probably the best I’ve had (excluding the brisket) but it felt like they have gone down the ‘bigger is better’ route with less thought into the eating experience. I do feel somewhat fatigued by this fascination with the American BBQ and as such will never be a huge fan of this style of food but as an occassional dinner I dont mind it. I am sure when we eventually hit the southern states my opinion will change but for now, I wonder about the authenticity of places like this as I dont have a point of comparison.
Overall, it was suitably pleasant and I’d certainly try the breakfast options but as we hauled ourseves from our chairs feeling stuffed to the brim and a child ran screeching past our table towards the frozen yogurt bar I couldn’t help but wish we were in Buffalo & Rye instead.