Friday, September 13, 2013

Hickory Hill Barbecue (Scottsville, KY)

This is the first proper Countryside Food Ride since the Kentucky Bourbon Trail / Lexington ride. I can't believe I let a whole year slip by, but it's been one of those years. So to get back on track we're visiting one of my favorite BBQ joints in the land, and we're going there twice.

Hickory Hill Barbecue (2012).

I first noticed Hickory Hill back in October '11 after riding to Paradise Point and taking a long route home on some new roads. I didn't stop at the time, but I promised to report back. It took me awhile, and it almost didn't happen.

My lunch breaks during the following winter and spring were spent visiting as many semi-local BBQ joints as I could find. At the time there was no BBQ guide for this part of the world, online or in print. I thought I was finished after visiting 19 places, and then I heard about Wes Berry's project -- a comprehensive book covering the BBQ scene across the whole state of Kentucky! I contacted Wes in the spring and told him what I was up to. He told me to visit Hickory Hill. Somehow I had completely forgot about it, so I stopped by on a Friday and came back the very next day. The 20th BBQ joint was an instant favorite, and that's when I really started looking forward to the KY BBQ Book. Of course I kicked myself for not previously visiting this gem hidden practically in my back yard.

Ron & Sue serve slow-smoked pork and chicken from an ultra-clean and tidy spot on a little hill next to their home in the Hickory Hill community. They appropriately use hickory for smoke, and they are some of the kindest folks you'll meet. On the few occasions when there hasn't been a line of customers on the porch, Ron always comes out to chat while I dig in to some BBQ. Even though Route 100 can be pretty busy with everything from horse-drawn buggies to 18-wheelers, the picnic tables out front provide a surprisingly peaceful setting to relax and enjoy the smokey treats.

They are located near the intersection of 100 & 585, which serves as the gateway to Kentucky's Amish/Mennonite territory between Scottsville and Franklin to which shoppers and tourists flock during the summer months. Ron jokes that the area is like a big Cracker Barrel -- he'll feed you well before you head into the country to do your shopping. Or vice versa. I love the location because there are some delightfully twisty back roads to ride between here and there, so it is a perfect Countryside Food Ride destination.

When it comes to slow-smoked Western Kentucky Style BBQ, Hickory Hill is in my Top Three along with Split Tree in Alvaton and Wildfire in Franklin. I've never tried the HH chicken but I know the pulled pork and the ribs are always perfectly cooked and always have the perfect smoke flavor. The pulled pork is never too dry, and you usually get some good pieces of bark on a sandwich or plate. The ribs... oh man, the ribs. They have just the right texture, the meat pulls off the bone just as it should, and I don't know how the rub could be improved.

Based on that solid platform, a full menu features homemade side dishes and fun things such as BBQ nachos (my wife's favorite) or the Island BBQ sandwich (unique, and awesome). They make several great sauces including a Bourbon Sauce that actually has a bourbon flavor. It leads to some hard choices -- to sauce or not to sauce? I've always preferred wet ribs, but they may have converted me. Nowadays, when I really want to treat myself to something special, I go for Hickory Hill ribs with sauce on side.

Things we love about Hickory Hill:

The Ribs (2012).

The Island BBQ Sandwich (2012).

The Root Beer Float (2012).

The Sauces (2012).
The Island Sauce and Bourbon Sauce are unlike anything else in the area.

Important things to know about Hickory Hill:
  • They are only open on Friday and Saturday.
  • They close for the winter.
  • Bring cash because they don't take cards.

See my SoKY BBQ Guide for more info and pictures like the ones above, and a link to a great video about Scottsville food that features Hickory Hill. For more info, check out the Hickory Hill website. And of course grab a copy of the KY BBQ Book where you'll find some nice words about this place penned by a true expert.

Why two ride reports and why so many pictures below? Because these are some of my favorite roads and because it's been awhile! Also because the first visit ended in a futile attempt to avoid a storm on a stormy day, and a beautiful Friday a few weeks later provided a better opportunity for good pics and good times. So the pictures below are mostly about the roads and the Kentucky countryside between here and there. There is plenty of tight & twisty paved road with sketchy water crossings, and also miles of fast & flowing ribbons of fun that breeze through beautiful farm country.

If you visit Hickory Hill, do yourself a favor and take the back roads there or back. Or both...


Bike:  KTM Super Duke R
Route:  Google Maps

This probably isn't going to end well for a fair weather rider.

The storm is to the right. Let's go left.

Self portrait and a ladder that makes me wonder what the Duke Boys would do.

I love the new GoPro, but it seems the new housing collects more bugs than the old shape did. Perhaps coincidence, but I'm stopping more often to clean it off than before.
Also, beautiful farm property on the right.

A great fence row and a great row of trees?
I love Kentucky.

There are faster ways to get there, but I love W Old State Rd.

It's not a road built for speed. It is narrow with plenty of dirt and poop and blind corners and blind hills. It's fun.

18 MPH in the middle of the road through a blind corner.
I'm guessing this guy normally drives a tractor on these roads... and that's cool.

Wet + Dirty = Slow (for me).

Love these low water crossings. This one here is relatively new.
They definitely aren't bridges.
They definitely get overrun when the water is high.

This is a little place I like to call Oakley, KY.
Home of whole hog BBQ parties and the biggest bonfires ever.

Oakley, KY also features one of the fun water crossings.
This one gets nasty at times.

Stop Number Eight.

Hickory Hill is within sight of the 585/100 intersection.
Oh, also another school bus.

Hickory Hill Barbecue.

Looking for some hickory smoked BBQ? He's the man.

If you ever find yourself here alone, it won't last long so take a minute to chat with Ron & Sue.

This porch looks like a fine place to ride out a storm.
You know, rather than riding through a storm.

American Flags everywhere. Dig it.

A helpful map of the popular Amish/Mennonite farms and shops is on display.
A similar interactive version can be found here.

I guess this is where the magic happens.

Ribs, Slaw, Beans, and Hoe Cakes w/ Hot Sauce & Bourbon Sauce.

VERDICT:  These ribs might be my favorite thing between here and Memphis. I don't know what else to say about that. They aren't cheap (buying a whole slab brings the price down), but they're worth it. They are most definitely worth it. I usually ask for some sauce on the side, because the sauces are great and I do like a little sample here and there. I think the Hot Sauce & Bourbon Sauce are nice for dipping a few bites. But only if you want to, because these ribs don't need sauce...

Also, Root Beer Float!

Hey, that KY BBQ logo looks familiar.
[Wes was here a few weeks ago signing books.]

Ron was kind enough to go inside and look at the radar map to help me get home without getting wet.
He correctly advised me to take a right and head home the boring way via 231...

...and I promptly forgot his advice as soon as I strapped the helmet on.

Back on 585.
In better weather, it'd be 100.

Shady Maple Produce is one of the establishments mentioned on the map pictured above.

Back in Oakley, KY.

When it's not raining, I often see a person or two fishing these ponds.

Spent horse fuel and another school bus.

It's raining.

I don't know much about farms, but this seems like a nice spot to have one.

I love the No GPS Rule because it's fun to hit new roads, even when it's raining.
If you point yourself in approximately the right direction, you'll eventually find something familiar.
This isn't familiar.

This is familiar.
Back on track.

Target Fixation I.

Target Fixation II.

These two corners often catch me out, even at slow rain speeds and even at slow Jeep speeds. I think I mentioned it in my very first blog post. Target fixation is a real thing. When the unintended target is paved, that's OK. When it's another vehicle or a big ditch, it's not so OK. [I don't post the ditch pics because mom might be watching.]

Drake Country Store Friday Fish Fry?

Boyce Store Friday Fish Fry.

Headin' home...

The Alvaton Garage & Deli is turning into a right proper country store, kinda like when we were kids.

Mad Wife.

Mad Wife happens for a variety of reasons. Like, say, if you didn't bring her any Hickory Hill BBQ nachos and then you brag about how good your Hickory Hill ribs were. That wasn't the reason this time, though. This time it was something about not telling anybody where I was going or when I would be back. And something about dangerous storms in the area. I don't know exactly what it was because once Mad Wife gets going, it's all a blur. In my defense, I'm pretty sure I told her my plans... perhaps in slightly vague terms, and perhaps when she was taking a nap.

Back inside, Little Man took my helmet and unknowingly took a self portrait in the bathroom mirror.
This is where he goes to try out his new gear.

And then everybody was happy again. No more Mad Wife!
Thanks, Little Man. I owe you one...



Bike:  KTM Super Duke R
Route:  Google Maps

The weather is great on this Friday the 13th and we'll take the normal [boring] route to Hickory Hill this time. When coming from BG, it's really easy to find HH by making just two turns...


Take a right at 31-E to stay on 231.

Then take a right on 100.

After a few miles, you'll find Hickory Hill Barbecue on the left .

Hickory Hill Barbecue.
And the Sheriff.
No jokes. No jokes. No jokes.

Island BBQ Sandwich & Root Beer Float.
I haven't figured this new GoPro out yet, but at least the Root Beer Float is in focus!
Island BBQ Sandwich.
It's big. It's messy. It's smokey. It's sweet.
It's awesome.

VERDICT:  Along with the ribs and the root beer floats (and the wife's nachos), this sandwich is a big reason why we visit Hickory Hill. These particular pictures don't do it justice (the one up top from last year is better). It's a pulled pork sandwich -- with a lot of pork -- topped with their sweet and tangy Island Sauce and a pineapple ring. It sounds weird because nobody else around here serves anything like it, but it's brilliant. The sauce and the fruit perfectly compliment the smoked pork, and the result really is something special. Try it once, and I bet you'll be back to try it again!


Ciao, Hickory Hill.
Be back soon...

Staying left this time to stay on 100.

Hard to believe this was the only buggy I saw during these two trips...

100 is a favorite road for local motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts, but the stretch between Franklin and Scottsville can be pretty boring.
Pretty, and boring.

You might even find yourself all tranced-out and passing a slower vehicle at the exact moment where you miss your turn...

...and then you might find yourself looking at I-65...

...and since you don't want to take I-65 home, you might then find yourself doing a U-turn.

Yeah... this beats the interstate any day.

S T O P at Gold City.

The Gold City Grocery is a fine little country store.

Target Fixation Fixed I.

Target Fixation Fixed II.

Nailed both corners this time. You know, like you're supposed to do.

Drake Country Store and White's Chapel.
No fish fry on this Friday, apparently...

Olde Stone.

This palace has been under construction for like three years. Or so it seems.
I'm pretty sure it is Robert Plant's house.
I could be wrong.

Olde Stone is a half-gated community. There's no gate in the front, but there's a gate in the back.

Headin' home... on Olde Scottsville Rd.



Hickory Hill setup at the first Sounds on Dumont music festival in the very cool Dumont Hill Park in Scottsville today. We were here to see The Farewell Drifters, and the BBQ was a nice bonus.

Hickory Hill Barbecue.
The mobile version.

I think they liked it, 'cause these dudes ate two sandwiches each.

BBQ Nachos for Momma.

The Farewell Drifters on stage.

While Bubba throws a TD pass to his friend, Little Man quietly wonders when he'll be big enough to play football and down two BBQ sandwiches in one sitting. Soon enough, Little Man... soon enough.

Update (7/30/14)

Ron and Sue sold Hickory Hill! But it's not bad news because the new owners are great -- they've expanded the hours, expanded the menu, and expanded the payment options while keeping our favorite stuff the same. Meet them here in this trip. And if you visit this year, you'll probably still see Ron helping out and showing them the ropes.