After buying and devouring two Family Meals from Hickory River Smokehouse in Springfield, IL, I have come to the realization that this is Real. Texas. Barbecue. I would have never thought that Springfield would house one of my favorite barbecue eateries, but that is exactly the case. In existence for under 20 years, the chain of seven restaurants should continue to proliferate and gain popularity if they stick to their standards and commitment to great food and service.
Hickory River was founded in Urbana, IL. in 1995 by Brad and Krista Bowman. They desired to bring good, authentic Texas barbecue to the Midwest. I feel that they have succeeded. As is typical among Texas barbecue, the beef brisket rules. It can be had either sliced or chopped. I prefer it chopped, with just a touch of sauce. The meat is meltingly tender, seasoned well and has just the right amount of smoke.
The pulled pork is equally good and the ribs are done quite well; tender and full of flavor. The ubiquitous sides are offered; ranch beans, coleslaw, potato salad, cornbread, mac & cheese and Texas-style chili. There is nothing spectacular about any of the sides, but they are all good. What is spectacular are the Pulled Pork Nachos. As good as the brisket is, this was my favorite dish by far. Tortilla chips covered with pulled pork and melted cheese, coupled with the tangy sauce: delicious. They also offer decent cobblers, cookies and brownies. Beverages include soft-drinks, iced tea and bottled beers.
Hickory River offers catering services as well and are seeking to franchise more locations throughout the Midwest. When visiting Springfield, I recommend a stop at Hickory River Smokehouse for some awesome Texas barbecue.