How Sweet It Is

By Ashley Bennett

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Posted August 26, 2010 in Eats

Hickory Joe wasn’t just some Tennessean hick from that nowhere state far east from here (well, maybe he was). Joe was considered a legend. Back in the day, Hickory Joe used hickory wood to heat the stills of his home-concocted moonshine business. Not only did the scent from the hickory prevent detection from the brewing sour mash, he would utilize the heat from the still to cook his food as he waited. Although he was later forced by the feds to stop his alcoholic efforts, he kept on using the wood to cook food which eventually led to his smokehouse BBQ success. 

Hickory Joe sounds pretty ballsy! Then again, with the legend in mind, it’s not so surprising that Hickory Joe’s Smokehouse BBQ does so well. Their BBQ sauces and cooking techniques might have been invented by a possibly intoxicated countrified fellow—but, hey, who cares if the guy was a bit off his cabin-porch rocker as long as the food is delicious, right?

The menu’s got everything covered, and I mean everything here is generously served. From pork to beef and, of course, the ever universally accepted image of messy ribs, this menu has it all for a quick and satisfying experience.

My lunch group and I began with the Bootleggers Brisket, a sandwich delicious enough for any illegal alcohol creator, digital-music pirate or grill miscreant. The sandwich overflows with ingredients: a plethora of both hot link sausage and beef rolled in and generously splashed with sauce. I later found a certain spiciness to the meal which can be attributed to the sausage that was lightly doused with honey mustard. Sautéed onions and cooked bell peppers gave it a pleasing crunch—a successful attempt to balance between the meat and veggies. It was topped with Provolone cheese so as not to overwhelm the BBQ which is the star—no, “rock star” fits nicely—of this particular meal.

We also gave another meal a try, something opposite the Bootleggers Brisket.

They call it “Sweet Pig.” It’s a sandwich so good that to call it “sweet” is mere understatement. This sandwich is heavy with the sweetest pulled pork, dripping in BBQ sauce, set back semi-neatly (I mean, how neatly can any BBQ meal be prepared?) onto a satisfying potato bun.

It wasn’t just the sweet meat that gave this item its name. With the addition of grilled pineapple, the meal receives a tender promotion from being just another BBQ sandwich to a delicious treat that satisfies the cravings of foodie and rum runner alike.

After having filled up on meats and sauce, there was a surprise. A hidden item not yet on the menu of even sweeter stature than that of the Sweet Pig was revealed: Fried Corn Fritters. I don’t know if it is meant to be a side or a dessert, but it sure tasted amazing. A crunchy, golden brown exterior protects the warm insides of corn kernels hibernating in a creamy mixture. Keep your eyes out for these crispy beauties in the future. I know I certainly will.

Hickory Joe’s menu consists of barbeque-this and pork-that, a menu full of hearty meat. Visit with the intention of having sauce all over the place. The explosion of flavors is nothing to fear, and definitely criminally good. Who knows how this location got to the IE from the distant reaches of Tennessee—as long as it stays!

Hickory Joe’s Smokehouse BBQ, 120 Hidden Valley Pkwy., Norco, (951) 273-7427; www.hickoryjoesbbq.com Sun-Thurs 11AM-9PM, Fri-Sat 11AM-9:30PM. AE, MC, V.


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