Friday, March 9, 2012
KENTUCKY: Old Hickory Bar-B-Q
338 Washington Ave
Owensboro, KY 42301
Open Sun-Thur 9-9, F-Sat 9-10
Old Hickory was my third and final stop in Owensboro for mutton barbecue. It seems to be the favorite among locals who leave Moonlite for the tourists. Like the others in town, they smoke with hickory on a steel pit, but the rest of the experience is quite different. Buffet lines are replaced with service from a waitstaff, and combo plates and sandwiches replace heaping piles of barbecue, mashed potatoes and fried shrimp from steam tables. For a little extra you can order your meats "From the Pit" and get meat fresh out of the smoker. I sadly wasn't made aware of this option until after my visit.
I was hitting a wall on stomach space, but the trio of mutton (chopped, sliced and ribs) was too tempting to pass up. I got a side of burgoo alongside with some mashed potatoes that were suggested by the waitress. They were instant potatoes with canned gravy, but the rest was mostly positive.
The three popular forms of mutton together on a plate were a full spectrum of fat content, and therefore gaminess. The ribs had ribbons of soft fat running between the smoky meat. The flavor reminds me of the smell of wet wool, and it's hard to overcome. All of that is probably a personal issue because the rest of the ribs' qualities were just fine. The chopped mutton had more of the gamey flavor than either Ole South or Moonlite. The smokiness was still strong with a heavy vinegar flavor of the sauce that had already been added. The texture was fine and wet like saucy chopped pork. Less smoky was the sliced mutton which had some crispy ends, but it was overwhelmed by the thin sauce that it had been dipped in. The meat was moist without any of that gaminess I'd been inundated with on this plate.
The burgoo here was another winner. Great depth to the seasoning and a long cooking time brought out a complexity unlike the other joint's burgoo in town. Individual ingredients couldn't be identified since they'd been fully incorporated and broken down into the stew-like concoction.
As an outsider, I don't profess to have the ability to appreciate the intricacies of mutton barbecue, but the overt gaminess of the cuts here was hard to savor. This may be the precise reason why seasoned locals love it so much. It also may be that I was just muttoned out, but my memories of the flavors at Moonlite are superior. Either way, I'm more than willing to give it another go.
Posted by BBQ Snob at 7:55 AM
Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT