Menu of the Week: Old Hickory House, 1987

Old-school Carolina barbecue

Old Hickory House serves quality barbecue and great Brunswick stew.

The Old Hickory House is a barbecue restaurant in Charlotte, N.C., that’s been going strong since 1957. Best known for its Brunswick stew, it’s a restaurant where time has essentially stood still for the past 56 years, and the smoker is on-view from the main dining room.

When you think about a barbecue restaurant’s menu in the late 1980s (or from the 1950s, for that matter), this is probably what comes to mind. Yellow and brown, with what you might call a log cabin motif. The menu is quite small, but that’s probably a good thing: this is a barbecue joint, and you don’t go to the Old Hickory House unless you want barbecue.

There’s barbecue beef, barbecue pork, barbecue chicken, pork ribs, and beef ribs, and that’s about it. There are a few other perfunctory dishes, like "sliced tomatoes on lettuce," ham steak, burgers, fries, and something called "bar-b-cue salad," and pie for dessert. But the folks who run this place, the Carter family, obviously didn’t feel the need to add in anything extraneous, and it looks as if the menu hasn’t really changed much since the '50s.

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Based on Yelp reviews, the quality of the barbecue isn’t so great anymore, and we’re sure that there are better places nearby for world-class Carolina-style barbecue. But one menu item that’s still universally renowned is the Brunswick stew, which is usually a thick, hearty stew loaded with meat and vegetables, usually beans, corn, and okra. At the Old Hickory House, the meat that goes into this thick stew is smoked, and it sure looks like a big bowl of goodness.