Kent Rathbun’s Hickory: A Modern Texas Roadhouse Makes Its Debut

By Bev Garvin, Foodable Contributor

There are few things that can delight the senses quite like food. Whether it’s fancy tweezer food or just good old down-home cooking, nothing beats enjoying a thoughtfully prepared meal with family and friends.

James Beard nominated chef and restaurateur Kent Rathbun has been serving up savory delights for more than three decades. His latest concept, Hickory, opened this week in Plano, joining the ranks of his other long-standing successful concepts — Abacus, a fine dining restaurant in Dallas since 1997, Jasper’s gourmet backyard cuisine with locations in Plano, Houston and Austin, and Kent Rathbun Catering.

Lamb Burger at Hickory

Lamb Burger at Hickory

“People have been asking us to do more with burgers or barbeque for years," says chef Rathbun. "This food reflects how I grew up, and it’s some of what we do at Jasper's. The food at Abacus has been defining to me as a chef, but if I’m cooking and entertaining at home, this is probably the kind of food I’m going to make. We wanted Hickory to be more relaxed, to keep the pricing low and affordable, and to offer a place with a great atmosphere where people could go out to eat, enjoy the patio or just to hang out to watch a game. Plano is a great spot for us to try this out. We built Hickory with the thought in mind that, if it does what we hope it will, we would like to scale it and expand Hickory to other locations.”

Must-Haves From Hickory’s Little Red Smokehouse

St. Louis style spare ribs at Hickory

St. Louis style spare ribs at Hickory

The menu at Hickory may be barbeque and burgers, but close attention has been paid to every last detail. There’s a wide range of smoked meats, chicken, fish, sausage, salads, sides, burgers, sandwiches and tacos to choose from. Portions are large and the food is served family-style. Rathbun and chef de cuisine Jeff Qualls chose a wood-fired pit made by J&R Manufacturing, which is also known as the “Little Red Smokehouse.”

Local Goat Cheese Beet Salad at Hickory

Local Goat Cheese Beet Salad at Hickory

You can’t go wrong with just about anything on the menu at Hickory. Meat lovers may choose from a virtual butcher’s selection of meats or house-made sausage of the day. There are lighter dishes like the ginger-citrus rotisserie chicken or wood-grilled fish and there are plenty of meatless options too, like the grilled portobello veggie burger, the green apple chayote slaw, or the local goat cheese baby beet salad. Expect traditional sides like the Texas cheddar mac & cheese, Blackstrap molasses baked beans, or the fried green tomatoes served with a charred jalapeño ranch. From the house-made pickles and condiments served to guests, to the cuts of meat, and sourcing of ingredients, the menu has been meticulously thought out, each dish has a distinctive Rathbun flair that lets diners experience it in a new way.

Hickory is located in Plano, on the east side of the service road of the North Dallas Tollway (near Blue Mesa) and Highway 121. As of Monday, June 15, Hickory is officially open to the public for dinner service and they will soon add lunch and breakfast service as well. More information about Hickory can be found on their website at www.HickoryPlano.com.