In 2014, TripAdvisor named this tiny little five-table joint one of the ten best barbecue restaurants in America. While I would not agree with praise that high, they certainly do a good job.
Some three years before that list was published, I paid a brief visit to this restaurant, and enjoyed my meal, but when TripAdvisor made that claim, I had to raise an eyebrow. After a while it turned out there was an interesting caveat to how those rankings came about.
If you will, the rankings listed the restaurants that had the most positive reviews against the fewest negative ones. I found this interesting because it suggested that places like Hickory Pit – and some others that we’ve visited, like Joe’s in Blue Ridge GA – are not necessarily the ones that a few loudmouths (like me) leave raving about how amazing they are, but the ones where almost nobody leaves unsatisfied.
Mike and Betty Ford opened their business as a carry-out only place in 1984 and moved to their current space on Ringold Road in 2002. There’s room for maybe twenty people at a time inside; most people still get carry-out. I came by right as they opened one Thursday in late August and I certainly did not leave unsatisfied.
I had a chopped pork plate with slaw, and felt more like having fries than beans this time out. The curly fries may not be homemade – they taste like somebody’s superb imitation of Arby’s fries – but they were just fine. I’m not as big a fan of mayo-based slaws, and I have had far, far too much in this region which I now call mayonnaise soup. This is better than all of those.
But the most important thing is the meat, and it was very, very good. The Fords cook in a smoker behind their shack, using exclusively hickory wood and keeping their shoulders smoking for fourteen hours. The result is very rich and smoky. Be sure to ask for your meat dry. They have a good, sticky, and thick brown sauce here, but it can overpower the meat, and you’ll want to taste this pork without it.
I was very happy with my lunch here and glad that I gave this place another chance. There are at least two barbecue restaurants closer to me than Hickory Pit, but if I’m in the mood for something reasonably quick, this place is about ten minutes from my house and I’ll happily come this way again. Next week, though, I’ll tell you about a great find that’s a little further away than this place.
The Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que
5611 Ringgold Rd
Chattanooga, TN 37412
Are you planning a barbecue road trip? You can see all the barbecue restaurants that we have visited for our blog (more than 390 !) on this map, with links back to the original blog posts!