Old Hickory House

Old Hickory House in Charlotte has that distinct hickory-smoked, hand chopped barbecue sprinkled with crispy-dark "outside brown," the toasted bits of the moist pork butt and just drrripping with fat. We got to taste for the first time the "Piedmont" style of North Carolina barbecue, where a sweetish tomato sauce is ladled on top.

You can order the sauce (or as it's properly known here, the "dip") on the side, in a large ramekin with bits of onion and chunks of barbecue meat floating on top; I tried adding this but no--the meat was just too tongue-meltingly good to cover with the (admittedly tasty, tangy) sauce. It was just good with a hint of the tomatoey sweetness (the sauce was more Mephis- or Texas- style sweet and thick than traditional Carolina thin-and-tangy).

Included with the barbecue "tray" (it's called that as opposed to the slightly more expensive "plate" usually served in the east--reportedly becuase fries aren't included, tho I noticed this isn't a hard and fast rule) is a cup of Brunswick stew--maybe the best Brunswick stew I've ever tasted, and I've started to taste quite a few of them. Salty with meat, tangy with tomato, sweet only with the sweetness of the vegetables, it's uncommonly thick and smooth, probably because of the stale bread they mix into it. Delicioso mucho.

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