“Where’d you get your cowboy hat, young lady?” asked the cowboy behind the counter.
“The mall,” replied my six-year-old daughter, gently touching the pink sparkly cowboy hat atop her head.
“Well, I sure do like it!”
And so our friendly cowboy lunch at Hotel Hickman Chuck Wagon BBQ began. Proprietor Scott Thomas and his crew, all dressed like cowboys, recently welcomed my family of four to his quaint restaurant in downtown Dexter. Open since November, Hotel Hickman rustles up cowboy fare—think smoked meat and sides cooked family-style—every Thursday through Sunday.
The small restaurant, decorated straight out of the Wild West, boasts lunch and dinner menus with delectable meat (and even more meat). There’s BBQ pulled chicken or pork, Texas-style beef brisket, smoked sausage, and half or full slabs of baby back ribs. Sides include mashed potatoes, cowboy beans, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese. For dessert, there’s apple, cherry, or peach bourbon cobbler.
My husband and I ordered the $10 chuck wagon lunch special including any sandwich, one side, a drink, and dessert. I chose a BBQ pulled pork sandwich, mashed potatoes, and bourbon peach cobbler. My husband opted for a Texas-style beef brisket sandwich, mashed potatoes, and apple cobbler. Our kids, ages nine and six, gravitated towards a side of macaroni and cheese ($2). The cowboys assured us their macaroni and cheese, made with real butter, cheese, and milk, would please and would be enough to constitute a child’s entire meal.
Eat out, cowboy style
Hotel Hickman says you can get your food to go or eat it cowboy-style, which means outside. There’s no indoor seating so my kids and I perched on three milk jugs by oak barrel tables out front. My husband stood. There is a park with picnic tables just across the street for those in need of more traditional seating, but we saw many customers during our visit order carry-out.
My BBQ pork was yummy, with generous chunks mixed with a tasty, mild sauce. The brisket also had good meaty flavor, its ends sporting perfect pink smoke rings. “It’s all good stuff,” my husband said. The sandwich buns, which Chuck Wagon gets from Zingerman’s, were fresh and substantial, holding everything together well.
Our sides of mashed potatoes, doused with a pleasing mixture of cheese, chives, sour cream and bacon, were delicious. I don’t think many cowboys were lucky enough to taste potatoes this appetizing out on the range. Nor did the cowboys probably binge on such opulent macaroni and cheese, which satisfied both my kids. “This is the best mac and cheese I ever had,” raved my 6-year-old. I confirmed the dish’s cheesy goodness after snagging a bite (or two). However, parents of picky toddlers be warned: the macaroni and cheese is made with shell pasta, not macaroni noodles.
The peach cobbler was sweet, but too mushy for me. I found my husband’s apple cobbler more pleasing with firm apples and crunchier crumbles. My kids, not big fans of food mixed together, actually passed on the cobblers for dessert.
Although we went for lunch, Hotel Hickman also serves a cowboy breakfast of two eggs, ground sausage or smoked bacon, potatoes, cornbread and cowboy coffee for $5. Hours may change with the seasons so check their website or call ahead.
Find your inner cowboy
“It’s the cheese, cheese, cheesiest this side of the Mississippi!” declared my husband with a drawl as he finished one last bite of macaroni and cheese. It was time to get him away from Hotel Hickman. If we stayed much longer, he’d be donning flannel, growing facial hair, and joining the cowboys around a campfire.
THE SHORT COURSE
To avoid wait Not a problem as most people get take out.
Noise level The old-fashioned western music they play inside is fun. There is no dining room and limited outdoor seating.
Bathroom amenities None
High chairs No.
Got milk No. They offer pop, water, coffee and iced tea.
Kids’ menu No, but the macaroni and cheese will please most kids.
Anything healthy for kids Cowboys aren’t worried about health, just good, hot food.
Food allergy concerns No nuts are in any ingredients; soy is present in the barbecue sauce. Call ahead and they’ll check for other concerns.