Sunday, May 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Hillbilly's BBQ & Steaks, Charlotte, NC

Hillbilly's started out in Gastonia, North Carolina, was sucessful enough to open a second store in Lowell, and last year opened a third store here in Charlotte, in the old Carolina Country BBQ location on Tyvola Road. We've eaten here a total of three times now; the first two times not long after the restaurant opened, the third time this past Saturday afternoon. The first two times were marred by very poor service, so bad that I actually emailed the restaurant management to complain. This third time the service had improved and was now excellent.

First off, here's a look at the sign, and you'll notice an active smoker streetside:

I'd have to question the wisdom in putting an active bbq pit out on the street, where anyone walking by could have access to the meat; I hope that there was a provision to lock the smoker doors or or otherwise secure it from tampering. Letting cops eat at half price is always a good practice.

The waitress arrived quickly and took our drink orders, and left complimentary hush puppies, along with a small tub of Hillbilly's wonderfully tangy sauce:

Sara frankly doesn't like Hillbilly's barbecue pork, thinks it is too dry, so she ordered a chopped steak:

I ordered a plate of sliced beef brisket:

Sara was happy with her food. She ordered her chopped steak well done, and it was properly well done. She also liked the baked potato, and the peppers and onion.

I found the french fries on my plate to be less than fresh: warm and soggy rather than hot and crisp. The brisket was a bit dry and a little tough as a result, but since they were well coated with sauce, this wasn't too much of a problem.

Hush puppies were fresh and hot, and with a good sweet taste, and when dipped into the good tangy sauce, were a good appetizer. Hillbilly's should bring free refills of the hush puppies, since one basket will typically not go very far, especially when more than two diners are encountered.

Since Hillbilly's took over a building that previously housed a barbecue restaurant, there was an open pit available to cook the meats, rather than the smokers that are usual with newer restaurants. The pit is visible from most of the restaurant, so you can see the cooking process. The restaurant is painted in yellow and red, recalling mustard and ketchup, and there are attractive stained-glass windows in the restaurant, an elegant touch.

Because of past problems and also because the food isn't yet as good as it could be, I'll give Hillbilly's BBQ & Steaks a 3 on my 5-scale of restaurants: 3 out of 5: average; reasonably good food, moderate effort by staff/management. Attention needs to be paid to the barbecue so as not to overcook it; fried sides should be cooked to order so as to arrive tableside fresh.

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