Hickory Park, Ames, Iowa

After a delightful visit with Curt and Cindy Liljedahl of the addicting AdventuRetired podcasts, Nancy and I stopped for the evening in Ames. We checked into our hotel, and then ventured out to Hickory Park on Curt and Cindy’s recommendation.

It’s east to see why they recommended it. Hickory Park has been an institution in Ames for over 50 years. It’s changed locations a couple of times over the years, and currently occupies a cavernous place.

Hickory Park seats 500 people at a time. You’d think that would be plenty, but there’s always a wait. We whiled away 20 or 30 minutes looking around, deleting email messages, and listening to the host call out “Smith party 12,” “Jones party of 23,” and “Donner party of 17”. Our turn came and a server escorted us to a booth and placed before us, before anything else, Hickory Park’s vast dessert menu,

and admonished us to save room for ice cream. For more immediate needs, he presented an even larger dinner menu.

It takes a while to read the menu, especially with the dessert menu whispering seductively in your ear. I gave up and ordered a combination plate with ribs and chicken. with buttered corn and green beans.

The ribs were quite good. They had a very good texture, al dente rather than mushy, and a good crust. They were meaty, smoky, and very tasty. And the chicken also was a winner. This combination was a special, which means you can’t choose choice of which quarter you get. I took a calculated risk and won: a dark meat quarter. It was tender, juicy, and had a good smoke flavor. you’ll notice that the meats aren’t sauced, except for a tad on the chicken. That’s good. This meat doesn’t need sauce. The buttered corn was excellent, but the green beans were just okay. The beans had some bacon, but it seemed like an afterthought rather than the key to the beans’ flavor.

I forgot to mention the yeast roll sitting atop the meat. It was a good roll, but I mainly used it to test sauces (I ate the meat without sauce. None was needed.) The sauces were color-coded rather than labeled. My favorite had a red top amber or yellow. All were nicely seasoned.

Nancy ordered another special, turkey with mashed potatoes and buttered corn.

She was somewhat surprised that the turkey came covered with gravy. The turkey was very thinly sliced, nice and moist, and very lightly smoked. I’m afraid it wasn’t a hit with Nancy, who is gravy-averse but her mashed potatoes were good and she agreed that the fresh buttered corn was very good indeed.

I can’t say I really needed a dessert, but peer pressure bore down both of us. From Hickory Park’s huge selection of desserts, Nancy ordered a modest Sundae Your Way, vanilla ice cream with butterscotch topping.

I ignored the CDC’s ukase and had an abstemious single scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough. Hickory park serves good quality ice cream. It’s creamy, and the butterscotch and cookie dough were just right.

It seems that good barbecue and good ice cream can be a winning combination. Who’da thunk it? Hickory Park has earned it’a stellar reputation among Iowans, and its special place in the fabric of Ames and beyond. Give it a try.


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