Cooking meat on an open fire, a beer in hand and surrounded by friends – that’s a BBQ, right? Wrong! Most South Africans assume that BBQ is synonymous with braai, but that’s not necessarily the case. If you want to find out what a real Texan BBQ involves, there’s only one place to get a proper education: The Hickory Shack.
Located on the beautiful Thandi Farm in Elgin, The Hickory Shack is a perfect mix of cool cowboy eating and Elgin country living. Owner Jay Haupt endeavoured to create a place that looks and feels authentic. With a wooden interior, a dark palette and skulls scattered strategically, the restaurant would not look out of place in a modern Western biopic. The wood mosaic walls are made from apple wood as a testament to the Elgin area, known for its apple produce. The craft beers, ciders and wine from the valley are given priority and … there’s a smokehouse.
Jay’s pride and joy, he only agreed to take over the property if the spot where the smokehouse now stands was included. And it’s being put to good use. It holds a massive custom-made brick smoker and provides the restaurant with beautifully smoked meat. It’s also become quite the novelty as it’s the only one of its kind in the country.
‘The smoker provides a slow constant heat – that’s the whole idea of BBQ,’ says Jay. ‘It also imparts the flavour of the wood onto the meat. We use applewood and oak, and smoke the meat for hours – essentially ‘cowboy cooking, as they would ay in the States. A brisket can go on for an entire day before it goes into a hotbox. It’s a long process, but we just cook and cook and cook, then it gets sold.’
If you set aside the novelty of the smoker, the cool décor and the promotion of local products, The Hickory Shack is still an incredible place. Why? The food is so damn good! Seriously, we’re salivating just thinking about it. The smoker goes through tons of meat during the week and Jay says that on Sundays, they often sell out.
It’s easy to see why. The meat is rich, tender and perfectly spiced. The wood comes through in the flavour and when paired with one of their homemade sauces, your meal reaches a whole other level of excellence. Sides include fries, buttermilk mash, slaw, corn salad and beans. The Hickory Shack serves brunch, lunch and takeaways but we recommend you grab a table and enjoy the vibe too.
Photography Annzra Denita, courtesy images