You’ve got to hand it to Kent Rathbun. Outside of his Iron Chef accomplishments, he’s damn near the most important, influential guy in Dallas dining. After more than a decade as a successful restaurateur and three great restaurants, Rathbun is ready to try his hand at something a little more casual. Rathbun’s Hickory will open in Plano today.
The new restaurant, which has been in the works for several months, will focus heavily on two of Dallas’ most important food groups: burgers and barbecue. The ambiance will focus heavily on a “modern roadhouse vibe,” which is apparently created by adding “rustic wood planks, cushy booths and bar-height tables with nail-head trim stools,” according to Eater Dallas.
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In the restaurant’s “Little Red Smoker,” Rathbun will be applying Texas’ favorite ingredient to meats of all kinds. Pepper-crusted wagyu brisket and shaved roti pork shoulder are particular standouts, along with the usual sausage and spare ribs. A rotating smoked fish and house-made sausage of the day round out the menu, giving Rathbun a little room to stretch his creative legs. Napa transplant and chef de cuisine Jeff Qualls will help Rathbun man the smoker.
As far as the burgers are concerned, Rathbun has made a concerted effort to make sure they’re not just a repeat of other restaurants’ offerings. A 44 Farms burger served with fried egg and hollandaise sounds like a hungover bruncher’s dream come true, while a smoked burnt ends chili burger will appeal to the gluttons among us. Alternative protein options, like portobello mushrooms, buffalo and lamb, also make appearances.
Perhaps most exciting are the dessert options. Served in little cast iron cobbler skillets, dishes like Maw Maw’s Buttermilk Pie and a Texas-size chocolate cupcake as big as your face look to be pretty stellar options. You can wash that all down with local craft beer, bourbon flights or a cocktail from the bar’s short menu. Even though that cocktail menu doesn’t offer much variety, $9 per drink is as close as you get to a bargain when you’re talking about swanky cocktails.
Hickory opens today for its first service after a short soft-opening this weekend. Most entrees are in the $10-$15 range, so if you’ve been too broke to check out a Rathbun restaurant before, now is your chance.