Barbecue and sides served buffet style during the opening party for Hickory.

Barbecue and sides served buffet style during the opening party for Hickory.

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer

A fine-dining chef is getting into the barbecue business. Chef Kent Rathbun, who is behind fancier restaurants Abacus and Jasper's, is making smoked meats and rotisserie chicken at Hickory near Highway 121 and the Dallas North Tollway in Plano.

Chef Jeff Qualls checks briskets in a smoker at Hickory on June 4, 2015. The restaurant uses a J&R Manufacturing smoker.

Chef Jeff Qualls checks briskets in a smoker at Hickory on June 4, 2015. The restaurant uses a J&R Manufacturing smoker.

Kye R. Lee/Staff Photographer

Hickory opened on Monday, June 15.

"You shouldn't get into barbecue unless you know how to do it," Rathbun says. Good point. He's been eating barbecue since he was a kid in Kansas City and has since adopted many of the Texas techniques. His menu at Hickory will showcase several U.S. barbecue styles.

He's putting burnt ends -- a Kansas City tradition -- in chili. Diners can also order burnt ends a la carte, though they're not on the menu. (Call it a secret.) 

Rathbun also has pepper-crusted Wagyu brisket on the menu, a nod to Texas barbecue. And his "thin-shaved roti pork shoulder" comes with a mustard-brown sugar glaze and represents 'cue in the Carolinas. 

All carved meat is served by the half-pound, sliced or on a sandwich. Diners can also order a meat-lover's combo, which is three types of barbecue for $14.

Beyond barbecue, Hickory also does burgers and tacos -- "three of Texans' favorite things," the chef says.

Starters include waffle fries with blue cheese, corn bread and smoked sausage fondue. The restaurant also has dressed-up barbecue sides like molasses baked beans with bacon and charred jalapeno creamed corn.

Starters include waffle fries with blue cheese, corn bread and smoked sausage fondue. The restaurant also has dressed-up barbecue sides like molasses baked beans with bacon and charred jalapeno creamed corn.

Kye R. Lee/Staff Photographer

Burgers mostly have a Texan or Southwestern flair. The Texas Roadhouse Burger is a beef patty (made of brisket, short rib and chuck), topped with smoked cheddar and caramelized onions and served on Texas toast. The burnt ends chili also lands on a burger dressed with roasted poblanos, cheddar and sour cream. Of the 10 sandwiches on the menu, Rathbun's favorite comes in a pita with lamb, feta tzaziki, lemon and arugula.

The maple-cured beef bacon BLT is perhaps the most unique.Never heard of it? Beef bacon is cured and smoked beef belly. It looks like bacon but is, in fact, beef. 

Beef bacon is cured and smoked beef belly. It looks like bacon but is, in fact, beef.

Rathbun's tacos, $3 each, are "like gas station tacos," he explains: pork shoulder shaved from a trompo, plus daily specials like grilled chicken or shrimp.

Rathbun describes his new restaurant as his most casual so far, and more "cowboy" than the rest. The interior walls of the restaurant are covered in barn wood. 

"I call it a modern Texas roadhouse," Rathbun explains, "approachable, casual, fun, with a level of sophistication."

Take a look inside:

Hickory

Hickory has TVs inside and a large patio outside.

It began by serving dinner at 5 p.m., seven days a week. 

[UPDATE on Aug. 24: Hickory now serves lunch. Lunch and dinner hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday, and dinner only, 4 to 9 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday.]

Hickory is located at 8100 Dallas Parkway in Plano.

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