Cracker Barrel’s Barbeque Baby

After taking a few weeks off of barbeque due to our real lives, we are back and found ourselves in Lee’s Summit at the Summit Hickory Pit BBQ. They are the self proclaimed “Home of Lee’s Summit style barbeque.”  I’m still not quite sure exactly what that is supposed to mean.

We arrived there at about 7:30pm on a Saturday night to find the place very crowded.  In fact, this was actually just the second table service restaurant where we have encountered a wait.  The first was Jack Stack and I’m not really including Oklahoma Joe’s into the mix because it is not table service as you are in line to order the entire time.  As you approach the entrance of the brick building, which by the way is huge, you find yourself passing old benches, re-purposed planters, and antique garage finds that pickers would have a hay day over.  It was a nice attempt at making a large building set right off of a highway seem more personal and country-like.

Walking in the doors you discover that they have taken that subtle antique theme from outside and allowed it to explode all over the entryway and lobby.  Elwood’s first words were “This is what it would be like if Cracker Barrel and Longhorn had a barbeque baby.”  On top of the antique style furniture, benches, and counter, they were selling little trinkets and jewelry that resembled what you might find in a small tent of a roadside carnival or state fair.  We experienced a similar decor at Hillsdale Bank BBQ, but in their defense, the Hillsdale Bank building had actual historical significance.  Most of charm was lost on us in the Summit Hickory Pit.  It was just over the top, but amusing nonetheless.

Aside from the decorations, they did have their own wall of fame with celebrity visitors.  Pictures and autographs included David Cook, American Idol champion from 2008 and Lee’s Summit local Fred Arbanas, a Kansas City Chief from most of the 1960′s.  It isn’t quite the same caliber as some of the bigger BBQ institutions around town, but it’s a start.

As we opened our menu, we began to realized how artificial this restaurant felt.  It really comes off as a large corporate chain and even had logos of their food suppliers at the bottom.  Not counting side dishes or appetizers, they had 50 items on their dinner menu.  FIFTY!  Of those 50 items, 16 were clearly labeled as non-barbeque.  I think we were beginning to see what “Lee’s Summit style barbeque” actually means.  Let me see if I can sum it up for everyone: “Corporate chain-style restaurant environment that happens to serve some barbeque, where suburbanites who are familiar with going out to a fancy dinner at the Olive Garden will feel more comfortable.”  Oh, and in case you were wondering, they also have a lunch menu.

The one thing that stood out from the typical big corporate chain feel was the service.  The entire staff was friendly and seemed to really be on top of their game.  Were were greeted quickly and once we reached our table our server was on the ball throughout the whole meal.  She helped us maximize our side dish variety since many of the combo plates standard accompaniments would have left us doubled and tripled up.  Our drinks were always kept full and she was very pleasant to deal with overall.

My thoughts on the food:

Burnt Ends:  While Elwood found a few that had decent beef flavor, I wasn’t as lucky.  In fact, I was in trouble on my very first bite when the burnt end resembled beef jerky more than anything.  It was completely inedible.  The fact that they drenched it in sauce did not save the over cooked, and poorly reheated piece of rock-hard beef.

Ham: Had a hint of maple syrup flavor but the overall dry texture didn’t do it any favors.

Brisket:  It was served sauced but the meat was dry.  Though the coloring was present, there wasn’t much smoke flavor.  It was pretty chewy.

Chicken:  Wow, this was like rubber.  It seemed terribly overcooked and was bathed in sauce to the point that I couldn’t tell what it was on the the plate.  The chewiness took away from any of the flavor that may still have been lingering.

Ribs:  These looked like they had the potential to be good, but again the dryness and overcooked, reheated meat just wore them out.  The smoke flavor was decent.  Probably the most pronounced smoke flavor out of all of the meat.

Sausage:  It was basically a beef summer sausage.  You don’t find beef sausage on the menu often.  It wasn’t bad. It held a decent smoke flavor.

Sliced Pork:  Again, another dry meat.  It didn’t really have any smoke coloring or flavor and it was just too hard to get past the dryness to enjoy any of it.

Turkey:  The choice meat of my wife happens to usually be the least interesting thing we order.  However, unfortunately, the turkey here was probably our favorite meat out of everything.  It was seasoned well and moist.

Sides:

Corn Nuggets: This was one of two appetizers we ordered. They were served hot with ranch dressing.  They are about what you would expect.  Creamy corn on the inside and a crisp fried shell.

Burnt End Queso Dip: The was the other appetizer we ordered.  The chips had a bbq seasoning sprinkled on them and the queso dip was decent.  The beef settled down at the bottom of the bowl.  We didn’t realize there was any in there until almost all of the cheese was gone.

Coleslaw: This arrived about five minutes before the rest of

the meal.  It was finely chopped and a little sweet.  There was celery seed and some finely chopped carrots mixed throughout.  It had a feel of a supermarket mass produced slaw.

Potato Salad: It was mustard based and a little creamy.  Like the slaw, it too had a mass produced feeling.

Hickory Pit Beans: The beans were sweet, smoky, and pretty

good.  There were decent sized chunks of beef mixed through the beans.

Cheesy Potato Casserole:  The potatoes were covered with a thick layer of melted cheddar cheese.  There was a subtle hit of herbs in each bite, but not a lot of seasoning overall.

Regular Fries: They were crisp and warm but nothing special.  They were a typical frozen mass produced style that you see at many chain restaurants.

Sweet Potato Fries: They were crinkle cut, but lacked seasoning.  They were crunchy and served hot, so that was a plus.

Sauce:

They have an original sauce that all meat is covered in, unless you order it dry.  Though it is hard to imagine the meat any drier, we typically like to order it dry to let the meat speak for itself.  We didn’t realize ahead of time that everything is served sauced.  Fortunately, the sauce was decent.  It is a regular tomato ketchup based sauce with a slight tangy flavor.

We asked if they had any other sauces and our server produced a darker, thicker looking sauce and said this was their spicy sauce.  It had a chunky appearance when compared to their original.  It was a bit spicy but not overbearing.  It was clearly more peppery.  I liked it more than the original.

 

The Hard Data:

Location: 1012 Southeast Blue Parkway  Lee’s Summit, MO 64063

Service Type: Table Service

Alcohol Served: Full bar

Website: www.thesummithickorypitbbq.com

 

Price:

Sandwich: $8-11

Slab: $25

Combo Plate: $13-16

Sides: $2-4

Ratings:

Category

Jake Rating

Elwood Rating

Meat

5/10

4.5/10

Sides

6/10

4.5/10

Sauce

6/10

5/10

Service

9/10

8/10

Value

6/10

5/10

Overall Grade

B-

C

Summary:

Jake’s Take:

I am a bit saddened that this restaurant is the way it is.  I had high hopes as it is one of the closer BBQ restaurants to my house.  Though Lee’s Summit has grown quite a bit, they still have some restaurants that make you feel like you are in a small town when you walk inside.  To me, Summit Hickory Pit is trying too hard to create an environment of a small country BBQ joint, when in reality they are taking every aspect of their menu and food in the opposite direction.  It felt corporate and mass produced.  We were able to sample every smoked meat offering they had available on a Saturday night and only one was moist and not over cooked or reheated to the point of dehydrating.  This is a problem that has me baffled.  The restaurant was packed and we had about a ten minute wait.  Maybe I just don’t understand “Lee’s Summit Style barbeque.”

Elwood’s Take:

Meh.  That is about the best way I can sum up our visit to The Summit Hickory pit.  Let me say first that our service was really good.  It was actually disproportionately good to the quality of food we got.  I usually find that servers that know they are serving mediocre food give mediocre effort.  This was not the case on our visit.  However, the service was not enough to save a remarkably average food experience.  It seemed everything we ordered was prepared to be smack dab in the middle of the road.  The better items hit the mark.  However there were quite a few items that fell short. When the best case scenario for food is merely “okay” and the target is missed, the dining experience can turn South quickly.  From the corporate feel of the place, to the ridiculously elaborate menu to meat that was reheated/microwaved/heat lamped to the point of no return, to the thoroughly uninspired side dishes The Summit Hickory Pit was a total miss for me.  Other than the service, the only redeeming quality I saw was the huge portions of food.  Unfortunately, it was a plate full of “meh.”

 

Summit Hickory Pit BBQ on Urbanspoon

6 thoughts on “Cracker Barrel’s Barbeque Baby

  1. wow. don’t know who you guys are and really could careless. It amazes me how many people put up a blog and call themselves food critics. Critics is pretty much all you do. walk into a restaurant and critique away at what YOU don’t like. been going to SHP BBQ for nearly 18 years. moved up north out of state and could not wait to get back to midwest BBQ. nevermind gates, jack stack, etc – we wanted SHP BBQ. sounds like you fellas need to just stick to the boring non-personalized BBQ restaurants like oklahoma joe’s. shame on you. don’t recall critique of decor being included on a food critics list…if you don’t like antiques and vintage wares, ok. so what. at least you provided kindness towards their always excellent wait-staff. came across your blog as I googled for the site to order up some fried green beans, cheezy potato cass, sliced sausage, smoked chicken and super crunchy sandwiches. yum.

    • We do not claim to be critics. In fact, we acknowledge the exact opposite here: http://nobullbbq.com/about-us/
      Our review was based on our experience on one particular night and we stand by it.
      I’m glad you find one of your local joints at the top of your favorite BBQ list. It makes travel convenient and we always support people that support their local businesses.
      We appreciate you taking the time to read our site and share your opinion.
      -E

  2. I hope you boys didn’t quit your day jobs…and I hope you are much better at them than you are at being food critics. It is sad that just anyone can have a blog on the internet and trash someone’s business without having any credentials of their own. I have been to The Pit at least 30 times and have never, ever had any meat that was tough or not cooked perfect. The atmosphere, staff, and food at Summit Hickory Pit are second to none in Kansas City! And I have been to most of the BBQ restaurants in town. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a time recently where the owner didn’t even stop by and make sure everything was perfect. I am sorry that you two didn’t have the same great experience and food that everyone else who eats there has. Best of luck to you.

    Robbie

    • Robbie-
      I disagree. I think it is pretty cool that we (you included) can all share our opinions on this topic. As I mentioned in the response to the above comment, we never claim to be critics. Also, I feel my receipt proving I am a paying customer is the only credential I need to share my thoughts. None of our meals have ever been “comped” or given to us by someone looking for a positive review. We have paid for every meal we have written about with money earned from our day jobs. (Which, we are better at than this. Which is why we get paid for that. And not this.)
      Again, good on you for supporting your local BBQ joints.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.
      -E

  3. After reading your review of Summit Hickory Pit, I felt compelled to reply. I wanted to share how my experience with this family owned and operated restaurant has been much different than your critique. You may live close to Lee’s Summit, but it’s apparent you don’t appreciate Lee’s Summit style barbeque; we’ll try not to hold that against you.

    My family and I have enjoyed the countless occasions over the past decade of dining at Summit Hickory Pit. The characteristic atmosphere, courteous staff, exceptional service and selection, combined with the genuinely devoted family of owners have established Summit Hickory Pit as an icon within the Lee’s Summit community.

    Your thoughts on the food were interesting. The burnt ends and sausage are two of my personal favorites. I strongly recommend the combo platter with bake beans instead of fries! I have also consumed literally pounds of the ribs which fall off the bone they are so tender. Summit Hickory Pit has plenty of appetizers to choose from as well. Again, my personal favorites are the fried mushrooms, but I hear the fried cheesy corn is also very popular.

    Perhaps your taste of barbeque differs from mine or you may have had an off day? Either way, I wanted to share my thoughts and experience and add to the conversation. I recommend you and “Elwood” revisit Summit Hickory Pit when your objective is not to critic or evaluate, but rather to enjoy and appreciate the dining experience.

  4. Thank you for the thorough review! Clearly, all reviews are subjective, but yours was also honest and informative. Some may not like to see what they know and love shown in a negative light, but light always reveals truth in all its imperfections. I have never eaten at the Summit Hickory Pit BBQ, but it was suggested to me as a possible venue for an upcoming dinner event. As a KCMO native and longtime barbeque aficionado, I was skeptical of a large, corporate chain serving up brisket in the ‘burbs. This review helped me make the right decision to avoid serving my guests less than the best, and sullying the name of Kansas City barbeque in the process.

    No doubt there are friendly faces at the restaurant (a good thing to know), but it sounds like SHP might do well to slim down its menu to re-focus on quality over quantity. Thanks again.

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