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Yesterday we loaded ourselves and our dogs into the car and took a little road trip to Owensboro KY to try some real traditional Kentucky barbecue. When we moved to Louisville, a lot of friends asked about the Louisville BBQ scene. While Louisville is a center of great food and has excellent BBQ, it isn’t a city with a deep BBQ tradition.
But the state of Kentucky has it’s own BBQ tradition, and it is quite unique. Kentucky BBQ centers around the city of Owensboro, and is primarily made with mutton rather than pork or beef that you see in other parts of the USA.
Mutton? Yup mature sheep are the center of this delicious tradition that dates back to the 1800s.
Based on a recommendation from a friend who grew up in Owensboro, we checked out Old Hickory Bar-B-Que for our first foray into the Owensboro BBQ scene and, wow, it was impressive.
Our friend recommended the chopped mutton sandwich, so that was on our list, and with the help of the delightful Hickory staff, we also ordered the sliced mutton, smoked bologna, smoked beef brisket, BBQ beans (some of the best ever), coleslaw and macaroni and cheese. We also had to get some of their traditional and spicy BBQ sauce as they were fantastic.
While waiting for the order, we were generously given samples of pork ribs, brisket, and chicken and had a great time chatting with the staff. They had no idea what our background is, and we had fun watching them tasting a new Coca Cola product and deciphering the flavors together, centering on nutmeg as a key flavor in the beverage. What a hoot to overhear. This also shows how much they love what they do.
At Old Hickory, their 100-year-old recipes involve the most important things, high quality ingredients and patience. They let their meats smoke for more than 20 hours, and this shines through in the final product. We were blown away by everything, but the chopped mutton sandwich was special. The tang and texture reminded Thomas of some of his favorite North Carolina pulled pork sandwiches, though the mutton has its own character that makes it a truly unique dish. We gave it our highest rating of 4 spoons.
The pups got to try some of the brisket. Our foster puppy (Rio) went absolutely crazy with this new discovery, and Briscoe and Pepper were also laser-focused on this delicious treat. They gave the brisket their highest rating of 6 paws!
P.S. The entire Pinch team also wants to thank Meaghan, Pinch’s resident vegetarian, for joining us on this journey. While we would love to see more options for vegetarians, we also understand that’s not always going to be a focus.