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Saving the Barbecue: Hickory Pit Gets New Owners, New Look

By Michele D. Baker

This article first appeared in the October/November 2023 issue of eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI.

Hickory Pit Barbecue, outside

Alex and Sarah Frisbee considered it “saving the barbecue.” While having a pleasant drink at Amerigo’s bar with friend and Hickory Pit owner Ginger Watkins, Watkins mentioned she was ready to either sell the famous pig joint or close it down altogether. “We bought it to keep it open,” says Alex, grinning through his beard from beneath a cowboy hat. “It was a fixture from our neighborhood, and I grew up on the family meal party packs,” chimes in Sarah.

The couple had no restaurant experience, although Alex Frisbee’s dad Ted had run two restaurants – Café Beignet and Nana’s on the River – in Vicksburg. The Frisbees joked that in the 15 years of their marriage they “ate out a lot” and had joked about owning a restaurant, so when Watkins mentioned Hickory Pit, they jumped at the chance. Using skills honed through her work as an interior decorator and painter, Sarah began the process of respectfully redesigning the interior, adding her own touches and updating the décor. Alex jumped into the deep end of running a kitchen, learning everything there was to know about meat, spice, and grilling.

“Everything we serve is made from scratch onsite except for the onion rings,” brags Alex. “All the sauces are made in house, the comeback, the ranch, and the salsa. Even the tortilla chips.” Many of the reasons that people love and continue to visit Hickory Pit will remain the same: a menu of 95% scratch-made items, best quality meats with no additives or preservatives (including meat by the pound and the ever-popular Party Packs), and a delicious range of sides and desserts.

Although the staples are staying much the same, the Frisbees are excited about some of the additions to the much-beloved menu. “We’ve started a Taco Tuesday – which is very popular – and added a Korean BBQ Brisket taco, and on Freedom Fridays there is a beer and sausage dog special,” says Alex. The updated menu includes the new Brisket Grilled Cheese (or any of Hickory Pit’s meats), a melt-in-the-mouth comfort; the Big A’s Slaw Burger, a single burger with slaw and pepperjack cheese; and the “Queenie,” a full barbecued chicken.

Sarah’s artistic influence is also apparent. In addition to freshening up the look inside and out, the front counter area will offer additional cold case space for chicken salad, pimiento cheese, and smoked egg salad, available as sandwiches or prepackaged for purchase. Any of their meats can be bought by the pound as lunchmeat, and the Frisbees plan to begin offering more salads (including a chopped salad), green beans, and mac and cheese as side options. Both Frisbees follow a gluten-free diet, so expect more gluten free options such as gluten free bread and gluten sensitive desserts (all meats are naturally gluten free).

There will also be a beer cooler inside featuring locally made beer including Vicksburg’s gluten-free Key City varieties, and patrons will also be able to buy many of the house-made sauces, freshly made and bottled on site, and HP merchandise like shirts, hats, koozies and mugs. The couple has also doubled down on their catering, partnering with Fresh Cut Catering.

Changes are also coming to the outside of the restaurant, too, and after the proposed patio expansion, the Frisbees want to encourage brown bag beer and “well behaved dogs.”

The couple is also excited about the possibilities for collaborating with other restaurants and nearby farms. “We’re talking to Sal and Phil’s about potentially offering our Hershey Pie there, and we are hoping to partner with Taqueria La Guadalupe to serve tamales,” says Alex.

Hickory Pit’s new incarnation is proving to be an exceptional success. “We welcome everybody to drop on by for all your old favorites and take a look at the new changes,” says Alex. “Don’t worry,” he finishes, “you’ll still find all the things you love.” The Frisbees have saved the barbecue after all, and despite the refreshes, updates, and changes, all is firmly within the spirit (and the palate) of the beloved original.

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