Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q A Royal Treat

During a recent motoring trek from Cuba to Sullivan along historic Route 66 (I avoid the interstate at all costs), my eyes and grumbling stomach forced me into the gravel parking lot of an interestingly named rustic eatery aptly named Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q.

The “Hick” part of the name justified my instant belief and understanding that any (and all) Missouri hicks know how turn anything barbecuable into a culinary masterpiece. And, I’m proud to report, I couldn’t have been more right – the food was some of the best I’ve found anywhere in the Show-Me-State.

On that particular day, I had little time to do any business other than applying the art of sauce-to-shirt and quieting the rumbling of an embarrassingly loud (and empty) gut. That accomplished, I made it a point to return for a little more investigation into this new place of barbecue worship situated a few hundred yards from the city limit sign in the Crawford County town of Cuba.

“We will definitely come back here,” said Missouri Hick patron Judy Knudsen, who recently moved to the area from Dallas, Texas. “As a matter of fact, we’re coming back this evening to sit upstairs on the balcony.”

Knudsen stated that the barbecue that she was experiencing during an afternoon lunch was as good as the places found in Texas.

Her friend – and Chicago native – Sally Krause agreed with the review and plan to return.

“Chicago has great pizza and Italian Beef,” said Krause. “But they don’t have a clue as to how to make good barbecue like this.”

Other visitors, some first-timers to the “Hick”, mingled with veterans that know the value of great food on a local scale. One gentleman politely stated that his “choppers” were too busy reducing the size of a half-slab of ribs to talk to any reporter. “This is his first trip here,” said another member of the table.

Before I let you explore the awesome menu through the wonders of print, you should be aware that this IS NOT one of those “hole-in-the-wall” wonders that somebody’s neighbor or cousin’s best friend says he knows about. The décor is like Hicksville Hollywood, the finest Ozarkian style encompassing finished cedar and antiques of an era lost to time and technology – granny’s cabin in splendor.

The minimal use of neon beer signs is a definite plus, which gives it a good old family feel. The pace is easy and the atmosphere quiet – nothing to distract one from a plate of ribs, one of a variety of sandwiches, a salad, or the incredible hickory smoked barbecue chicken.

With wood floors and tables – everything essentially in the wood motif – the feel is constantly and always as advertised. Antiques adorn the walls throughout the two-story restaurant, which was opened in February of last year. Old iron cookware and an amazing variety of old tools adorn the walls. Even pitchforks lend the feel to the Ozarks lifestyle – what better tool does an old Missouri hick need for an honest day’s work?

One of the most impressive features is a set of finished cedar steps that take the patron to the upstairs (smoking allowed only upstairs) and the outdoor covered balcony – you probably haven’t seen anything as impressive in any stairwell in Crawford County.

The second floor seating area is decidedly in line with the first, but the best part of climbing the steps is getting to the balcony, which sports a grand vista of historic Route 66, which winds its way from town to town along the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks.

The balcony has plenty of room to spread elbows and sling sauce, six tables with two oversized for large groups – or for someone with a “hickuva” an appetite needing lots of plate space. The upstairs can accommodate groups of 50 or more.

Oh, the food. I started with a pulled pork sandwich, which is pork shoulder roast, dry-rubbed, then slow-smoked on the rotisserie for hours. A small pulled pork sandwich goes down the gullet for only $4.49, a large just a little under a buck-and-a-half more. My pulled pork was excellent and filling, kind of made me want to lay around in the shade with my dog and enjoy a nice Missouri breeze before the next round. Other sandwiches include: smoked pulled chicken, turkey breast, smoked sausage (I heard it’s worth a three-county drive), jumbo hot dog ($2.95), ham and swiss, or Ruben’s ($6.95) on toast with Tiger Sauce or Thousand Island. All sandwiches come with chips, pickle, and choice of one side (more than a dozen available).

I didn’t have enough room for a salad, but I saw one – Wow! Accurately described as a large bowl of salad greens, topped with tomatoes, two kinds of cheese, bacon bits, scallions…and your choice of chicken or turkey and lots of dressings to choose from. Like an old Missouri musket, this thing is big and loaded and only $4.95.

There’s also a huge spud that comes as loaded as any you’ll ever see ($4.95) and tons of side dishes to choose from. Small side dishes may be purchased for a buck, pints $2.50, quarts $4.00 and gallons for $14.00.

But the real magnet has got to be the ribs. Hickory smoked for that authentic flavor, full slabs dinners are $15.95, one-third slabs only $7.95, and half-slabs $8.95. A smoked one-half chicken is $5.95 and a six-ounce pork loin dinner only $6.95 (10 oz. $3 more), and a brisket dinner is $7.95. Dinners are served with a choice of two sides and Texas toast (the only thing borrowed from Texas!).

Don’t want a dinner or want a carry-out? No problem, just ask. And Missouri Hick also has specials and can accommodate groups or holiday meat requests – again, just ask. A kid’s menu is also offered.

For those seeking real Missouri barbecue – or just a great place to relax inside or out – Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q is perhaps the best set of fixin’s on Old Route 66. To get there, take I-44 West to Cuba and proceed south on Hwy. 19 until the Old 66 intersection, turn left (east). Or better yet, take the scenic route along the South Service Road (from Sullivan/Bourbon/Leasburg) – otherwise known as Old 66 – until you see the big two-story rustic building (formerly a Texaco Station/Annex Café) on the right. Located at 913 E. Washington, Cuba, MO. Phone 573-885-6791. Closed Monday.