Hickory River Smokehouse Barbecue Restaurant Chain Expands Into Florida; Founder Brad Bowman Owns & Operates The State's First Location, In The Fort Walton Beach Area

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Successful restaurateur Brad Bowman, founder of the Hickory River Smokehouse barbecue restaurant chain, expanded into the Southeast with the opening of his first Hickory River Smokehouse restaurant in Florida, in the Fort Walton Beach area.

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"Just like the Midwest before we opened our first restaurant there in 1995, Florida has been missing out on high-quality authentic Texas-style Barbecue. It was a logical decision to expand into Florida," said Hickory River Smokehouse Founder Brad Bowman.

As you may have heard (or if you are lucky, tasted), Hickory River Smokehouse recently opened its first restaurant in the Fort Walton Beach, Florida area. But did you know that this is the Texas-style Barbecue restaurant chain’s first location in Florida and in the Southeast? And did you know that Hickory River Smokehouse’s founder Brad Bowman is also the owner and operator of the Fort Walton Beach area restaurant?

So what prompted Brad, a very successful restaurateur with seven Hickory River Smokehouse locations in Illinois and Ohio, to venture into Florida, and specifically to the Fort Walton Beach area?

“Just like the Midwest before we opened our first restaurant there in 1995, Florida has been missing out on high-quality authentic Texas-style Barbecue,” said Brad, whose Hickory River Smokehouse this year captured the prestigious Grand Champion honor (first place) for “Best Pulled Pork” at the Ohio State Fair for the fifth time. “It was a logical decision to expand into Florida, and then my wife Krista and I visited Fort Walton Beach and fell in love with the town and the beautiful pristine Gulf beaches. I knew this was the ideal location for our first restaurant in the Sunshine State. Also, being a veteran I am very proud to serve – and live in – this wonderful veteran community, where I truly feel at home.”

Brad continued, “I was a Marine stationed in Hawaii when I first experienced real Texas barbecue when I visited my wife-to-be Krista’s family in Texas. I couldn’t believe how delicious, flavorful and unique it was. It later became my passion to bring that authentic flavor to Illinois, where I lived, and we’ve nicely expanded in that region. It is so exciting to now expand into Florida, the Southeast, and specifically the Fort Walton Beach area.”

So what differentiates Hickory River Smokehouse from other barbecue restaurants? True to its name, the casual full-service restaurant features an on-site smokehouse located at the back of the kitchen. Unlike other styles of barbecue concepts around the country, Hickory River applies a special signature blend of seasonings (dry-rub) to their high-quality meats and then slowly smokes them for more than 13 hours using hickory wood, resulting in one of the most tender, flavored meats in the barbecue restaurant business. The dry-rub recipe is secret, but is rumored to be a perfectly-honed blend of sugar, salt, and such spices as chili powder, garlic, and cayenne. The unique barbecue concept, rooted in recipes that you would expect to find in Central Texas, was launched by Brad in 1995 with the opening of his first location in Urbana, Illinois.

With a focus on flavor, quality, and “down home” Texas hospitality, the restaurant specializes in such dishes as Pulled Pork Sandwich (a multiple State Fair winner), Sliced Beef Brisket, Baby Back Pork Ribs, Texas Hot Links, Smoked Chicken, Ranch Beans, and Homemade Chili. Other savory menu items include Chopped or Pork Loin, Low-Fat Smoked Turkey, Smoked Country Ham, Polish Sausage, Potato Salad, Sweet Potato Fries, and the Country Ham Sandwich. Unique items like the Pulled Pork Nachos and Smoked Texas Tater have become very popular as well. Delicious homemade desserts such as Cobbler and Brownies also are offered. The restaurant also offers full bar service, as well as catering services.

Hickory River Smokehouse’s signature barbecue sauce – based on Brad’s father’s special recipe from his Pennsylvania diner, and fine-tuned and perfected by Brad and Krista over the years -- is prized for its blend of tangy, sweet, and smoky flavors. The restaurant’s mouth-watering Hot Sauce is also very popular.

“We are very proud that we have been so well-received in the Fort Walton Beach area, and are privileged to already have so many loyal customers to our restaurant, who have really embraced our truly flavorful and unique style of real Texas Barbecue,” said Brad. “We are excited that we are now able to share this delicious barbecue in Florida.”

The new Hickory River Smokehouse restaurant in the Fort Walton Beach area is located at 321 Mary Esther Blvd. in Mary Esther. It is open Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. For more information, or to see a menu, visit http://www.hickoryriver.com or call (850) 362-6474.

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Karen Lamonica
Hickory River Smokehouse
+1 407-788-7070 Ext: 208
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