Hickory BBQ Smokehouse
One of our featured barbecue joints in Ulster County
Photographs by Roy Gumpel
With his easy-going air and encyclopedic knowledge of how to smoke just about anything (over hickory wood, that is), Steve Slutzky seems like a natural-born Southerner. Surprise — he’s really a city slicker, a Manhattan native who lived much of his adult life in that city and Washington, DC. He once worked in advertising and PR, but, 13 years ago, he caught the barbecue bug and opened this folksy Kingston roadhouse at the gateway to ski country.
All that travel exposed Slutzky to the many modes of ’cue, enabling him to mix and match styles. “We’ve borrowed from the best of each region and developed our own,” says this barbecue jefe, the “we” referring to his wife, Jill, who runs the front of the house, and his parents, Michael and Carol, who developed many of the main courses and sides. His brother Mark, a co-founder of the restaurant, is now a corporate chef in Chicago.
“The ribs are definitely Memphis-influenced,” says Slutzky, referring to the spicy rub, not the cut (which is the meaty St. Louis-style). Customers bliss out on the Carolina pulled-pork sandwich, served the traditional way with a cole slaw and pickle topping. While brisket here is Texas-inspired, the addition of a slew of fried onions is a nice twist.
You can’t go wrong with the combos. Try the irresistibly named Kingston Trio (beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey thigh) and the Barbecue Feast sampler, which throws smoked sausage into the mix. Favorite sides are hush puppies with whipped maple butter and Buffalo-style fried calamari with blue cheese. The braised green of the day is sure to have come from one of the nearby farms on Routes 28 and 209, while pigs from Hudson Valley Cattle Company and Murray’s Chickens stock the enormous smoker built into the side of the building, capable of swallowing up 750 pounds of meat at a pop.
To sauce or not to sauce: That’s up to you. Slutzky makes his in-house. Sweet, tomato-based sauce is a match for pork, while the chipotle tomato works great with brisket. More sweet than spicy, South Carolina mustard sauce makes turkey thighs sing. There’s also a jalapeño sauce to kick up whatever you like.
If you’re just grazing, sample wing plates in different styles: spicy Thai, X-hot Buffalo, and even sizzling peanut butter. They go down just fine with a New York brew like dark and creamy Mother’s Milk from Keegan’s in Kingston.
While you’re waiting for your food, there’s plenty to look at. The cozy dining room has galvanized metal light fixtures that cast a warm glow over each table, while the TV-filled bar is a paean to the chef/owner’s love of sports and is packed with signed baseballs, and other memorabilia. “These are things I had buried in the house — my wife was thrilled when I brought them here.”
Because dessert is usually an impossible dream after a hearty barbecue meal, you’d think people would skip it, but a surprising amount don’t. Created daily by Slutzky’s ever-industrious family, sweet treats like salted caramel pie, chocolate peanut-butter pie, and candy-bar cake served with homemade chocolate Butterfinger ice cream need no introduction. “Sometimes, people come in here just for that,” says Slutzky. “It’s a little embarrassing.” Why not compromise? Eat your barbecue and order dessert to go.