Hickory Park Restaurant in Ames – residing at 1404 S. Duff Ave., its third location in Ames since opening in 1970 – has grown to become a popular family friendly destination, with an extensive menu featuring their signature hickory smoked meats, plus appetizers, sides, salads, sandwiches and burgers, and a dizzying selection of ice cream treats that warrants its own placemat menu.
Despite its long history, it wasn't until this year I was afforded an opportunity to dine there. Twice even.
On my first visit, I was treated to dinner with the family Tessman: papa Ben, bassist for local metal band Pat1ent Zero; mama Jaime, owner of Graystitch, a hand-stitched clothing line for babies and mothers; and young Xander, their exuberant son.
Those of you follow me on social media know I have a soft spot for sausage. For my inaugural meal at Hickory Park, I went with the Homemade Smoked Sausage Dinner, with sides of BBQ beans, macaroni & cheese, and a dinner roll.
Hickory Park's housemade Polish sausage is made from a blend of beef and pork with spices, hand ground and cased, hickory smoked, and basted. The end result is flavorful and tender, and exhibits a well defined smoke ring. It is excellent! I find most smoked sausage needs some barbecue sauce for an added boost of flavor, but not in this instance. This sausage stands on its own! The beans and macaroni & cheese were okay. I found myself desirous for my tablemates' sides of mashed potatoes with gravy. Resourceful Ben ordered a double portion with his meal.
A little more than two weeks after that visit, I talked ex-workmate Rand Witke, a former copy editor with The Des Moines Register, into lunch at Hickory Park.
Rand opted for the Combination Dinner, with slices of smoked beef, turkey, and pork, a quarter chicken, four pork ribs, and a 6 oz. smoked sausage link, with sides of beans and potato salad. It was an epic amount of meat to behold from my vantage point, and much went home with Rand for several more meals.
Sticking with sausage, I went with the Hickory Park Grinder featuring their grilled and chopped house sausage on a hoagie bun, topped with melted Colby Jack and creamy, cool Cole slaw, plus a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. The meat tasted like a mild breakfast sausage. In no way does it resemble the classic Italian grinder so familiar in these parts. Don't try to compare it; just enjoy it as the unique sandwich that it is. The odd combination of sausage, Cole slaw, and Co-Jack is rather tasty. The potatoes and gravy are as homey as it gets, right down to the lumps. I nearly ordered seconds! The potato salad is chunky and creamy, sporting egg whites, and crunchy bits of red bell pepper and celery.
I tried to eschew dessert, but instead struck a bargain with Rand to share a Cherry-Fudge Sundae, with Wells Blue Bunny cherry nut ice cream, topped with cherries, hot fudge, whipped cream, and nuts.