Dickey's has a few misfires but the food is inexpensive and largely satisfying.
A whiff of smoke greets you at the door at Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Delaware.
Ohio's first franchise, which opened about two months ago in a strip mall just west of the downtown area, is using hickory to positive effect.
Dickey's, part of a Texas-based chain, is a no-frills operation with a fairly simple menu of sandwiches, platters and sides. It's a counter-service proposition, where meals are assembled per order. The lines tend to move quickly, but less so during busier times. For those who don't want to stand in line or dine in, there is a drive-through.
The restaurant takes on a familiar look: a slim storefront with booth seating, light woods and crimped metal paneling, and placards along the walls.
Where other barbecue joints tender several styles of sauce, Dickey's has just one: zingy with cherry, light on sweetness and smoke. (A spicier version punched up with hot peppers also is available.) It creates a delectable backdrop for the baked beans, some of the best in the business: firm and flavorful, more savory than sweet.
While we experienced a few inconsistencies, the meals overall were very satisfying, happily invoking summer cookouts in this dreadfully early onslaught of cold weather. Ribs ($7.75 a platter) were never disappointing, but on one visit we couldn't detect any smoke. On a follow-up, they were spectacular - meaty, taut and woodsy. Enjoy them naked or with a dip in the sauce.
The restaurant's worthwhile signature dish is the brisket, chopped into small pieces. Consider getting it in sandwich form ($4.25), a healthy but not gargantuan portion garnished with pickles and onions. Sliced brisket, tinged with a dry rub of spices, also is available.
A two-meat platter ($9.75 with a side) is a great way to sample a couple of choices and a side dish, typical of the barbecue genre. Of the four we tried, only the beans are better than average. The rest are serviceable but not great. Green beans are of the broad, flat Italian variety, cooked with bacon. The mac 'n' cheese uses shells in a goopy cheese and a topping of grated cheddar. And the baked potato casserole, described as a twice-baked potato, is little more than a scoop of mashed. Sides, ordered individually, are $1.75.
We happily ate our way through most of the menu, thoroughly enjoying the pulled pork and both sausages: a Polish style and spicy links, each cut into coins. Chicken breast, marinated in what tastes like Italian dressing, is juicy if uneventful. Same deal with the turkey loaf.
There are no baked desserts at Dickey's but there's complimentary soft-serve ice cream.
Central Ohio has seen a relative surge in barbecue in recent years, from locally grown concepts to national chains. Even if Dickey's is of the latter, it doesn't feel manufactured. Its greatest asset is its simplicity, honest food at a fair price. When done right, its barbecue is hard to beat.
Reservations: Not accepted
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily