Hickory House - A Regular Hit

550 Officenter Place, Gahanna, 43230 (614) 428-7427

WHAT:
Hickory House is not your typical "Outback." Walking into this cozy cabin-esque restaurant, you immediately get a sense of family history when surveying the art flanking the stucco walls. You have come to a welcoming place, one where employees are held in high regard; most have been around for an average of five years. And this is a place of regulars. People come around so often, they don’t even need a menu. This is the impression General Manager Jimmy Torchia aims to convey. "We’re just having a dinner party here and hope people will join us," he said. One dinner under your belt, and you too will be back for more.
 
WHO:
The Hickory House has been here and there, a figure in the Columbus market since the late ’70s, Torchia said. The original was founded in Reynoldsburg in 1979 by Jimmy’s uncle, Tony Torchia, who ran the operation with partner and friend Jim Alexander. Jim eventually left in ’84, and in ’90, Tony commissioned the help of longtime friend Don Pinnell. Together, they opened the Hickory House in Powell.

The Gahanna spot opened in 2003. Jimmy runs the place and has since the beginning. Not only that, it’s all his. He purchased it from Tony and Don just recently. The Powell location has since been sold and renamed, and Tony’s cousins are in the process of purchasing the Reynoldsburg property, keeping the restaurant’s name alive and strictly family run for now and the foreseeable future.  

WHEN:
Stop in for lunch any day of your work week. The restaurant opens daily at 11 a.m., but then not until 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There’s ample banquet room as well, for any of your private party needs - something to keep in mind with the holiday season right around the corner.

WHERE:
Heading south on Hamilton Road, you’ll run into a busy thoroughfare before you make a right on Morrison Road. Though it may seem you’ve taken a wrong turn, continue through this residential area until you see the spot on the left.

THE TEST:
Just settling into our comfy booth, we were presented with a frothy Raspberry Martini, not too sweet, and cool with tiny flecks of ice. The first item up was a half order of Hickory Chips - just half could feed four - 1/4-inch thick and blanketed with gooey Cheddar cheese, bacon bits, and Cajun seasoning. The best part: these come with house-made BBQ sauce, distinguishably unique here for its tomato tanginess.

Up next, a Dortmunder from local brewer L. Hoster’s, here one of the top drink picks among regular guests. A fat plate of onion straws followed, along with Blackened Grilled Shrimp, served with buttery, creamy Cajun sauce. The blackened bits and delayed spiciness of the sauce gave this dish its appeal.

No visit to any local haunt is complete, either, without a nibble from the standard bread basket and house salad. The crusty warm Pisano bread here, similar to French, perfectly soaks up the house-made sweet-and-sour dressing drizzled throughout the greens.

Then, we feasted our eyes on meat - lots of meat, and if there’s one remarkable tidbit to comment on about this place, it’s the meat - it was all so delectably tender and most of all, super juicy. The kitchen uses an innovative infrared oven to roast it all. It’s seared and then deposited in a ceramic brick oven into honey-comb like compartments. New York Strip, Porterhouse, Pork Loin - it was all succulent, even the Salmon, which came dolloped in parsley lemon butter.

A couple of other plates we were anxious to dive into: The Parmesan Crusted Chicken, coated in Panko breadcrumbs and laced with creamy Mornay sauce. The menu claims this spot has the "Best Rack in Town" - ribs, that is, and we think this might be an accurate claim. Tender, of course, and pretty pink, these guys come with deliciously crunchy blackened bits and smeared with the aforementioned BBQ sauce.

After a couple of sips from the house Margarita and lemony Long Island Iced Tea, we collected ourselves for the Triple Layer Chocolate Mousse, constructed with dark, milk and white chocolate creams, before parting ways with all of our newfound friends.