A couple of weeks ago, we were in the mood for a messy, Southern style dinner. So naturally, we decided to visit one of my favorite Southern restaurants, Hillbilly Heaven. They used to have two locations (one on upper James, the other on King St. East), but have more recently closed down the mountain location and, as of this posting, just closed their King St. location. That may not seem like a good indication, but see what we have to say…
Ambiance & Decor
For this review, we visited the King St. Location. Inside the doors is a small, very simple restaurant. It feels a bit like a mix between a café and a diner that specializes in smoked meat. The interior is covered in “interesting” decor that could maybe be considered Southern? I’ve not been to the South myself, and so I’m not the best to ask for authenticity here. Anyway, we both really enjoyed the super laid-back feel of the restaurant. Upon entering, the friendly server said we could grab any seat we’d like, and if we were thirsty, to grab a drink from the fridge. We’re both a fan of the trust they show in their customers and the relaxed atmosphere it creates.
Food & Drink
The menu here is very simple – all the dishes are some combination of beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, ribs, and sides. Nicole and I opted to order the beef brisket and the pulled pork sandwiches, but unfortunately they were out of pulled pork – apparently it’s very popular. I think it’s worth highlighting the fact that once their daily batch of something runs out, it’s gone for the night. It’s certainly a bit frustrating if you had your heart set on that item, but what it shows is that the meat they cooked is slow cooked well in advance, as it should be. Anyway, I’ll mention quickly that on previous visits, I’ve had the pulled pork and it’s very good.
Nicole ended up ordering the pulled chicken. We both thought it was very good, no frills pulled chicken. It was moist, well cooked, and simple. Nicole’s only complaint was actually the bun. We both thought that a higher quality bun could have really rounded out the sandwich.
I ended up with my favorite dish, beef brisket. The beef brisket here is excellent – great flavor, tender meat, and even the tips are slightly crispy. On this particular visit, the brisket wasn’t as good as usual due to too much oil. Now I know brisket is an oily dish – slow cooking renders fat between the muscles, and normally it makes the meal super delicious. Unfortunately, I think this sandwich may have been made from the bottom of the brisket barrel, and so I ended up with more oil than usual – enough to fully soak the bottom bun. If this had been my only visit, I would have been put off, but I’ve been in the past and know that their usual dish isn’t this oily.
Next, the sauces. This is an important point at a southern BBQ restaurant. I’ve left them out up until now because I believe the two above sandwiches can stand alone without the sauce which says a lot about the quality of the smoked meat. That being said, they definitely are improved with a generous helping of the Hillbilly Heaven BBQ sauce (in either normal or spicy). The sauce itself is good and adds to the sandwich, though I would only rate it as slightly better than average. It would be nice to see a selection of sauces in different styles from around the South – there are some distinctly different and delicious sauces that come out of the different states down there!
Finally, the sides. Nicole got the “mac n cheese,” and I use quotes because we both felt that it was definitely a pasta salad instead of a mac n cheese. It was served cold with shredded cheese and a creamy (mayonaise?) base. Our server suggested their Hillbilly Heaven powder on the mac n cheese, and we fully recommend taking this advice! I ordered the BBQ Beans, which were cooked with peppers, onions, and apple. I liked the sound of it, but unfortunately the bean taste dominated, so I couldn’t taste any of these other flavors. In the end, they just tasted like regular old beans to me.
Service & Price
Our server was extremely friendly and did a great job running the whole restaurant by himself. We both liked the casual, seat yourself aspect and the laid back atmosphere.
The prices at Hillbilly Heaven were just fantastic – all the main meals (plus one side) came in at around $10 each which is terrific value, considering the generous portions. They also had some great lunch deals for less than $5!
The Final Word
Overall, we were very pleased with the restaurant. The excellent food, low prices, and laid back feel make for a excellent, no-frills lunch or dinner.
We give Hillbilly Heaven four out of five hammers.