Since serving its first customer in 1957, the Hickory Pit Stop (originally known as Jim & Joe’s) has become a Bar-B-Q landmark for generations of Evansville residents and visitors alike. Customers flock to the North Main Street restaurant for its renowned barbecue amid a nostalgic family atmosphere with what is probably the only original brick pit left in operation in Southern Indiana.
On any given day, the Hickory Pit Stop stirs with a crowded restaurant of lunchtime or dinner guests engaged in conversation. Men and women in business attire sit next to city and railroad workers, seniors may be sharing the same table as college students. They are people from different ages and backgrounds all drawn to this Evansville landmark for one reason – barbeque cuisinelike hickory smoked pork and ribs that has lured generations of Evansville residents and visitors here since the Ellison family opened the restaurant in 1957.
Nostalgic photographs from the restaurant’s 3 generations of owners, and current owner Jeff Ellison’s son Cameron who proudly claims to be the 4th generation owner, adorn the walls. The wood building, reminiscent of a traditional mom and pop place, sits at the corner of North Main and Morgan streets, next to the railroad tracks and across from historic Bosse Field. The Hickory Pit Stop is still a destination for couples, families and solo diners who savor hickory smoked and slow-cooked ribs, chicken and pork.
While you can feel the building shake as a train goes by, the Hickory Pit Stop is not only known for it’s special effects and mouth-watering menu, it’s now known for its award winning competition BBQ team. Jeff Ellison is the restaurant’s current owner and the BBQ team’s Pit Master. Jeff’s wife Tammy, son Cameron and several family members and friends make up the current Pit Stop team.
The BBQ team has steadily collected numerous awards since their formation in 1999. Some of their most coveted awards include the Indiana State Championship BBQ Sauce which has led to the sauce now being bottled and sold under the Hickory Pit top name. Another award being when they received the Pass Down at a sanctioned event in Evansville in 2004. That Pass Down made the team eligible to compete at the 2005 Memphis in May International BBQ competition where the team placed 12th in the World in the Lawry’s People’s Choice in BBQ event.
The Hickory Pit Stop and it’s BBQ team are huge community supporters. The Ellisons are members of St.Theresa Parish and help support their church and it’s school with their time and talents. The restaurant and BBQ team have participated in and have hosted local fundraisers for individuals requiring surgery, local law enforcement, the Tri-State MS Society, the Otters baseball team and various other events.
The BBQ team has been mentioned in various print media publications such as the KCBS Bullsheet, the National Barbecue News and Tri-State newspapers and magazines. The Ellisons are also mentioned on pages 122-123 in the book “The Grill of Victory” by William Brohaugh, a judge with more than 20 years on the BBQ circuit.
The Hickory Pit Stop’s owner Jeff Ellison keeps current on his BBQ knowledge and skills by networking with other BBQ efficianados such as Mike Mills with 17th Street Barbecue and Paul McKay with Aussom Aussie BBQ and with other teams on the BBQ circuit. Jeff also attends seminars like the one hosted in April 2009 by Oncue Consulting. Also in Jeff’s wood burning arsenal you will find a slew of smokers including an Ole Hickory Pit, a Fast Eddy and a couple of Backwoods Smokers.
What truly makes this restaurant and competition BBQ team unique are their strong family ties and friendships. Jeff and his wife Tammy would not be able to carry-out this family tradition without the love and help from family and friends, the work of valuable employees, and the continued support from long-time customers and the Evansville community.
If you haven’t tried the barbecue, there is not a better time than now!