What do you get when you cross a background in business with a love for food, and mix in a few years of retirement? The Hickory House in Jackson, Missouri. More than just a diner, the family friendly restaurant features made from scratch home-style entrees, hand cut meats, special recipe sauces, smoked meats and BBQ. The delicious aroma greets you like a warm hug as soon as you step in the door and beckons you to the dessert case.
Don’t let the unassuming exterior of the building fool you. Once you step through the front door it is home cooking through and through. The building houses a cozy and comfortable atmosphere reminiscent of grandma’s kitchen. The Hickory House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, it is the only sit-down service style breakfast of its kind in town.
Owners Ron and Bobbie Nevlis have always been in business together and always talked about opening a restaurant. Ron explains, “We were getting kind of bored and complacent in retirement and decided to do one more thing.” The couple, who have been married almost 50 years, fell in love with Jackson when visiting grandchildren from Florida. The business savvy pair had been keeping their eyes open for investment opportunities and found the right mix of small town charm and potential in the old Mazzios building. After eight months of do-it-yourself style renovations the couple opened the restaurant in 2010. Ron said the City was great to work with through the renovation process and was even surprised with a phone call from the Mayor herself.
The Nevlis thought that Jackson needed a sit down restaurant with a general menu that families could enjoy. Ron likes to see big groups come in because with such a wide selection on the menu there is something to please everyone. He says, “The menu is based on what we like and what the people like.” There is made to order fried chicken, homemade pastrami, catfish, kettle beef, and chicken and dumplings to name a few. There are also lighter dishes such as salads and soups. Ron enjoys doing some of the cooking. He’s been doing it his whole life and was a butcher during a time when people relied on them for instructions on how to cook certain cuts of meat.
Some of the recipes are family treasures that date back to the 1800’s. They still use cast iron pans to cook the cornbread and brown the meats. Even the meat for the salad is smoked and treated with care. Ron says, “We don’t use lunch meat here.”
That kind of care and tradition is what lends itself to the Hickory House name. The couple wanted to tie the name back to the town. They toyed with several versions of names that played on Andrew Jackson’s nickname of Old Hickory. They finally settled on the Hickory House even though they feared they would be pegged as a BBQ joint. Rest assured if you want great BBQ they’ve got it, but home cooking is their specialty.
When asked what the Hickory House is famous for Ron kind of laughs and modestly says, “Well I don’t know that we are famous but people say the burgers are the best they’ve ever had”. Modesty aside, how can you go wrong with a hand-cut and custom blended burger?
Ron and Bobbie have settled in nicely in Jackson. Ron a Georgia native and Bobbie a Massachusetts native have found a good blend of geography, weather seasons and welcoming people. “Good, honest, hard-working people” Ron says of the towns people. For the Nevils the best part of the business is the clientele. They enjoy seeing the interaction between customers. Ron says, “It’s a small town restaurant and people know each other. They say you have the best restaurant. I say no, I have the best customers.”
Location: 2259 E Jackson Blvd, Jackson Mo
Hours of operation: Mon closed, Tues-Thurs 6a-8p, Fri-Sat 6a-9p & Sun 6a-3p
Written for iluvlocalplaces.com