A new barbecue restaurant has moved in on the northeast corner of the Neosho Square.

A new barbecue restaurant has moved in on the northeast corner of the Neosho Square.

Hickory House Barbecue, owned by Mike James, is a family-run operation, first started in Forrest City, Ark. in 1986 by Jimmy James, Mike's father.

The restaurant offers competitive prices, a variety of hickory smoked meats, and their own signature sauce and coleslaw.

While the restaurant was a hit in Forrest City, James made the decision to close the business and relocate to Neosho, where family members could help him run the business, after health issues made it difficult for him to continue by himself.

Now, his niece Ashley Schurmann manages the relocated family restaurant.

"I couldn't stay up there and I knew I needed to keep it open," James said. "With them here, my niece and her fiancé, I knew things would turn out all right."

The restaurant opened its doors in early July, and is open for business from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Schurmann said business is slowly starting to pick up, as many customers who try out Hickory House's barbecue return for more.

"They love it," Schurmann said. "We've actually got a lot of repeat customers and new customers because all of our other customers were posting on Facebook about how good it was and that brought in more people."

James said the Forrest City location drew visitors from around the area, with patrons making the drive from Memphis, Tenn. and Little Rock, Ark. to get a plate of the family's barbecue cooking.

While James is hesitant to give away any of the family's secrets, he says the homemade sauce and coleslaw are part of what makes the menu stand out.

"The sauce and slaw is made from scratch," James said. " How we cook it is, probably about the same time length as anybody else, but the sauce and slaw is what really makes it. It's a yellow base, but it compliments the sauce and you won't find it anywhere else."

The yellow base comes from mustard, and James said he often hears from customers that they don't like slaw on their sandwich, though that changes after they try the family recipe.

While the Hickory House venture has been a hit, James' family hasn't always been in the restaurant business.
James said his father opened the restaurant in 1986, after driving a truck for years.

"He was a truck driver and, of course, he'd been all over the place and ate at different barbecue places," James said. "He just decided one day he was going to try it and fortunately it turned out to be a 20-plus year thing."

The business expanded then, with two of James' uncles opening their own locations, with one in Wynne, Ark. and another, by a different name, in Paragould, Ark.

"It's the heart of the family," James said. "It's real special to us. It's a little bitty idea that grew out to making income for five or six families."

While the Neosho site employs only family members right now, James said as the restaurant grows, they will likely begin hiring for help.

Another aspect of the business that is expected to grow is the menu.

James said they would soon be adding barbecue smoked chicken, platters and cobbler to the menu.

And once business really gets going, the restaurant will begin serving fried foods, including french fries, onion rings and chicken strips.

Schurmann said those items were offered in their previous location, though the business must now wait until they can add a stainless steel vent hood to their kitchen to offer the fried foods in Neosho. Their previous one, a galvanized vent hood, is allowed in Arkansas, but does not meet requirements here, she said.

"We're just waiting for business to get going, then we can do all the fried foods," Schurmann said.

She said the restaurant also looks to one day offer catering.

Currently, the restaurant accepts cash, debit/credit and checks, and is open for dine-in or carry-out.

Schurmann said customers can also feel free to call in their orders ahead of time, at 451-8870.