Friday, August 13, 2010

Ames, IA: Hickory Park

I had read the reviews for Hickory Park restaurant at UrbanSpoon, where there was talk about how huge this restaurant was. Even with that, I was unprepared for the sheer size of this restaurant. From the outside, the building looks big, and we arrived at 1 pm for lunch to find the parking lot still incredibly full. And even though UrbanSpoon has this restaurant listed as the number one restaurant in the Des Moines, Iowa, area, I was still surprised.

When we entered the restaurant to check in, once again, the size of the lobby area overwhelmed me. We walked up to the young lady in the host area and checked in and were given our number for seating, as well as their rules for how to wait. We were told that it would be about a 10-15 minute wait, so we had plenty of time to read the rules, which were apparently for times when it was busier than at 1 pm as they had a waiting area 1 and a waiting area 2, and they would not seat an incomplete group of people. All that this hostess did was sit at her station and check in people as they arrived.

Our wait was about 10 minutes when they called our number (as well as a small amount of other numbers at the same time) over the loud speaker. When we walked up to the beginning of the dining area, we were told to stand by a statue of an Indian and wait. We waited there for a few more minutes waiting for someone to come get us to take us to our table, and in the meantime, another set of numbers were called, and the line formed behind us of other people who were told that they'd be seated momentarily. After a couple of minutes of waiting there, we were told to walk down the hallway through the dining area to the flashing arrow. I couldn't help but think a number of things: 1) how organized everything was, and how smooth everything flowed despite the sheer size of this restaurant (if you've never been here, you have to check this place out for yourself), 2) that it was almost like being at a Carnival or amusement park with how they kept the lines going and telling you to go here and then go there, or 3) that we were like pigs through a processing plant, since this place is a bbq place, afterall.

Once we were seated, the waitress was there almost right away, and we needed additional time to look through the menu. Despite this being a bbq place, we didn't end up getting bbq, and instead both of us went with the pepperoni and mozzarella hickory burger, which has exactly what it says, with pizza sauce served on the side. You also have your choice of different sides for your sandwich, with more choices than your typical Famous Dave's (which I thought had a good selection of side choices before). The food is brought out by someone other than the waitress, so they weren't sure who had what. The food was barely put down in front of us before our waitress was back asking us how it was, before we were even able to take a single bite.

I did notice in looking at their menu (both lunch and ice cream menus) that while it was large, it contained a lot of variations of the same things. For instance, there was a pizza hickory that was the same as the pepperoni and mozzarella hickory, except the pizza hickory had mushrooms on it. I imagine that this was likely to eliminate the special orders, such as pizza hickory with no mushrooms, as it likely would be hard to keep track of and add time to the whole assembly line aspect of the restaurant. The burgers were good. Not the best burger I've ever had, but good enough that I would feel comfortable ordering a burger here again and knowing that I would enjoy it.

Because the ice cream menu at Hickory Park is on the place mats, I knew before I even ordered my burger that I was going to want to get a sundae as well, and they had a large selection of splits, sundaes, floats, sodas, etc., to choose from (again, a large number of similar descriptions to avoid special orders). The one mistake I made here was in ordering the full size sundae (they have half size sundaes, but not half the price). The sundaes are usually with two scoops, but a half size sundae has one scoop, which after eating the burger, I probably only needed a one scoop sundae, but my eyes were definitely bigger than my stomach, and I had a hard time finishing it. It was also the last meal I ate that day, as I was still full from the meal that I didn't need to eat at supper time.

We left the restaurant at 2 pm, and it was still full with people still waiting then, so I doubt this place ever has immediate seating.

Hickory Park on Urbanspoon

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