Surprisingly versatile Hank's Texas BBQ delights with meats and more
Beef brisket and pulled pork star at this fledgling barbecue joint in Clintonville, but don't skip the snacks and cocktails
During several midweek visits between 6 and 7 p.m. to Hank’s Texas BBQ in Clintonville, the friendly new place was variously teeming with customers, nearly empty, playing “new country,” playing “jammy” tunes, playing no music, warm when the garage doors were open on a sweltering evening, and comfortable when the garage doors were closed on a sweltering evening and the air conditioning and ceiling fans were more effective.
One aspect of Hank’s ambience remained consistent, though: The aroma of hardwood smoke always perfumed the entire premises.
The premises include a duly popular patio and numerous other features such as interior yellow brick walls, simple-but-accommodating wooden tables and a long banquette left by previous occupant Old Skool, a sports bar that didn’t survive the pandemic.
While sports are still beamed onto the many TVs in Hank’s, which offsets its yellow walls with soothing gray paint and a couple of well-placed strings of blue lights, Hank’s isn’t devoted to sports. As its name and that persistent come-hither scent of smoke suggest, Hank’s is primarily devoted to barbecue.
This devotion pays off in fine smoked meats, some of which appear in, or can be added to, starters, which are the most playful dishes on the menu of chef-owner Brad Harkrider (aka Hank, formerly executive chef at J. Liu’s). The meats also are sold in straightforward barbecue-joint fashion: by the pound and in sandwiches and combo platters.
Despite imperfections — I’d prefer a more reliably pronounced “pop” from the casings of the jalapeno-cheddar sausages ($16 per pound), and the white meat was dry in the strikingly mahogany-skinned chicken ($7 per pound) — all of the proteins were good-tasting and possessed exemplary smoky notes.
The consistently juicy and delicious pulled pork ($16 a pound), which incorporated bits of righteous spice-rubbed “bark” in every serving, offers the best bang for the buck. But the lusty (if expensive) beef brisket ($26 per pound) and the on-point ribs ($14 per pound), both of which featured hefty barks, could arguably be called Hank’s barbecue stars.
“Meat plates” come with two substantial sides and cost $14 (one meat), $16 (two meats) and $18 (three meats). As I usually received just two to three slabs of brisket or ribs per order, I’ve concluded that the best platter value is the $18 combo (go ribs, brisket and pork). Bonus: It feeds two.
Six worthy tableside house sauces are offered; my favorites were spiked with coffee, vinegar or habanero. Among Hank’s many good sides, I especially liked the burnt-ends baked beans, tangy-and-tomatoey collard greens, comforting mac-and-cheese, addictive corn spoon bread (which doubles as dessert) and crisp, hand-cut fries.
Fries accompany sandwiches, such as the gargantuan Hot and Heavy ($13) — an inspired and wildly sloppy confluence of pulled pork, smoked sausage, vinegary slaw, Cheetos dust and spicy mayo. Cheetos dust also showed up in the enormous and overachieving Southwestern Wedge ($6), a romaine-based salad with flavorful tomatoes, bacon, corn, alleged avocado (mine was missing), shredded cheddar and ranch dressing.
Because Hank’s exhibits uncommon versatility for a local barbecue-centric operation, customers could pop in for dinner or just to watch a game with a draft PBR ($3.50), but also to try a provocative cocktail like the Smokin Jack (Jack Daniels with house-smoked Coca Cola, $9) while enjoying thoughtfully created snacks.
The latter include crackly fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese and bracing chow chow ($9; impressive despite my too-thick, somewhat hard tomatoes); brisket nachos ($12) with burnt ends and mostly crisp house chips, plus a mild queso sauce I wanted more of; and smile-inducing, bacon-enhanced, house-made “loaded” potato tots that demonstrated an unlikely affinity between barbecue and queso sauces ($9).
Bottom line: Open since May, Hank’s might still be finding its footing in some regards, but I already like where it stands.
Hank's Texas BBQ
2941 N. High St., Clintonville
Hours: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday.