Old Hickory House, the beloved barbecue restaurant at 6538 N. Tryon St. that closed in 2015, is about to get a new life.
Antonio Smallwood has begun remodeling the building to open what he says will be an upscale steakhouse called Prime at 6538. Smallwood hopes to have the new restaurant open by Valentine’s.
Smallwood was a partner in a restaurant many years ago, but doesn’t work in the restaurant business now. But he has strong ties to the building, he says. He says he knows the Carter family, which owned Old Hickory, and it was the first place he ate when he came to Charlotte years ago.
“Twenty-five years later, I bought it,” he said at the site Wednesday, where workers were already loading up furniture and other items from the old building. “I bet I came here 40 times.”
With a wood-burning oven on one side, topped with a set of longhorns, and a Western motif, Old Hickory was known for an unusual style of barbecue, including beef and pork, that wasn’t exactly the same as the more traditional Carolinas barbecue restaurants in the state. The Carters owned the restaurant for 58 years, after starting at the original location at Thrift Road and Freedom Drive and then moving to the North Tryon Street location in the 1970s. It had a loyal following, but business was hurt by construction on the Lynx line along North Tryon and the Carters opted to close it.
Smallwood has already opened up a bar area near the door that was never used for the barbecue restaurant. And while he plans to keep some parts of the decor, including the old telephone exchange box that hung by the dining room door, he says he’s planning to sell a lot of the memorabilia, from wagon wheels to those fan-favorite covered-wagon lamps.
Look for them on eBay, he says: He expects to post them in the next few weeks. Which means your Christmas gift dilemmas might be solved.