Food cart serving up fresh take on barbecue

photo by AJ Lamb
photo by AJ Lamb

Right outside the steps of the Peoria County Courthouse, local businesses showcase their food carts during lunch hours downtown. Tucked away at the end of the row sits a unique cart cooking up old and new ways to enjoy barbecue.

Hickry Catering has been working events and serving food to the Peoria area since 1998. In an attempt to better its branding, owner Ryan Foster decided to start serving out of a food cart on weekdays.

I grew up doing vendoring at large festivals on the Riverfront, and probably for the last 10 to 12 years, people have been asking us if were going to be out here, Foster said. This year, we finally built it. My brother and I built the cart were in right now, specifically to come down here.

The carts menu offers traditional barbecue foods like pulled pork sandwiches, rib tips and macaroni and cheese. However their most popular items are the wild creations like their bread cones and loaded fries.

Our bread cones are a new item this year, but the porky fries have been around for a long time, so they have a huge following, Foster said.

The loaded fries come topped with pork or beef brisket, barbecue sauce and cheese, while the bread cones are stuffed with your choice of meat and mac and cheese. Foster said he currently enjoys his cones the most but is always looking for new things.

[My favorite is the] beefy mac cone right now, and then a bunch of creations I make out of mixing things in the back that might be future [foods], Foster said.

Many of the creative menu items just came from messing around in the kitchen, and a few will be added to the carts menu very soon, according to Foster.

We actually have a bunch of new items that we want to put on the menu, but theres things we have to put in place first before we get them on the menu, Foster said. [We need a] larger vehicle to bring stuff in and just [other] logistical things.

The Hickry Catering food cart opened this past April for food cart season and has been selling food every day since. Foster said the cart is doing exactly what he wanted: promoting the business.

Our main line of business is catering, so we do all this trying to promote our product so we can get catering, Foster said. Our main point of being down here was to get people to start buying our food in bulk for office parties.

As business develops, Foster said the company is looking to take more food on the road and expand with a new location and truck.

I want to get a food truck thats mobilized all over the city and franchise the whole entire mobile business, Foster said. I do want a brick-and-mortar [store], but its not going to be selling sandwiches. Its going to have the food cold for people to purchase and have a wide array of foods and try to go with the natural, organic market.

Hickry Caterings cart, along with many others, is open from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. on weekdays outside the Peoria County Courthouse downtown just off of Adams Street.