Old Hickory Grille opening is homecoming for owner

Howard Live

Restaurant profile

June 01, 2000|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The opening of Old Hickory Grillein Columbia was a homecoming of sorts for owner AndyRaab.

In 1983, Raab graduated from Atholton High School. On April 19, Old Hickory Grille opened its doors in the Hickory Ridge Village Center - just a stone's throw from his alma mater.

Raab opened the first Old Hickory Grille in Burtonsville in 1992. In 1998, he joined with GreggUrichto launch a second location in Falls Church, Va. But for Raab, the debut of the Columbia location may be the sweetest.

"I see a lot of people I went to high school with come into the restaurant," he said. "I actually saw my football coach. It's just neat coming back home."

Raab, 36, lives in Silver Spring with his wife, Tammy,who helped design the Columbia restaurant.

Even as a youngster, Raab knew that he wanted a career in the restaurant business.

"I've always cooked," he said. "As soon as I was old enough, I got a job in a restaurant. I like the immediate gratification you get when somebody calls you over to their table when they love your food. You don't have to wait to see how you did."

Raab was exposed to the food industry at an early age. His grandfather, George Raab, owned New Yorker Bakeryin Washington. But Andy Raab didn't always enjoy working in the family's bakery, which was sold in the early 1980s.

"I didn't like it because it was something I had to do," he said.

In high school, Raab expanded his culinary skills in a program offered at the Howard County Vo-Tech Center. After graduating from Atholton High, he attended Johnson and Wales University, a culinary and hospitality management school in Providence, R.I.

When he launched his restaurant in Burtonsville, the menu included 10 items.

"When I first opened, it was a barbecue restaurant. That's what I wanted to do," he said.

Raab's family has always appreciated good barbecue.

"When I was a kid, my father had a friend who was a farmer in Bowie. Once or twice every summer, he would roast a pig and make his own barbecue sauce. We would get a gallon of the sauce, but the farmer would never give the recipe," Raab said.

"When I was coming up with recipes for my restaurant, I tried to duplicate it. I think I got pretty close," he said. Patrons can buy bottles of Raab's barbecue sauce, called "Old Hickory Grille Dipping Sauce," at the restaurant.

Raab said he expanded the menu over the years because he realized that customers wanted variety.

"Slowly, it evolved to what it is today," he said. The menu includes nearly 80 choices.

The food at Old Hickory Grille has a Southern flair. Appetizers include Cajun eggrolls, onion straws and Southern-fried oysters. Raab said the oysters ($7.25) are his best-selling appetizer. They are coated with buttermilk, breaded with corn flour and served over a horseradish cream sauce with tomato corn salsa.

Sandwiches include a crawfish po' boy($7.95) and pulled smoked pork ($6.95). Stone-ground grits, BBQ beans and red-skinned mashed potatoes are popular side dishes.

The restaurant also has developed a reputation for its milkshakes.

"I don't know what other people are doing," Raab said. "We just do old-fashioned milkshakes. We use ice cream, milk and actual fruit instead of using extract."

In addition to barbecue ribs, chicken, beef and pork selections, patrons can choose from pasta dishes, such as Bourbon Street pasta ($10.50) - angel hair pasta tossed in a Cajun cream sauce with andouille sausage, mushrooms and shallots - or linguini with homemade marinara sauce ($8.95).

Raab said business at the new location is double what he expected.

"I think that a lot of people in Columbia already knew us from our Burtonsville location," he said. "Plus, there's a lot of people in Columbia and not enough restaurants."

Old Hickory Grille

Where: 6420 Freetown Road, Columbia; 410-531-0326.

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, $2.50 to $7.25; entrees, $6.95 to $21.95; lunch specials, $4.95 to $8.95

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diner's Club.

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