My overriding memory of Hickory’s in Chester is being challenged to eat a burger the size of my head by a rugby playing friend of mine two years ago.

With this in mind I was hesitant about revisiting it and tackling a mountain of food on a Thursday night.

I’ve heard the American-themed diner has expanded to pastures new (Rhos and West Kirby) since my last visit but we thought we’d try the original source.

Arriving on a Thursday evening we couldn’t get a table inside at around 7pm - a good sign for a midweek evening - but fortunately there are plenty of tables outside. Hickory’s have taken account for the British weather and installed patio heaters to keep you toasty while enjoying your BBQ feasts (warning: this is why all the pictures have a pink tinge).

Hickory's Smokehouse on the Groves in Chester
Hickory's Smokehouse on the Groves in Chester

Settling in we were asked if we’d been before, I looked a little nervous but my colleague was taken through the menu and offered recommendations.

You don’t often get this in restaurants but it was a nice touch with the waitress chatting to us about what we liked to eat while taking our drinks order.

We decided on starters and awaited our small mountains of food to arrive.

Sweet Baby Licks

I’d opted for the Smoked Baby Hot Links (£5.50). They were little mini sausages and had a fantastic sweet bourbon dip with them. Succulent and tender they were demolished very quickly, but it certainly wasn’t the food mountain I had been expecting. My only criticism of these was there weren’t many sausages, so you were left with two large pots of sauce which had barely been dunked in.

The Southern fried chicken in a basket (5.75) with a honey mustard dip was my colleague’s choice and all I heard was murmured delights from across the table while it was polished off.

I need to warn you at this point. While you’re waiting Hickory’s put a bag of popcorn on your table. This appears to get refilled regularly. While attempting to eat decent sized portions of American-themed food it is not a good idea to keep snacking on delicious popcorn.

Drinks wise we’d both chosen to sample an Old Hickory’s Ale (£3.40 a pint) and found it to be perfectly drinkable and a good accompaniment to the sweet BBQ sensations we were tucking into.

Pulled pork

Haunted by my burger experience two years ago I wimped out of tackling another burger and was recommended the pulled pork (£10.95).

Served on a pit of beans, which have also been BBQd, this was a tangy and tasty main. The coleslaw was fantastic. I’ve come to appreciate good quality coleslaw. The fries are not to be sniffed at either.

Hickory's burger with mac cheese and fries

My colleague, a Hickory’s virgin, decided to go for the burger challenge. The Hickory’s burger (£11.75 including mac'n'cheese) is definitely up there with one of the best burgers around, taking on the likes of those fancy burger chains in Liverpool and Manchester.

A work of art is how it has been described. Perfectly cooked patties, a top bun, it really is melt in the mouth burger time.

However, it’s definitely got smaller. It was not the size of either of our heads. Have Hickory’s scaled back? Who knows. It was still delicious but we didn’t have to stagger back to our cars in the end. The last time I left I felt like I had eaten ten rounds against a rugby player (maybe I had). This time we had that nice full feeling but without feeling like our stomachs were about to drop out.

Only fault, they’ve certainly made the portion sizes a bit easier to handle and the waitress forgot our second order of drinks - so attention to detail needs to be improved.

It’s easy to see why Hickory’s is expanding, they’ve got a good brand and a good ethos - and it was easy to see why it was so busy on a Thursday night.

Scores on the doors:

Quality of food: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere/surroundings: 8/10

Value for money: 8/10

Food brag rating (how good it looks): 4/5

Food hygiene rating: 5/5

Total: 40/50

What does TripAdvisor say? Average score is 4.5 out of 5 based on 2,084 reviews. “What an eatery, wow, awesome breakfast and amazing food”

Where is it? The Groves, Souters Lane, Chester, CH1 1SH

Have you been to Hickory's? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below