Dexter's newest eatery will open its doors downtown just in time to capitalize on holiday traffic during the annual Winter Festival on Saturday.
Hotel Hickman's Chuckwagon BBQ, located at 8050 Main Street next to Dexter Flowers, features everything from traditional barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, to Texas-style brisket, baby back ribs, and smoked sausage.
"Everything is made right here in the restaurant," co-owner Scott Thomas said.
Thomas, along with Ed Welch and Mike Harvey, have been operating a barbecue stand outside of the Dexter Mill for the past two years, and decided to expand their operation to a permanent location on Main Street.
The three restauranteurs signed a three-year lease of the building, owned by the Village of Dexter, in November.
"Once we heard the village approved our application, it's been busy, busy, busy trying to get this place ready to open," Thomas said.
Initially the restaurant will be opened three days a week — Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays — during the winter months. In the summer, the Chuckwagon gang will serve food at the restaurant as well as at its roadside stand on Central Street.
"This building is just big enough to accommodate our cooking year-round, plus we can showcase our sauces, rubs, and recipe books," Thomas said.
In a departure from previous tenants, the restaurant will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast includes eggs, fresh ground sausage or smoked bacon, cornbread and cowboy coffee.
According to Thomas, cowboy coffee is "strong coffee cooked over an open fire."
"You know the coffee is done when the spoon will stand up on its own," he said.
The restaurant will also offer lunch and dinner specials. In addition, barbecue pulled pork, chicken, brisket, and smoked sausage will be available for purchase by the pound.
Sides include homemade I-44 potatoes (a special secret recipe), cowboy beans, Cole slaw, macaroni and cheese, and a selection of fruit cobblers.
Despite a recent bout of ownership turnover at the location, Thomas, a semi-truck driver by trade, said he's not worried.
"Failure is not an option for us," he said. "We don't give up, and we don't foresee any problems. It's all about having a good attitude. We are going to be open, and we'll have fun doing it."
Thomas also has a background in food preparation and store management with Bob Evans Restaurants and the International House of Pancakes, which he said will come in handy with his new venture.
"We love it here in Dexter. Hopefully we can expand our hours and put some people to work in the future," he said.
For the restaurant's grand opening, the Chuckwagon crew will serve free samples of homemade chili throughout the day on Saturday. Hot chocolate and cowboy coffee will also be available.
"We've been working hard to get this place open. We'll have the complete menu ready to go for Saturday," Thomas said. "It just so happens that its Small Business Saturday. Everything is falling into place."