The Diablo Sandwich

In Smokey and the Bandit, Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) stops at a restaurant and orders a “diablo sandwich”.

Everyone in metro Atlanta knew the restaurant in the film was an Old Hickory House, a locally-famous barbecue chain. Problem was, Gleason improvised the “diablo sandwich” name. Old Hickory House never sold such a thing, but once the movie became a huge hit TONS of people started asking for it. So they retroactively invented one: their standard pulled pork sandwich with two pickle chips, liberally doused in Texas Pete hot sauce. Not Tabasco or Crystal or Frank’s. Texas Pete.

Old Hickory House used to have over 20 locations.

Atlanta folks may remember that the (now closed) LGBTQ-friendly Cowtippers steakhouse at 1600 Piedmont Road was once an Old Hickory House. And the Atlanta Fish Market – somehow STILL open at 265 Pharr Road – was also once an Old Hickory House. There was the 2655 South Cobb Parkway location, which has been Swapna Indian Cuisine for some time now. Or the 6420 Roswell Road location, which was a strip club called “Flashers” for some time but has been empty for years. My family ate at the Scott Blvd. and N. Decatur Road location often; the building still stands as the Wheelhouse Pub. When I lived in Dunwoody I tried to eat at the Dunwoody Village location at least once a week. It closed in 2014, long after I moved to Charlotte.

Speaking of, there were Old Hickory Houses outside Atlanta, too. There were allegedly locations in Athens, Tallahassee and Chattanooga, although documentation is hard to find.

And also: Charlotte! Originally opening where else – Freedom Drive! – in 1957, the restaurant moved to 6538 N. Tryon in 1972:

It was unusual in that T. Jack Black and his wife Ann, owners of the chain – didn’t own any of the Charlotte location (not even a fraction), and perhaps never even visited it. It’s said that Black’s father, William, came up here to help his cousins, Bobby and Gene Carter, get the restaurant up and running. I ate there once, the day after its upcoming closure was announced. The food was just OK. It was probably coasting on its reputation for years. It’s fair to say the Charlotte location had little contact with the other locations.

The Old Hickory House in Forest Park.

Sadly, the Old Hickory House featured in film – at roughly 151 Main Street, Forest Park, Georgia – no longer exists… at all. It was knocked down decades ago and is still a vacant lot, although a newish Wendy’s now occupies part of the property. The Wickes billboard seen in the movie is still there, although according to Google Maps as of November 2022 it was advertising a local Chinese buffet.

There’s only one Old Hickory House left, at 2202 Northlake Parkway in Tucker (near near Northlake Mall, obviously) . And the “diablo sandwich” is still on the menu if you want one!

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