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Prime Hickory BBQ smoking by the canal 

  Getting to one of the city's newest barbecue purveyors requires a short road trip past the Pontchartrain Park golf course, over the levee and right on the Industrial Canal. Hickory Prime BBQ (6001 France Road, 757-277-8507; opened recently in Pontchartrain Landing, an RV park and marina. The property includes a large clubhouse with a patio, pool and bar, which doubles as the dining room for Hickory Prime. The restaurant is open to the public, and while you may have to pass through some floodgates to find the place, the smell of smoking meat and the piles of firewood outside the Pontchartrain Landing office let you know you're on the right trail.

  Pitmaster Billy Rhodes earned a number of awards in barbecue competitions around his native Virginia and in North Carolina before entering the restaurant business. At Hickory Prime, he smokes meat with a mix of white oak and hickory that he hauls by the cord during periodic trips to Virginia. His menu centers on ribs, pulled pork, brisket and pulled chicken, but it also includes raw oysters, steamed shrimp, snow crab legs and a smoked fish dip made with blue marlin.

  Still is active on the competitive barbecue circuit, Rhodes is organizing his own barbecue bout at Pontchartrain Landing March 2. This inaugural Back Yard Rib Cook-Off is an all-day event open to the public with cash prizes and trophies for the top teams. For registration details, visit

  Hickory Prime BBQ serves lunch and dinner daily.

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