1988 dot

The passion and drive that started it all

Brad and Krista

The Hickory River Smokehouse venture can be traced to Brad’s first introduction to real Texas barbecue in 1988. Brad first met his wife-to-be Krista, while stationed as a Marine in Hawaii. Krista, whose parents lived in Texas, told her future husband that he was in for a wonderful surprise when they returned there for a visit. She took him to dine on real Texas barbecue. Having grown up in Illinois, Brad had never tasted anything quite as delicious, flavorful, and unique. Little did he realize, at the time, that this innocent introduction to Texas Barbecue would soon change the course of his life.

1997 dot

a success from the start

The Bowman’s opened a second location in Bloomington, Illinois two years later. They then sold that location to build a larger restaurant in Urbana to accommodate the high demand. At that time they changed the name of the Urbana restaurant to Hickory River Smokehouse to better reflect the unique barbecue concept, and to avoid any confusion with a steakhouse chain. The location in Bloomington still operates as Longhorn Smokehouse.

dot 1995



After working on cruise ships in Hawaii and attending college to be a civil engineer, Brad realized that his passion was to work in the restaurant business, with the goal of bringing this unique style of barbecue to the Midwest. Together, this husband and wife team opened their first location on January 16, 1995 in

Urbana, Illinois, under the name Longhorn Smokehouse. The venture was a total family effort, with family members all joining in to help and to make recipes together.

dot 2000

Expanding hickory river smokehouse

After moving into its bigger Urbana location, the Hickory River Smokehouse team realized that the restaurant’s recipes were so popular that they could franchise, and they began that process


through ifranchise. The Bowmans, with a partner, soon opened a location in Springfield, Illinois, and the Hickory River Smokehouse expansion was on.