Ever since Knockum Hill Bar-B-Q owner, Oscar Hill, died last July, I've been asked if I have ever heard anything of it opening again. I had not . . . until today.
It looks, though, that the giant pork chop is not going to be on the menu, but everything else will be. Also, I didn't know that Jay Leno had stopped by there!
Here are the details:
Renowned barbecue restaurant makes comeback
New owner will keep same recipes, employees, menu
- By JESSE JONES | The Eagle Post
- Mar 21, 2017
Legend has it that Knockum Hill in South Christian got its name in the early 20th century when drunk patrons of a nearby stagecoach stop would fight to see who could send who tumbling down the hill. Like the wasted winners of those bygone days, Knockum Hill Bar B Que has taken a few punches, but remains standing.
Despite some tragic setbacks in recent years, the heavyweight barbecue joint is slated to open again in the coming weeks.
Opened in 1978, the original building burned Feb. 25, 2010, after a fire started while owner William “Oscar” Hill was cooking pork. Firefighters from four area departments unsuccessfully battled the blaze, once running out of water and having to send trucks for more. Interviewed while his livelihood burned around him, Hill, who bought the business from his brother-in-law Will Hargrove in 1997, vowed to rebuild.
“We’ll build it back,” he said then. “We’ll make it.”
A little more than three months later, while continuing to run a wholesale business that supplied barbecue to local grocers, Hill hung up what was left of his restaurant’s memorabilia and proudly unveiled a new “state-of-the-art” facility.
That first weekend of his reopening, Hill said visitors wore out his gravel driveway. Local patrons aside, the business had always attracted Fort Campbell soldiers en masse and others from across the country.
“Oftentimes it was custom for helicopter pilots from Fort Campbell to land in the field across the road from the restaurant and go over and have barbecue,” said Christian County Historian William T. Turner. “Of course Knockum Hill had a wide span of customers. People would come from long distances to get Knockum Hill barbecue, it was considered just top-notch. That was a great attraction. For years, the historical society had its annual barbecue there in May. We would meet and have our barbecue dinner and a meeting in the pavilion next to the building and fortunately the pavilion, though slightly damaged, wasn’t lost in the fire and continues as an original landmark of the place.”
The iconic restaurant had taken a punch and come out the other side. All was well.
Hill died July 8. A van he was driving ran off the road, hit a culvert and caught fire on LaFayette Road near Lamb Funeral Home. He was 79. A private memorial service was hosted at the restaurant. It has sat empty ever since. Hill’s wife, Sue, decided she would not open the business back up. It looked like the punch that would be the end of Knockum Hill Bar B Que.
Instead, thanks to 54-year-old Billy Campbell Jr., an electrician and former firefighter, the business will reopen as early as March 31. Campbell is familiar with the business and has known Hill and Hargrove since he was a child.
“I met Mr. Oscar 30 years ago,” he said. “I grew up with Will. I spent my first night at Will’s house when they lived on Princeton Road, I was probably eight years old.”
He believes the familiarity is a reason why Hill’s family, including Hargrove, felt comfortable selling him the business.
“He knows my work ethic,” said Campbell, who said he downsized his work as a master electrician on post so he could focus on the business.
Campbell is a man who professes that he can cook anything — except desserts — and says he feels no pressure in living up to the Knockum Hill name.
“Good barbecue is gonna sell itself,” he said. “Only way you can fail in here … is if you want to fail. That’s the way I look at it.”
But while Campbell can cook it all, that doesn’t mean he’s coming in to mix up the restaurant’s classic menu. Everything that can be the same, will be, he said. The only things changing are the phone number — the new number becomes active Monday and is 270-271-2262 — and the furniture in the dining room. The old furniture was donated by Hill’s widow to a nearby church.
Campbell is keeping the menu the same, minus a thick pork chop, keeping the same recipes, same suppliers, bringing back old employees and keeping the same hours, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Fridays with the dining room closing at 6:30 p.m. and carry-out available until 7 p.m. On Saturdays, the business is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the restaurant closing at 2:30 p.m.
“It’s still a five-day a week job,” he said. “You’re hauling slabs on Monday, you’re cleaning pits on Tuesday. You’re making burgoo Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday you go home and rest and Thursday you get back over here and fire up the pits to get the meat on. You see the sign, we’re open from Friday to Saturday, no, that’s not the way it works, we just sell Friday and Saturday.”
He will also maintain the way the business has always cooked and kept its meat. He promises his barbecue will never be microwaved, refrigerated or reheated.
“This barbecue you get out of this establishment, always has and always will be, comes off that pit at 5 o’clock in the morning, goes into the pans and it’s served,” he said.
He said some barbecue businesses will reheat their meat in a microwave the next day or freeze it to be served later. He will maintain his practices even if it means losing product.
“Chickens get thrown away daily. If you have seven chickens left, if you can’t give them away, you can’t sell them.”
Campbell has seen first-hand the sort of patronage those practices brought the business before Hill died. Jay Leno visited once, and Campbell used to bring potential clients and customers from Fort Campbell to eat there.
“Knockum Hill was Knockum Hill,” he said. “We took it for granted. People come from a long way, partner, I sat here Saturday cleaning and a couple from Chattanooga, Tennessee, came by. They’d been coming here … and heard it had reopened. They thought we were open.”
Campbell said his fellow firefighters always told him he needed to open a restaurant after he’d cook for them. Knockum Hill sitting empty provided him with the perfect opportunity close to home to do something he’d always wanted to do.
“I’ve been twisting wires since I was 19. I worked at the fire station for 23 years and retired out, twisted wires every day I was off. I’m just ready to do something a little different,” he said. “We’re gonna do this, we’re gonna make this happen.” JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post. Reach him at 270-887-3239 or email@example.com.
post edited by Louis - 2017/03/22 18:26:09