CLINTON — A juicy hamburger topped with smoked pulled pork and coleslaw; a pork tenderloin sandwich larger than the plate it’s served on; and fall-off-the bone barbecue ribs slathered in sauces — that’s what customers have come to expect at Hillbilly Jack’s BBQ.

But the local Clinton eatery is much more than a barbecue joint, says owner Mike Liphardt. He’s made sure of that.

Since opening the business in October, things have been tweaked, altered, removed and added, and as a self-proclaimed dreamer, “with too many irons in the fire,” Liphardt is not surprised by that.

“I’ve owned businesses, I own rental properties; I have done a little bit of everything,” Liphardt said. “I love barbecue and this is my retirement project that’s kept me busier than anything I’ve ever done.”

It’s about to get a whole lot busier as he and life partner and business partner Jeanette Abbott take on the next chapter of Hillbilly Jack’s BBQ — catering and delivery.

While an official date on when delivery will begin hasn’t quite been set, the catering business is well underway. In fact, Liphardt is on his way to building a 1,400 pound smoking unit that he plans to use when catering the Clinton County fair and other festival style events.

This is nothing new to him or Abbott. Before opening Hillbilly Jack’s, the two were making their rounds on the barbecue competition circuit, earning high praise from local and nationwide judges.

That success, coupled with a little over-confidence he admitted, led to the idea behind Hillbilly Jack’s, a decision he continues to feel satisfied with each and every day.

“I didn’t build this place to make money. Anybody in the restaurant business will tell you that’s easier said than done,” Liphardt said. “I built this because I believed the people of Clinton needed a place like this and since we’ve been open, they have proved me right.”

Of the menu choices, Abbott says the traditional barbecue selections are some of the crowd favorites. Pulled pork and chopped brisket sandwiches remain top choices, but one of her favorites, the smoked meatloaf, has received a lot of interesting comments and opinions.

One opinion that resonnated with her was when a man from Switzerland, visiting the area, decided to pay a visit to the Camanche Avenue establishment.

“He had no idea what smoked meatloaf, or meatloaf in general was,” Abbott laughed. “He thought it was the best thing he’d ever tasted.”

It is exactly that reaction that Abbott and Liphardt aim for with each and every meal they prepare, and what will continue to drive them to make the best barbecue possible.

“We love, live and breathe barbecue,” Liphardt said.

Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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