San Nicolas’ newest restaurant opened this past Friday at Helfrichstrat 63, and brings to the island hickory-smoked barbecue for the first time. Now this is not just another restaurant offering barbecue. “Barbecue, by definition, is not meat quickly cooked on a grill—that’s just grilled meat with some barbecue sauce on top…barbecue is meat cooked over low heat for a very long time, and imparting flavor with wood makes it ‘smoked’ barbecue,” explains owner Mike Bislick.
Mike Bislick’s fiancé, Tina Causey-Escobedo, is the Hollywood Smokehouse Diner’s pit master overseeing this smoked meat art form. Tina was raised in North Carolina, where she grew up on that region’s famous pulled pork barbecue. “Many regions throughout the South, Southwest, and Midwest are known for a particular style of smoked barbecue, each using different types of wood to flavor the meat, as well as different types of sauces to add to the flavor…I opted for hickory wood because its sweet aroma is not too overpowering like some other types of wood, and it goes well with pork, beef, chicken, and even fish.”
The process of smoking does take a lot of time, patience, and technique, but Tina believes it is well worth the end-result. “Putting meat on the grill for a few minutes is certainly a fast, easy, and convenient way to prepare meat, and anyone can do it, but I wanted to bring this centuries-old technique that is now a very popular culinary art form in the U.S. to Aruba. I knew going into this that it would not be fast and easy like grilling, but it is so worth the effort, and the flavor and tenderness of the meat is incomparable to any other ‘barbecue’ on the island.
The Hollywood Smokehouse Diner currently has that famous Carolina pulled pork on the menu, as well as Texas-style beef brisket that Tina fell in love with in past trips to San Antonio, Texas. Tina and Mike had a mammoth smoker custom built for them in Oklahoma that holds some 250 pounds of meat. The process of smoking actually begins 24 hours prior to cooking it. The meats are coated in a rub of spices and left in the refrigerator overnight, then into the smoker they go for about 14 hours, where they will smoke over hickory wood until tender enough to cut with a fork.
Tina’s southern roots also inspired side dishes from her family’s recipes and include baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, and to go with that Texas-style brisket she makes Tex-Mex rice and black beans. Many other items will soon be added to the menu, including daily specials of other traditional southern cuisine like country-fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, and desserts like pecan pie, fruit cobblers, and red velvet cake, as well as gourmet cupcakes like her chocolate-banana cupcakes with chocolate butter cream frosting with nuts and pumpkin spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and toasted pecans.
The Hollywood Smokehouse is located in a historic building in San Nicolas that has been in the Bislick family since 1941, when Mike’s great grandfather opened it as The Hollywood Hotel. Mike and Tina decided to embrace the retro feel of San Nicolas and used a 1950’s diner-style motif inside. “San Nicolas is a very special community—it has kept much of that old Caribbean vibe that we find to be very charismatic…we encourage residents from other parts of the island to ‘rediscover’ San Nicolas and the simple island charm that it offers, and I think tourists will also find it a worthy adventure away from the commercial hustle and bustle of the hotel areas,” says Mike.
The Hollywood Smokehouse Diner is open for lunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm, Monday through Thursday, and for lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday from 11:30am to 9pm. For more information or directions call 733-3650.