Straight out of the pages of a Charles Dickens novel, the Pickwickian Tavern and Smokery in Richland delivers a meal out of the ordinary. Named after the kindly Mr. Pickwick from Dickens’ first novel “The Pickwick Papers,” The Pickwickian pays homage to that storied era as well as to other famous Dickens’ characters.

Once upon a time

“Opening a restaurant has always been a dream of mine and my family always knew that,” says Manager Ari Dendrinos. Dendrinos’ father, along with a partner, purchased and completely renovated the building that was to become the Pickwickian Tavern and Smokery, which opened on March 17. “I’ve been looking for years and it finally hit the right spot and I was very excited for that,” Dendrinos says.

In the months leading up to opening, the team took the former building down to its studs in order to complete the look. “We created an authentic vintage English pub look, with lots of brick, dark hardwoods. Our partner has a really great eye for design,” Dendrinos says. Rustic, industrial lighting completes the scene along with a game room and pool table. “We’ve spent a lot of time on the interior,” Dendrinos says. The vibe is warm and inviting, much like a Dickens’ story. “I’m looking forward to redesigning the patio in the same style and adding a stage, hopefully, by next summer,” Dendrinos says.

Fat Joe’s feast

Although Fat Joe overindulged too often in Dickens’ novel, it’s perfectly acceptable to do so while at The Pickwickian. Every Monday, starting in the coming weeks, The Pickwickian will have a pig roast. “We are going to roast a whole pig and have it on display,” Dendrinos says, adding that smoked meats have been steadily gaining in popularity. “It’s a big trend that we’ve wanted to bring to this area for a long time.”

The Pickwickian has an on-premise smoker, manned by Chef Lamus Rhett. They currently smoke five types of meats: turkey, ribs, brisket, sausage and pork. “All of our meats are local, it’s important to us to support local businesses as much as possible,” Dendrinos says. Chef Rhett smokes the various meats for six to 12 hours a day, and sometimes even more, using mesquite wood. “He’s (Chef Rhett) very dedicated and just loves what he does,” Dendrinos says.

One of their most popular selections is their St. Louis-style ribs (1/2 rack $16, full rack $23), mesquite-smoked and topped with the Pickwickian’s homemade, signature barbecue sauce. Their chicken wings are another popular dish ($10). Smoked for two hours, then fried and cooked the rest of the way when ordered. “The meat literally falls off the bone, people are going crazy for them because they’re so different,” Dendrinos says.

Located just across from St. Augustine Prep, the St. Augustine burger ($10) has fast become a very popular selection, naturally at The Pickwickian Tavern. Comprised of a local, ground top-sirloin patty, topped with American cheese, fried onion and a fried egg.

Pickwick’s toast

While Victorian-era principles may have frowned upon imbibing, drinks certainly flowed in Dickens’ tales — just as they do at the Pickwickian. “We have 12 beers on tap, including beers from Cape May Brewery and Glasstown (in Millville),” Dendrinos says. The Pickwickian also has a full bar, wines and packaged goods.

With a cold drink and 16 TVs, the tavern is the perfect place to take in the game. “We have the NFL ticket and show every game,” Dendrinos says. During the games, the Pickwickian offers beer buckets — five beers in a bucket of ice ($10 for domestic and $15 for imports).

The Pickwickian offers happy hour Mondays through Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. with a rotating list of drink and food specials.

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