ARLINGTON, Texas —
Tucked within an unassuming strip mall in Arlington is a culinary labor of love.
At Smoke’N Ash BBQ, Texas barbecue meets an unexpected twist: Ethiopian flavor.
Back in 2018, the restaurant’s owners, Fasicka and Patrick Hicks, opened it and began serving traditional BBQ dishes like pork ribs and brisket.
They decided to get creative and began blending the barbecue with spices from Fasicka Hicks' home country of Ethiopia.
"I think it was really a hit right away,” Fasicka Hicks said.
There's likely no other restaurant in the world serving Tex-Ethiopian barbecue.
The couple’s journey to creating fusion began when Patrick Hicks purchased a trailer to pursue his passion for barbecuing.
"I just started selling barbecue on the side of the road, and it kind of just expanded to here," Patrick Hicks said.
“We had multiple customers lining up every weekend, they looked forward to it,” Fasicka Hicks said.
They had such a large following, the couple ended up opening their restaurant steps away from the side of the road where their first loyal customers showed up.
"We kind of just planted our seeds right here in this parking lot, and it just blossomed,” Patrick Hicks said.
It was more like an explosion.
First, Texas Monthly featured the couple’s restaurant. Then, last year, the New York Times named Smoke’N Ash one of the top 50 restaurants in America in 2022.
“I said ‘Woah, what is going on here?!” Fasicka Hicks said. “It’s just amazing. I cannot explain it. I wish our parents were living to experience that, 'cause everything we learned we’ve learned from them.”
Early on, the couple focused on mastering traditional Texas barbecue dishes.
As time went on, Fasicka Hicks began serving Ethiopian side dishes like Shiro Wat (Ethiopian Chickpea Stew) and fluffy Injera flatbread.
There was new life when customers had an idea that was a game-changer for the restaurant.
"What started it was the customers asking, ‘Can I have your Ethiopian meat combination plate with barbecue?”
That’s how the flavors of Texas barbecue and Ethiopia came together.
"It was an amazing blend, and we never thought that it was possible,” Fasicka said.
The fusion was born out of love.
Patrick Hicks, a native of Waco, grew up watching his family’s love for barbecuing.
The couple met in the '90s, six months after Fasicka Hicks immigrated from Ethiopia to the U.S. She landed in North Texas, but home stayed with her.
Their passion for cooking and serving others quickly became their love language.
“We work so hard, and I know that where she came from... we're just blessed that we’re together,” Patrick Hicks said as he fought back tears.
“He was the first person who understood my English when I came here," Fasicka Hicks said.
That love is also shared with loyal customers who become fast friends, such as Mike Hogan.
“Patrick makes Texas barbecue the way Texas barbecue should be made, but there’s certain things he does that are very unique. His chicken and ribs are the best in North Texas,” Hogan said.
It’s why he celebrates the restaurant’s national recognition.
“I know how hard they work and how they put so much love into everything they do,” Hogan said. “I was so proud to open up the New York Times and, say, ‘I know that place! I know those people!’”
The Hicks have created a flavor that now ships nationwide. They’re drawing in customers from all 50 states and have plans to move to a larger location.
Beyond sharing their bold flavors, the couple’s hope is to inspire.
“For me, it’s the possibility of American dream,” Fasicka Hicks said. “That's what it’s about for me, because I never thought when I first moved here one day I’ll be one of the best in America... let alone opening a restaurant here. But with hard work, good attitude and just being optimistic, anything is possible."
Those are the ingredients that created their recipe for success.