Archive for the ‘Food Review’ Category

I’ve been wanting to try B.T.’s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, Massachusetts for quite some time now. And when I say “quite some time,” I’m not talking about weeks, or months. It’s been more than a couple of years. Alas, poor B.T.’s, I can attribute my failure to get there to nothing other than pure laziness. Finally the wait was over and this review has since been written based on my first experience at 7:15 at night Thursday, April 24,m 2014, and my second at 2:00 in the afternoon on Saturday, May 3rd, 2014.

First Visit: April 24, 2014 (7:15 on a Thursday Evening)

It really says something for a BBQ joint to be packed at 7:15 in the evening. Usually I would expect that to be an off-peak time. Less people. Less waiting. I was wrong on both counts.  But that’s OK. My wife and I weren’t in a rush. A table opened up and we grabbed it. Looking around I realized B.T.’s was BYOB – coincidentally we had a 6 pack of Baxter Brewing Co.’s Stowaway IPA in the car. It wasn’t ice cold, but it held us over. The soda cup looked so sad and useless at the table as we drank our beer.

I figured I would use the wait time to grab an assortment of sauces and garnishes. The “Hellish Relish” was great; the pickled onions and habanero infused carrots were good – although I’m sure much better on a sandwich. I dipped my finger in the “meat heat” sauce, as well as the other sauce options. They were good – some hotter than others, and neither of the sauces had a thick consistency. After the anticipation and buildup, I expected greatness. My wife ordered a brisket platter, and I ordered a brisket sandwich. We also had macaroni and cheese and slaw as our sides. Finally my name was called to pick up the order. Everything looked really good on the tray, and the brisket was cut thick and piled high. Finally I was able to dig in…

…I hate writing these words, but I was disappointed. And I felt dirty thinking it. But my head was filled with some of the adjectives any Q’er hates to hear describing their art. The brisket was lean, dry, and tough; I had to bathe it in sauces to get it down – once again, I tried all the sauces, only this time out of necessity. Fortunately for both my taste buds and B.T.’s, I have a “try everything twice” policy. [As an aside, we were in a car and not on a bike, so maybe the motorcycle gods were getting back at me.]

Second Visit: May 3, 2014 (2:00 on a Saturday Afternoon)

Saturday morning I get the call: “Garganoooooo, I want to ride today. Let’s get some brisket.” And with those words, I was ready to give B.T.’s there second chance. I hoped it would be busier on a Saturday afternoon, resulting in food that wasn’t sitting around as long; with this logic, the quality had to be better – of course there is a fundamential problem with this logic. Go ahead, think about it for a minute.  That’s right, B.T.’s was very busy on that Thursday night,. so my rationale, at least in theory, makes little to no sense. I can only assume on that night it had been a short while since the brisket left the smoker. But back to the now… We (Todd, Angela, and myself) arrived at B.T.’s at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Although parking was sparse – as I imagine it usually is when a joint has fewer parking spaces and many diners – surprisingly the wait was not long at all. We had either come at the tail end of a rush, or we just beat it. Or it wasn’t a busy Saturday. Either way, we weren’t complaining. We quickly ordered and easily found a seat. Once the food was ready and the pictures were taken, it was enjoy time.

The Order: Andrew – Brisket Reuben and a side of pulled pork. Todd – Brisket sandwich and pulled pork sandwich. Angela – pulled chicken sandwich and french fries. And a round of bottomless sodas. Those cups now had a new found purpose!

The Reuben: This was an interesting choice. I’ve wanted to try this sandwich for a long while. The brisket was definitely tender and juicy. The bread was soft, but had the nice crispiness to it one can only get from the grill. It had a very good flavor, however I felt the dressing overpowered the taste of the brisket. Meaty brisket was definitely the mildest of the flavors of this sandwich.

The Brisket: Todd proclaimed this to be the best brisket he has had in his  life. And I will vouch that it was very very good. Heck, it was excellent! Tender. Juicy. Nice smoke ring. Easily pulled apart with fingers. What more can you ask for?

The Pulled Pork: My portion of pulled pork was fatty and it contained a lot of bark. Typically I don’t complain about too much bark. But if I separated the shreds of pork from the fatty pieces and bark, I would be left with a pile of pork significantly smaller than the rest.

The Chicken and Fries: Angela thought the chicken was slightly dryer than she anticipated, and less flavorful than the other foods on the table. The tiny forkful that I had was dry. The portion of french fries was heaping, and as far as french fries go, they were very good.

The short and skinny from the tall and fat… Wow, I am glad I made it out a second time. You know that old adage “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression”? Well, it’s wrong. When one takes advantage of a second chance in the way B.T.’s unknowingly did, it really makes you forget the first impression. Portions are a good size. I would recommend trying the brisket. And on future visits I must try the ribs. Every order of ribs I saw go out to the customers looked absolutely succulent. There are many more options on the menu than your typically BBQ place. That’s OK. Breathe. Choose wisely. You will be back a second time. And most likely a third. There will be plenty of opportunity to sample the remainder of the menu.

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B.T.’s Smokehouse on Facebook

B.T.’s on Twitter

B.T.’s on the web

Address: 392 Main St., Sturbridge, MA 01566

Phone: 508-347-3188


Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.


Bikes and barbeque seem to go hand in hand. Like Tom and Jerry. Like ketchup and mustard. Like meat and potatoes. Like bacon and, well, anything. So when the opportunity to finally ride out to Wingdale New York to try Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q presented itself, I couldn’t resist. Big W’s was brought to my attention two summers ago, and the first ride was planned for last summer until things, as they say, got in the way.

Now, I’ve been to Big W’s twice, and both times I was impressed. The ride on its own is beautiful, and the Q makes it even better.

The First Visit: Sunday April 28, 2013

Three of us (myself, Todd, and Kim) rolled into Big W’s around 2:00 pm. I didn’t think it until my second visit, but our arrival time might have made a difference here. We were hungry to say the least. And from the moment we pulled in we were hit with the sights and smells of barbecue; from diners enjoying large platters of food on the outdoor picnic tables, to Big W carving pounds of brisket, ribs, and chicken on the cutting board as you walk through the door. Our senses were hit immediately and stomachs groaned for food.

Big W’s serves three basic sizes: truly sensible, sensible, and roadside. Story has it that roadside, the largest portion, dates back to the earlier days of Big W’s as a roadside eatery without tables. Diners would get large portions of ‘cue and often split it amongst multiple people. One platter and multiple forks is a size option suitable for me, but even I couldn’t bring myself to order the roadside portion on this visit.

The Artist and His Canvas

After staring in wonder and awe for a few minutes, it was finally our time to order. There is something exhilarating about ordering for the first time at a restaurant you’ve looked forward to visiting. Am I ordering the right thing? This looks good, but so does that… I have a simple solution. Order more than necessary. That’s right, be a glutton when possible.

Between the three of us, we ordered 1/2 dozen of the smokey hot wings, and three sandwiches (or as they call them at Big W’s, Smokin’ Wich) – beef brisket, pulled pork, and burnt ends. Each Smokin’ Wich was ordered in the sensible size and came with a side of slaw and your choice of regular or spicy sauce (or both).

Neither of us was at all disappointed in the food. I focused my efforts on the brisket and wings, eating only a few of the burnt ends and a small portion pork. In fact, when sampling a new barbecue joint I will typically choose brisket as to me it is the best apples to apples comparison between restaurants. If one screws up their brisket, I probably don’t want to be eating there. Much like I will judge pub fare by nachos and wings. If you can’t make a good nacho platter, why am I to think anything else will stand out?

The wings and brisket.

So, on to the brisket. The brisket was extremely tender, trimmed perfectly, with the proper amount of char to get both the flavors of the meat and the flavors of the burnt ends in a single bite.  I found it much easier to eat some of the brisket with a fork, as the mountain of meat makes it a more difficult sandwich to eat by hand. And please, understand, this is a compliment to Big W’s, not a complaint. The more the better, especially when quantity does not sacrifice quality. This brisket rates much higher than many of the briskets I have eaten locally.

Between three of use, eating a half dozen wings should not have been a problem. Except for the fact that it was. We filled up on meats and could not bring ourselves to finish the wings. I brought three of the 6 home. They were smokey, and they were spicy, just as the name implied. The heat was not a buffalo/hot sauce heat however, and they were a welcomed change from traditional hot wings.

Kim ordered the pulled pork and she enjoyed it, as did I enjoy the bite or two I took. However the big surprise was the burnt ends. I get it, as I smoke by own BBQ at home, the burnt ends are the best parts of the barbecue. We make jokes that the burnt ends are nothing more than smoked carcinogens, but that doesn’t stop us from eating them. And fighting over them. In fact, it’s like fighting over the turkey skin on Thanksgiving, only no one makes a turkey skin sandwich (quite unfortunate I say). But Big W’s makes a Burnt Ends Smokin’ Wich with all the charred and meaty goodness. On this visit, the burnt ends were smoky, they were meaty, and they were still, surprisingly, a little moist.

The burnt ends were definitely the star of the show. With our Smokin’ Wichs gone and the wings packed to go, we made our way out of Big W’s and on home. I knew I would have to make the trip back sooner rather than later. And I did…

The Second Visit: Sunday June 9, 2013

Sometime after our trip to Big W’s in April, we all hopped on the bikes and made our way back to Bub’s BBQ in Sunderland, MA to compare the two. We remember Bub’s to be excellent. And next to Big W’s, it was not. So our mind was set to journey back to Big W’s. The biggest difference between this trip and the last, Melisa was able to join us. The second biggest difference, everyone had burnt ends on the brain.

I again ordered the sensible brisket. Only this time, instead of supplementing the meal with wings, I added the mac and cheese and the sloppy ribs instead. Ordering the sloppy ribs was actually a mistake, as I thought I was ordering a pound of ribs on the bone, not a pound of rib meat. Had I paid attention to the menu, I would have known the difference, but no harm no foul. They were certainly sloppy and the meat was extremely tender. I can only imagine how messy this would be on a Smokin’ Wich. And how tasty as well!

Melisa, Todd, and Kim all ordered the Burnt Ends Smokin’ Wich. The burnt ends on this visit were drier than the first visit, and accounted for a slight fall off in quality, but we could only attribute this to our later arrival time… after 5:00 on a Sunday. This will by no means prevent us from coming back and ordering them again. Interestingly, although I ordered the brisket, I ate more burnt ends this time than the last. And my wife ate the majority of my brisket as it was more tender. This again, is not the fault of Big W’s. Why a woman whose idea of cooking meat is walking a cow through a warm room would ever order something called burnt ends is beyond me. But she did. And her loss was my gain. Of course, I did lose out on my brisket in the process.

The short and skinny from the tall and fat… For the second time in less than two months we walked onto Big W’s hungry, and we left full and satisfied. It’s been decided that next time, and there will be a next time, we are cutting to the barbecue chase and ordering the “For the Table.” It will give us a great sampling of everything… 1 whole rack of ribs, 1 whole chicken, 1 pound each of brisket and pulled pork, and 6 large sides. I think the “For the Table” leftovers is the real reason I bought the tour pack…


Address: 1475 Route 22, Wingdale NY

Phone: 845-832-6200

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Today we had an opportunity to go for an early afternoon ride with Angela. We knew we wanted a nice leisurely ride for some lunch, and the choice was simple… Tailgate Picnic in South Hadley, MA. Tailgate was recommended by one of my wife’s co-workers as one of the best sandwiches in the area… and when accolades like that are thrown around, I want to judge for myself.

We rolled into South Hadley and found Tailgate Picnic tucked into The Village Commons shopping plaza. As you walked in Tailgate Picnic, it was to overwhelmed by the country decor. After all, Tailgate Picnic is a store as well as a deli. Chalkboard menus lined the wall above the deli counter listing all the sandwiches and ingredients. Although it took a few moments to sift through the options, we stepped up to the counter and placed the order. We would be having an Italian, a Rare Roast Beef, and a Lumberjack.  When the sandwiches were ready, we brought our tray outside and enjoyed a fine meal in the sun.

The Tray of Sandwich Goodness

The Italian

Much like nachos at a bar and brisket at a BBQ joint, I judge grinder shops by their italian grinders, so ordering this one was a no brainer. Of the three subs we ordered, this was by far the tastiest. Taking a bite out of it, you can taste each of the individual meats, the provolone cheese, you get the crunch of the pickles and vegetables, as well as the herbs in the oil dressing. Combine all the flavor and textures with a bread that was extremely fresh and soft and you it makes for one awesome sandwich. This one is on my short list of best italian grinders in Massachusetts (along with Richard’s Super Deluxe Cold Cut and Angelina’s Original).

The Italian

The Rare Roast Beef

Melisa wanted to order this one, and I am very happy she did. It seems to be the norm around here to list rare roast beef Sandwiches on the menu. I wouldn’t call it a staple of every shop, but it’s common enough.  And these sub shops taunt it as rare, but the roast beef is never rare. And aren’t we surprised when it is! This sandwich, as seen in the photo, had a beautifully pink roast beef, it was served with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a cheese spread. Although the flavor profile for this grinder is fairly simple, the execution was excellent. The roast beef was extremely tender, and you were able to bite through the sandwich without pulling half the meet out of the bread with each bite. We were both pleasantly surprised.

The Rare Roast Beef

The Lumberjack

On the menu, this grinder makes a lot of promises. Spicy tenders, cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato and cucumber, and honey mustard, all served on a French roll. Based on the description, this sub should stand out, especially if one has a love for buffalo chicken like I do. Unfortunately, this did not deliver on its many promises. The chicken was tender, the sauce had a nice flavor to it, but I think the downfall of the sub was the drizzle of honey mustard. It added a sweetness to the grinder that was overwhelming. Perhaps if there was more heat to the chicken, the balance of sweet and spice would have worked. Further, I expected the cucumber to add a nice “fresh” feel to the taste and a crunch to the bite – and perhaps if the cucumber was sliced and not chunked it would have done just that with the crunch of the cucumber juxtaposing the tender chicken and the soft roll.


The short and skinny from the tall and fat… Tailgate Picnic afforded us the opportunity to get out on a beautiful Sunday for a great ride and an even better lunch. I love when recommendations from others pan out as awesome places to eat. Tailgate Picnic will be visited by us again.With many awesome sounding grinders on the menu, it will be nearly impossible to chow through them all knowing that every time I make the trek to South Hadley, I won’t be able to pass up the italian grinder.


Address: 7 College St. South Hadley, MA

Phone: 413-532-7597


Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

I admit, I’m a foodie. And a beerie too – did I just coin a new word?!?  A few years ago my wife and I happened upon Waterbury, Vermont; it’s a small town with all the Vermont charm one can handle. And, in my opinion, some of the best craft beer destinations in the country including The Blackback Pub and The Alchemist (although the pub and brewery is no longer, the cannery is a must visit); famously, The Alchemist is known for the hop heavy Heady Topper; notoriously, The Alchemist lost its brew pub to the flooding waters of Hurricane Irene in August 2011. Taking its place is the dining destination Prohibition Pig; in addition to a full menu, Pro Pig jumps right up there with Blackback and The Alchemist by keeping to the 23 South Main St. tradition of serving some of the finest craft beers available, both locally and nationally.

With “Smoked Meats and Libations” as its tagline, how bad could it be?  To make a long story short, it’s not bad at all… in fact, it is one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life. Truthfully, everything on the menu looks awesome, and I often find myself ogling the plates sitting on others’ tables, but as a creature of habit, I never order anything new. I often visit Waterbury for one night at a time, and this is the meal I must have:

Appetizers: An order of smoked wings ($8). They are smokey and some of the best wings I have ever eaten. But not only are they smoked, they are then fried for the perfect wing finish, topped with crumbled bleu cheese, and served with carrots and house dressing. We also like to order a second appetizer, an order of mussels. They might even be better than the wings (although good luck trying to get me to admit that when I have a mouth full of wings). The current mussel offering is Maine Beer Mussels ($10), but in the past they have offered PEI mussels.  They are soaked in a beer and onion sauce, and then smothered in french fries and a spicy aioli. Don’t pass either appetizer by!!!

Maine Beer Mussels and the Smoked Wings (or at least what’s left of them)

Entree: The House Quarter Pounder ($8). For lack of a better word, it is beef, bacon, and cheese perfection. The burger is topped with pimento cheese (is it a spread?!?), house smoked (really thick cut!) bacon, and, wait for it… keep waiting… a slice of fried green tomato.The burger is served on a sweet potato roll and is cooked to order; unlike other restaurants, rare means rare!  The burger also comes with a pickle on the side. Although you might be thinking, “so what, it’s a pickle,” I guarantee you, it is a phenomenal pickle; it is one of the best I have ever eaten. It has a slight spicy kick, and a tinge of garlic to the taste. What does it say about the meal when even the pickle is top notch? Yeah, it’s all that good!

The Best Thing Under the (Sweet Potato) Bun!

The biggest disappointment with the burgers is that sides are not included, they are an additional $4 per side. I prefer fries with my burgers so I usually order them from the appetizer menu ($5). When all is ordered and eaten, the burger and fries is still a very manageable $13 for a product well worth the price. The homemade sauces on the table are very good, and the homemade ketchup is great; but to make your dining experience complete, be sure to ask for a side of the Heady Topper mustard.

Dessert: I am not a dessert eater, but I will occasionally order the maple bacon ice cream. It is a perfect blend of the mapley sweet and the savory smokiness of the bacon. A great way to finish a great meal.

Beverages: Normally I drink water with my dinner, but not even I can pass up the opportunity to drink world class beers. I like to drink two beers with every meal at Pro Pig. One is always a Heady Topper (the aforementioned hop bomb from The Alchemist), and then an offering from either Hill Farmstead or Lawson’s Finest Liquids. Viva la Vermont Craft Beer!!!

By far this is one of the best 3 meals I have ever eaten at a restaurant. It is awesome from drinks and appetizer to dessert, and it is completely satisfying – you will not leave hungry. But you will leave hungry for more in the future. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you what the other 2 top meals are. Maybe this is in fact one of the top two, or the top one. I just don’t want to crown a king just yet. There is plenty of food to be eaten, but this meal (as ordered above each and every time) is very hard to top. If you haven’t been, go.

Web site:

Address: 23 South Main St. Waterbury, VT 05676

Menu: Click Here

Price: $$-$$$

[My apologies for the dark photos, I do not like to use a flash in a restaurant… especially a dark restaurant.]

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile. And meal!

I’ve passed Rondeau’s Dairy Bar on numerous rides up 32 in Massachusetts.  I’ll admit when I’m riding, one of two things happens… either I pass an establishment and I’m too lazy to turn around, or I’m just not hungry enough to stop.  Well, today, I was hungry and we had driven by Rondeau’s 5 times in two days.  On the 6th, we stopped!

The approach is that of a typical dairy bar… large quantities of outside dining (sounds so fancy huh?), a few large windows to order at, and more menu signs than one can possibly read. There is also a cow complete with squeezable udders for the kids.  And people like me.

So what’s on the menu?  Everything from ice cream and milk shakes to hot dogs, hamburgers and fresh seafood platters. There are an assortment of grinders, tuna melts, honey lemon chicken and pepper steak sandwiches, clam rolls, BLTs, ham and cheese,  fries and rings… Rondeau’s is not a one trick pony. Items seemed moderately priced. The most expensive items on the list are the seafood sandwiches/platters. Other than that all items are priced $4 or under (honey lemon chicken is the only exception at $5.25).

Melisa and I were both unsure of whether or not we wanted ice cream or a hot dog (good thing we stopped at a dairy bar huh?).  Walking up to the counter we noticed a lunch special: 2 long dogs, fries or onion rings, and a soda for $7.  Naturally we ordered them up. Two dogs were dressed in chili and cheese, two dogs were covered in mustard, ketchup, onions and relish, and we ordered one of each the rings and fries. Total cost, a hair over $16 – I am assuming the chili dogs cost slightly more than the regular dogs as part of the special.

The Verdict: The hot dogs were cooked exactly how I expect them to be when bought from a roadside stand. The buns were grilled brown, the Blue Seal franks had a beautiful pinkish hue complete with grill top marks, and the dogs were generously topped without distracting from their meaty goodness. They reminded me of my favorite hot dog stand in Leicester, Hot Dog Annie’s.  Truthfully these dogs may have been better than Annie’s – they certainly were bigger! (As my wife says, “they were big and long, and scrumptiously filled with cheese.”)  The rings and fries were thick and crisp on the outside – not under or overcooked which is not only possible at many small establishments, but also very common.

Although we wanted to add ice cream, there truthfully was no room in our bellies for dessert.  On a future stop we will be enjoying the dairy aspect of the dairy bar.

Alvin Rondeau’s Dairy Bar

Address: 1300 Ware St, 01069 Palmer, MA (corner of Route 32 and Ware Rd.)

Phone: 413/284-0068


Price: $$

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Picture it, Sicily, 1934… Well, more realistic, Connecticut, 2012. It was a beautiful sunny Wednesday afternoon with temps in the low nineties, and of course, minimal humidity.  I got the call around noon, “I’m getting out of work earlier, still want to ride?”  Hell yeah I want to ride, let’s go!

We left from Barkhamsted around 2, and almost immediately stopped at a local reservoir for a photo-op.  We didn’t take any photos, but we gained a rider at the stop.  As I pulled in to the lot I pulled along side Todd, looked up, and looked questioningly at the man across the way from me.  He stared back in much the same way (boy this post has taken a turn for the different very quickly!!!).  It dawned on both us at nearly the exact same time.  The mystery man was Carl, the brother of one of my best friends.  We invited him to join the ride, and he did.

Some of Connecticut’s best roads are supposedly in the northwest corner of the state.  We religiously followed the yellow routes as indicated on our motorcycle map of CT as some of the finest.  Whoever picks the roads for this map must not be a rider!  Are they scenic, sure.  Are they fun to ride?  Not really.  Are they well maintained?  In most cases, nope. As luck would have it, the best road on the map (route 263) wasn’t even yellow!

Difficulty and challenging these roads were not, but they did offer us a very pleasant day of riding.  We were offered the occasional twisty, but the majority of the roads allowed us to cruise and sweep.

Toward the end of the day we stopped for a rest at Reno’s Drive-Inlocated in Canton, CT (marked B On the below map). Although I wasn’t in the mood to eat too much food, I was drawn to the Reuben Dog on the menu.  After much deliberation, I ordered one up along with a coffee milkshake ($3.79).  This was to serve as a great opportunity for me to see how my Reuben Hot Dog holds up to another establishment’s Reuben Dog.  Not to sound partial, but when I was through I was convinced mine was better – but wouldn’t we all say the same?  Let me substantiate…

Reno’s Reuben Dog ($4.95, pictured below): The dog was large, the buns were slightly grilled.  I thought this hot dog was cheese weak and the dressing could have been a little heavier. The heaping pile of kraut masked the hot dog flavor – there was no balance of meat, cheese, kraut, dressing and bread in any bite. Glad I ordered it, but with so many other toppings available, one is sure to create a tastier dog than the Reuben Dog – choose from jalapenos, peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheese, bacon… you get the idea!

(Reno’s Reuben Dog)

My Reuben Hot Dog: Unfortunately I don’t have a pic so you will have to use your imagination. I will also use slightly more words…  I don’t use foot long dogs, rather I like the bun size franks. Each frank is cooked on the grill (then cut length wise if the eater prefers), then wrapped with Swiss cheese, then wrapped in Pastrami (or corned beef depending on choice). The dog is placed back on the grill for enough time to finish melting the cheese and warm the pastrami [note, the cheese will melt from the inside and out because of the heat of the cooked dog]. When cheese is melted, the dog is placed on a toasted bun, topped with Thousand Island dressing and finally given a layer of kraut. Wrapping the dog in pastrami allows for a perfect balance of meat/cheese/kraut in every bite as well as give the biter the traditional taste of a grilled Reuben with a hot dog twist. If I may be so bold, it is Reuben Hot Dog perfection for the Reuben fan!

…And back to the fun.  Carl headed on home after the stop at Reno’s.  Todd and I moved on through Granby and stopped at Cambridge Brew House for a beer and a growler. The selection of on-site brewed beers was decent; their visiting tap list was decent as well, but nothing that would entice any craft beer lover to write home. We enjoyed an IPA before ordering a growler of their summer session ale (turned out to be sub par to say the least!) and headed on our different ways home.

Overall a great day to ride, great company, decent food and good beer. Absolutely nothing to complain about!!!

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.

Curtis’ BBQ – Putney, VT

Date Visited: Sunday July 31, 2011

For two summers I have heard about Curtis’ BBQ in VT.  And the recommendations all started the same: “If you’re looking for a nice to place to ride…” It seemed every suggestion came from a biker.  Do non-riders have some loathing to BBQ? Are bikers simply a better judge of meat cooking on an open fire? These would be wild claims at best. Perhaps the most obvious reason why is because of Curtis’ biker friendly reputation. On any given weekend in the spring, summer, or fall, Curtis’ is packed with motorcycles brandishing license plates throughout New England. On the day of my visit, there were well over a hundred bikes in the lot and only a handful of cars — heck, maybe those riding cages don’t have a hankering for BBQ like bikers do! But alas, I digress.

Pulling in to Curtis’, I began to question whether we rode north to Vermont or errantly deep into the south. The wide-open area featured a run down blue bus for ordering and food prep, and a covered fire pit for cooking. After parking, stretching, and gawking, I finally made the walk passed the open fire with meats strewn about (or more realistic, strategically placed). I was struck at this time by a very disheartening reality… I saw no brisket. Brisket was the one constant on my mind for the previous 3+ hours. More importantly, brisket is the item I use to judge all BBQ against each other. But a man must learn to adapt, and based on my near 300-pound frame, it is something I do very well.

The menu at Curtis’ was simple. Full, half, or medium slabs of ribs, and chicken. Sides included typical barbecue staples like beans, slaw, corn bread, and baked potatoes. Potato options included butter, loaded, or stuffed with one’s choice of chicken or pork. Sauce was also a simple choice: mild or spicy.

I decided on a medium rack comprised of 4 very large ribs , and a baked potato loaded with pork. I washed it down with a bottle of Curtis’ “very own” Vanilla Cream Soda. The total bill for the 3 items was $26 and change – cash only!

(ribs, potato and soda)

My first bite was the pork-loaded potato covered in spicy sauce. The pork was tender with a smoky flavor. The sauce was tangy, a red orange color, and had a medium consistency. I did not try the mild sauce, but the spicy sauce tasted like a hybrid of barbecue sauce and any store brought hot sauce such as Frank’s Red Hot or Texas Pete.  Don’t get me wrong, the sauce was still tasty and added a nice zing to the pork, but the same saucy results can be achieved at home with store bought ingredients.

The ribs too had a nice smoke to them, but they were tougher than those found at other barbecue joints.  Don’t expect the meat to “fall of the bone” and don’t expect your bones to be perfectly cleaned when you’re done eating; the ribs required some work but for the average eater that doesn’t mind a little fight with their food, the persistence paid off in the end as the flavor was present and the serving size was definitely satisfying.

And the Vanilla Cream Soda? It was a perfect combination of vanilla and cream, very good indeed! ‘Twas a bit expensive when you consider the price per bottle, but it seems par for the course with other “homemade” sodas found in restaurants. Worth noting, some of my fellow diners ordered the chick to split with their wives/girlfriends. Based on their praises it should be worth a taste on a future visit.

The atmosphere is awesome for what it is – and quite literally, it’s all atmosphere.  There is no inside at Curtis’, just the open air.  Umbrella covered picnic tables scatter the grounds, and there are many tables under a pavilion in case of inclement weather, or the baking sun (or anything in between). The aroma of fresh slabs of pork on an open fire filled the air as Curtis himself tended to the meats. Curtis’ pet pig roamed the pit area [please note, this is not to be confused with the fresh pork slabs mentioned above] providing bystanders that awkward realization that they were eating pork and staring at a live pig. Live music also added to the setting as one man played his acoustic and sang while his pet parrot perched beside him.

The short and skinny from the tall and fat… Curtis’ offers tasty BBQ, albeit a very limited menu, in what can only be called “as close to a deep south authentic locale without crossing the Mason-Dixon Line.” As an added bonus for the diner that takes his/her time eating, as if ribs and chicken aren’t enough, Curtis’ becomes not only an enjoyable lunch, but also a parade of bikes of all makes and models for one to peruse — not a bad way to occupy a few hours. I’m sure, at some point when the stomach grumbles, I will be making a trip back.

Contact info/Website:

Address: 7 Putney Landing Rd., Putney, VT

Hours: Thur-Sun 10am to dusk (seasonal)

Additional notes: Cash only.

Ride hard, ride safe, and enjoy every mile.