There is a little culinary treat right on the main street of Ticonderoga that I feel compelled to place on your radar screen. Bodette’s Barbecue is located at 133 Montcalm Street and the corner of Tower Avenue. You can easily find it by following the delicious scent across the street from Ticonderoga’s Community Building and adjacent to the Ticonderoga Heritage Museum and Bicentennial Park. Any carnivore who appreciates slow-cooked, flavorful meat surely needs to put this restaurant on their to-visit list.
While first-class barbecue is commonly thought to be found in our southern states, here we have the exception. And, I don’t want you to confuse barbecue with “grilling.” Many of us in the Adirondacks have gas-fired contraptions sitting on our decks. (Mastering that tool is a skill in itself and one I’ve yet to accomplish.)
But, at Bodette’s we are talking genuine barbecue — an entirely different ballgame; a totally different league for that matter. Bodette's makes use of these huge cabinet-style smokers where the meat is coated in a dry rub and slow-roasted, for hours, over the perfect mixture of burning wood and charcoal. The end result is a tender, flavorful delicacy when done right and Bodette’s Barbecue certainly knows how to do that.
I recently met with the owners, Joe and Cindy Bodette, at their full-service restaurant. I popped in during a quiet time, midway between lunch and dinner. The blue and bright yellow exterior of the restaurant is cheerful and welcoming.
The little pig caricature in a chef’s hat on their sign and menu greets guests with open arms. You almost want to hug him. The inside can seat about 26 at individual tables that may be grouped for larger parties. During warmer weather the seating more than doubles. An outside deck with tables under awning and umbrella cover adds the outdoor ambience most of us like when dining on barbecue.
I talked to Joe about his interest in this type of cooking and where it all came from. He grew up on a dairy farm on the shores of Lake Champlain, actually only a few miles from where his restaurant is located today. Every summer his family held a traditional chicken barbecue over the 4th of July. Family and friends would gather - and they still do. He became involved, and fascinated, at an early age. Once he and his brothers took over the barbecuing duties for this annual celebration, they added ribs and brisket to the menu. He claims he really got hooked when he slow-cooked his first pig about 20 years ago. He sincerely enjoys the entire process and it is apparent. He’s been in the barbecue business, catering or operating a restaurant, ever since.
Though the restaurant also offers grilled items like hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs, the stars of the show are the genuine barbecue: pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, and baby back ribs. I came to understand that operating this style of restaurant took a great deal of preparation since featured items are not cooked to order, but must be planned well in advance, allowing for the hours of slow-roasting time needed for the perfect product. The process has Joe up very early on most days.
I studied the menu knowing that though it was a while before dinner time, I was not about to leave empty handed. It was refreshing to see some unusual items like fried pickle spears and hushpuppies included in the selections of starters and sides. There were plenty of choices for the barbecue — pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, ribs, and even a combo basket. Aside from the pork, brisket, and chicken, barbecue sandwiches also included a choice of smoked turkey and Cajun haddock. One choice from the wide selection of side dishes comes with the barbecue, grilled items and barbecue sandwiches. They even offer a kids’ menu with choices and portions to suit the younger patrons. The entire menu is extremely affordable with most items ringing in at well under $10. In addition, free beverage refills are offered for iced tea, lemonade, and soda, and you will find locally crafted beers and wines also available.
Joe and Cindy recognize that the sauce, and amount, that is applied to your dinner or sandwich is a matter of personal preference. They offer several selections made freshly on site. And, since it's sometimes hard to decide, on the table for your choosing or taste-testing, are four different types. The Crown Point Barbecue sauce is their most popular and is also bottled and available for sale at the restaurant. It’s a red sauce, a bit sweet yet spicey. It is thicker and makes for a great grilling or finishing sauce as well, Joe told me. The Carolina Sauce is very reminiscent of the traditional southern sauce; vinegar and mustard based. The LaChute River sauce is a bit like the Crown Point sauce, but a tad milder — somewhat between the Carolina and Crown Point sauces. The Hot Vinegar Sauce is more like what you’d find in Florida, he advised, it includes some sugar and spices, and of course the vinegar.
As if operating the restaurant didn’t keep Joe and Cindy busy enough, they also offer myriad catering options. They can come to you and prepare your whole buffet dining experience for weddings, reunions, and every type and size of gathering, allowing hosts to relax and enjoy the event. Your guests can enjoy the complete genuine barbecue experience if desired with an on-site portable smoker, pitmaster, and crew. Party Packs are also available. With 48 hours’ notice, packs can be ready for pick-up or delivery. They can even advise you how much to purchase for your crowd. A wide variety of options allows the host to customize meat, side, and sauce options for any size gathering.
My Brisket Experience
Before I left from my recent visit, I made certain to get a dinner to-go. It was well after lunch and long before dinner, but I was planning ahead and certainly not leaving empty-handed. I had been lucky to have dined on Joe’s pulled pork and chicken on previous catered occasions, but had never tried the beef brisket. Therefore that became my selection for dinner that day and I left with a securely packed dinner of beef brisket, baked potato, a side of fresh green salad and some coleslaw. I thought I had done well limiting myself given their mountain of choices of side selections and starters. I also tossed in a jar of Joe’s great Crown Point barbecue sauce - not only to accompany my meal, but to have in my condiment stockpile.
I had one more errand in Ticonderoga, and made a brief stop. Once I returned to my car and opened the door I immediately began salivating. The aroma coming from my future dinner had me questioning whether or not it would last until I got home. As it turned out, the package barely made it inside my kitchen before I popped open the lid on the container for a “small sample.” I can tell you the beef brisket is absolutely fabulous! The meat was fork-tender, without noticeable fat. It simply melted in my mouth with an abundance of flavor despite the fact I had yet to open the sauce jar. I found that the dry rub Joe uses, coupled with the slightly smoky flavor from his monitored slow-roasting, was perfect standing alone and sauce-less.
I encourage you to try it for yourself, and consider having your next gathering catered - your guests will not be disappointed. There are plenty of events coming up in Ticonderoga and the Bicentennial Park next door, so plan your lunch or dinner at Bodette’s when you attend. Better yet, make dining at Bodette’s Barbecue the event. It’s worth it!
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