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Jim's BBQ

20 Foundry St., Candor, NY - (607) 659-4181
Posted By Michael Stern on 6/24/2003 2:32:00 PM
Roll down the car windows when you drive north from Endicott, New York, and inhale. Route 96 through Owego is an olfactory thrill ride. Any nice day from April into November, but especially on weekends, the air is laced with currents of hardwood smoke spiked by the smell of sizzling chicken. The birds’ perfume is unique, for its smoky essence is haloed by a bouquet that is simultaneously vinaigrette-tangy and egg-rich. Known to most locals as “Cornell Chicken” because it was a Cornell professor who devised the marinade a half-century ago, it is cooked under tents outside firehouses, on portable rotisseries by the side of the road, at ad hoc backyard cafés on town side streets, and on the grills of chicken-focused restaurants.

Jim Kurtz started his backyard eatery in Candor on Mother’s Day nine years ago as a weekend hobby, using familiar recipes from family reunions. Now he serves Wednesday through Sunday all summer long; but despite its popularity, his enterprise still seems more like a picnic than a restaurant. Up front by Foundry Street, there is a small house trailer at the door of which you place your order (whole or half-chicken or, on some occasions, pork ribs). The dining area is a cluster of covered wooden tables on a gravel patio in his yard. Country music plays from a radio located somewhere above the trio of household refrigerators in which he keeps extra salads.

Jim told us that the secret of excellent grilled chicken is the heat source at least as much as the marinade: “You don’t want to be tasting charcoal,” he warns. “You need hard wood – oak or cherry or hickory – and you must let it burn way down before you do any cooking. Then, you put that chicken on the heat a good two hours if you want it tender.”

Oh, tender it is! Jim’s chickens are presented in a Styrofoam clamshell along with a napkin wrapped around a flimsy plastic fork. The fork is needed for eating the side salads (and the weekend-only salt-cooked potatoes, another local passion); and it is all the utensil you need to gingerly lift strips of velvety chicken meat and their sauce-pasted skin off the bone.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

Half a Cornell chicken and a couple of salads: the basic elements of a great dinner in New York's southern tier.
"Half a Cornell chicken and a couple of salads: the basic elements of a great dinner in New York's southern tier."
Michael Stern





The dining area is covered in case of rain, but it's as breezy as all outdoors.
"The dining area is covered in case of rain, but it's as breezy as all outdoors."
Michael Stern


According to Chef Kurtz, the two fundamental elements of great chicken are the heat source (hard wood charcoal) and the egg-rich marinade.
"According to Chef Kurtz, the two fundamental elements of great chicken are the heat source (hard wood charcoal) and the egg-rich marinade."
Michael Stern


Mid-morning in Candor, New York: That's Jim Kurtz in the background, getting the charcoal ready to cook chicken. In the foreground is wood he has split, still to be burned down to become charcoal.
"Mid-morning in Candor, New York: That's Jim Kurtz in the background, getting the charcoal ready to cook chicken. In the foreground is wood he has split, still to be burned down to become charcoal."
Michael Stern


Place your order at the window of this parked trailer at the front of Jim's lot.
"Place your order at the window of this parked trailer at the front of Jim's lot."
Michael Stern


This photo would be a good Roadfood quiz: where, exactly, in the U.S.A. is this bird? The answer: at the entrance of Foundry Street, Candor, New York, in the heart of Cornell chicken country.
"This photo would be a good Roadfood quiz: where, exactly, in the U.S.A. is this bird? The answer: at the entrance of Foundry Street, Candor, New York, in the heart of Cornell chicken country."
Michael Stern



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