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Curtis's Barbecue

Route 5, Putney, VT - (802) 387-5474
Posted By Michael Stern on September 25, 2006 8:17 AM
The self-proclaimed “Ninth Wonder of the World” truly is an amazing phenomenon: an excellent barbecue parlor in Vermont. No regional excuses need be made for the racks of ribs and half chickens pitmaster Curtis Tuff cooks on a big open grate over smoldering hardwood. These are world-class meats, served in high roadside style.

When we say high style we mean that this is not a restaurant at all. It is a picnic. Place your order at the window of one of the blue-painted school busses that are permanently anchored in Curtis Tuff’s meadow. When you have paid and it is ready, you will be pointed to a stack of cardboard cartons that are useful in toting the plates to a table, either in the sun or covered. Dine al fresco, then toss your trash in a can and be on your way.

Of the two things Mr. Tuff smoke-cooks, we go for ribs. They are available as slabs, half-slabs, medium orders and small. A half-slab is a hearty meal. The ribs are cooked so the meat pulls off in big, succulent strips that virtually burst with piggy flavor and the perfume of smoke. To dress these dandy bones, Mr. Tuff offers two sauces: mild and spicy, both of which are finger-licking good. On the side you want a nice baked potato, a cup of beans, and/or ears of sweet corn.

Note that Curtis’s Barbecue closes in October and reopens in April. It is open for lunch and supper in the summer from Tuesday through Sunday, and fewer days of the week in the late spring and early fall.
4 star rating
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Baked Potato

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Posted By michael sacenti on August 12, 2013 6:50 PM
Sunday was my 6th trip to the "9th Wonder of the World" and I was sad to see that Isabelle has passed to the big pulled pork joint in the sky. Her replacement C.J. (Curtis Jr.) looks like a handful, getting into everything. Food was outstanding, i drove 80 miles to have lunch and it really was worth it!
5 star rating
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Ribs

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Posted By Pat Gray on January 16, 2013 9:03 AM
Love them ribs, but they need to lighten up on the vinegar.
2 star rating
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Baked Beans
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Baked Potato

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Posted By Donald Hecht on August 27, 2012 11:22 AM
These are absolutely the best ribs, and this is the best rib experience, I have ever had. I make an annual hiking trip from Long Island to the White Mountains and my lunch stop at Curtis's is one of the highlights of my trip. I'd almost consider a run up from New York just for lunch.
5 star rating
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Ribs

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Posted By judy Baiad on September 18, 2011 6:20 PM
We had heard this was a great barbecue; saw online that Rachel Ray had talked about it on her show, and it had been written up in The New York Times a few years ago.

My brother and my husband are very fond of barbecued ribs. These pork ribs were tough and very fatty, and the barbecue sauce was not very good. My brother said the chicken was okay. I had a loaded baked potato with chicken; it was swimming in liquid and the chicken tasted stewed. Three hours later my stomach is still bothering me. The only side we had was cucumber and onions, which we did not finish.

The weather was great, a good day for a drive. But this is not a place we would stop at again.
1 star rating
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Posted By robin on May 28, 2011 1:19 PM
Crazy negative people... so, this is the deal. Curtis is one of the nicest guys you will ever have the pleasure to meet. He takes these HUGE slabs of very meaty ribs (not those tiny, barely-any-meat baby backs) and cooks them over real wood in an open pit for hours so they are very tender and have lots of smoke flavor. I've NEVER had dry ribs there that have to be chewed off the bone.

I also never eat ribs with sauce anywhere I go; it hides the flavor of the meat. But if you are a sauce lover, I have tasted the sauce on the side and, yes, it is one of those very vinegary recipes. I haven't bothered to try the chicken, so I can't comment. Why bother when you get great, meaty ribs?

You are not going to visit Chef Ramsay, you are going to something that is more comparable to a family BBQ, but you don't have to deal with the annoying aunt who yells in your ear all afternoon... and you DO get the favorite uncle who you wish you could see more often than just summer family get-togethers.

Bring your Frisbee, bring the kids. If you enjoy meeting pleasant people who are out to enjoy a nice afternoon, you are likely to meet new friends after a good chow down. I've always been happy with the food and I love visiting Curtis. It's one of those experiences that you think back upon fondly for the rest of your life; beautiful Vermont countryside, visiting antiques shops along the drive. Very nice.

By the way, Isabel was replaced with a new pet, CJ. He doesn’t always come to work though and sometimes the dog visits instead, who is about as big as a pig anyway!
5 star rating
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Ribs
Baked Potato

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Posted By Michael Zack on May 3, 2011 2:40 PM
It's funny reading the opinions of Curtis'. The sauce does have vinegar. If you don't like vinegar, you should bring your own Kraft BBQ sauce or KC Masterpiece. Also, sauce can be served on the side, and the sign there says so. Smoky and porky ribs are tender, moist, and chewy, and they are cooked over a wood fire, not charcoal.

I have been going to Curtis's for 25 years and the staff is indeed rude, unfriendly, and impersonal. I do not go there to eat with them so it does not matter so much. Curtis is there most of the time and he is a friendly, grateful owner.

Chicken is a bit dry but who wants chicken when there is pork? The stuffed potato is awesome, but why eat a potato that would take up pork room? Coleslaw is some of the best, zesty and not made with Miracle Whip, but again, less room for pork. We routinely make the 50-mile run each way through the summer to bring all the guys at work a "Pork Fix."

As for the bees, bugs, mosquitoes and all, some people should not be in Vermont. They should eat in an air-conditioned building in Fairfield County.
5 star rating
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Baked Potato
Baked Beans
Chicken

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Posted By Jay Michonski on January 23, 2011 1:13 PM
I have visited Curtis' several times and have never been let down. The last visit was in August; the chicken was tender and the sauce had a perfect balance of spice. The ribs were on point as well, but not as hot as the ones on my previous visit.

They were extremely busy, yet still friendly. I played Frisbee with some people who were seated with me after the meal. Great place to stop on the bike for some delicious barbecue. Prices have gone up over the years, but a good experience is worth it.
4 star rating
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Posted By Gordon Huston on October 25, 2010 3:49 PM
I was warned, but I went there anyway, Curtis’s Barbeque in Putney, Vermont, that is. I'm a sucker for barbeque, so if I find a barbeque joint in my path, I’m going to go there. This time, I wish that I had just driven on.

To begin with, I liked the setting and the facility. It just felt right that good barbeque should come from a couple of old school buses and a real wood burning pit. As I walked up, Curtis was tending the pit, pulling off huge racks of ribs from the pit. He looked like he had been doing this most of his life. This has got to be good, I thought. He looks more like a barbeque master than Tony Roma ever did.

I did not realize it at the time, but that would be the high point of my visit.

The shine began to dim as I looked at the menu board. I was hungry, and I could immediately see that this was going to be expensive. However, I was not turning back. I decided on a half rack of ribs, a chicken leg and thigh, and an order of beans. The total came to a little over $25.00. That was more than I wanted to spend, but sometimes you have to pay more to get the best. At least that’s what I told myself as I totaled the order in my head.

It got worse as soon as I stepped to the window to place my order. If I had picked a strange house at random, walked up to the door, and asked for food, I probably would have been treated better than I was by the girl who snarled at me through the bus window that day. It was a rainy afternoon, and I was the only customer on the property, but I guess she would rather have remained completely undisturbed.

This must be good, I thought. If they can treat customers this badly, and stay in business, the food must be worth it.

I was wrong.

The meat, both the chicken and the ribs, was dry and tough. It was closer to jerky than barbeque. OK, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was far from the juicy, fall off the bone tenderness that I was anticipating. In addition, the meat itself, had very little flavor. The sauce was the only thing that provided any flavor and moisture.

I must say that I did not mind the sauce. To be clear, I did not mind the flavor of the sauce. The quantity, on the other hand, was something else. It’s a red sauce with a strong vinegar base. It is not the best sauce that I have ever had, but it has a flavor to it that I could enjoy in moderation. However, the meat was served drenched in such large quantities of sauce that it was overwhelming. In a perfect world, I like my barbeque served with the sauce on the side so that I can add only as a much as I want. In my opinion, the sauce should compliment the flavor of the meat and not be the dominant taste. It seems that this Curtis uses the sauce to hide the fact that the meat alone has no flavor.

The baked beans were indeed a curiosity. By the texture of the beans, they were undercooked. They were hard and dry. However, by taste, they were overcooked. There was a strong burnt flavor that was not the desired smoky barbequed goodness. I don’t know how they could have been much worse. I ate a few bites, and tossed the bowl.

I should have known better than to expect good barbeque in New England. Even though Curtis’ is only about a half mile off of Interstate 91, in my opinion, it’s best to just keep driving.
1 star rating
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Baked Beans

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Posted By Cheryl Stevens on August 23, 2010 6:18 PM
We were on our way home from visiting relatives in Jericho, VT. I had seen Curtis's Barbecue on The Phantom Gourmet and decided this was a beautiful day to stop. My husband and I had the loaded baked potatoes (one chicken and one pork) and we split an ear of corn.

They were the best tasting baked potatoes we had ever had. The corn snapped off the cob and was extremely tasty. We loved listening to the guitarist as we ate. He was very good and interacted with the crowd. We stopped and met Curtis; what a very sweet man.

We will definitely go back. It's only about two hours from our home so it will make a great day trip for lunch. If you haven't eaten there, it's well worth it.
4 star rating
Overall Rating
Baked Potato

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Posted By Joe Frangiamore on February 20, 2010 11:03 PM
Be warned: your two plates of ribs for $50 are going to be soaked in vinegar-flavored BBQ sauce. Just awful. Even the two couples seated next to us were complaining about this practice of DRENCHING the ribs and chicken in this terrible BBQ sauce.

How people rave about this place I'll never know. To be fair, without the "sauce" I bet the smokey flavor would shine through with mouth-watering results. The chicken was a little dry, as were the ribs, but the baked beans and baked potato were terrific.

Hey, my wife and I spent close to 50 bucks here and for that much money we could have eaten indoors without all the bees and bugs pestering us throughout our vinegar-soaked lunch. Not happy. You've been warned.
2 star rating
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Posted By Derek Waddington on June 12, 2008 12:24 PM
I didn't meet Curtis, but his staff were the rudest people I have ever dealt with in a restauarant. I arrived late and they told me I had to take the ribs to go because they wanted to clean up. I assumed that meant I shouldn't use the picnic tables. So, I had a picnic on the hood of my car with my son in the parking lot. Five minutes later an irate woman rushes out and says "the next time I tell you you have to take these to go, that means go... not eat in the parking lot." I was somewhat surprised and answer that I thought she just didn't want us using the tables so that she could clean them. She yells, "No, we want you out of here because we're trying to close up and if people see your car here, they'll think we're still open." She couldn't just have asked nicely?

By the way, the ribs were good, but a little dry around the edges. The sauce was nothing to write home about, kind of like Frank's Red Hot, but really not that hot.

Contrast all this to Dreamland Barbeque in Tuscaloosa , Alabama. I had exactly the same experience there, where I also arrived late and had to eat in the parking lot. Difference is, there, as the staff left they stopped by to chat, appologized for having to close, and hoped that I was enjoying the ribs. Short answer: they (Dreamland Barbeque) DO HAVE the best ribs I ever tasted!

In summary, if you want decent ribs, mediocre barbeque sauce and terrible courtesy stop by Curtis's, but don't stop by after 7 or they'll kick you out!
0 star rating
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