Bare Bone BBQ (Fairlee, VT)

(Update: Bare Bone disappeared in 2013 when the Whistlestop closed.)

As those that know me locally can verify, I’ve often complained that there’s just not a lot of BBQ action out there around the Upper Valley. Sure, there’s “Barbecue reformulated for New England Tastes” at Big Fatty’s, but that shouldn’t count (and doesn’t, the only thing salvageable on their menu is the pulled pork). Similarly, I’ve had a gazillion recommendations for Curtis’ BBQ in Putney, but I’ll agree with that it’s disappointing. And I’ll let my review of Sweet Fire BBQ in Claremont speak for itself. I’m getting used to the fact that people up here don’t really know what BBQ is, but heard about it once and decided to make up something similar. And my recent trip to Texas didn’t help, either, since it just reintroduced me to what I’ve been missing.

But, I’ve always held out hope that someone around here could figure out the basics of running a smoker, so when I hear of new BBQ places, I usually still feel compelled to give them a try…

So, about a year ago, up in Fairlee, VT, the owners of the Whippi Dip ice cream stand decided that on the first Saturday of the month in the good weather months of the year they’d do the BBQ thing by setting up a tent in the parking lot and making some decent BBQ. I’d received a lot of good feedback, so, a few weeks ago, several of us from work rendezvoused in Fairlee to try it out.

Bare Bone is definitely a sparse operation, they put a few grills and smokers under a big tent, along with a few refrigerated coolers. But they’ve got a decent menu, with pretty much the normal selection of BBQ meats (brisket, ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and chicken), a weekly special (which was smoked prime rib when we went, but you had to reserve it ahead of time), and a decent selection of typical sides, including potato salad, cole slaw, beans, and even cheese grits.

Looking things over, Carol and I got together with my coworker Lindsay and her husband, and split their meat sampler, which included chicken, ribs, sausage, pork, and brisket. For $35, this was enough food for 4 people.

Starting off with the ribs, these were your basic KC-style ribs and sauce. I usually like them a little more smoked and less sauced, but these were decent enough, and certainly not disappointing. The chicken and sausage were both really good (I’m usually disappointed by both, doubly so up here in the Northeast), but these were both flavorful and moist, and the chicken had a really good spice rub on it. The pork was decent, too, having hit the right amount of smoking to be properly pulled apart, but still tasting of pork. The brisket was decent, too, although mostly it made me pine for Austin. Such is life.

They did a decent job with the sides as well. The potato salad was just the sort I like to go with my BBQ, nicely soft potatoes and a slightly tangy sauce. The cheese grits were also a pleasant surprise, being nicely done instead of gloppy, and just enough cheese to make it taste lightly cheesy but not gooey. This was a good accomplishment, since in these parts most people couldn’t pick a bowl of grits out of a police lineup.

So, while my Southern-calibrated BBQ tastes weren’t wowed by Bare Bone, they were certainly satisfied. My BBQ was properly prepared and decently smoked, putting this place head and shoulders above the rest of the Upper Valley’s limited BBQ offerings. Alas, they are only open on one Saturday a month…

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