If you're driving through Quechee, you can't miss the outdoor rig and barbecue sign in front of Route 4 Country Store. You'll smell the smoke too, but don't look for a menu or anyone to take your order until you head inside. The menu's right on the pastry case that holds muffins and coffee cakes and such, but take a thorough look around, because there are also specials posted on signs. The same counterperson handling payments for candy, soda, cheeses and other sundries also takes your barbecue order and heads into the back room to make it.
There's no indoor seating and outdoor seating is minimal, but the long stone wall around the corner provides a convenient makeshift table.
This is also a major frozen dairy stop, with signs out front boasting myriad flavors of both ice cream and frozen yogurt.
Barbecue items include babyback pork ribs and St Louis cut pork ribs, pulled pork, sliced brisket, smoked chicken and smoked wings. Ribs are available by the rack and half rack. The pork and brisket are available in three different sizes of sandwiches and by the pound. Keep an eye out for a combo special that includes ribs, pork and brisket on a single platter. For the less barbecue inclined, there's no shortage of other options inside the store, though I'm not sure how many of them are served hot.
Three barbecue-loving friends joined me for a 4-stop crawl that led off a Saturday afternoon here.
Wings: You can order these by the pound ($6.99), so it's easy to get as many or as few as you want, sauced with one of three options. We chose honey mustard barbecue on the side, and that worked well. Size was an immediate concern. It wasn't that we needed extra bulk or were worried about the value; it's that the wings were so small that the meat was firm and dried out, with an almost gummy texture that might have been nicely caramelly with a larger product. Flavor, on the other hand, was quite pleasing, with a strong natural chickeniness, equally strong smoke and rub presence not felt on the surface but tasted throughout. Good color and crispness too. They'd really have something here if the wings were large enough to let them be more moist and more tender.
Ribs: A heavy coating of sauce nearly obscured the half rack of St Louis cut spare ribs ($12.95), but a quick separation of the bones revealed some sturdy crusts. The areas near the bones were less sturdy, allowing the droopy meat to fall right off with a mere shake. The bite didn't offer any resistance below the bark, but the contrast of sauce, crust and overly tender meat was a noteworthy experience. Flavor brought much smoke—more freight train than fragrant. Porkiness also came through but rub did not, despite that crust. This is a worthy rib for someone who likes extra sauce, extra sweet and extra tender without sacrificing the smoke component.
Pulled pork: A half pound serving of pork ($5.99) delivered a similarly heavy saucing, turning off some of my crawlmates. I soldiered on, even though I prefer less sauce in general and vinegar over sweet. Stylistic preferences aside, I liked it. As with the ribs, the pulled pork had a strong smoke presence and plenty of bark—probably among the most barky I've seen. Unlike the ribs, the meat wasn't floppy and mushy, but the porkiness lay dormant below the sauce. I still enjoyed this pork as is and probably would have enjoyed it more in a soft and squishy bun that could alleviate some of the saucy sweetness. For roadside eats, this is a respectable rendition that'll please a wide variety of tastes.
Brisket: Long, unsauced strips about as thin as deli meat and as marbled (read: fatty) as bacon made up our half pound serving ($7.99). The meat had good tenderness—hard not to with a slice that thin—and hints of steamy moisture, but nothing close to juicy. A likely reheat. Bark was elusive—again no surprise, considering the thin slice. Smoke was also elusive, coming in less as "smoky" than as "meat that's been smoked." Overall, a little bland, a little old and more than a little fatty.
Not counting the wing treatments, there's just one sauce: a dark, sweet number with a viscosity about halfway between maple syrup and ketchup. Flavor is similar to a classic bottled sauce, but it's a little smoother, zestier and even sweeter.
Cole slaw: If this wasn't store bought, it certainly tasted like it.
Baked beans: Probably a canned variety, based on mushy consistency and predictable mild sweetness. I noticed two distinct colors in the beans, making me wonder if they might not be a canned variety. Then my friends convinced me they were simply two canned varieties, mixed together.
Bathrooms are provided via outdoor entry, just as when this joint was a gas station.
The Bottom Line
This isn't destination barbecue but it's a solid interpretation for what it is. If you like that rare combination of fall-off-the-bone and extra smoky, this'll be right up your alley. And even if you don't, Route 4 Country Store is still worth a look if you're already in the area.
Yelp reviews of Route 4 Country Store
Urbanspoon reviews of Route 4 Country Store
||'Like' PigTrip BBQ Reviews on Facebook to keep up with all of the reviews and much more content not available on the site.