An outdoor stand decorated in pink has a colorful menu illustrated with cartoon characters and a pink pig logo that looks straight out of the Hair Bear Bunch cartoon from the 1970s. An assortment of non-commercial smokers is scattered about the grounds, and the one behind the stand was pumping maple and hickory smoke in full force upon my arrival. There's no indoor dining; sitdown options are limited to a few picnic tables near the street.
The "basic four" of ribs, chicken, pulled pork and brisket are all on offer, as are pulled chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs. There are numerous preconfigured combination
packages sized to feed various party sizes and appetites.
After a morning of leaf peeping, my extended family of four hit the Vittles Stop for an early Sunday lunch. I was a little surprised to see that it was an outdoor affair and not a sitdown restaurant.
We bypassed the appetizers to focus on the four available meats in the "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" combo.
Chicken: Wings and thighs had a sturdy crust from rub and saucing applications, revealing meat beneath that was neither moist nor dry (nor warm) and neither tender nor tough. Flavor was impressively smoky, cut somewhat by the semi sweet sauce (predominantly ketchup, but a little more complex tasting when cooked into the meat).
Ribs: Served as meaty individual spare rib bones, these initially came out cold, but a second reheat managed to add not only warmth but a few extra bones as well. Whether that was based on a desire to overcome the initial mistake or on having seen me taking photos, I have no idea. These ribs weren't tough per se, but they were less than tender, wielding a toothsomeness probably as much a result of the hastier-than-ideal reheating as the initial smoke. Speaking of smoke, they brought a lot of it, with a decent rub presence as well that gave them a pleasant overall flavor that overcame the texture. As for moistness, they were far from juicy and far from dry, coming in at what I like to call borderline moist. These were ribs with potential that fell into the obvious reheat category.
Pulled pork: Tried on a sandwich and on a platter as well, the pork was easily the worst of the meats, coming in stiff, bland and dry (though covered in sauce that tasted a lot more ketchupy this time). Unlike the ribs, the pork had no flavor benefits to mitigate the textural effects from the hasty reheat. Somehow the bun was still soft and reasonably fresh—no mean feat in the autumn air.
Brisket: This was the meat that had the most potential. Pulled and served unsauced, it had much more bark than the pork, much more pink coloring and a nice moistness to it that didn't require any sauce. Flavor was beefy and smoky in an understated way. I'd get this again.
While less bright red than ketchup and a little less thick, the one available sauce had a very ketchupy feel and taste. It was better as a lubricant than as a flavor enhancer.
Cole slaw was cold, extremely crunchy (one of the few aspects helped by the cold), extremely creamy and balanced by a good dose of black pepper. Equally crunchy cucumber salad was simple and fresh without being too tart or too sweet. Macaroni and cheese took the form of spiral pasta with a light cheese coating. While many mac and cheese renditions are like the Kraft mix from a box, this one was more like the Kraft grated cheese from a jar, with a little of that familiar grit to it. Cornbread mini loaves (very cold) were probably store bought.
The Bottom Line
This is a rustic, rough-around-the-edges brand of barbecue where the flavors (the meat, not the sauce) were mostly favorable and the textures and temperatures mostly less than favorable. For a seasonal outdoor barbecue joint, hitting them very late in the season (mid October) and very early in the day (11:30, and on a Sunday to boot) probably didn't present the best opportunity for success, so I'm cutting the Vittles Stop at least a little bit of slack. The reheats could have gone smoother and the meats should have been tender, but I'd have to try them in the summer to get an accurate read on a more typical experience. Doing some extrapolation, I'm guessing that even on their best day, the Vittles Stop would wind up slotted somewhere near the middle of the pack.
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