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Best BBQ Cuisine in New England: B.T.'s Smokehouse,
B.T.'s Smokehouse, Sturbridge, Mass. Photo: Eric Hurwitz.
Article by Eric Hurwitz. Article
created on 11/27/17.
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B.T.'s Smokehouse is so good that it has become, along with
Old Sturbridge Village and the Publick House Historic Inn and
Restaurant, one of the top three major business draws in Sturbridge,
Mass. That's noteworthy, given the Publick House dates back to 1771 and
Old Sturbridge Village -- a famous outdoor living museum depicting New England
life from the 1790s to 1830s) -- first opening in 1946.
B.T.'s Smokehouse opened only 10 years ago.
Owner and head chef Brian Treitman, 41, has seen his business
selling barbecue foods from a trailer alongside the Brimfield Antiques
Fair to a sit-down, 38-seat restaurant that serves, for starters,
around 2,000 lbs. of brisket and 1,800 lbs of pork a week to an average
of 800 customers a day. Those craving incredible barbecue cuisine
travel to B.T.'s from Boston and Worcester on a regular basis and a few
even making the three-hour trek from New York City every few months. I
personally regard the BBQ cuisine I've tried at B.T.'s as, by far, the
best in New England, and would not hesitate to drive an hour for the
The classic smoky barbecue aromas permeate the unpretentious
seats-and-counter dining room while customers enjoy huge plates of
reasonably-priced, mouthwatering barbecue foods at this
family-friendly, BYOB roadside BBQ joint. That deliciousness goes
beyond many of the typical local BBQ joints that call themselves "genuine" and
"authentic" while, ironically, reheating up to 80 percent of its food.
B.T.'s Smokehouse, on the other hand, creates 80 percent of its food
fresh out of one of its smokers. The meats have been dry-rubbed and
slow-smoked up to 14 hours with local apple and hickory woods, thus
making the true barbecue tastes virtually jump off the plates as opposed
to lifeless looking, watered-down BBQ food with distant relation to the real thing.
Brisket from B.T.'s Smokehouse. Photo credit: PigTrip.net.
If all this sounds like the creation of a mastermind, you are
Treitman might have started as a kid in the backyard grilling like the
countless weekend warriors, but eventually used his educational and
background to follow a passion by striving to perfect the art and
science of barbecue cooking. With a degree in evolutionary
science from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and as a
graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.,
Treitman used his "math and science mind" and formal culinary training
to focus on creating, at first, food for more upscale restaurants. He
worked as a chef at various Napa Valley, Cal., restaurants and in
Boston -- most notably Spire and KO Prime at the Nine Zero Hotel -- but
ultimately felt this type of fine dining career "wasn't worth it." He
first cooked brisket at the 2007 Brimfield Fair, felt his calling, and
the rest is history.
"One out of every three restaurants makes it, so I knew I had to get an
education," said Treitman, of his science background. "I was actually
going to teach, but I can do that here (at B.T.'s). I teach at the B.T.
school of common sense!"
Brian Treitman starts the process in the B.T.'s Smokehouse kitchen. Photo credit: B.T.'s Smokehouse Facebook fan page.
Through a painstaking process of finding complementary protein
combinations, and continuously finding ways to enhance rubs, sauces ("whole grain mustard and pork
work well together") and sides, Treitman ties in his career craft with
the concepts of molecular gastronomy.
"Things change all the time in that field (molecular gastronomy), and
the same applies to cooking," said Treitman. "Books helped to better
understand the cooking process, and it's important to be
updated as we start to understand more."
St. Louis ribs from B.T.'s Smokehouse. Photo credit: PigTrip.net
The result: barbecue food that stays true to form -- a loving ode to local
barbecue joints in the southern states. That not only includes the signature pulled pork, ribs and
brisket selections, but also comfort food classics like hand-cut fries,
beer battered onion rings, hush puppies (corn meal fritter with veggies
and "love"), chili (with brisket, or course), whole smoked wings, BBQ
beans (made with black beans) black-eyed peas, cornbread and potato
Smoked chicken from B.T.'s Smokehouse. Photo credit: B.T.'s Smokehouse Facebook fan page.
The Pig Trip Platter might be the culinary crowing glory and best way
to sample the magic of B.T.'s Smokehouse with its ribs, brisket, pulled
pork, cole slaw, dirty rice, mac and cheese and corn bread. B.T.'s also
serves mini, regular, big and wrap sandwiches, an amazing bison burger,
blackened catfish, a brisket Reuben, and an overstuffed burrito with
choice of meat, BBQ beans, dirty rice, cheddar cheese, Pico de Gallo
and sour cream. If you have enough room for
dessert, B.T.'s even offers homemade gems like bread pudding, a "rich
fudge brownie," and a pecan pie square. For a
look at the full menu, click here,
“I try to cook my BBQ the way you think BBQ should taste," said
Treitman. "When you think about a pork rib, in your mind it is tender,
succulent, ready to fall off the bone with a little smoke and glazed
with a flavorful, spiced, sweet sauce. You want to lick your fingers –
no need for a napkin. You want to dip the bone into the drippings that
are left and then suck it dry. That’s the way I try to cook.”
A sampling of comfort foods from B.T.'s Smokehouse. Photo credit: B.T.'s Smokehouse Facebook fan page.
While locals and travelers have taken notice --proven by the lines
often out the door -- celebrities and media have embraced the
southern-BBQ-foods-meet-Sturbridge restaurant. Gordon Ramsay, while
visiting the Vienna Inn in Southbridge, Mass., for an episode of Hotel
Hell, stopped by B.T.'s Smokehouse in late November 2015 for some
brisket. His analysis on Instagram and Twitter: "Loved the brisket at
@btssmokehouse today. Well done chef Brian, great to see how far you've
come from this stand."
"He was awesome," said Treitman, of Ramsay. "Nothing like the image. It was like
he treated us the way he treats the kids on his show (MasterChef
The Boston Globe once named B.T.'s Smokehouse one of the "ten best places to
bask in barbecue," while Yankee Magazine recognized the Sturbridge BBQ
roadhouse in its Aug. 2, 2017 online article, "Hog Wild/ New England's
Best Barbecue Scene." B.T.'s Smokehouse also finished #20 in The 100 Best Barbecue
Restaurants in America book by Johnny Fugitt.
Reuben brisket sandwich from B.T.'s Smokehouse. Photo credit: B.T.'s Smokehouse Facebook fan page.
With all the success, Treitman stays balanced, focused and cerebral,
making sure to spend lots of quality time with his two young children
while serving as an on-site restaurant owner and chef. Treitman deeply
entrusts his staff of 23 highly-trained employees to help set forth his
ambitious BBQ restaurant vision. He also enjoys the rural lifestyle of
"I much prefer the rural life to the city," said Treitman. "It is great
to be able to see the stars at night."
Treitman, however, draws the line between success and the question of
whether to expand.
"I don't want to get bigger than this," said Treitman. "I don't want to
mess with this. I like things the way they are."
B.T.'s Smokehouse is
located at 392 Main St.(Route 20) in Sturbridge, Mass. Tel.
508-347-3188. Web site: http://www.btsmokehouse.com. Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/BTSmokehouse/. Twitter
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