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Best BBQ Cuisine in New England: B.T.'s Smokehouse, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

BT's Smokehouse, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

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 progress from 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 amazing food.

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 in Sturbridge, Mass.
Brisket from B.T.'s Smokehouse. Photo credit:

If all this sounds like the creation of a mastermind, you are correct. Treitman might have started as a kid in the backyard grilling like the countless weekend warriors, but eventually used his educational and career 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, B.T.'s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, Mass.
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. Smokeshouse in Sturbridge, Mass.
St. Louis ribs from B.T.'s Smokehouse.
Photo credit:

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 salad.

Fried chicken from B.T.'s Smokehouse in Stubridge, Mass.
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 sample of delicious barbecue foods from B.T.'s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, Mass.
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 Junior)."
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.

Brisket reuben from B.T.'s Smokehouse in Stubridge, Mass.
Reuben brisket sandwich from B.T.'s Smokehouse. Photo credit:
B.T.'s Smokehouse Facebook fan page.

With all the success at its Sturbridge location, it's no surprise that BT's has expanded its business. Recently opened: B.T.’s Fried Chicken and BBQ at 318 Park St. in Worcester, Mass. and a concession stand at the new Polar Park home to the WooSox (the AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox).

BT's concession stand at Polar Park in Worcester, Massachusetts.
BT's concession stand at Polar Park in Worcester.

At beautiful Polar Park, it's hard deciding whether to focus more on the food or the game. In this instance, however, the food becomes the main draw: pulled pork and smoked brisket (with a side of mac and cheese, not pictured). And that's coming from a huge Worcester WooSox fan who loves to watch baseball!

Feasting on BT's Smokehouse BBQ cuisine at Polar Park in Worcester, Mass.
Feasting on BT's Smokehouse BBQ cuisine at Polar Park.

All that business growth and the adoration of a public in love with his barbecue cuisine has not gone to Treitman's head as he 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 Sturbridge.

"I much prefer the rural life to the city," said Treitman. "It is great to be able to see the stars at night."

Ultimately, Treitman stays authentic and genuine whether in his personal life or with the amazing barbecue foods he has created through the years.

"I like things the way they are," said Treitman, with a definitive, unwavering tone.

B.T.'s Smokehouse is located at 392 Main St.(Route 20) in Sturbridge, Mass. Tel. 508-347-3188. Web site: Facebook fan page: Twitter page: Instagram: @btsmokehouse

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Brisket from B.T.'s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, Mass.

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