Vermont Maple BBQ

Rinker’s Mobil, Exit 4 off I-89
Randolph, VT

3/5 stars

Two out of three of us had a delicious lunch today in the parking lot of a filling station along a small road that bisects a rolling green field somewhere south of Burlington. The tree line lay twenty yards in one direction and a quarter mile in the other; it was a warm green October afternoon and the ravens were cussing the insects, demanding that they sit still, and the acrid smell of smoked meat wafted from Vermont BBQ’s stand like an invitation written in reddish brown all over the front of your shirt. Keith, our vegetarian, slumbered through the whole thing on the van’s back bench, which is a little longer than the other benches. About a foot longer; but that foot counts.

Vegetarians should absolutely slumber in the van when their party stops at Vermont BBQ, for there’s little at Vermont BBQ to interest the carniphobe. The slaw is tasty enough, and the four soda varieties represent the best of the international soda consortiums’ blends, and there’s a cheese quesadilla on the menu, but it isn’t an accident that the small mobile premises of Vermont BBQ are dominated by a no-nonsense coal-black pit barbecue roughly the size and shape of a grown beef cow.

After some initial quibbling over whether this was the right time of day for lunch and whether appetites should be saved for the infamous smoked meats of Montreal, Chris and Danny decided to roll the dice-shaped pig bones. Chris ordered the pulled pork sandwich, and said he’d take his slaw on the sandwich when the proprietor offered that option. Danny, sensing the opportunity to lay chips down on a winning bet, asked for the same thing.

The proprietor was chummy and talkative. She guessed that we were a band and told us about the time Levon Helm’s band came by. It was a good story, but it’s hers to tell -you’ll have to visit VT BBQ to hear it.

As she talked we watched her scoop drippy pulled pork out of a warming pan and build intimidating piles on our griddle-toasted buns (not our asses! the sandwich rolls that VT BBQ uses). She served us the sandwiches in paper trays with our slaw in dixie cups on the side. What happened to slaw “on the sandwich,” we don’t know. Likely she offered up that possibility simply to hear our responses, never actually intending to follow through. The ways that a person will go about trying to entertain herself when her job corrals her in a filling station parking lot all day are a mystery to us, and will, god willing, always remain so.

But the sandwich, it was really good. Danny fucking loved his, and Chris thought that if he was the kind of guy to fucking love almost everything that allowed itself to be eaten, he’d have felt the same. Instead he quietly thrilled at the fine luck of stumbling onto a delicious hot sandwich when all you were expecting was a 99¢ bag of mealy nuts and a Vitamin Water (the official lunch of Failure). We told the proprietor we’d come back next time we were in the area; she suggested we check her website for updated location info in case planned retail development displaces her. Apparently a Pizza Hut is in the works, which will make at least the ravens happy since it will mean lots more insects. On the downside, it’ll also mean roving hordes of rats, who will surely devour any raven eggs they come across. And of course, the local human population will suffer obesity and miscellaneous plague. We hope, for their sake, that Vermont BBQ doesn’t move far.