Dining: Smoked and Satisfied at Big W’s
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
Husband Edgar had had enough. It was time to get off the sofa and on our way from NYC to our home in the Berkshires. “If you take me to one more locavore, non GMO, vegan, nouvelle vegetarian, organic, or whatever place, I’m not moving a muscle.” Although I’m often a fan of such places, a marriage is a marriage, and one must make… if not compromises, let’s just say detours. It was inevitable: big chunks of animal flesh have tended to be lacking in restaurants we’ve been patronizing as of late, healthier and more politically correct though they might be. “Yes, Edgar,” I said, “but it’s going to take us longer than usual to get there, and remember your blood pressure.”
“That’s fine by me,” he responded. “I’m doing the driving anyway.”
So last week we decided to go to Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q, a rib joint somewhat off the beaten path in Windgale, NY, requiring a turn onto Rte. 22 — not as fast as going straight up the Taconic but no less delightful at this time of year.
It’s always fun to discover a new dining place, although as soon as you do, your friends all say that they knew about it and loved it already. (It was included in a Rural Intelligence roundup of Route 22 food stops.) That’s the case with Big W’s, which turns out our friends had been visiting for years, first when it was just a truck stand and now in its more permanent shop-front locale. They liked it so much, some said that they’ve had their weddings catered by them. This time we concur: Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q is really a find. The atmosphere was unpretentious, the food excellent, and the portions were not just plentiful but somewhat overwhelming.
“You’re newbies,” our host, Warren Norstein, said when we had finally arrived and after we asked if the “Try it All Combination” really was enough for two people. Then he and his whole team turned to us as one and chimed out that it was “more than enough!” And because we were “newbies,” Warren insisted on adding an entire serving of beef brisket to the overwhelmingly large platter of food he was putting together for us, making Edgar a convert for life. (We ate some that night and had enough left over for several days.)
We had decided on take-out, but it would have been just as fun to eat at Chez W’s. While small, the dining area — three or so booths and about four or so regular tables all crammed together hugger mugger — is full of amusing kitschy decoration. Anyone for a flying pig or a large wooden relief of a cow on the wall?
When it comes to the menu, life is simple, clear, and straightforward: four choices of meat—chicken, pork, spare ribs, or beef brisket. All of it is dry rubbed and slow cooked. After that, you can make some small changes: pork “pulled” or “sandwich style,” meat by the pound, or some kind of combination thereof.
Our “Try it all Combination” ($25.00) was a revelation of tender, succulent, moist, smoky-flavored meats, and a choice of two sides; we topped off our order with a crisp and tangy coleslaw and smoky beans that were full of bacon, both excellent, as well as Aunt Lottie’s Apple Cake ($7.00) and Real Banana Pudding ($4.50), all of which we had to finish off the following night.
Afterwards, in the car, Edgar and I did dispute some issues: whether the brisket was better than the pulled pork, why the meat on the spare rib seem to melt in the mouth, and how did they get the chicken so moist if it had really been cooked for 30 hours. We decided that a return visit was necessary to try the meat chili, as well as the Brunswick Stew. Edgar was very happy, and did not speed as we drove the rest of the way home, two factors that no doubt added not only years to our marriage but — from my viewpoint at least — our life expectancy in general.
Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q
1475 Route 22
Wednesday - Saturday; Noon to 8 p.m.
Sunday; Noon to 7 p.m.