When you think of BBQ, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is either down south in the Carolinas or Texas, maybe even Kansas City…big plates of smoked meats perfuming the air, smothered in sweet and tangy sauces, or dry; letting the meat speak for itself. You probably don’t think of Sturbridge, Massachusetts when the BBQ conversation starts. However, over the last several years, B.T.’s Smokehouse has been establishing a reputation for offering not only some of the best BBQ in the state, but also the nation! It has slowly evolved from a small, roadside operation to a full blown sit down facility that will even do catering for a larger event; all the while gathering awards and accolades and hoards of countless BBQ fanatics who love the product they are serving on a daily basis.

Being a BBQ place, I found myself feeling strange ordering a burger. Watching the huge plates of brisket and racks of ribs with all the fixings’ pass me by made me regret not going for some whole hog BBQ fest. I figured that any place that can do legit BBQ justice can probably handle a burger. But not any burger… a bison burger. This is the first game meat burger that I have had the pleasure of trying in my burger adventure for Mass Foodies. I have had bison before and enjoyed it, I figured why not give it a shot. Given the nature of the bison and its healthy diet, bison meat tends to be extremely lean and quite the healthy alternative to ordinary ground beef. The bison burger at BT’s is advertised as a 9 oz. local buffalo patty with chunks of Beef Brisket and Caramelized Onions. No Cheese Needed! ($10).

I know that good BBQ is worth the wait and I get that, however this order seemed like it took forever, and frankly the final product paid the price. The marketed meal said that the burger came topped with beef brisket and caramelized onion… as you can see from my picture, not such toppings adorned my burger. I was disappointed right from the get go. Luckily, the quality of the meat saved the day. Even though the burger patty was grossly overcooked to the point of hockey puck status, the meat was still juicy and flavorful. Being that it is bison, it did have a slightly game meat aftertaste (in the best way possible). The meat did have what seemed like a house made sauce smothering the top. This sauce was tangy and helped stifle the crunchy edges of the burger. A side of cucumber salad helped mellow the gamey taste and add some tang and brightness to the dish. The bun was also too small to support such a hefty burger. I think that the chunks of brisket and onions would have made a world of difference in the final outcome of this meal, but alas I was left wondering “what if?”

As I sat in the cozy dining room with the other patrons, I enjoyed watching the Sox run up the score on the hapless Oakland A’s. I was able to reflect upon where this journey has brought me as I remembered some of the other places I have dined on the lustrous burger. BT’s was certainly one of the most unique places, with its charm and flare, as well as one of the more unconventional restaurants around. Like one of the signs in the dining room said, BBQ to some is more like a way of life, a religion if you will. It is much more than slapping a steak on a grill. It is attacking something with passion and vigor that comes out in the food that they serve to their customers. I can understand this passion and mindset whole heartedly. This passion shows in every meal they put out. Just next time, I will make sure I get the brisket with a side of mac and cheese and corn bread.

Where will my burger odyssey take me next? Have a suggestion? Tweet me your suggestion just might make my list! Until next time…

Christmas shopping for fine art collectibles and inspiration at Vaillancourt Folk Art in Sutton, MA