Barbecue in the West Branch region
Some say good barbecue can only be found in the South. But they would be wrong. You don’t have to go far to find delicious, mouth-watering, slow-roasted meat in north central Pennsylvania. Summer is the perfect time to grab barbecue fare for a creekside, poolside, riverside or traveling feast.
According to Curt Candor, owner of Curt’s Smokin’s Ribs in Mill Hall, barbecue restaurants were not as common in the area 15 years ago. There has been an assumption by some that southerners working in the gas industry here are responsible for its growth. Candor doesn’t see it that way. “Southerners coming here had nothing to do with it. They gave my business a boost but my food was accepted locally anyway.”
Now that barbecue restaurants are here in full force, we’ve rounded up a sampling of a few of the many eateries serving up tender and tasty barbecue and all the delicious sides that come with it.
Herman and Luther’s Workshop Deli
When it comes to local barbecue, you can’t help but throw around the name George Logue III of Montoursville, the owner of Herman and Luther’s Workshop Deli, who is an award-winning chef and master of cooking low and slow.
“My father and I cooked barbecue a lot at home when I was growing up,” Logue said. “I went to culinary school hoping to work in big city restaurants, but right before I graduated we decided to open up Acme Barbecue instead of me moving away.”
Logue’s mastery of smoked meat at Acme inspired him to enter – and win – multiple barbecue competitions in the South.
“Barbecue competitions are some of the most intense competitions I’ve witnessed or been a part of. A lot more work goes into the big ones than most would imagine,” Logue said. “Memphis in May World BBQ championship is one of the world’s biggest and the one I attend more than others. It’s usually upwards of 250 teams competing. Although all of these teams are super fierce competitors and the best barbecue cooks in the world, it’s crazy how well everyone gets along. Unless it is meat turn-in time, people from other teams are hanging out in our booth and vice versa. The barbecue competition scene has some of the friendliest people I’ve met.”
Logue started Acme because of his love of barbecuing but didn’t expect to cater so many weddings while there.
“Growing up in Trout Run, I always admired the stone barn on Route 87,” he said. “A lot of the weddings I was catering were in old cleaned-out barns. My father, Herman, inquired about buying the property from the owners and the next thing you know, we were fixing up the property.”
That property became Herman and Luther’s, 787 State Route 87, Montoursville, a wildly popular wedding destination and on-site catering facility. This allowed Logue to place the outdoor kitchen front and center on the patio, so guests can see what is happening in the “back of the house.”
This also provided an opportunity to create the Workshop Deli on the first-floor of the barn, where people can taste Logue’s latest culinary inspirations. “I think our most popular sandwich at the deli is one that I didn’t even come up with. A regular of ours not only told me what to put on it, but also named it,” he said. “The Alabama Rodeo is a smoked and fried chicken thigh smothered in our Bama white barbecue sauce topped with fried onion rings and Cooper sharp cheese on a Martin’s potato roll.”
As he explained, “We would run wing specials every once in a while. One time the special was smoked and fried wings tossed in the Bama white sauce. I think he ordered them twice that day. I think it was the next day he told me I should figure out a way to put it on a sandwich with onion rings and call it the Alabama Rodeo. I added the Cooper sharp. Thanks, Ben!” For a menu and list of specials, visit https://www.hermanandluthers.com/the-workshop/the-workshop-deli
Amy Carter, of Williamsport, has always worked in the food industry, first starting at a pizza shop and then running her own restaurant in Harrisburg for more than a decade.
She came back to Williamsport to help her family run Acme Barbecue, 445 Market St., and eventually took over as owner in 2017.
“I honestly did not know much at all about barbecue and smoking meats,” Carter said. “But my nephew George Logue taught me everything there is to know. I now run the smoker and do all the cooking for the business.”
As anyone who has been to Acme knows, the ribs are amazing, but a signature favorite dish is the deep-fried potato salad. “I love this because no one has ever heard of such a thing,” Carter said. “And customers also love our white sauce.”
Carter also is keeping Acme as a family business. “I love working at Acme because I love Williamsport. We have been here 10 years and I would not want to live anywhere else,” she said. ” I also love the fact that it is family-run. I could never run Acme without my children. Ben, Leah and Abby are my rock and keep things running smoothly. I love that I get to work with them on a daily basis and teach them the trade.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for many local businesses, Carter keeps her head high. “Our customer base is awesome,” she said. “The support of the community is wonderful. They keep me as positive as I can be.”
Acme is a downtown Williamsport staple that provides food to a variety of customers, including students at Lycoming College and Pennsylvania College of Technology.
“We do a lot of food for graduations, and sporting events from both colleges,” she said. “I have done local weddings and turn around and do birthday parties for the couples in the next couple years. There is not another place in town like us.” For a menu and list of specials, visit http://acmebarbecue.com/menu.html
BBQ Inferno food truck
If you have driven around Williamsport, you may have spotted the black food truck along Washington Boulevard emblazoned with a fiery bull and the slogan, “This ain’t yo Pappy’s BBQ!”
If so, then you have seen the BBQ Inferno food truck owned and operated by Anthony and Jacqueline Dattoli of Selinsgrove.
“We have always loved entertaining friends and family, and along with that comes cooking and barbecuing,” Anthony Dattoli said. “Our friends and family loved our barbecue so much that they kept telling us we needed to open our own restaurant. But ultimately, it all began the first time I smoked my first brisket. I was hooked ever since.”
Dattoli said that brisket is his favorite meat to smoke, followed closely by a Carolina pulled pork. “We specialize in southern barbecue, Jamaican Jerk chicken and Peruvian barbecue,” Dattoli said. “Our favorite sauces are our homemade Carolina sweet heat and maple bourbon sauce.”
Although Dattoli hasn’t participated in formal barbecue competitions, he still gets input from other chefs. “In the barbecue scene, if you are cooking around and with other chefs, it’s always a competition — even if it’s just us judging each other’s food against our own,” he said. “We are known for our brisket and Jerk chicken. They are a crowd favorite.”
But barbecue isn’t the only thing the food truck is known for. Jackie’s Famous Mac ‘n Cheese has become the number one requested side dish.
“The barbecue scene isn’t really known for new dishes. It’s more of how good can you get at the classics. But I do like to put a spin on some of those classics and chef it up outside the box at times,” Dattoli said. “For example, we have a grilled brisket mac ‘n cheese sandwich. Most people love grilled cheese, and everyone loves our brisket and Jackie’s Famous Mac ‘n Cheese. So one day it just popped in my head. Why not?”
The most popular BBQ Inferno dishes are the brisket and Jackie’s Famous Mac ‘n Cheese, Dattoli said, “If you ask my wife she will tell you that my Jamaican Jerk Ribs are going to make me famous.”
Operating a food truck during a pandemic didn’t change much about how the Dattolis ran their business, but it did put their plans for a brick-and-mortar restaurant location on hold for a bit. But that didn’t damper their enthusiasm for giving back. “BBQ Inferno prides itself on being a veteran-minority owned small business,” Dattoli added. “Both my wife and I are originally from Williamsport and love to support other local small businesses.”
For a menu and list of specials, visit https://bbq-inferno.com/
Curt’s Smokin’ Ribs in Mill Hall
Candor was a hard guy to pin down to chat with because his restaurant was keeping him busy. With a staff of 16, Curt’s has a steady business that continues to grow. “We are primarily takeout, so when the pandemic happened, we didn’t have to change our model or our menu,” he said. “And our sales grew.”
He started the business 15 years ago in 2006 after seeing a need in Clinton County. “My style of barbecue is cooked slowly on a wood fire with a lot of smoke,” said Candor. “Brisket can take 21 or 22 hours of cook time, and the pulled pork can take 20 hours. We make our own potato salad, macaroni salad and the mac and cheese is very popular.”
He uses a combination of Southern and Texas styles for barbecue with recipes he developed. “I remember when people used to leave Clinton County to get good barbecue,” he said. “And now they come to Clinton County for good barbecue.”
Candor said he’s especially proud of the homemade barbecue sauce — the final recipe he came up with two weeks before opening and it has been on the menu ever since.
“If I didn’t think our food was the best, then I would work to make it the best,” he said. His three most popular menu items are ribs, brisket and pork.
For a menu and list of specials, visit https://www.curtssmokinribs.com/