The hottest ‘que joint in the Finger Lakes: Nickel’s Pit BBQ

It’s a funny thing that you wouldn’t guess: New York’s Finger Lakes region loves their barbeque! Everywhere you go — whether smack in the middle of town or on lonely country stretches of road — there are bbq joints. You wouldn’t think that would be the case this far north of the Mason-Dixon line, but there you have it. I haven’t been able to find out the why or wherefore of that, either.


Probably the most well-known and biggest place is in a town teeming with natural beauty, Watkins Glen. Nickel’s Pit BBQ does things the classic way: slow-smoked and house-made. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!

Like the finest restaurants these days, they source as many of their food and drink locally as is possible. This includes meats, world famous New York cheeses, beers.

The place appears to have been a body shop, formerly. The open garage door in the summer gives a spacious feeling, without having to fry in the sun. They host live bands at night, making the place destination dining without a cover charge.


Some of their offerings are so popular, they had already run out by lunchtime! Smoked and fried ribs and chicken wings come with your choice of several house-made rubs, sauces and mix-ins. For a real upstate dish, they’ve got Brisket on Weck, which is a vintage German settler sandwich with caraway seeds and chunky salt.

I went with a half rack of the meaty St. Louis spare ribs. You pick from a number of house-made sauces at your table, with different styles popular around the country. The coleslaw had good texture with green and red cabbage, along with a bit of carrot and not too much mayo. Jalapeno peppadew mac and cheese is a creamy, well balanced side with a little heat, a little sweetness, but the cheese flavor still comes through.


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