Is There Barbecue In Chillicothe, Ohio?

The third weekend of October seems to usually be the best weekend for fall color in Ohio. Saturday, my wife and I decided to drive to south-central Ohio to see some color, as the Cincinnati area is kind of dull this year due to drought. We got in the convertible and drove east to Wilmington, Ohio, then continue east from there, staying on country roads and avoiding divided highways.

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After about an hour and a half, we ended up in the Chillicothe area. Chillicothe isn’t a big town and it’s not on an interstate highway. It does carry the disctinction of being the first state capitol of Ohio. As we got near town, we saw signs for the Adena House, and, having no set plans, followed the signs to see what the Adena House is. It turns out it was the home/estate of Thomas Worthington, called the father of Ohio’s statehood and the sixth governor of Ohio.

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It was a gorgeous day, starting off in the low 50′s and getting up to about 73 during the day. The sky had nice, fluffy clouds in the morning, clearing to brilliant blue later. The grounds at Adena included the mansion, which we toured, along with a barn with a covered wagon in it, a tenant farmer’s home and the spring house for the grounds. The home had extensive gardens, and I’d like to go back when things are in bloom, as it looks like the gardens are pretty well kept.

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It was one of those days where it’s just comfortable to be outside. We spent about 2 1/2 hours at Adena, then found an ad for a barbecue restaurant in town and decided to go in and see how it was.
I’ve reviewed a few barbecue joints on here before, and I don’t approach a restaurant’s barbecue as I would competition barbecue. I do have some expectations, though. The least of these is that the staff should be good. I can forgive some lack of barbecue know-how if the staff treats me well, especially in Ohio.

Old Canal Smokehouse

The restaurant, Old Canal Smokehouse, opened in 2004, and has a really fantastic spot. It’s right on the edge of downtown, and the place is really nice looking, with a large patio area, handsome bar, and a clean brick exterior. From the look of the place, we were really looking forward to our dinner.

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Our waitress seated us on the patio, as it was just too nice to go inside. We looked over the menu, which actually had what they called Armadillo Eggs (they weren’t… they were ABT’s, which are stuffed peppers). They also had smoked prime rib and smoked ribeye steaks on the menu, along with non-smoked items for those not wanting barbecue.

My wife ordered a smoked ribeye, to be cooked medium, along with a tossed salad and steak fries. I ordered a combo of pulled pork and brisket, with corn pudding and cole slaw as sides, and half a slab of St. Louis ribs to see how they were, too. I also ordered a beer, and I was glad to find they had Shiner Bock on tap, which, to me, is the best barbecue beer there is.

Smoked Ribeye

The waitress asked if we would like the cornbread that came with the meals prior to her bringing our order out, and we were good with that. After bringing out the salad and my beer, however, I had to ask if she was going to bring out the cornbread. The waitress turned back toward our table, and told me in no uncertain terms that she was to bring that out with our meals, but that she could go ahead and bring some out ahead of time, completely forgetting that she was the one that brought this up in the first place. Unfortunately, it was just plain old cornbread, probably from a mix, and pretty dry.

Corn Bred, minus any moisture

Ok. But on with the meal. The steak came out with good grill marks on it, fries on the side and raw rings of onion on top as garnish. My combo also had onions on it, as did my half slab of ribs. My side of corn pudding looked more like something else, not the expected corn pudding with cornbread and extras. Sauces were brought out, too; a sweet sauce was the main sauce, along with the same sauce with added spice.

So far, everything is good. There’s a good smoke smell in the air, and I was looking forward to digging in.

Let’s start with my meal:

Pulled Pork

Brisket

The pork had decent flavor, but was overcooked and a dry. It was also overpulled, which leaves strings of pork instead of chunks, which ends up being a bit fibrous. The brisket was very overcooked, but it wasn’t dry. The fat cap was also left on, leaving a quarter inch or so of fat on each slice. It just fell apart as I tried eating it, and, as a result of being overcooked, pretty much tasted like roast beef.

Corn Pudding???

The cole slaw wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t to my taste; it had pickle in it, which I don’t happen to like, but there was nothing really wrong with it. The corn pudding, however, was horrendous. I don’t understand why a restaurant would serve it. It was like congealed creamed corn.

St Louis Ribs

The ribs had some flavor, but they were overcooked and fell off the bone. They were also dry and needed sauce badly. The ribs also still had the membrane on the back, which is not a good thing in my book. Take the time to take the membrane off! It’s easy, and makes the ribs much better, as customers don’t have to remove that papery stuff on their own. I tried cutting the ribs apart, but they were so overcooked that I couldn’t; the bones just fell out on their own.

Now the fun part of the meal… My wife’s dinner.

She cut into the steak, and gave me a bite. It actually was pretty decent, with maybe a bit too much smoke, but not bad. However, it was very undercooked for her. It was a bit less than rare. To her, it was just not edible, so we sent it back. I never send anything back on a whim; I only do it if I feel it should be done. What I expected was that the kitchen would fix her a new steak and make sure it was cooked to medium the second time.

The waitress looked at us like we were idiots, and said that she hadn’t cooked the steak, but she would take it back to the kitchen. Of course she didn’t cook it! I guess she was thinking we should take it back to the kitchen ourselves. A few minutes later, she came back, sat on the arm of one of the other chairs at our table, and told us that it was the owner that was doing the cooking, and she had felt embarrassed to take the steak back. Like I cared. First, don’t sit on the arm of a chair that customers are going to use later. Second, take care of your customers, not your cooks.

Fifteen minutes later, the steak came back out. And I mean the same steak. The owner just threw the steak back on the grill and sent it back out.

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Fine, at least it’s the right steak. However, we notice a cut along the top of the steak, where he cut into it to test doneness. I don’t know where he learned how to cook for a restaurant, but you don’t cut into a steak that you’re going to send out to a customer to see if it’s done; instead, know how to cook a steak.

Not only was it now NOT underdone, it was well done, not medium well, not medium, and my wife couldn’t cut it easily with the knife she had been given. At this point, we asked the waitress to just remove it from the bill. My wife said it wasn’t medium, and the waitress told her it was medium well, in a tone that meant that it was fine. When my wife said that it wasn’t medium, the waitress said, “Sweetheart, I know it’s not; that’s what I was saying.” Not a good choice of reaction on her part. Not only did she correct a customer that wasn’t wrong in the first place, she followed by calling her ‘sweetheart’, and using a tone that was out of bounds and patronizing.

My wife went to the car instead of letting the waitress know her opinion of the reaction and meal in general. The bill was adjusted, and I finally got out of there.

Downtown Chillicothe

So the question of whether there is barbecue in Chillicothe, Ohio, or not is answered for me. And the answer is a resounding no, at least if this is the only barbecue around. This was by far the worst experience I’d ever had at a barbecue restaurant anywhere. It’s a real pity, too. The restaurant itself is a great place, but the owner obviously knows little about running a restaurant kitchen, and the staff doesn’t know how to treat customers. I know Chillicothe isn’t a big metroplis, but even locals do go to Columbus and other cities, and they know how a restaurant should be run. I’d be interested to see if the restaurant is still going the next time I’m there, maybe next spring.

At least I had a good beer.

About Curt McAdams

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

15 comments

  1. Sorry about that steak, such idiots.

    Awesome work on the skies! Just beautiful.

  2. Thanks, Nika. I’m finding some limitations either with the camera or with me… I’m blaming the camera! Noise levels are a bit high, as you can see with the swan.

    My wife and I both had the attitude that bad service wasn’t going to ruin our day, and it didn’t. It’s almost fun to have stories of going places that you didn’t enjoy.

  3. Wow, just reading that story makes me make sure that I don’t ever go there if I get back into Ohio.

    Still, glad that you had a good day…and hope that the next place you try is better.

    (glad that you did get a good beer though)

    I have to agree with Nika, nice shots. I love when foodies add pictures. It’s not BBQ, but if you like check out my mom’s…she does her own pictures as well. http://mantias.blogspot.com

  4. C-pher, thanks for the link; my favorite shot on the first page was the tomato fight photo. :)

    I like to add the photos; the day wasn’t all about food, and the area helped temper our moods so we could just kind of laugh it off. The day was gorgeous, and the town is actually pretty nice.

  5. I actually love the smoke house. I am from Columbus and now live near Chillicothe. I think the manson is wonderful. Funding for these types of historical places are limited in Ohio and they do the most they can with the money they have. I think everyone should try the smoke house and come to their own conclusion. It is in a beautiful part of town and I haven’t had anything bad. In fact, I am eating there tomorrow and am looking forward to it.

  6. Next time your in the area cruise up to Mead Drive. Behind the big church on Bellview, there is a private residence that was built by the same people who built Adena and is even older. Many similarities. It is a private residence, but it is gorgeous. I believe it’s the oldest house in town. Sorry about the bad service at the Smokehouse, it’s not always that way.

  7. Lyn,

    Unfortunately, that was the only day we had to judge the restaurant. We still had a great day, and the weather was gorgeous. We’ll definitely take a drive to Mead Dr. next time we’re in town.

  8. I think you may be one of those that could never be satisfied and picks at everything. glad the beer was good.

  9. c.young,

    I don’t know who you are, and you obviously don’t know me, but if you read other reviews I’ve done on here, you’d see that I am pretty easy to please at restaurants in general. But I also know bad service, food that’s been sitting around too long, and a cook that doesn’t know how to cook a steak.

    I’m willing to say that it may have been a bad day, but the food would have been more acceptable had the service been decent. However, I also know good barbecue, and this wasn’t all that good.

  10. Rene' aka " Sissy"

    Well, I really had fun visiting this site. I see Chillicothe is still beautiful in the fall, the “Eat-Out” food is still bad…as nothing compared to Granny Coon’s cookin’, unless of course Great Granny Detty was in the house!!! I really miss those days, when life was great everyday. A much simpler time it was then. If only things were the same.

  11. I actually agree with Darcie. In my two months in Chilli we have eaten there four times and I am ADDICTED to the brisket. The owner doesn’t normally cook(that would be far too much work considering all the traffic the place gets, especially on the patio on weekends), rather he personally cuts and smokes the meats in the giant rotisserie in the bar area where you can read the in and out times of each cut. From what I’ve seen, I can only assume he was understaffed that particular day as the food is normally phenomenal. I am not being confrontational, I just don’t think you should put down a locally run business after one crappy service(we all have had our share of disgruntled employees), and risk turning a quaint town into a fast food paradise by running off new customers. For those who haven’t eaten there, I should also remark, they do point out on the menu that the smoked portions will be pink due to the process itself. Being a med-well person myself, I was leery at first, but the fall off the bone flavor is well worth it. If that’s still not your thing, try the annual Wingfest, which showcases the local sauces, or even the pig roast at the biker bar, lol…Truth is, there is not much to do here, and people operate at a different pace generally, but that is part of what lends to its charm. Oh, and don’t worry too much about the smell…it’s only the paper plant! :)

  12. Dee,

    I don’t think I have the power to harm a local business. :) If anything, I’d imagine people would go to prove me wrong. And I’d be willing to try the place again. However, that visit had nothing redeeming about it. i actually look for positives, and maybe this time we expected too much and were let down.

    I live in outside a small town, and I don’t expect the same level of service as I do in a large city, but there’s still a level of expected service and quality.

    And as to running out customers, fixing problems are a good way to start to keep them coming back and to get word of mouth to new ones. Just being a local restaurant doesn’t mean the place shouldn’t be held to a level of quality.

    Smoked steak is different than smoked brisket. The smoking for the steak was to add flavor, but the steak should still have been the doneness requested. Pink on smoked meats on the outside is a different thing all together, having to do with the nitrates in the smoke and proteins in the meat interacting.

  13. CaramelSmoothie

    Thanks for the review. I am considering a move from DC to Chillicothe pretty soon and I had heard about this restaurant. I checked out their site and saw that the sell bison burgers which I totally love! When I visit the town I will check it out, maybe they were having an off day but the waitress was out of line toward you and your wife.

  14. CS, as I’ve said, I’d give the restaurant another try, with the hope that it was just an off day. But I have to say that DC to Chillicothe seems an odd move! :) I hope you like the area, though; it’s gorgeous around there, I think.

  15. CaramelSmoothie

    Yes, it is an odd move. Cheaper housing, less traffic, less congestion with a higher quality of life is making this move very necessary :-). In addtion, I love small towns and Chillicothe fits the bill. The houses in the area have big backyards so I will set up my smoker, grill and pizza oven so that I can cook my own food on my own terms and not deal with any snarky waitresses :-)

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