By Christopher Malone
Dive into the Pond Pit for delicious grub
Time to gear up for a hot grill summer. When it’s too hot in the kitchen, it’s time to grill. When it’s too hot to grill — sure, we’re in Central New York where it’s never too hot or cold to grill — let someone else do the cooking for you.
As this article is being written, it’s mid-May and we’re seeing record-breaking warmth.
This is where places like Pond Pit BBQ come into play and are readily welcoming your service.
The Sandy Pond restaurant, located on Route 3, is a convenient four miles off of exit 37 when coming from I-81. Although not in the middle of nowhere, the eatery is in what could be viewed as a random spot.
The rustic restaurant comes up with cannot-miss signage bearing Pond Pit’s logo: a pig in an apron with its butt facing out. The pig stands over an appropriate motto: “Best Butts on the Pond.” At first glance, internet or otherwise, there’s no shortage of cheeky humor.
The comfortable restaurant is head-to-toe wood with plenty of seating. If indoors isn’t to your liking, there are picnic tables outside and that comes with a free side of barbecue aroma.
The omnivore-favoring menu is concise but filled with familiar favorites and Pond Pit’s take on familiar dishes. Plus, there’s a kids menu as well.
To start off with a New Belgium Voodoo Ranger IPA ($4 – oddly inexpensive for a draft), the meal was kicked off with some hog balls ($5). They aren’t the CNY Rocky Mountain oyster equivalent but simply sausage and cheese rolled up. Just by this shareable snack alone, the quality of meat is obvious and taste is another reason to avoid the chains.
The balls come with the restaurant’s vinegary tangy white barbecue sauce to dip in. The mayo-based sauce also boasts a hint of horseradish that’s prominent enough to not overtake the sauce.
There are different options to choose from with the meat, and ribs were on my mind. I went with the St. Louis style half rack ($22 or $18 without sides) with jalapeño cheddar cornbread and mac and cheese. The fall-off-the-bone meat is wonderful and the seasoning is equally as noteworthy.
The basic mac and cheese is as it sounds and hits the spot but the cornbread caught my attention in that food battle. The cakey cornbread doesn’t shy away from cheese and jalapeño — a perfect kick for a perfect barbecue side.
Pond Pit has several sandwiches, including one with a brisket ($17) and two sides. The brisket was fatty in all the right places. Although flavorful on its own, the white and red barbecue sauce condiment combo is a bold choice. The horseradish-mayo sauce meets one with sweet heat.
To go along with the sandwich: pit beans and coleslaw. Like the mac and cheese, the coleslaw is what you’d expect but hits all the right flavor notes. It’s also a plus that the ingredients are not in a puddle of mayo. The beans, however, are spectacular. The barbecue staple is rich with flavor. I picked up brown sugar and molasses. Maybe there isn’t molasses but, for some reason, I picked up on the thick, sweet substance.
Although Pond Pit offers a Cuban, the Corduban was ordered to change it up. The chicken and ham sandwich with two sides ($14) is a take on the cordon bleu. It’s a huge offering in a hoagie roll. I don’t know how else to describe it. Share it with a friend. Save half of it for later. Then slather it in the white barbecue sauce and cover it all in Swiss cheese. It’s a monster and a lot to take a bite out of.
For sides, I went with fries and mac salad. The hand-cut fries aren’t of the crispy variety but do the trick. The hearty mac salad with Italian seasoning is nothing to scoff at either. Aside from all the carbs, the Corduban and company is that heavy comfort food you need.
Before tip, the bill totaled $62 exactly.
For those familiar Pond Pit BBQ, no wonder you return. For those hearing this for the first time — it’s definitely worth checking out and enjoying.