Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Old Canal Smokehouse

by Zach Schwartz

Google “Chillicothe, Ohio,” and you’ll find countless photos of old churches, extensive flatlands, parallel streets and farm country. By no means is it the thriving metropolis of Ohio, but it sure is one of the leaders in Southeastern Ohio.

Chillicothe’s downtown is beautiful in the fall. The drive down Route 50 through the yellow, orange and red of the autumn woods leads you right into the town, where those parallel roads form the center of the 213-year-old settlement. And one of the first sights you’ll see is Old Canal Smoke House.

This place draws you right in. Situated on the corner of Water and Mulberry Streets, the old-style hotel look-alike sits next to The Dock at Water Gathering Place, the Chillicothe Body Shop, Wallpaper n’ More and the Candlelight Bridal Shop—all of which are brick, just like most of the other structures lining the streets

It’s a modern place (founded in 2006) that doesn’t have much flash when you walk in. A decently sized bar sits off to the right before you enter the dining room area, which looks a lot like your mom’s kitchen at home. The tables are covered with crimson tablecloths and surrounded by black chairs. It is a very homey—until you taste their barbeque sauce.

Two bottles of the splendid succulence that is Old Canal Smoke House’s sauce sit off to the side of your table, just begging you to have a taste. Ketchup-based and given a kick by special spices, the sweet and spicy sauce is the best, but the original is tasty by itself as well.

As my friend and I sit down, we pour some of the sauce on a plate, swirl our fingers in it and put it to our mouths. Soon, we have to tell the waitress we need a few minutes to order since we’ve been too busy eating sauce by the spoonful to look at the menu.

We finally decide on two of the specials—a platter of flatbread topped with pork brisket, mushrooms, cheese and barbeque sauce; and a pizza made with pulled pork, banana peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, onions and more barbeque sauce. As wonderful of a selection as it turned out to be, other options piqued our interest as well—pulled pork platters and barbeque ribs and chicken make a good $12 dinner, while the buffalo burger and spicy “pig chips,” topped with jack cheese and bacon seemed to make for a filling lunch.

Piled high, the two platters filled our stomachs in no time, and a pizza-sized box fit the leftovers. Chillicothe may have been around since 1796, but this three-year-old smoke house fits right in.

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