My family is on the road to Wisconsin to meet a new baby niece. We packed plenty of snacks, but lunch on the road was fast food. Our hotel last night was in Harrison, Ohio, a small town outside of Cincinnati and a mile from the Indiana border. Dinner expectations were low - just hoping for something simple the kids would eat.
Valerie was doing research on her phone as we approached our hotel, and the front-runner was Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. I have honestly never heard of this rapidly expanding chain, but it seems to be somewhere between Culver's and Steak 'n Shake. After checking in, I asked the fella behind the counter whether he’d eaten at Freddy's. Was it good or gross? He suggested if we were familiar with Culver's, Freddy's wouldn't be a surprise. And then he asked if we like barbecue.
"Oh, thanks, but we're from Virginia..." I started, trying to gently waive aside the suggestion of barbecue in southwest Ohio. Living in the South has spoiled me for barbecue the way that growing up in the North spoiled me for pizza and bagels.
"Well these folks are award-winning, and were invited to..." I don't remember where he said they were invited, but then he said four magic words: "They do burnt ends".
Change of plans. Valerie and I were taking the kids to Velvet Smoke.
Let me tell you, this place would do just fine in the South. I had some incredible burnt ends with creamy and delicious mac and cheese. Valerie loved her pulled pork so much that she did the unthinkable and saved her leftovers. On a road trip. Even Maddie loved the pulled pork. And the dang sauce! A sweet, tomato-based sauce that was a little zippy and quite good. I didn't even try the medium or hot because the mild was so tasty.
If you ever find yourself in or around Cincinnati, or driving toward Indianapolis, stop by this cue joint attached to a gas station. It's right off Interstate 74, and worth every minute you spend there. If the timing works out on the return trip, we may try to stop there again and try some ribs or smoked wings.