Thursday, August 18, 2011

A LITTLE HARD-HITTIN' IN THE GREEN MTNS

We’re cruisin’ Route 4 West in Vermont, just entering Killington at the junction of Rte. 100 after visiting Queechee Gorge and Woodstock, and we’re hungry.

We see this down-home lookin’ sign. It’s a smilin’ pig with sunglasses, fork and knife in hand, sayin’ something to the effect that if you like BBQ, don’t go any farther. Well, we’d had burgers, we had shrimp at Pagliacci’s in Plainville before we left and it’s been less than a week since we went to Manchester (CT) for Pepe’s apizza.

Ribs. Yes. Time for ribs, and we’re gonna follow that little piggy all the way home.

The place was called Back Behind Restaurant, and it’s a good thing. You’ve got to go back behind a red caboose to find it down in a little hollow. Might not have found it otherwise. Lots of cars there, always a good sign. Always remember when you’re going to a place you don’t know – if none of the locals are eating there, why the heck should you?

I walk in the place and for those of you who know anything about yours truly, baby you know what I like. There’s an old-fashioned d├ęcor, 50s and earlier. I look on the wall and staring back at me is a photo of Errol Flynn, lookin’ handsome as he ever did.

I ask a few teenagers in front of me in line, ‘Who is this guy, kids?’ One of ‘em said Matthew McConaghey. The other said she couldn’t remember his name but he was in the first Harry Potter. Heaven forbid on both accounts. Try watching a real movie, like Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood. Try understanding what acting is all about, brat.

I look a little further and there’s Bogie and Ingrid Bergman, doin’ their thing in “Casablanca.”

Ricky Nelson is playin' on the juke box.  "It's a Young World." Perfect!

We sit down and the owner comes to the table and tells us about all the homemade stuff they do. I look in the menu and see that her name is Zendzian. Hmm, Zendzian, Zendzian. I know that name from somewhere, I think during my time writing sports for the New Britain Herald. Well, I’m a year and a day from being 60 so you can’t expect the memory to be that sharp.

The waitress -- why do they call themselves ‘server’ now. Sounds like the thing that always used to break down when the Herald computers stopped working – brings out a crock of homemade coleslaw and freshly baked bread.

I went it to the lav to wash up and whose pic is on the door? Mr. James Cagney, of course. Yankee Doodle Dandy. Awesome, this is my kind of place. On the door to the ladies’ room is noneother than Paulette Goddard, intriguing brunette who lit up men’s fancies in a bygone era. Man, I couldn’t have decorated the place any better if I did it myself.

I was jonesin’ for an ear of local corn for a week, wondering why most restaurants wouldn’t just buy a bushel and make folks happy. Sure enough, they were dealing in roasted corn with special butter. I had mine with maple butter. Hey, man, this is Vermont where maple syrup is in every store.

Unbelievable. I was smiling for the first time since I walked out of the West Hartford Press knowing I wouldn’t have to work there anymore.

Lisa had St. Looey style ribs and I had the baby backs. Both fall-off-the-bone good. Smoked right in their backyard. You can smell ‘em smokin’ as you drive by.

The owner is talkin’ to some other people and darned if she isn’t from CT.

I said, “You from New Britain?”

She proundly answered, “Hard-hitting!”
“I used to write sports at the Herald.
“Bart?”
“No, my dear buddy Bart came before me. I’m Ken. Ken Lipshez.”

“Lipshitz?”

“No, not the furniture store people. Not the doc in Rug Rats or the teacher in that Boston high school sit com. How do I know your name? For some reason, the first name Kurt comes to mind.”

“That’s my husband’s nephew.”

“Holy shit. Small world.”

I think Kurt Zendzian played sports at Newington.

Turns out her name is Gerry Zendzian and her husband’s is Conrad. She went to Mary Immaculate Academy. They came to VT about 10 years ago and started firing up BBQ right behind Bear Mountain. I’ll bet those skiers can’t get enough of that wonderful stuff when snow covers things up here.

We had no room for dessert. We just smiled and rubbed our bellies as we made our way back to where we are staying – Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden, VT – where you look out the window of your room and see a panoramic view of a lake framed by the mountains of the Green Mountain State Forest.

Only two days but it’s been great. I wonder if Gerry Zendzian needs a kitchen boy.