1.03.2012

Tug at My Heart (Stomach?) Strings

Many Northcountry inhabitants are familiar with Tugger’s, the quintessential Tug Hill Plateau campground/playground for hunters, snowmobilers and the like. What you may not know is that, in additional to cabins, campsites and trails, Tugger’s also is home to a great little hidden gem of a bar/restaurant. I guess it’s not hidden if you live in Barnes Corners, but for those of you who operate mainly within the Watertown limits, it may be.

It's Tugger's, on the Tug Hill. Get it?

Full disclosure: my cousin Tricia and her hubbie Gerry run the bar and grill here, while my uncle Ronny and various other family members tend to the campsites. That being said, I have always had a rockin’ good time there, no matter who’s behind the bar or cooking, and that’s regardless of the fact that family is present. Tugger’s is all about fun and come-as-you-are casualty, and you feel that as soon as you step inside.

The specialties here are the pub food selections. Gerry has a BBQ wing appetizer that he came up with for one of the Northcountry wing cook-offs that was a huge winner. He deep fries the wings, tosses them in spicy BBQ sauce, then grills them to glaze the sauce nicely over the crispy skin. This past Saturday, I tried the butter and spice wings, because the name was so intriguing. Oh holy gastronomic triumph, Batman! The butter and spice wings are exactly what they sound like: fried wings tossed in melted butter, dusted with a mouth-tingling amount of black pepper, plus sesame seeds and some mystery spices. These inventive appys were crispy, spicy and satisfying.

Butter and spice and everything nice

My Mom ordered a salad to go along with her Tugger’s Cheesefries, and she passes along that the salad makings there are always fresh – no limp lettuce or green tomatoes to be found. Her cheesefries were the Tuggers’ signature steak fries adorned with cheese and bacon bits and served with Tugger’s sauce, which is a kicked-up mayo with (I’m guessing) horseradish, ketchup, garlic and paprika mixed in. I was not as enthusiastic about these cheesefries as the last time I was at Tuggers – the cheese didn’t have a lot of flavor – but the order is huge and they are undeniably enjoyable.

Is it bad I that pronounce "cheesefries" with an Australian accent because of Outback Steakhouse?

Along with my wings I ordered fries and gravy. Again, steak fries are the order of the day here, but I was not fond of the gravy. I was clearly from a mix, which I’m fine with, but didn’t seem to be enhanced in any way with fresh beef drippings or favor. It fell flat, whereas the fries on their own were crispy outside and fluffy inside.

In addition to these bar favs, Tugger’s has exemplary burgers, but bring your appetite. Each one is huge and made from quality ground sirloin steak. And while I’ve not had one, I hear the hot dogs are worthy of your order.

The full bar and casual atmosphere at Tugger’s keeps the place jumpin’. Come here later on a Saturday evening, and guarantee you will meet new friends and wonder why you don’t hunt/fish/snowmobile/snowshoes/etc. Oh, and by the way, the drink are cheap, so drink up! If you need to stay over, they probably have a cabin in which you can crash.

I give Tugger’s a six on the BHS scale. It’s above average for atmosphere, service and fun, and there are some true gems on the menu, but nothing earth shattering or that you haven’t tried before. It’s good, solid food for great prices in a rustic locale – perfect for a fun, easy night out.

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