Chili event cooks up new format amid pandemic

WATERTOWN — The Volunteer Transportation Center Inc. will host the 22nd annual North Country Chili Cook-Off in a new format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As first announced in December, the cook-off — typically held as a one-day event at the Dulles State Office Building in Watertown on the first Saturday of February — will instead be held at participating restaurants in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties throughout the month of February. The move was made in an effort to host the event in a way that would follow New York state mandates and adhere to CDC guidelines.

“We are excited to host this very different version of the North Country Chili Cook-Off,” said Jeremiah S. Papineau, Director of Communications and Foundation Director for the VTC. “We’re so used to seeing the cook-off as a huge, one-day event but we obviously couldn’t do that this year. So, our planning committee put their heads together and came up with something we think will be a hit.”

The North Country Chili Cook-Off — just for this year — will focus only on the “Professional” category and be held at participating restaurants throughout Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, said Mr. Papineau. The event will follow a “pub crawl” format, in which those wishing to sample and vote on their favorite entries may do so at participating restaurants.

The following restaurants have signed up to compete during their regular hours of operation:

Gram’s Diner, 13 Main Street, Adams

Spook Hill Bar And Grill, 12139 U.S. Route 11, Adams Center

The Dockside Pub, 17 Market Street, Alexandria Bay

Sahara Restaurant, 39936 State Route 3, Carthage

The Church Street Diner, 107 Church Street, Carthage

Whistle Stop Tavern, 33926 State Route 3, Carthage

Zero Dock Street Restaurant & Bar, 130 Canal Street, Carthage

River Bottom Bar & Grill, 419 Riverside Drive, Clayton

Whiskey Jack’s, 5454 Plumber Road, Constableville

The Cottage Inn, 9794 State Route 12, Copenhagen

Josh’s Riverside Restaurant, 681 State Route 812, Croghan

Meme’s Diner, 31606 State Route 3, Felts Mills

L.E.A.’S Diner, 90 State Street, Heuvelton

Montague Inn, 6765 Sears Pond Road, Lowville

Tony Harper’s Pizza & Clam Shack, 7617 North State Street, Lowville

Boondocks Restaurant & Bar, 3950 State Route 12, Lyons Falls

River Valley Inn, 6670 Burdicks Crossing Road, Lyons Falls

Nu Pier Restaurant, 13212 State Route 3, Sackets Harbor

The Cottage Bakery, 24360 County Route 57, Three Mile Bay

Tavern 230, 4173 West Road, Turin

Flashback Brewing Company, 1309 State Street, Watertown

Garland City Beer Works, 321 Howk Street, Watertown

Mike’s Pig Pen, 18938 County Route 165, Watertown

Panera Bread, 21872 Towne Center Drive, Watertown

The Grille at Hilton Garden Inn, 1290 Arsenal Street, Watertown

Pearl Street Pub, 557 Pearl Street, Watertown

Pete’s Trattoria, 111 Breen Avenue, Watertown

Tug Hill Hideaway, 1838 Fish Creek Road, West Leyden

“We are overwhelmed by the number of restaurants that have signed up for this new format,” Mr. Papineau said. “Having their participation is key to getting people in the community excited and to this being a success.”

That’s extremely important, he added, as the cook-off is a fundraiser to help the VTC transport veterans and their families.

“Each year, we raise upwards of $40,000 with the cook-off for that purpose,” Mr. Papineau said. “The importance of this event and the money raised through it is something that cannot be underscored enough. Not only that, we’re hoping this format will help bring business to the restaurants that have been hurting during this pandemic. We’re thinking it’ll be a win-win.”

Mr. Papineau added he and the event’s planning committee hope the world will be in a much better state when the cook-off plans to return to the Dulles State Office Building in 2022 for its 23rd year.

This year’s cook-off will run through Sunday, Feb. 28. Hours of each location will be available on the cook-off page of the VTC website,

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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