Barbeque spot thrives in Dodgeville

Business at Bob's Bitchin' BBQ has been fantastic, said Bob Page, who opened the business Nov. 1 in Dodgeville.

"Without advertising, we're pretty much full all the time," he said. "It doesn't matter what day of the week it is. We probably opened at the worst time of the year, in November, and from Day 1 we've been packed."

Before opening the restaurant, Page spent about seven years running the food service operation at Lands' End.

He began by producing and bottling seven barbecue sauces, a venture he started about two years ago.

"My ultimate goal is to retire off the barbecue sauce sales by retailing it. What better way than to have people try it on barbecue?" Page said in explaining why he opened the full-service sit-down restaurant with seating for about 60.

All of his business is word of mouth, and word has gotten out, with many of his customers coming from Madison, Verona and Mount Horeb, he said. Page sees quite a few people from Dubuque and different parts of Iowa, too.

The menu is posted on the business' website. The restaurant serves all of the traditional barbecue foods: ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken.

And knowing the Lands' End customer, Page also offers non-meat items, like a vegetable melt and a homemade Southwest bean burger.

"Getting a little bit of a home-court advantage, I knew that we could have a pretty decent vegetarian crowd as well," he said.

There is also a sandwich called "The Whole Hog," a center-cut smoked pork chop with Page's original sauce, topped with pulled pork, three slices of bacon, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses.

"Think you've got what it takes?" the menu asks.

Page said Bob's is probably known as much for its appetizers, particularly its deep-fried cheese curds and deep-fried pickles. "Each one is hand battered and dipped individually as it goes into the fryer," he said, adding, "everything that we do is from scratch."

Bob's opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It is open until 8 p.m., except for Fridays and Saturdays when it stays open until 9.

Page said that blindfolded, people can easily tell his sauces apart.

His original is a very traditional hickory smoked sauce. He does one with Spotted Cow beer called BrewBQ. "You can definitely taste the beer in it," Page said.

There is also a honey chipotle, a mustardy Carolina, a habañero, a mango red pepper and a raspberry. 

All can be purchased at the restaurant. Six of the seven are available on each table. Page doesn't put the mango red pepper one out mainly because he only has room for six in the caddies.

If people want it, though, he will bring it out. There is a short description of each sauce at the tables.

Customers can order their meats wet or dry. With the wet, they caramelize it in the kitchen. With the dry, customers will taste the dry rub and experiment with the different sauces at the table.

"Dodgeville needed a place," Page said about Bob's popularity. "In fairness, we don't have a ton of competition. But the food's gotta be good to keep people coming back."

He said he recently had customers drive from Beaver Dam just for lunch because they'd heard how good it was.

"That's neat," Page said. "It makes you feel good about it, that you're doing something right."

Remembering "Buns"

We will be closed this Sunday, March 17th. The first time that I met my mother-in-law she cooked spaghetti and meatballs for Judy and I. She poured the noodles down the drain. In fear that she was the one teaching my future wife how to cook, it became a wise decision for me to continue down the path of learning to cook. Her name was Bette, but the family simply called her "Buns". We learned from her the words matricullate, fully surrensified, and always keeping our vehicles "between the trees" as we drove home. She was a great mom, grandmother and most importantly to me, mother in law. Because of her declining health, she never did make it out to our new restaurant in Dodgeville, but you know she would've been proud. "Buns" passed away this morning at the spry age of 90. She lived a great life. We will all miss you. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes anyone who was planning on eating here on St. Patty's day, but we have a life to celebrate!

Voice of the River Valley Article

Abbey Smith wrote a great article about us featured in the Voice of the River Valley newsletter. Read it below or visit the link here:

New Dodgeville Restaurant Builds on Success of 'Bitchin' Sauce

If the lines and crowds at Bob's Bitchin' BBQ are any indication, all of Dodgeville and the surrounding area has eaten there since the doors opened Nov. 1.

According to owners Bob and Judy Page, it all began with the sauce. Though Bob originally from rural Prairie du Sac, has been in the food business forever as chef or manager, he and Judy, originally from Lake Mills, had never planned on opening a restaurant. That idea came from wanting to further market their barbeque sauce.

"What better way to promote the sauces than to allow people to try them on traditional barbeque?" said Bob, who manages and cooks at the restaurant.

Even the restaurant's name comes from the sauce, which, according to Bob, only makes sense. "It's a very marketable name, and we have all the branded logos already there, why change?"

Bob's Bitchin' BBQ the sauce started many years ago. The story goes that while preparing barbeque sauce at a catering event, one of Bob and Judy's employees declared it "the most bitchin' sauce she'd ever tasted." The Pages have been making that original bitchin' sauce for family and friends for 30 years now, but in July 2011 they began marketing it to the public at farmer's markets and retail outlets.

The original sauce has been joined by six others: Razzberry, BrewBQ, Carolina, Habanero, Honey Chipotle and Mango Red Pepper. All but the Mango Red Pepper can be found on every table at the restaurant, giving customers the chance to try every flavor before ordering. The menu also offers the option to order your BBQ dry, giving you the chance to experiment with the sauces rather than coating all your meat with just one. If you find a favorite flavor or two or three, you can grab a bottle or two or three on your way out. All the sauces sold on the premises– $6 per bottle or about $17 for a three-pack– as well as Bob's Bitchin BBQ t-shirts and baseball caps.

But don't let the name fool you– barbeque is not the only thing they serve. There are a number of salads, a vegetable melt and Southwest bean burger for vegetarians. There are a wide range of appetizers and sides from nachos to sweet potato fries to mac and cheese. There are three beers on tap, a number of TV's and a barbeque sampler platter for afternoon sports watching. And for those Wisconsinites who want a traditional Friday dinner, there is the Friday night fish fry.

Prices at Bob's Bitchin' BBQ range from $5.25 for a bean burger with sides to $7.95 for a brisket sandwich. Barbeque dinners range from $7.25 for a quarter chicken to $18.95 for a full rack of ribs. All the food offered at the restaurant is made from scratch.

The prime location right across from the Iowa County court house is not where the Pages intended to open their restaurant. Though they had been living in Dodgeville for six years, ever since Bob started managing the food service at Lands' End for Sodexo Management, the Pages had looked at properties in Cambridge, Watertown, Verona, Mt. Horeb and Mazomanie. Then Denny Marklein purchased the property Bob's Bitchin' BBQ currently resides in and contacted the Pages to see if they'd be interested in starting their restaurant there.

"We shared the same vision of what downtown Dodgeville needed, and the whole Marklein family was very integral at helping us stay here and opening the restaurant in Dodgeville," said Bob.

The high turnout at and popularity of Bob's Bitchin' BBQ are not the Pages' only signs of success: Bob and Judy were honored last month by the Iowa County Area Economic Development Corp. as Iowa County Entrepreneurs of the Year. The restaurant employs 23 part-time and one full-time staff members in addition to Bob. But the business is also a family affair. When Judy isn't at work at UW Hospital in Madison, she lends a hand where she can and was responsible for all the displays and decorating. They even have their kids in on the act: Daughter Sarah designed their website and son Ryan helps out in the restaurant. A second son lives out of state.

In the midst of this busy success, Bob said he's taking it one day at a time and looking forward to Thanksgiving and having someone cook for him for a change. Be sure to stop by Bob's Bitchin' BBQ the next time you are in the Dodgeville area and grab some sauce to take home on your way out. 

Dodgeville Chronicle Article

Brooke Bechen of the Dodgeville Chronicle wrote an article about us! Read it below or visit the link here:

Bob's Bitchin' BBQ opens

On November 1, Bob's Bitchin' BBQ opened in downtown Dodgeville, welcoming residents of the area to taste original BBQ sauces along with other satisfying menu items. Bob Page, owner of Bob's Bitchin' BBQ, has been very busy since the opening. From day one, it has been busy," Page said. "Our customer count has been much higher than I ever envisioned."

Bob's Bitchin' BBQ offers a variety of items on their menu, including some of Page's infamous BBQ sauces. In July 2011, Page began selling his Bitchin' BBQ sauces officially. They can be ordered online on his website, Page has been making his Original BBQ sauce for 30 years, he said. Page also creates and sells six other sauces which can be purchased for his customer's very own barbecue creations. Opening the restaurant was the next step to expand the sauce business, Page said. What better way to get someone to buy the sauce than to be able to enjoy it on some traditional BBQ cooked meats," Page said. The beef brisket happens to be Page's favorite item on the menu.

Page had originally intended for Bob's Bitchin' BBQ to be open for breakfast, but because of the restaurant's busy first few weeks, he has changed the hours of operation. Bob's Bitchin' BBQ is now open at 11 a.m. daily. On Monday, lunch is served until 3:00 p.m and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the restaurant is open until 8:00 p.m. Weekend hours are 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours are 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Page hopes customers flock to the restaurant for a comfortable environment, great service and great BBQ. "It's a fun place to hang with friends and family," he said.

Page and his wife, JJ, moved to the Dodgeville area six years ago. Page had been managing food services for Sodexo Management at the Lands' End Headquarters in Dodgeville before launching the restaurant.

One year down...

One year ago tonight, we put the finishing touches on our website, working for hours getting the shipping pricing entered into the website, state by state... and at about 10pm, Bob's Bitchin' BBQ became a reality. One year later, I'm more than happy with the success we've had bringing our sauces to you. Whether it's through our retail customers, the restaurants that use our sauces, through Farmer's Markets and even those that stop at our house. Judy and I appreciate so much that you've helped us spread the word to your friends and families all across the US.

As we enter into our 2nd year of business, we welcome our new Mango Red Pepper sauce to the line-up! And, in early August I'll be devoting all of my time to Bob's Bitchin' BBQ, expanding our retail base and who knows maybe more soon? be continued...