By Sally Voth
At 240-cubic feet, the stainless steel smoker at Middletown's newest eatery is big enough to feed an army -- good thing, since it abuts the Cedar Creek Battlefield.
Battlefield Market Grill, located at 8140 Valley Pike, opened in April, said Stephen Caudle, who owns it with his wife Sarah and father-in-law Mike McNeil. In addition to eight employees, other family members work at the market.
"[McNeil] bought this place here to try to deliver some good food," Caudle said.
He emphasized that the food is all freshly made.
"Nobody cooks fresh food anymore, and [McNeil] had an idea of starting something that would give fresh food and good home-cooking," Caudle said. "A lof of your places buy stuff pre-made and they serve that. We grind our own hamburger. We cut our own steaks. Fresh is better."
Breakfast is available all day, and lunch and dinner are also served. The restaurant offers fried chicken, subs, salads, hamburgers, soup, sides, barbecued ribs, pulled pork and pulled chicken barbecue, pies, ice cream and more.
He describes Bruce Stickel as "the best cook in town."
Stickel has been cooking for more than 28 years, and describes his barbecue as traditional.
"When barbecue was first made, it was a poor man's food," Stickel said.
He said slave owners would give leftover scraps to slaves, who would barbecue it and then sell it by the side of the road for things they needed.
"[Barbecue] started in Virginia," Stickel said.
"Everything here we can make fresh, we make," he added. "The only thing we buy -- we try to buy time to make [more] food."
Caudle added, "He gave up his own business to come work here."
On Tuesday, Caudle was checking on a ham being smoked in the large stainless steel smoker behind the market. He said it's 10 feet tall, 6 feet long and 4 feet deep. The smoker is under a pavillion that overlooks the battlefield and has picnic tables set up.
Caudle has had some live music out back, and said last weekend's re-enactment was a boon for business.
"I do know on Saturday night we had a band here and we went through 130-some steaks," he said.
Caudle and his wife ran Enrico's, a pizza place in Stephens City, for a year, but found it hard to compete with other chain pizza joints. Battlefield Market caters to businesses.
"Right now, we do deliver to the businesses, but we want to start launching a home delivery as well," Caudle said.
The name and the color scheme reflect the site's Civil War heritage.
"We wanted to give tribute to what was done here, so we painted it blue and gray," Caudle said.
Besides the restaurant side of the business, Battlefield Market sells gas -- customers can buy it even when the market is closed as long as they pay by credit card. It's also one of the few places offering Pure, a non-ethanol gasoline, Caudle said.
Inside, there is also a small convenience store section selling soft drinks, juices, beer, candy, chips and other snacks, some toiletries and household items, car-related goods, some school supplies, and locally made products, such as beeswax candles, granola, goat-milk soap and apple butter.
At the deli, there is ground beef, beef roast, pork sausage, ponhoss and pies.
But, it's the food, especially the succulent barbecued ribs, that set Battlfield Market apart. Stickel said he smokes 70-75 pounds of pork a week, and also does brisket. He's pleased to be working for Steve and Sarah Caudle, who are as passionate as he is about food.
"They want it to be right for the customer every time," the chef said. "I never met two people that cared enough about the business and the people. They do. It's good to work for people who care."
Battlefield Market Grill is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, and 7a.m.to 8 p.m. on weekends. The number is 869-4087.
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org