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Eat Here Now: Nickel’s Pit BBQ in Corning

Nick Thayer and Jenna Letersky Thayer were initially looking for a place on Market Street in Corning, New York to host a local liquor shop that sold New York State spirits. However, Jenna Letersky Thayer said the moment they stepped inside a brick building their real estate agent showed them one day, they realized the space was meant for much more: an expansion of their successful Nickel's Pit BBQ restaurant in Watkins Glen, New York.
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Photo provided by Jenna Letersky Thayer

Nick Thayer and Jenna Letersky Thayer were initially looking for a place on Market Street in Corning, New York to host a local liquor shop that sold New York State spirits. However, Jenna Letersky Thayer said the moment they stepped inside a brick building their real estate agent showed them one day, they realized the space was meant for much more: an expansion of their successful Nickel’s Pit BBQ restaurant in Watkins Glen, New York.

“Nick and I had always loved Market Street and the community there, so it almost felt surreal when we signed the papers,” Letersky Thayer said.

The new location’s menu is similar to the menu at the restaurant’s original Watkins Glen location. That means diners can not only be at ease with the delectable comfort food Nickel’s Pit BBQ offers, but also with knowing menu items utilize ingredients straight from Finger Lakes farmers.

Nickel’s Pit, which opened on Franklin Street in Watkins Glen in December 2012, currently sources much of its meat, kale, corn, and produce from Lowery Farms in Savonia, New York. Letersky Thayer described the man who runs the farm—who goes by the name of “Beef”—as “the nicest guy you’d ever meet.”

Photo of “Beef” provided by Jenna Letersky Thayer

Schrader Farms in Romulus, New York supplies the restaurant with its Kielbasa, which is offered with its Triple Hog sandwich that includes bacon, kielbasa, and pork.

Meat fans may also want to try the pulled pork nachos—one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes— which feature pork from Lowery Farms steeped in a Jalapeño Peppadew cheese from Yancey’s Fancy based in Corfu, N.Y. Fresh-made pico, green onion, jalapenos, and a drizzle of a house-made OG Hot Sauce complete the crunchy, flavorsome dish.

Photo provided by Jenna Letersky Thayer

The Corning location has allowed Letersky Thayer and her partner Nick Thayer—an Edible Finger Lakes Local Hero of 2019—to get a bit more creative with the menu, from themed nights like Taco Wednesdays to a Sunday Brunch with all the fixings.

Photo provided by Jenna Letersky Thayer

“One of our incredible staff members, Abby, bakes for brunch as well and has made everything from pumpkin scones to homemade pop-tarts and amazing breads for French toast,” Letersky Thayer said.

Getting to the point of opening the new location took quite a bit of work. However, through about seven months that included everything from demolition to getting a pesky hood vent in the kitchen to work, the couple stayed determined. In October 2019, their dedication paid off when they were able to open the new Corning location to the public.

Not long after this anticipated opening, COVID-19 struck in March 2020 and caused the new location to shut down for about two months. Although times were tough, Letersky Thayer said she and Nick were never about to give up.

“COVID hitting in March brought uncertainty for every aspect of our lives except for one thing we knew: that we would never let down our staff and their families,” Letersky Thayer said.

Now that Nickel’s Pit BBQ in Corning is past these initial major hurdles, Letersky Thayer said they have some big goals in mind. These include having a catering business when it becomes safe enough for larger gatherings again and making the Corning location’s second floor into additional dining space that could be rented for private events.

However, for now, both locations are focusing on offering Southern-inspired barbecue cuisine and locally-sourced beverages because as Letersky Thayer puts it, barbecue is about sharing a hard-earned meal.

“BBQ is a labor of love, taking hours of preparation from the farmer to the butcher to the chef and pitmaster, and finally getting to the plate with all its accompaniments,” Letersky Thayer said. “People are enjoying so much time and energy in each bite and that means the world.”

Nickel’s Corning Location is open Wednesday to Sunday. The hours Wednesday through Friday are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday Brunch is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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