New Dodgeville Restaurant Builds on Success of 'Bitchin' Sauce

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.