North Country Chili Cook-Off will return next week in new format amid COVID-19 pandemic

WATERTOWN, NY – The Volunteer Transportation Center, Inc. (VTC) 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, where 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

  • Tavern230, 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,” said Mr. Papineau. “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,” said Mr. Papineau. “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 from Monday, Feb. 1, through Sunday, Feb. 28. Hours of each location will be available on the cook-off page of the VTC website, Those wanting to cast votes will be able to do so in person by paper ballot or online through the VTC website. The entry with the most votes will get a special plaque denoting them winner of the special edition People’s Choice Award.

In addition, participating restaurants will be able to win a Top Fundraiser Award by collecting donations for the Volunteer Transportation Center. The participating team with the highest amount raised will receive this special recognition.

The 22nd Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off is supported by “Underwriting Level Sponsors” Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Watertown Savings Bank, Stewart’s Shops/The Dake Family, Victory Promotions, United Food Service Operators, WWNY-TV 7News/Fox28/MeTV, Tunes 92.5/Intrepid Broadcasting, Runningboards Marketing, NNY360/Watertown Daily Times, and The American Legion Family.

Additional support comes from “Platinum Level Sponsors” Price Chopper, Watertown Internists and Samaritan Medical Center; “Gold Level Sponsors” Lake Ontario Cattle Company, Kinney Drugs Foundation, State CS Employee Federal Credit Union, Keller Williams-Amy Kenney, Benefit Services Group, Advanced Business Systems, Knowlton Technologies, Rose & Kiernan Insurance, and North Country Insurance Company; “Silver Level Sponsors” The ARC of Jefferson-St. Lawrence, Cheney Tire, RBC Wealth Management, Alexandria Bay Post 904 SAL, Brownville Post 588 SAL, Carthage Area Hospital, The Bonadio Group, DOCO Quick Print, Watertown Hearing Aid Center, Barrett Paving Materials, GYMO Architecture Engineering & Land Surveying, GEICO Insurance, Key Bank, Lake Ontario Realty, and Slack Chemical Company; and “Friends of the Cook-Off Sponsors” Hospice of Jefferson County and Bach & Company.

For more information about the 22nd Annual North Country Chili Cook-Off, contact Mr. Papineau at 315-755-2918 or via email at Additional information is available on-line at