I had a great time recently in NC, hanging out with friends and eating BBQ from a few places in the region . . .Lunch at Allen & SonAllen & Son BBQ - 6203 Millhouse Rd, Chapel Hill, NCDining RoomMenuExtra Large BBQ PlateA nod to tradition
I really liked the bbq here because the vinegar-based sauce was spicier (and less sweet) than what I have typically come to know as NC-style. Even though the meat was a bit chunkier than what I was expecting, it was tender and flavorful. There was very little discernable smoke. It's in the air, it's in the room but it's necessarily pronounced in the meat. I also thought the slaw, very peppery, was delicious. Of the 3 places we went on this trip, Allen & Son is the only one that serves spherical hush puppies. They were tasty but a bit chalky in texture.
The main purpose of this trip was to spend time at a friend's house in the outer banks. On the drive out from Raleigh, we stopped at Wilber's Barbecue for a Friday afternoon, pre-shabbos lunch . . .Lunch at Wilber'sWilber's Barbecue - 4172 U.S. 70, Goldsboro, NC The story of Wilber'sMenuDaily SpecialsHush PuppiesVinegar with Chiles and VinegarCombination PlateWhole HogBrunswick StewFried Chicken Livers
After lunch, we wandered out back to the smokehouse . . .Smokehouse
That's the fire pit in front of it, where wood is kept burning pretty much around the clock, and part of the wood pile on the left.Pitmaster
I'm sorry I forgot this gentleman's name but he runs one helluva nice smokehouse.The Pit
We were told that they go through 15-18 hogs on a typical day and about twice that amount on the weekends. In other words, these guys cook more pigs in one day than 'weekend warriors' like myself have cooked in our entire lives. The split hogs go on starting at about 6 pm the night before and become ready throughout the following day.The PitThe PitThe Pit
Before we departed, the pimaster brought in some fresh embers from the fire pit outside the smokehouse . . .Loading Fresh Coals
This work is not for the faint of heart.Loading Fresh Coals
Almost immediately, the entire smokehouse filled with sweet smoke and warmed up a few degrees.A man to admire
Of the 3 places we hit, Wilber's was definitely my favorite. I'm pretty sure it's the only one of the 3 that's still serving whole hog, as many other places have shifted to shoulder for economic reasons. I also prefer oak to hickory. But the thing is, whole hog, with bits of 'this and that' and crispy skin chopped back into the mix really tastes different. It's richer, funkier and more complex. There's a textural lovliness to it, too because of the variation. This is the kind of bbq that will (almost) make you forget about ribs, tips and brisket.
Fwiw, I wasn't really a fan of the slaw or the too-sweet-for-me potato salad. I enjoyed the hush puppies more than Allen & Son's version but they didn't blow me away. In 2005 a friend made some at an event I attended in Raleigh. I've never had any better than those -- before or since.
At Wilber's the fried chicken is also a draw in and of itself. It's very well-seasoned but not particularly spicy. The meat -- even the white -- is flavorful and juicy. In addition to the couple of pieces I had at lunch, our group also purchased 6 fried chickens to go
, which we brought to our destination and ate throughout the weekend. You haven't lived until you've stood drunk at the kitchen counter eating cold fried chicken from Wilber's at 2:00 am. Good times. Lunch at Smithfield's Chicken 'N Bar-B-QSmithfield's Chicken N' Bar-B-Q - 1419 E. Main St, Havelock, NCCombo Dark
(Bar-B-Q, Leg and Thigh, cole slaw, beans, hush puppies)Fried Pork Skins
On the way back from OBX to Raleigh, we stopped at the Havelock outpost of this regional chain. The food, while not really approaching the level of the other 2 places we visited, was entirely respectable. For me, one highlight was the fried pork skins, which were awesome. But everything here was tasty. BBQ and chicken were both better than just about anything you'd find here in Chicago. And even though there's more of a commerical focus here than at the other 2 spots we hit, they do things very well. To that end, service at Smithfield's was absolutely phenomenal. Everyone was friendly and helpful far beyond what we could have possibly requested on our own.
Allen & Son BBQ
6203 Millhouse Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
4172 U.S. 70
Goldsboro, NC 27534
Smithfield's Chicken N' Bar-B-Q
1419 E. Main St
Havelock, NC 28532
I just wanna live until I gotta die. I know I ain't perfect but God knows I try. --Todd SniderTwitter: ronniesuburban