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BBQ in North and South Carolina


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#1 Rail Paul

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Posted 23 November 2004 - 02:38 PM

The thread about Blue Smoke, Pearson's etc got me thinking about bbq. There are several major churches of 'q in the US. Such as:

South Carolina upcountry: pork, vinegar, and mustard. Maurice's Piggy Park & Bible College is an example of this

North Carolina eastern: whole pig is cooked, pork pulled into tiny shreds, lots of vinegar and hot sauce, slices of beef. Usually have skillet fried chicken and always have hush puppies. Wilber's, Parker's Ralph's along the 301/I-95 corridor

Texas: beef, tomatos may be used (rarely found in the Carolinas). The German hill country people smoke just about everything


Here's something I posted elsewhere about Ralph's. I wrote up a long article somewhere about a weeklong sojourn into cholesterol depravity, but I can't locate it right now.

Parker's BBQ in Wilson NC. Finely hacked pork with a jolt of sweet vinegar pepper and crunchy fried chicken 2514 Highway 301 south. This is wonderful chicken, almost tempura in quality and thickness. I think Wilber's has better bbq and much more roadhouse atmosphere

Edited by Rail Paul, 23 November 2004 - 04:32 PM.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

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#2 Caseophile

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 02:33 AM

Here’s my contribution to this discussion: Allen and Son, in Chapel Hill, which I discovered during a recent trip. I loved it so much I went back the very next night. Indeed, if I spent more than a week in North Carolina, I believe I’d gain twenty pounds and have to start buying Lipitor by the case. But I’d eat very well.

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I did a little research on the subject, so I may be able to flesh out Rail Paul's description a little bit. As I understand it, there are two basic schools of NC barbecue, both of which are steeped in ancient tradition: Eastern (which I tried), and Western. Both are based on pork. Pulled pork, or maybe chopped. One doesn't even need to say "barbecued pork." "Barbecue" means pig. The beast is traditionally cooked very slowly over a wood and charcoal fire, in a ceremonial process called “pig pickin’.” It’s treated liberally with a sauce that is based on vinegar , rather than tomatoes, with healthy doses of pepper and spices. I’m told that early Carolinians believed that tomatoes weren’t even edible, although I guess maybe that's an exaggeration. The Western style actually involves a little bit of ketchup in the sauce, but either way, it’s a thin, acidic, vinegary sauce that bears little resemblance to the thick, goopy red barbecue sauce that one buys in a Northern supermarket.

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The pork is served with various side dishes, of which a few are pictured above. Hush puppies are deep fried balls of cornbread dough. I read somewhere that they were designed as scraps to appease hungry dogs that barked in the kitchen while one was busy preparing cornbread (“hush, puppies!”) The slaw in Eastern North Carolina (I never once saw the word “cole”) is sweeter and milder than we have in our Northern delis, and pairs beautifully with the rather acidic and peppery barbecue sauce. Apparently, the Western variant of slaw is somewhat zippier, as their sauce is correspondingly sweeter and milder. Finally, you’ll note some Brunswick Stew, which is a relatively mild tomato-based mush with onions, pepper, spices, and various meats and vegetables chopped in.

I’m no barbecue expert, but Allen and Sons did me right. The pork was tender and succulent without being at all soggy. It was just spicy enough, and just hickory-smoky enough for me. It had a curiously addictive quality, as one sometimes finds in potato chips that one just can’t stop eating, even though one begins to develop that curious cumulative sense of increasing acidity in one’s mouth. Fortunately, in the case of NC barbecue, one has the slaw and puppies to tone things down. These were ideally complimentary to the pork: the slaw offered cool to balance the pork’s hot acidic sear, and just a little crunch to balance the pork’s juiciness. The puppies had a consistency like that of falafel, crunchy on the outside (okay, a bit too crunchy… they could have been just a little fresher, but they were great nonetheless) and soft on the inside. They were wonderfully sweet. Add a little whipped cream or something and they almost could have been dessert. But sweetness was just what all that acid needed. Yum. I inhaled so much of this stuff so quickly that I’m a little embarrassed to think about it. Even the Brunswick Stew, which was the least essential component of the meal, was good, and it made me feel better to know that I was having some extra vegetables with my dinner.

The desserts, by the way, were delicious, and equally lipid-laden. Of course, I had to try at least five. The pecan pie and the bread pudding were most impressive. The coconut pie was widely touted, and not without reason. Filled with eggy custard, it was less coconutty than I had expected. Very tasty, but somehow not as suitable for the kind of high speed face-filling in which I was engaged. Only the chocolate pie was less than noteworthy, though it was still enjoyable. I also enjoyed a taste of a cherry cobbler on one of my two nights. This was sweetened only mildly, with good results, although I wish there had been more of the little crunchy bits in it, and more flavor in the rather tasteless ice cream.

We got our food to go, and I admit that my plating skills don’t do it justice in this photo. But it was absolutely delicious, and the perfect thing for dining alfresco on a warm Spring night among the Carolina pines. Eating in the restaurant would be great, too. It’s a pleasant, spacious place staffed by some of the nicest people who ever cut a slice of pie.

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Allen and Son Pit-Cooked Bar-B-Q: 6203 Millhouse Road, Chapel Hill, NC. 919-942-7576. Be warned: there are other branches of Allen and Sons, and some seem to feel they aren't as good.

#3 Jaymes

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 04:41 AM

Not the Carolinas, but just to add to the discussion, here in Missouri, everyone serves "Kansas City style" BBQ, and I can only hope that what Kansas City is putting out is better than this.

The brisket is horrible. They don't smoke it long enough to completely tenderize it, so they have to slice it really thin. They cool the brisket, then trim off all the fat (and often the smoke ring, too), put it on a machine and slice it paper thin. If they cooked it long enough to make the meat properly tender, they wouldn't be able to slice it that thinly on a machine -- it'd fall apart.

So I've given up on the brisket. I'll just order some from Black's.

The pulled pork is better, but the sauce is so heavy and sweet, I simply cannot eat it. It's cloying. Think "Barbecue Syrup." I am managing with pulled pork sandwiches, with just a little of that sugary sauce. And they don't eat onions with their 'cue here. Seriously. I have been to at least six BBQ joints since I moved here and only one of them even had onions on the premises. A couple of places had the vinegary-type cole slaw which takes the place of onions, but most had...more sweet stuff...sweet cole slaw, in which case I need my onions.

The ribs aren't bad but they, too, are covered with that sickly sweet sauce, and the baked beans must require a pound of brown sugar for each pound of beans.

As you can see, it's been quite a trial for me.

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#4 9lives

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 11:22 PM

Allen and Sons is always named in the "best of" bbq lists. I haven't made it there yet.

I don't know where in MO you are, but have you made a trip to Arthur Bryants in KC, MO?..original Brooklyn St location. AB is probably the grandaddy of KC style (I think some locals have other favorites and it's always a great debate topic).

Great ribs and brisket...lard cooked "real" french fries. I have a great memory of the cook, with a hand the size of a catcher's mitt, piling a handful on my plate.

http://www.arthurbryantsbbq.com/

#5 Jaymes

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Posted 27 April 2005 - 03:22 AM

I don't know where in MO you are, but  have you made a trip to Arthur Bryants in KC, MO?..original Brooklyn St location. AB is probably the grandaddy of KC style (I think some locals have other favorites and it's always a great debate topic).

Haven't been. I'm in Springfield, which is a 'fer piece' (as we say in the Ozarks) from Kansas City. But I do want to try it. After all, the Bryants that originally started the place were good ol' Texas boys. :blink:

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#6 SWISS_CHEF

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 09:05 AM

One of my all time favorites! We call it the "gay pig".

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La cucina è il mio tempio, Il forno è il mio altare, la gastronomia é la mia religione

#7 9lives

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Posted 30 April 2005 - 01:47 PM

Here's another place worth checking out..a little northwest of Charleston, SC..only open Fri/Sat. They cook the whole hog on these big open pits in a large shed out back.

http://hollyeats.com/Sweatmans.htm

#8 Rail Paul

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 12:56 PM

bringing this up to the top

Here's a review of Wilber's

Mitchell's bbq in Wilson


I was impressed that a google on NC bbq and various names brought up MouthFuls on the first page of results

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#9 Rail Paul

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 01:40 AM

bumped up

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#10 fantasty

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 02:31 AM

Thanks for bumping this up, Paul.

Allen & Son will be the next stop.
"My hogs were so lean you had to put lard in the pan just to cook your bacon" - Papa Wilson, 1918 - 2007

#11 fentona

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 08:28 AM

Allen & Son is awesome; probably my favorite BBQ spot in the world. When you go, make sure you try the banana pudding, which is exemplary.

Fantasty, when you go, and if it's a trip for you (I don't know where you're coming from), you should also try Bullock's in Durham. I don't think it's quite as good, but it has its partisans-- sort of a Duke/ UNC split there, I think.
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#12 Rail Paul

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Posted 12 December 2005 - 11:05 AM

Fantasty (and anyone who drives I-95 in the Carolinas) -

there are several quite good bbq places along I-95 between southern VA and northern Georgia. US 301 parallels 95, and has several places directly on it, too. Holly has the goods

For people who indulge the evil weed, or set off sparks wherever they go - the area is also chock full of super-discount, low tax smokes and fireworks. J&R Smokeshop has a big box superstore in Selma, IIRC, where Marlboros were $22 for a carton of 10 packs.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#13 Rail Paul

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 05:42 PM

I had the opportunity to stop at Pigman's BBQ in Kill Devil Hills last week. Exceptionally good pulled pork, with moist, vinegary, peppery highlights. Brown bits mixed in with the shoulder meat, and a slight pooling of liquid in the bottom of the tray. Good, sweet tea and some Merita white bread to go with the feast. About $7 for a healthy (?) serving of pork. The ribs were St Louis style. Good, but not as excellent as the pulled pork.

Pigman bbq

Earlier in the week, I stopped at Lexington #1 in the town of the same name. It was a much bigger establishment than I expected, but exceptionally efficient. Orders were delivered within minutes, drinks within seconds. I was a bit surprised how quickly the tables turned: many diners sat down, ordered, ate, and left within 20 - 25 minutes.

Pulled pork was a bit more finely minced than I like, but there was a definite smoked edge to the meat. Huge helpings at a very reasonable price ($8, IIRC). Onion rings, fries, 1/2 smoked chicken (excellent!). Our server also threw in a small order of pork rinds (deep fried pork skins). They were absolutely addictive, but I'm sure I ingested a few pounds of cholesterol in an hour or so. Each table has several sauce jars (vinegar, sweet pepper sauce, hot sauce, etc) so you can blend your own mix if you'd like.

Lex #1 is across the street from a Stanley Furniture factory, and six foot high stacks of hickory, maple, oak, etc sat behind the kitchen. Clouds of smoke billowed from several rooftop vents. The wood was bark-on pieces, likely produced when tree trunks were squared off to create lumber.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#14 Rail Paul

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Posted 04 April 2008 - 08:41 PM

The Charlotte Observer has a short and very favorable appraisal of Outlaw BBQ. I haven't been there but it sounds like my kind of place.

Off I-485 at the John Street, exit, then west about a mile

QUOTE
• I'm careful about bestowing superlatives on food. But when I raise my barbecue-stained right hand and say the pork ribs were the best I've ever eaten, you better believe it. Even the tiny bit of gristle at the end of each bone was tender.• The Boston-butt pulled pork was my second-favorite item. Smoked for 14 hours, the meat was a pleasure, with or without sauce. Outlaw owners Steve and Lynn Colombo stay out of the Eastern-Lexington barbecue debate by providing tomato- and vinegar-based sauces. (But Steve Colombo says his customers prefer his tomato-based sauce by a 70-to-30 percent margin.

• Outlaw smokes its Texas-style beef brisket for 18 hours. The beefy flavor of the chopped brisket marries perfectly with the hickory flavor.

• I loved the ribs, pork and brisket, but I only liked the barbecue chicken. The skin was too flabby for my taste. I drizzled ample amounts of the spicy barbecue sauce on top.

• Side items include creamy coleslaw, chunky potato salad and some average baked beans.

• Lynn's housemade banana pudding (equal parts banana and pudding) is usually available Friday-Sunday.


Outlaw

Outlaw BBQ Shack

131 E. John St., Matthews. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Credit cards: DI/MC/VI. Web address: www.outlawbbqshack.com. 704-846-1919.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#15 OTB

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Posted 05 April 2008 - 01:57 PM

By the way, Ed Mitchell's new Raleigh BBQ restaurant, "The Pit" in Raleigh is outstanding. I don't have photos yet -- camera was busted last week -- but I'll get some photos and probably a podcast next week.

http://www.thepit-raleigh.com/
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