Sorry we haven’t had much up in a few days. We have been busy driving from restaurant to restaurant stuffing our faces with the different Barbecue styles of the Carolinas.
On day 3 we ate at 4 restaurants in 2 hours! We were most definitely full and started to learn that we need to pace ourselves. We ate at so many in such a short amount of time because in this area it is common practice that the Barbecue restaurants are only open until they run out of food, which generally happens around 2 p.m.
At this point in the trip we are east of Chapel Hill, NC where you find a lot of Whole Hog Pit Barbecue. This area likes to focus on the purity and integrity of the meat versus the sauce. In all of these places the meat is basically seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and vinegar. On the table they offer Texas Pete Hot Sauce and a seasoned apple cider vinegar water. Sweet Tea is the popular beverage in this area.
Skylight Inn—Ayden, NC
The Skylight Inn was an inspiring first stop! Here we had the pleasure of meeting with Sam Jones who is soon to be appearing on Food Network’s “Pit Masters.” Sam is the 3rd generation in his family to run The Skylight Inn, which has been open and unchanged for 65 years. Sam was gracious enough to take us into his smokehouse and really show us around. He is definitely a story-teller and it is clear that he loves people just as much as he loves his craft. We were charmed by his warm personality and inviting nature and had fun listening to everything he had to tell us about BBQ.
In Wisconsin we are more used to pork that is pulled. Here in North Carolina they take sections of the pig and finely chop it mixing the dark and white meat to secure a more moist and fuller flavor. Sam explains that the best part of the pig is the whole pig. He even includes the skin in with the pork, leaving very little to go to waste. While we found some locals do not care for the bits of skin in with the meat. We found that it added a lot to the experience to have that hint of crunch in there.
He emphasizes that Barbecue is regional and to him what barbecue is all about is the meat, explaining, “You can put enough BBQ Sauce on a napkin and still eat it!” Meaning that he feels BBQ sauce can be used to cover up poorly cooked meat. Sam uses Oak to smoke his whole hogs. When we asked why he preferred Oak he again pointed out that BBQ is geography and that Oak is abundant is his area. That is really why the styles of Barbecue across America are so different; people would use what they had in their region.
As we left, Sam Jones insisted that we each take a T-Shirt to go. He also told us we needed to check out Rodney Scott’s BBQ restaurant in South Carolina. He describes Rodney as his BBQ Counterpart in SC and also “his brother from another mother!” We didcheck out Scott’s BBQ on the 5th day and were very pleased. More details to come on Scott’s later
Parker’s Barbecue—Greenville, NC
Next we hit up Parker’s Barbecue. This was a very busy sit down restaurant. Our server Ryan was extremely friendly and willing to take a minute to talk with us. We had a pulled pork plate and the pulled pork sandwich with hush puppies, corn sticks (a french fry-like stick made of corn), and coleslaw. Unlike the other restaurants we stopped at that day, Parker’s uses gas to cook their pork. One thing we started to notice at Parker’s BBQ is that in North Carolina the coleslaw is minced with not much in it besides a sweet mayonnaise base. We also had some unbelievable chocolate cake in honor of Maxx’s birthday (The Black Sheep’s Sous Chef who would rather be in Florida than with us on this awesome trip…not that we are bitter). We had a very pleasant visit at Parker’s BBQ but it was fairly quick because we needed to get to the next stop.
B’s Barbecue Greenville, NC
B’s Barbecue are also masters of pit-cooked whole hog. They use charcoal instead of wood when preparing their pig. This is another second and third generation restaurant. It is amazing to us that there are so many families upholding traditions. We are finding that Barbecue is much more than a type of cuisine…it is a livelihood and lifestyle…Barbecue is what brings them together.
Three sisters and a daughter were hard at work serving a line of hungry customers and quickly running out of food. By the time it was our turn to order they were out of the BBQ chicken, so we only ordered the pulled pork. They do not include any of the skin in their pork, which seemed to be a big plus for some of the locals.
We were jealous of the local gentleman who sat across from us with the last piece of chicken. Being a regular he had called their personal cell phone and made sure there was a piece set aside for him. B’s Barbecue does not have a phone number open to the public, but that does not stop anyone from swarming the restaurant to make sure they get some grub before the restaurant runs out.
Bill Ellis Wilson, NC
Bill Ellis is a giant Barbecue attraction. With 15 catering trucks they deliver their food all over the state. The building was huge with 3 different ways to order. There was a drive thru (which was backed up with at least a dozen cars), a to go room, and an all you can eat buffet.
We ordered yet another plate of pulled pork with a side of coleslaw, hushpuppies and pork skins. The pork was done in the same way—whole hog with a few seasonings and vinegar. The coleslaw was minced like typical North Carolina slaw, but had a mustard taste. This was our first encounter with pigskins, which are fried and thrown in a bag for people to enjoy. I hated myself for loving the very addictive fried delicacy.
Written by Sarah