1328 S. Scales St., Reidsville, NC
Short Sugar’s Website
(complete with lots of photos, a copy of the menu, etc.)
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C+
Porky Says: “I wish I’d known ye in your prime, Sug.”
Like The Rolling Stones, Short Sugar’s is a true legend. And like The Stones, I am quite certain Short Sugar’s put on a much better live show back in the day. Now, like Mick Jagger’s lips and Keith Richard’s everything, Short Sugar’s is less of a sight to behold than in decades past and may be coasting on reputation.
Short Sugar’s is among the most storied of NC barbecue joints, from the tragic history that resulted in its great name to the fact that it still to this day offers curb service and a 1950s style atmosphere (yes, there even appear to be some vintage ’50s grease stains). There is much to like about Short Sugar’s. The bucolic setting in the heart of what was until recently serious tobacco country, as Reidsville’s history is closely tied to that of the American Tobacco Company. The impressive indoor wood pit, where the pork shoulders and hams are finished. The classic diner counter. The joint’s 60 years of history. Its reputation. The fact that the pork is hand-chopped to order. The unique sauce that many rave about. And on and on. But, in my humble opinion, the ‘que has a hard time matching the mystique. It seems like a classic case of the whole hog being less than the sum of the parts.
I found the barbecue a bit bland, not exhibiting much depth of flavor. This makes sense based on what I ‘ve heard about their cooking method, which as I understand it now only uses the wood pit to finish the barbecue for the last few hours. It’s a shame that a joint with 60 years of tradition–and probably a handful of customers who have eaten there for all of these years–would switch to an electric cooker. Besides the so-so pork, the hush puppies tasted like they were of the frozen variety and were a bit overfried and dry. On a positive note, the white slaw was good—pleasantly balanced between a Lexington style vinegar slaw and the creamy Eastern version.
Paint It Black
And then there’s the sauce. It’s definitely every bit as unique as everyone says it is. I just plain didn’t like it. It is quite sweet and looks like soy sauce—jet black and thin. Odd stuff and, frankly, I found it rather jarring, offensive even. But obviously many people love it, and if you like the sauce then your enjoyment at Short Sugar’s will likely be much greater than mine.
Even those who like the sauce might be shocked by experiencing the minced barbecue, which comes absolutely drenched in the stuff. A Short Sugar’s minced sandwich is to a regular barbecue sandwich what a sloppy joe is to a hamburger. (Unless you are a middle school cafeteria foodie, that is not a compliment). The regular chopped barbecue was much better, but the pork itself was not good enough for me to overcome my distaste for the sauce. I did not get a chance to try the sliced barbecue, but sliced is available for either the barbecue plate or sandwich; the tray comes only in chopped or minced.
Exile on Scales St.
Maybe I’ll try Short Sugar’s again and live to regret this review, but for now… I can’t get no satisfaction. (Sorry, that joke was twice as lame as it was inevitable). Joking aside, I would love to hear comments from others who’ve been to Short Sugar’s. Do you agree with me? Does my bias against the sauce make me unfit to judge the barbecue? Did I catch Short Sugar’s on an off day? Does anyone in his/her right mind enjoy the minced ‘que? Pray tell…