BBQ Jew’s View: White Swan Bar-B-Q & Fried Chicken

Multiple Locations around Johnston County, NC
Multiple Phone Numbers
One Website 
(with multiple menus, multiple photos, & more)
BBQ Jew’s Grade: B (about the highest we’ll go on gas/electric-cooked)
Porky Says: “Gas-cooked pig at a gas station, but it’s good.” 

Running on Empty
“What kind of idiot stops for barbecue at a gas station?,” I asked myself. And then I answered my own question.

Logo from H. Kent Craig's NC-Style BBQ Site

Logo from H. Kent Craig's NC-Style BBQ Site

I had driven past the two gas station-embedded White Swans alongside Highway 70 between Raleigh and Goldsboro several times before this particular day. I had never before had a good meal at a gas station, and I didn’t see any particular reason to try and change that history. Furthermore, I am skeptical of chain restaurants in general and barbecue chains in particular, and White Swan has six locations (six is a heck of a lot by BBQ standards and is five more than most good joints). Plus, there really is nothing about the White Swans on Highway 70 that stands out. Perhaps if the gas stations that house the White Swans were rustic old service stations with overall-clad mechanics pumping gas from a one handled pump I’d have been more intrigued. But these are just dull, modern, no-service stations. Still, today was different: it was dinner time and my gas tank was desperately low. I decided to order a plate of good old fashioned pork grease biofuel along with my tank of 87 Regular.

It turns out White Swan serves some pretty tasty Eastern style pork. White Swan’s pork falls a few snouts short of spectacular, but it is consistently good, flavorful stuff. Notice that I am refraining from calling the stuff barbecue, since I don’t think it is wood cooked and I’m one of those Jewish fundamentalists who considers pork cooked any way but over wood coals something short of barbecue. I didn’t detect a smoky taste and the joint’s website says only that “the pork is slowly cooked in a covered cooker, which holds in the smoked flavor” (how’s that for a lot of words that say nothing?).

Given how rare wood-cooked barbecue is in the eastern part of the state these days, I will give White Swan a pass and accept their slow-cooked pork for what it is—because whatever you call the stuff, it tastes pretty damn good. The pork is moist and chopped to a nice consistency, and it is served with a classic vinegar and pepper sauce that requires little to no Texas Pete supplement. The slaw, hush puppies and Brunswick stew are tasty too. The fried chicken is very popular and looks appetizing, but I’ve not yet indulged in it (someday my heart will thank me for this rare restraint).

White Swan has been in business for 50+ years so they must be doing something right, and you can’t fault them for snatching up prime real estate in the gas stations along Highway 70. BBQ Jew recommends that you stop in to White Swan next time your fuel gauge is teetering toward E, or any other time, for a completely unleaded and hickory carcinogen-free meal you won’t regret.

Extra Mileage
One final, bizarre note: Check out the “BBQ Cocktail” featured on White Swan’s website. The cynic in me thinks this sort of nonsense is the problem with cooking competitions.  Oh well.

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3 Responses

  1. We love it for Shabbat dinner, lol. Thought we were the only jews in this neck of the woods!!

  2. Welcome to the site, mysticalrose, and I assume you stick to the tasty (Kosher) fried chicken.

  3. Over the Summer, Terri and I dined at White Swan is Smithfield, NC. The BBQ was great, nice and moist. And the place was busy with a jammed dining room and people in a line at the counter.

    We got two of their sandwich combos, one with fries, and the other with hush puppies.

    Some place that we’ll go back to the next time we’re in Smithfield.

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