[BBQ Jew's note: Today's post was written by Holy Smoke author and intrepid airplane passenger/swine taster John Shelton Reed.]
Yes. I know that both Porky LeSwine and H. Kent Craig have knocked Brookwood Farms grocery store barbecue, but when Dale and I found ourselves in the Delta terminal at RDU, waiting for a noon flight that served no lunch, we weighed the options and went for the stand that says “Brookwood Farms Carolina Pit BBQ,” and I’m here to tell you about it. (By the way, I gather that they’re also in the Charlotte airport.)
First, let me say that, to my mind, Brookwood is missing a great opportunity to educate outlanders, the way the Salt Lick outpost in the Austin airport introduces folks to the Texas product. I guess they’ve done the numbers, though, and decided that catering to travelers whose ideas of barbecue vary wildly requires them to take what I’ve come to think of as the “International House of Barbecue” approach: some of this, some of that, something for everyone, none of it great, but all of it, I guess, OK. For our part, we passed up the “Santa Maria tri-tip,” the barbecued chicken, and barbecued turkey, and went for the barbecue – that is, for the pork. Here the choice comes down to a $7.00 sandwich or a $10.00 plate. (Yes, those prices are steep, but this is airport food, after all.)
We decided to split a plate, which comes with hushpuppies and a choice of two side dishes. Since slaw and Brunswick stew were on offer, naturally those had to be the sides.
Let’s get the peripherals out of the way: They don’t offer ice tea (a serious omission), so we made do with diet Coke. A calorie saved is a calorie earned. Speaking of calories, the hushpuppies were a waste of them. They’d been sitting on the steam table far too long and were soggy and downright unpleasant. The slaw was very good, though, and the stew was, too. Both were more or less generic, but that suits me, since I rarely like the results when barbecue establishments get innovative. You’ll have to try the desserts for yourself, but they looked good: banana pudding, pecan pie, and sweet potato pie.
Now, the main event: the barbecue. It actually wasn’t bad at all. True, it wasn’t fresh, but I can’t think of any way that airport barbecue could be, and the same is true for what you’ll get at a lot of places with less excuse. The meat was clean, with no fat or gristle; and, most important, it tasted as if it had actually been cooked over coals (as I gather from Brookwood’s website it had been). But you’d do well to decline the offer of sauce, or – if you’re curious – get it on the side. The barbecue seems to have been sauced with vinegar and red pepper as it was chopped, and that’s enough. The gloopy, Kansas City (or grocery store) style sauce on offer tastes OK, but obscures the taste of the meat and, for sure, doesn’t go with “Carolina Pit BBQ.”
Bottom line: If you actually want a fair-to-middling taste of North Carolina barbecue at RDU, go to Gate C-9 and check this out. Next time I’ll take a sandwich, with slaw, hold the sauce, and maybe stew on the side, or one of those desserts.