Late last year Carl Eugene McBride, Jr. provided me with a re-revised history of barbecue in Goldsboro, NC. Alas, I managed to bury his email in my inbox and just came across it again recently. With apologies for the delay, here is Mr. McBride, Jr.’s new and improved essay. As I said when I posted the original version, this document ought to be required reading for public school students in Wayne County!
I used to regularly travel to Goldsboro for work and was always curious about the vacant but tidy Guy Parker’s Barbeque Restaurant near the edge of downtown. I never did figure out the story behind the restaurant until seeing this interesting article. Between Guy Parker’s and Scott’s, Goldsboro is becoming a barbecue town known as much for its ghosts (and their sauce) as for its existing restaurants.
According to the The Dispatch, a recent article in U.S. News & World Report ranked Lexington, NC the fourth best barbecue city in the country. It’s hard to argue with the cities listed ahead of Lexington–Memphis TN, Lockhart TX and Kansas City MO. Although if good, traditionally prepared barbecue per capita had been the main criteria I’d argue that Lexington–with its 20-some BBQ joints in the “metro area” and just 20,000 people–would be neck and neck with Lockhart.
Here are my picks for top barbecue cities (and towns) in North Carolina. If you like, you can consider this the North Carolina barbecue Final Four.
Lexington – As noted in the national rankings, Lexington is the best barbecue town in North Carolina. There are more traditional wood-cooking barbecue joints in little 20,000-person Lexington than any other locality in NC by a wide margin. (Are you listening Raleigh and Charlotte?) Lexington’s annual Barbecue Festival that draws 200,000 or so swine worshippers is further evidence of the town’s barbecue supremacy.
Ayden – Home to the Skylight Inn (aka Pete Jone’s place), which serves some of the best barbecue in the state and is perhaps the quintessential Eastern NC barbecue joint, Ayden is a little town with a lot of flabor. From the food at the Skylight Inn to the rural setting, it doesn’t get much more authentic than Ayden . Better yet, tiny Ayden is also home to the cafeteria-style Bum’s, which is a classic southern restaurant featuring barbecue.
Salisbury – It plays second fiddle to Lexington, but Salisbury deserves its own acclaim, as it is (ironically) the likely birthplace of “Lexington-style” barbecue. Today Salisburyians (?) continue to cherish their barbecue and the town has a couple of solid, traditional wood burners–Richard’s and Wink’s–to back up their proud barbecue history.
Goldsboro – At one point Goldsboro was arguably the Mecca of Eastern NC barbecue, between the still-famous Wilber’s and the now shell-of-its-former-self Scott’s. Although it’s barbecue is no longer worth tasting, Scott’s still makes some of the best barbecue sauce available ($1.99 or so at your neighborhood Food Lion, or $1 more at Harris Teeter if that’s how you roll). The Goldsboro area’s proud tobacco and hog farming history add to its permanent status as a true barbecue town.
A little over a month ago I ran this post about an amateur historian’s take on Goldsboro’s rich barbecue history. I recently was able to track down the author, Carl Eugene (“Gene”) McBride, Jr. He not only agreed to allow me to continue to share his magnum
opus porkus online but offered a new and improved version. The revised version corrects a few minor errors and is available here for your reading pleasure: GoldsboroBarbecue. (I also updated the original post to link to this revised document.) It’s a terrific read so please do check it out.
So, who is this mysterious McBride fellow anyway? A Goldsboro native who now lives in barbecue purgatory on the left coast, it turns out. As Gene told me over email: ”I grew up in Goldsboro until I went off to UNC-Chapel Hill in 1965. Although I now live in Los Angeles, I have visited Goldsboro every year since then. You are correct that Goldsboro is truly a barbecue haven. I wish I had some of that ‘cue right now!” If any Tar Heel travelers are planning a journey to the City of Angels, I am confident that Gene would be more than happy to pay your airfare if you simply bring him a plate of his precious ‘cue.
Wilber Shirley’s place in Goldsboro–the simply named Wilber’s Barbecue–is among the living legends of North Carolina barbecue joints. It is also among the state’s best-known restaurants period, given its long history and prominent location fronting Highway 70 on the way to the beach (at least for those of us that still take routes other than Interstate 40 to the coast from time to time). Hear from Mr. Shirley himself and get a behind the scenes tour of his wonderful restaurant in this nicely done segment from Time Warner Cable’s Around Carolina program.
Oh, and if you want to see another perspective on Goldsboro, you can watch this video instead.
Goldsboro, a city of a little under 40,000 people in eastern North Carolina, has some of the state’s richest barbecue history. Thus, I was particularly pleased to receive the below email, written by Johnnie and Peggy Hood, and forward to me by Dave Schiller, all of whom recently attended their 50th Goldsboro High School anniversary. Better yet, the email included an attached history of Goldsboro barbecue written by Carl Eugene McBride, Jr., whom I am currently trying to track down to be sure he is okay with me including his writing on this site… I sure hope he is because it is excellent and deserves an audience.
“(Goldsboro, NC 10/01/11) – What started out as a few friends going to Wilber’s Barbecue for lunch morphed into a GHS class of 1961 reunion family style luncheon at Wilberdean Shirley’s Barbecue Emporium. Classmates feasted on barbecue pork (of course), barbecue chicken, fried chicken, slaw, potato salad, Brunswick stew, hushpuppies, and biscuits (sopping biscuits like granny used to make). For dessert we enjoyed banana pudding that, we were told, Wilber himself stayed up all night cooking.
Conversation topics ranged from “whatever happened to ole so and so?” to stories from those no longer living in eastern North Carolina about the putrid and disgusting things some people put in their barbecue sauce. Some were shocked to learn that some well-meaning cooks put catsup, or mustard, or molasses, or brown sugar, just to name a few things, in the sauce and then serve it to unsuspecting guests.
It was agreed that the reason that we GHS graduates are so good looking, so intelligent, and so healthy is probably the Goldsboro barbecue we consumed as children. Harriet Taylor Ross removed any doubt by providing a PDF file history of the holy grub from Goldsboro [Editor's note: This link opens a fascinating, 19-page history of Goldsboro barbecue]… It should be required reading in all Goldsboro Public Schools along with other important stuff that’s no longer taught.
The fiftieth reunion is a once in a lifetime event. We enjoyed ours.”
April marks the beginning of the barbecue festival season, which runs through October. The first event of the season was in Newport last weekend, but you have a chance to make it to the 2nd one THIS weekend. Drive on over to Goldsboro for Pig in the Park. The event features live music and other fun on Friday night, and then the serious business of a cooking competition on Saturday. Plates are available for sale to the general public early afternoon on Saturday, and there will be more live music, vendors and other good times.
The festivities take place in downtown Goldsboro, an area that has a lot of history and an impressive collection of historic homes, storefronts and train depot (now under renovation). Goldsboro has put a lot of effort into revitalizing its downtown, so show ‘em some love and pay them a visit. Plus, once you sample some Pig in the Park ‘cue you can have a 2nd meal at Wilbur’s or Grady’s or any number of other joints not too far away.
Thanks to reader Burgeoningfoodie for making the BBQJew.com News Room aware of the recent story on Playboy’s website about America’s best barbecue joints. (Actually, for the record, technically Burgeoningfoodie alerted us to a post about the Playboy article that appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer’s Mouthful blog.)
If you are reading BBQJew.com somewhere other than work, I recommend you see the full Playboy article here and the section on Wilber’s here. If you are currently at work, rest assured the article is 100% nudity-free, but it does contain some graphic depictions of near-naked barbecue covered only in slaw and a bun. Still, BBQJew.com’s Legal Department recommends you save the article for home, unless you work somewhere that considers it kosher to log onto Playboy.com (in which case, you probably work for Playboy).
I saw the billboard pictured above and it made me crave knowledge and enlightenment (and some pork). Specifically, I wanted to understand what was meant by, “America’s Largest Pork Display.” Could I be so lucky? Could this statement really be true? And what the heck does “pork display” mean anyway? These questions burned in my mind like a pork shoulder over hot hickory coals. So I decided to turn off Highway 70 just west of Goldsboro and follow the road to Nahunta Pork Center. I’m glad I did.
The Nahunta Pork Center (NPC) has been around for over 30 years, and the story goes back even farther to a 1950s hog market and slaughterhouse located in the small Wayne County township of Nahunta. It’s hard to believe that anyone could run a successful business in NPC’s off the beaten path location–five miles off the main highway, out in the country and just past the race track, to be specific–for a year let alone half a century. But judging by the amount of pork I saw for sale at NPC, they must be doing brisk business.
When you walk in the front door at NPC, you immediately understand why they claim to have America’s largest pork display. Also, you wonder where else in the world there might be a larger one. It’s truly a scary thought. I’m about as far from vegetarian as I can be short of injecting hog fat directly into my bloodstream, so I’m not easily impressed by the sight of meat for sale. But one glance at the pork display at NPC is enough to make the most devout carnivore hope to the heavens that God is not, in reality, an angry vegeterian (is there any other kind?). If He is, I can at least take solace in the fact that the road to hell is paved with good swine. (more…)