BBQ Jew’s View: Stephenson’s Bar-B-Q

11964 N.C. Highway 50 North, Willow Spring, NC
919.894.4530
No Website
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C
Porky Says: “Dude, where’s the wood?” [Editor's note: it's somewhere]

A good looking barbecue plate from Stephenson's.

Stephenson’s barbecue plate.

Stephenson’s has a long, proud history and is featured as one of 24 barbecue joints on the NC Barbecue Society’s exclusive Barbecue Trail (which lists only those joints that cook with wood and meet various other criteria).  Yet I was underwhelmed during a recent visit.  First of all, despite being listed a wood burner I saw no evidence of a wood pile  and the barbecue did not taste wood-cooked to me.  I wonder if Stephenson’s has switched from wood cooking, or perhaps they use charcoal instead of split wood and keep their charcoal inside.  Even if they do cook with wood and I somehow missed it, I simply did not think Stephenson’s ‘cue was particularly good. [Editor's note: I've been told by reliable sources that they do indeed stick cook over wood!]

I found the barbecue a bit greasy, almost slimy even.  It was coarse-chopped (seemingly by hand) to a nice consistency, but lacked in flavor.  Stephenson’s almost straight vinegar sauce helped the flavor but did not save the ‘cue from mediocrity.  The sides, on the other hand, were quite good.  The coleslaw was lightly “mayo’d,” with quite a lot of added sugar (a bit more than I think slaw needs, actually) and generously flecked with pickle/relish.  The hush puppies were perfectly fried, fluffy golden brown spheres.  The barbecued potatoes were also good, with a classic Eastern-style tangyness to them.  In summary, I always judge a BBQ joint primarily Continue reading

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