3506 US Highway 301 South, Smithfield, NC
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C-
Porky Says: “Deep down, I’m pretty superficial.” – Ava Gardner
Some Reasons to Travel to Smithfield
Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pork producer and is based in the small town of Smithfield. Virginia. Though Smithfield, North Carolina is not actually the home base of the world’s largest pork producer, it is in the heart of the state’s swine belt and has a rich history related to the golden leaf. It is also Ava Gardner’s home town, so I would guess she ate her share of barbecue plates back in the day, and the Ava Gardner Museum downtown is a featured attraction. Smithfield also hosts the annual Ham & Yam Festival, which was held just a few weeks ago. Although the festival won’t be back until Spring 2010, Smithfield, NC is a nice little town that is working hard to revitalize its historic downtown (Smithfield dates back to 1777) and it’s worth a visit.
By now you may have wondered why I am starting my review of Holt Lake Bar-B-Q with all of this information on the town of Smithfield. I want you to know there are many good reasons to visit Smithfield. Holt Lake Bar-B-Q simply isn’t one of them.
Holt Lake Bar-B-Q and Seafood is a nice family restaurant that unfortunately, in my humble opinion, does not serve good barbecue. Lord knows some people in Smithfield disagree with me, at least judging by the large lunch crowd I dined with and the multiple phone calls requesting catering that I overheard during my meal. Holt Lake offers an expansive menu that includes seafood, chicken, barbecue, meatloaf and much more. They offer family style dining for parties of four or more, with BBQ/chicken/sides or BBQ/chicken/shrimp/fish/sides options.
I stuck to the basic barbecue plate, which came with a generous serving of pork, as well as a basket of puppies and a piece of cobbler. For my two sides, I ordered slaw and Brunswick stew. The sides were all pretty good, though the stew was a bit thick for my taste. The slaw had a bit of mustard in it, as is sometimes the case down east, giving it a yellow hue. The ‘cue itself was subpar: too greasy and lacking in flavor (typical of electric/gas-cooked pork).
There’s really nothing I can say to recommend you go out of your way to visit Holt Lake Bar-B-Q, but I still enjoyed my meal there because of the nice staff, the large crowd, and the decent sides. I guess eating barbecue is a bit like eating ice cream–even when it’s not very good it’ll put a smile on your face.