BBQ Jew’s View: Holt Lake Bar-B-Q & Seafood

3506 US Highway 301 South, Smithfield, NC
No Website
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.

I should've turned back at the 1st sign of spaghetti

I should've turned back at the 1st sign of spaghetti

The Review
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.

Plenty of food

Plenty of food

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.




10 Responses

  1. That’s too bad. I have fond memories of Holts Lake from maybe twenty years ago; I guess the rumors I’d heard that it’s gone downhill are true.

    Always sad when good ‘q goes bad.

  2. First things first i think the jew has bad taste buds or needs to find something else to review.Ive been eating at holt lake bbq and seafood for years and also my family and friends.And everyone knows that its one of the best places to eat and when you go there to eat you can tell everyone else thinks so also.Its always busy with alot of satisfied customers,Ive never been when the food was bad cold or the pork tasted bad.It only takes one person who dont know good food when he tastes it to try to give a wonderful and traditional establishment a bad name,when so many people love the taste and the staff and the good ole town of smithfield to lose such a wonderful family resturant,and landmark, and for Porky leSwine go eat at your local Mxcdonalds or Burgerking and make your non tasting of good food to people who knows what good food is all about .

  3. […] Comments Simon on The JointsBBQ Dave on This Wednesday: The Barbecue SundaeGorski on BBQ Jew’s View: Holt Lake Bar-B-Q & Seafoodgerald jackson on BBQ Jew’s View: Holt Lake Bar-B-Q & SeafoodRobert on This […]

  4. Hallelujah!

  5. Is this article some kind of a joke? Holts Lake BBQ and Seafood is, without a doubt, one of the absolutely BEST BBQ and seafood restaurants ever, Period!!! I do not know what you are used to eating, but based upon your comments I do not want any of it. I live in California and have been in thirty-one states and five Canadian Provinces. I have lived in six US states during my life and I can tell you that you will NEVER find or enjoy pork BBQ or seafood that is any better than what you will get at Holts Lake.

  6. Mr. Newsome has missed the point. Has this Californian been to Holts Lake recently? It is very much like Bullock’s in Durham: an institution with a great history, a center for the community, and an excellent meat-and-three that stopped wood-cooking its barbecue some time ago. I’d change Porky’s line that “there are many good reasons to visit Smithfield. Holt Lake Bar-B-Q simply isn’t one of them” to read “there are many good reasons to visit Holts Lake Bar-B-Q. The barbecue simply isn’t one of them.”

  7. porcophile, you’ve made my case better than I ever could hope to do myself. Also, David, I’m not sure that mentioning your travels to five Canadian provinces helps your case when it comes to NC barbecue credentials, unless New Brunswick is so named due to the famous stew or Quebec is short for barbeQuebec. But I digress. David, do you have anything to say for yourself?

  8. I believe you might want a few details. I moved to CA in 2010 from Wayne Co., NC. From growing up on a tobacco farm and eating Eastern NC style BBQ for most of my life and cooking many pigs for the past 30 or so years I believe I am as qualified as the next person to judge BBQ; be it good or bad. I have been back to NC and the first place I went to eat was at “Holts”. I ordered a combination pork BBQ and fried oyster plate. I don’t believe it is on the menu, but you could ask for it. Delicious BBQ and fried oysters to die for. “REAL” BBQ is non existent in CA. I went to a ‘Dickeys’ and made two trips in one, my first and last. I ordered what the menu called “Southern style BBQ”,took a few bites. paid the bill and left. I will be returning to NC in Oct. next and the first place to go for dinner will be Holts Lake BBQ and Seafood. I have eaten at Ellis’s and Parker’s in Wilson, Scott’s, Wilbur’s, McCalls, Guy Parkers, and Griffins in Goldsboro; Smithfield BBQ, White Swan, and Holts Lake (at both locations, old and current). I have eaten at Kings in Kinston, Fussels in Clinton, Clyde (whats his name) near Raleigh, The BBQ Barn in Zebulon, and a host of other places around the state including Stamey’s and other “Lexington Style” BBQ places. I have eaten at places that were popular in their day but have long been out of business. I have cooked a lot of pork and only use red oak coals. One winter we cooked a pig every Sat. And for my parents 50th wedding aniv. I cooked three at one time. I lived around 3-4 miles from the ‘Nahunta Pork Center” and bought the pigs from “Hills Market’ in Goldsboro (who got them from Nahunta).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: