315 Beechwood Blvd (Hwy 11), Murfreesboro, NC
Hours: Thu – Sun only
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C-
Porky Says: “Eh.”
Barbecue on a Sunday
As a devout BBQ Jew, I typically steer clear of BBQ joints that are open on Sundays. They tend to be second rate, though there are some very notable exceptions to this rule (e.g., Lexington #1). On this particular Sunday, I was driving back from a day of canoeing at Merchant’s Millpond State Park in northeastern NC, a place well worth visiting. A few hours of paddling in an alligator-filled swamp had me hungrier than a crocodile, and my buddy and I were happy to find that Whitley’s was open on Sundays.
Sauce Unfit for a Gator
Whitley’s offers an impressive looking Sunday buffet of barbecue, chicken, other main dishes, a wide variety of sides, and dessert. However, at $14 a person–far and away the most expensive NC BBQ buffet I’ve ever encountered, and in rural Murfreesboro of all places–I hesitated. Between the price and plans to check out a couple of other BBQ joints on my ride home, as well as my general distaste for eating ‘cue off a steam table, I chose to order from the menu.
The barbecue plate I ordered came with corn sticks, an Eastern NC delicacy with which I have relatively little experience given how common hush puppies are. I was happy to get a chance to eat some corn sticks, though I found Whitley’s to be on the dry and unflavorful side. Unfortunately, Whitley’s barbecue was no better than the corn sticks. It was bland, propane cooked pork that desperately needed sauce. And the house sauce was simply awful.
The sauce at Whitley’s is the most ketchupy barbecue sauce I’ve tasted in NC, with the exception of some places way up in the mountains where the locals think they live in Tennessee. The sauce tasted right much like the thick Kraft barbecue sauce that pollutes grocery store shelves across the country. And the nerve of serving this sauce in Eastern North Carolina?! Sacrilege! The Brunswick stew was also too ketchupy/tomatoey for my taste, though the consistency and meat-to-veggie balance was good . (For the record, I’m more forgiving on Brunswick stew at least in part because I have no strong affinity for the stuff).
With all the mediocre food in front of me, I was happy to have a glass of iced tea to wash it down. But alas, even the tea was subpar–it suffered from far too little sugar, a rare problem in the south. On a positive note, the coleslaw was good, a classic Eastern-style slaw with a heavy dose of mustard seeds. And, as is usually the case at NC BBQ joints, the surroundings were comfortable, the staff were friendly (though they did push the $14 buffet pretty hard), and the other patrons seemed happy. As the old saying goes, “It’s more fun eating bad barbecue than being eaten by a good alligator.” Ain’t that the truth.