Newsflash: Jason Grill & BBQ

A tip of the snout to John Shelton Reed, who alerted me to a relative newcomer to the Eastern NC barbecue scene: Jason Grill & BBQ, a traditional wood-burning shack of a barbecue joint that looks like it is from another era.  John has already agreed to give me a full report and pictures when he visits Jason’s, so I’ll share his comments with you soon.  In the meantime, check out the pictures and very positive reviews on Chowhound and at the NC Folklife website. 

Jason’s looks like the type of place I dream of “discovering” when I travel down the backroads of NC, so rest assured I’ll visit soon.  Readers, please chime in if you’ve been there and can confirm it is the holy grail the reviews make it out to be.

BBQ&A: H. Kent Craig, BBQ Blogger & Author

[Note: Follow this link-Craig BBQ&A-for an easier to read, .pdf version of the interview.]

For ten years North Carolina native H. Kent Craig ran the most visited website dedicated to NC barbecue, “Kent’s North Carolina-Style BBQ Page.”  In 2008, Craig moved out of state and stopped adding content to his website.  In late 2009, he shut the site down entirely, leaving a large grease-stained void in cyberspace. 
That’s the bad news. 
The good news is that Craig has compiled the information from his website, and added some new content, and recently published Kent’s Carolina Barbecue Book, available at  Not long ago we “sat down” with Craig (in the very modern, virtual sense where we are not within 500 miles of each other) and discussed his book, his exile in Oklahoma, and plumbing.  Oh, and we talked barbecue too.
 BBQ Jew: Let’s start with a tough question.  Rumors are flying that the “H.” in your name stands for “Hog.”  Care to confirm or deny this rumor?
H. Kent Craig: The “H.” stands for “Harold” which a couple of people have been shot for addressing me as (just kidding, they were just wounded a little!). Actually, the “H.”/Harold was my father’s first name and mainly to keep from being called “Craig Jr.” or “Harry” (guaranteed death!) I started to use “Kent” as a small child as my given name and it stuck and it suits me. 

BBQ Jew: Okay, we’ve put that rumor to rest but we’ve now determined that you have three first names–Harold, Kent and Craig.  Never mind, moving on… Where were you raised?  And when and where did you first sink your teeth into North Carolina barbecue?  Was it love at first bite?
I was raised in what was then a small hamlet outside of Raleigh called Cary [Editor’s note: population 3,400 in 1960], which has since become a much larger burg with around 130,000 residents and has the distinction of being the bedroom community for Research Triangle Park. My mother’s parents moved to Cary in the 1920’s so I somewhat proudly call myself a 3rd-generation Cary-ite. Because all of Cary’s population boom has been caused by scientists and researchers and others adjunct to all the R&D facilities immigrating to Cary from other parts of the country, it’s an old but true joke amongst the dozen or so actual natives that are left that “Cary” is an acronym for “Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.”

My first memories of NC BBQ were from Johnson’s BBQ in Cary on E. Chatham St., now long gone. I remember eating there when I was just two or three and yes, they would have been given a “4 pig” best-of-the-best rating.

BBQ Jew: Wow, talking to a 3rd generation native of Cary  is a bit like talking to a brontosaurus.   Speaking of ancient history, there were few NC barbecue-focused websites around back in the dark ages of the 1990s when you debuted your site.  Why did you decide to start a website about NC barbecue?
H.KC: I decided to start my NC BBQ Page mainly because I thought, with sincere respect to Dave Lineback’s personal site where, like mine, he had an NC-BBQ-centric section within and which was a good site and Shinola’s site which was Continue reading

BBQ Jew’s View: Byrd’s Barbecue

2816 Cheek Road, Durham, NC
No Website
Hours: Mon-Fri 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C
Porky Says: “Noah’s Temple didn’t make me a believer.”

“Worth Your Time to Find”
I’m embarassed to admit that I first heard of Byrd’s Barbecue fewer than 6 months ago.  Byrd’s–with the motto “Worth Your Time to Find” etched onto its rooftop sign–is located in Durham within 20 minutes of my house.  And it was founded over 50 years ago.  (According to a recent News & Observer article, Noah and Michelle Temple bought Byrd’s in 2005.  Noah used to work at Danny’s Bar-B-Que in Cary, which we’ve yet to visit but have poked fun at.)  How could I have not know about Byrd’s sooner?  And was it worth my time to find after all these years living in the dark? 

I still can’t figure out the answer to the first question, but maybe it has something to do with the answer to the second one: No.  Although it is a decent enough place, Byrd’s is nothing special.  It’s one of hundreds–or thousands–of mediocre barbecue joints in NC that long ago took the cheaper, easier path and stopped cooking over wood, in the process sacrificing quality, flavor and tradition.

Looks Like the Real Deal,
If you choose to ignore the propane tank that looms behind the building (which, of course, you should not), Byrd’s has the look of a gem of a BBQ joint.  Located just outside the city limits, it occupies a rural setting that is appropriate to good ‘cue.  The modest wood frame building looks the part too.  And the parking lot welcomed a steady stream of Continue reading

Call for Guest Posts

My wife and I are expecting another little piglet in a few weeks, so if any of you readers out there would like to provide a guest post for this site, please be in touch.  Drop me a line at BBQJew at and share your draft post or idea.  I’m eager to have a couple of extra posts scheduled to go when I am out on porkternity leave.  The compensation for your guest post will be in the form of gratitude, the common currency of the blogosphere.  Thanks all.

BBQ Fundraiser in New Bern

The quaint waterfront town of New Bern, birthplace of Pepsi, turns 300 years old this year.  If that’s not reason enough to visit, check out the oddly named “BBQ In Blue Jeans” fundraiser this Friday night. 

According to the Downtown New Bern blog, “The very popular annual fundraiser benefits the New Bern Firemen’s Museum and will be held on Friday, January 22, 2010, beginning at 6 p.m. in New Bern’s Riverfront Convention Center.  Barbeque master Tommy Moore of Moore’s Barbeque is the event’s major sponsor, donating barbeque and all the fixings. Tickets are only $25 per person and include all food and beverages, as well as dancing to some of the area’s finest bands. Doors open at 6 p.m. Dinner is at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at New Bern Firemen’s Museum, New Bern’s Riverfront Convention Center or Mitchell’s Hardware.”

I visited the Firemen’s Museum a couple years back and took the below picture of one of several vintage fire trucks featured at the museum.  It’s nice to photograph something besides BBQ once in awhile.

I'm glad they're not fighting fires with these anymore

Blue Ridge BBQ Festival Kaput?

GOOD NEWS (1/28/10 update to the original post, which is below): The Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival will be held this year after all!  See details here.

If you hear squeals coming from the western part of North Carolina, they might be the sound of the Blue Ridge Barbecue Festival dying.  The event, which has been held annually in Tryon, NC since 1994, may soon be no more.

According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce recently announced their plans to let the festival they organize disappear like the fat off a slow-cooked pork shoulder.  Ironically, it seems that part of the festival’s problem is that it became too successful over the years.  The festival requires countless hours of planning, hundreds of volunteers and a nearly $300,000 budget. 

There are some ongoing attempts to save the festival, but no savior has appeared yet.  Have  a couple hundred thousand bucks to lend to the cause?  This could be the opportunity of a lifetime.  As shaky as the economy is right now, investing in pork might be a good move…

Kraft: “The Boss Sauce”

I stumbled into this classic piece of American television history somewhat disturbing blaxploitation commercial and thought it was interesting.  Hopefully this video provides yet another compelling reason to put down the Kraft and pick up a bottle of sauce from your local barbecue joint.  Local sauce is boss, man. Groovy.  Ya dig?


Porky’s Pulpit: New Year’s Resolutions

Before we get too deep into 2010, here are my personal (PER) and BBQ Jew related (BBQ) New Year’s resolutions:

PER 1) In order to protect the earth and preserve it for my children, I will cut down on my vehicle miles traveled.
BBQ 1) In order to protect the art of BBQ and preserve it for my children, I will drive farther to support traditional wood-cooked barbecue joints.

PER 2) I will spend more time with my family.
BBQ 2) I will find the time to write more Hogkus.   

PER 3) I will watch my diet, in order to cut calories and lose weight.
BBQ 3) I will try to eat barbecue on average at least once per week. 

PER 4) I will not make light of the swine flu.
BBQ 4) I will only eat dead swine, and will not kiss live swine, to avoid the swine flu.

I think that about covers it.

BBQ Jew’s View: Prissy Polly’s

729 Highway 66 South, Kernersville, NC
Hours: Mon-Sat 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C+
Porky Says: “Polly has an identity crisis.”


Prissy Polly's: The view from my table

With a great name like Prissy Polly’s, which made it into my barbecue joint name hall of fame, it’s tempting to be Pollyannaish about the quality of the barbecue.  The fact that the restaurant is named after the founder’s mother makes it even better.  But despite the great name, Polly’s suffers from an identity crisis.  And, leaving the name aside, the food they serve is just okay.

Trying to Do Too Much
Instead of focusing on preparing one style of barbecue well, which is a difficult enough task, Polly’s tries to serve both Eastern- and Lexington-style ‘cue and does neither especially well.  According to their own website:

“Originally Prissy Polly’s served only Eastern-style barbecue.  This caused a bit of consternation among some of the local folks, who were accustomed to Lexington-style barbecue. To please the taste of those who preferred Lexington-style, Prissy Polly’s began to offer both styles of barbecue.”

I have to give Polly’s a lot of credit for being bold enough to start an Eastern-style BBQ joint in the heart of Lexington-style territory.  And the Eastern-style ‘cue they serve is definitely the better of the types.  I can’t really blame Polly’s for caving to local preferences either.  Judging by the fact that they have stayed in business for 18 years and have a sparkling, large restaurant, adding Lexington-style ‘cue to the menu was the right decision. I simply don’t think their Lexington-style ‘cue is particularly good.

One, Two, Three Types of ‘Cue
Since Polly’s started out serving Eastern-style barbecue, let’s focus on that first.  The biggest problem with Polly’s Eastern-style ‘cue is that it is not cooked over wood and the lack of care shows in a lack of flavor.  Sadly, Polly has plenty of company in both the east and the west in terms of not using wood, but that doesn’t excuse them.  Leaving that aside, Polly’s Eastern-style BBQ is moist and has decent flavor, which is enhanced by a slightly too salty but quite good vinegar/pepper sauce that accompanies it, though it appears to be machine chopped and is a bit mushy.  I’d probably give their Eastern-style ‘cue a B- if I were grading it alone.  Polly’s Lexington-style barbecue fares worse.

Polly’s actually offers two types of Lexington-style ‘cue.  (Pay close attention, this gets a bit confusing.)  Polly’s original Lexington-style BBQ is called “Original Lexington,” and they have served it for years.  It features a rather thick, sweet dip that has as much in common with KC Masterpiece or Kraft as it does with traditional NC style sauces.  Recently Polly’s added another Lexington-style dip option, this one called “Traditional Lexington.”  The dip used for the newer traditional version is significantly better than the original recipe, as it is much thinner and more vinegar-based, though it is still too sweet for my palate.  The Lexington-style ‘cue was too heavily sauced in the kitchen and needed no added dip at the table.

First course: Eastern-style

Second course: Lexington-style

Continue reading

Porky’s Pulpit: Smokin’ at the Piggly Wiggly

recent story in the StarNews of Wilmington, NC notes that a local Piggly Wiggly has been slow cooking barbecue in house for more than a year.  The store is located in the small town of Leland, which is in Brunswick County (no relation to the stew) just outside of Wilmington.  According to the article, “Beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, hams, chickens – the deli counter at this grocery store is a barbecue lover’s dream.”

Last year the Leland Piggly Wiggly paired with a Georgia company called SmokeRise.  According to the SmokeRise website, their “program” (ain’t that a clinical term?) is as follows:  “After a detailed, in store analysis, we recommend all items needed… to place a turnkey business in your location…  We also provide a complete, comprehensive training program to ensure your staff is fully trained in all processes of the business.” 

The SmokeRise-installed cooker at Piggly Wiggly is fueled by propane but uses real hickory logs, sort of a hybrid approach to cooking.  Although this is not quite the traditional art of barbecue, it sure sounds like a positive step compared to the pre-packaged swine-swill often sold at grocery stores.  That said, it does make me a little nervous to have the SmokeRise men marching from Georgia through North Carolina like long-lost members of Sherman’s army.

The critical question, of course, is how good does this Georgia barbecue invasion taste?  Well, let’s turn back to the StarNews, which reported positively on the barbecue produced in the Piggly Wiggly in a 2008 story.   At the time, the reporter said it changed her opinion of grocery store barbecue.  Being better than typical grocery store barbecue is a pretty low threshold to cross, but it’s something.  And it sure seems like it makes good business sense to offer decent ‘cue at a grocery store.