BBQ&A: Rick & Ryan of The North Carolina Barbecue Company

Rick Scott and Ryan Pitz teamed up to form The North Carolina Barbecue Company, a mail order business established “to deliver to doorsteps across the country the unique culinary culture of our great state.”  The North Carolina Barbecue Company is unique in offering both Eastern and Piedmont/Lexington-style ‘cue and slaw for delivery.  Recently I sat down (at my laptop) and interviewed Rick and Ryan about how they got into the barbecue business, battle boxes, and why mail order hush puppies are an elusive goal.

Follow this link to read the interview with Rick and Ryan. (Or if you are hungry already, just click on over to their online order page.)

Old Hickory Barbecue Plant Closes

Yet another going out of business story in the NC barbecue world, this time from the town of Godwin in Sampson County, about 20 miles west of Fayetteville.  According to the Fayetteville Observer, long-time barbecue wholesaler Old Hickory Barbecue is closing its doors after 60 years.  The Old Hickory plant produced packaged barbecue and coleslaw for sale direct to individual customers and to supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses and organizations.

First Church of Barbecue

I have made many references on this blog about worshipping in the church of the divine swine, but I have never actually prayed at the Barbecue Church. One of these days I just might.  The town of Sanford is home to 250-plus year old Barbecue Presbyterian Church, located at 124 Barbecue Church Road. The church was founded by Scottish settlers in 1758 and originally spelled its name as “Barbeque.”  Barbecue Presbyterian Church is located adjacent to the tiny town (hamlet?) of, you guessed it, Barbecue, North Carolina. The town, in turn, is located near a creek named none other than… Barbecue Creek.  But why a creek named Barbecue?

According to an interesting online history of the church, “During the Revolutionary War, General Cornwallis and his troops camped on the creek near the church. It is told that as the soldiers watched the fog roll in one morning, one said it reminded him of smoke rising from the barbecue pits, thus the name Barbecue Creek; Barbecue Church was named because of her location so near the creek. However, noted historian, Malcolm Fowler, points out that there are land grants in early 1753 on record naming Barbecue Creek.”  Thus, it seems to remain a mystery exactly why this area first got the name Barbecue.

An NHL All-Star Guide to North Carolina Barbecue

As you may know, particularly if you are masochistic enough to pay attention to sports played on ice, this weekend the NHL All-Star game comes to Raleigh’s RBC Center. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, NHL stands for the National Hockey League, not Numerous Hickory Logs. And RBC stands for Royal Bank of Canada, not Really Bland ‘Cue.  To help out visitors to the area who are unfamiliar with our state’s barbecue culture, and locals who blush when they hear someone mention “hooking,” I have created the below guide to hockey and barbecue.

  • Hockey is often played by European men who wear mullets without irony. North Carolina barbecue is often prepared, served and eaten by men and women of European ancestry who wear mullets without irony.
  • Hockey is the most popular sport in Canada. Barbecue ain’t (if you’ve ever tried to cook a whole hog over hickory coals on top of a frozen lake, you know why).
  • On a good night, the Carolina Hurricanes might draw 20,000 fans. On the fourth Saturday of October, nearly 200,000 people are drawn to Lexington, NC for the annual Barbecue Festival.
  • Hockey requires long hours of strenuous exercise to become an expert. Barbecue requires long hours of drinking and telling lies to become an expert.
  • You can’t play hockey without a puck. You can cook barbecue without a puck.
  • Hockey’s greatest team accomplishment is winning the Stanley Cup. One of North Carolina barbecue’s greatest families is the Stamey’s, who have sold many cups of iced tea over the years.
  • Wayne Gretsky is arguably the greatest player in hockey history. Wayne Monk is arguably the greatest pitmaster in NC barbecue history.
  • People who are ignorant of hockey’s rules have a difficult time understanding the icing penalty. People ignorant of barbecue have a difficult time understanding why they should avoid Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.
  • Good hockey can be found in cities like Montreal, Pittsburgh, Boston, Vancouver, and Detroit.  Good barbecue can be found in towns like Dudley, Salisbury, Mebane, Ayden, and Farmville.

To learn more about North Carolina barbecue, check out BBQ Jew’s BBQ U and this article that explains the difference between our beloved state’s two styles of ‘cue.

United States of Food

What a country! As one can see in this state-by-state map of food specialties, we live in a diverse, delicious, somewhat obese nation.

It’s worth a gander to see what one quirky web site makes of our nation’s food. North Carolina is represented by barbecue dry barbeque. Oh. To this rabbi’s ears, that’s akin to wet water.

Meanwhile, on the wet barbecue front, I’d humbly suggest that the pride of Kansas City should carry Missouri. No disrespect to the noble toasted ravioli, but everyone knows they couldn’t clean K.C. rib fingers with a Handi Wipe (so to speak). And tossing the “wet barbecue” title across the line to Kansas wreaks of a compromise.

I’m sure we everyone would make an amendment or two, but it’s a fun map. As I perused it, I found myself putting together a heckuva plate. It’d be heavy on North Carolina, with sides of Alabama, Oklahoma and Montana a little Kentucky (why not!). Maybe a little Mississippi for dessert.

What’s your All-American meal?

Pure. Refreshing. Bacon.

A tip of the snout to the NC BBQ Society, as I learned in their January newsletter that the following beverage exists: bacon flavored vodka. Bakon Vodka (tagline “Pure. Refreshing. Bacon.”) is an inspired vision and leads me to wonder what the future might hold. If they can make bacon vodka, barbecue flavored vodka is possible too. Until then, you can make your own vodka porktails at home, I suppose. 

BBQ Jew’s View: Brushy Mountain Smokehouse & Creamery

201 Wilkesboro Blvd., North Wilkesboro, NC
Hours: Mon & Wed-Sat 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday Buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C
Porky Says: “A pitless pit stop.” 

Bobby Flay’s Kiss of Death
Few self-respecting Carolina barbecue joints have websites.  Fewer still would be proud of an appearance on a TV show featuring the Food Network’s brash yankee know-it-all Bobby Flay.  The Brushy Mountain Smokehouse and Creamery has a website that touts its 2005 appearance on “BBQ with Bobby Flay.” Leaving those sins aside, the Brushy Mtn. Smokehouse has its advantages: namely the combination of homemade ice cream and a large menu sure to please a variety of tastes.

No Pit Stop
The relatively wide range of offerings available at Brushy Mtn. Smokehouse make the restaurant a nice pit stop for family road trips in the heart of stock car racing country. (North Wilkesboro, where Brushy Mtn. Smokehouse is located, is famous for its legendary speedway and its prominent role in the history of stock car racing, which was tied closely to moonshining, another local tradition.) Alas, this barbecue pit stop features no traditional wood pit, as the barbecue at Brushy Mtn. Smokehouse is cooked over gas.

Brushy Mtn. Smokehouse offers a sizeable menu that includes barbecued ribs, chicken and pulled pork, all dishes that are “on track” for a barbecue joint (pardon the pathetic attempt at a car racing pun).  Alongside these legitimate dishes, the Smokehouse offers a few items that raise a caution flag for me, most notably the Barbecue Crunchers (“Our famous Smokehouse Barbeque nestled inside a crunchy tortilla shell flavored with our homemade sweet Barbeque Sauce”). Did they just say “nestled” and “tortilla”? Oh dear.

With items like catfish and potroast on the menu, it is safe to say that the Brushy Mtn. Smokehouse does not consider itself a traditional Carolina barbecue joint, and thus it is probably unfair for me to judge it in that context.  But that is what I do on this site. Suffice it to say that the chopped/pulled barbecue is standard, middle of the road fare, neither particularly good nor particularly bad. I’ll spare you the details and leave it at that. The good news is that after your meal, you can head into the attached Creamery, where many varieties of homemade ice cream are available. My family enjoyed the ice cream and we had a good time, even if the barbecue isn’t nearly good enough to take a checkered flag.

BBQ, Jews and the Law

According to a January 10th article in the International Business Times, “A company suing Cisco systems for patent infringement got a new trial because Cisco’s attorney made remarks about a plaintiff’s religion, drawing attention to the fact that he is Jewish.”

What does this story have to do with BBQ you ask (no, really, you do)? The IBT article continues: “The remarks, by one of Cisco’s attorneys, Otis Carroll, were in a cross examination of Jonathan David, one of [the plaintiff’s] principals. According to the filing, Carroll said, ‘Well, did you eat dinner with him? Did you talk to him? Did you say hi to him?’ David answered yes, they had had dinner at Bodacious Barbeque and Carroll said, ‘I bet not pork.'”

The moral of this story? Never make not-so-veiled references to other people’s religious beliefs. Also, never assume a Jew doesn’t like pork barbecue. Or else we may just sue you.

Shylock’s Simple Collard Greens

Collard greens are a common side dish at barbecue joints in Eastern North Carolina, and winter is prime collard green season.  Cooking collards is surprisingly easy so stay away from the nasty canned stuff at the grocery store and cook ’em up yourself. It takes a little more than an hour start to finish, but most of that time is spent waiting while the greens cook–in that time, you should make some cornbread and drink a beer.  Here’s my collards recipe, but please feel free to submit your own in the comments section or just tell me why my recipe is inferior to your’s.

2 pounds collard greens (about 2 bunches)
3 cups of warm/hot water
1 cup of chopped/diced pork of some sort (anything from leftover cooked ham to a pork chop to raw bacon will work)
2 tablespoons basic oil (no EVOO, for god’s sake) unless you are using uncooked bacon or other pork that provides its own fat
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Vinegar for seasoning at table

Thoroughly clean collards and remove stems, then chop into roughly 1″ pieces or smaller. Heat oil in large stock pot and cook the pork for 5 minutes if cooked already or until cooked if raw. Add warm/hot water (cold water and a hot pan gets a bit dicey and takes longer to heat to a simmer) and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pork and set aside. Add collards, salt and optional Worcestershire sauce. Bring to boil, then turn to low and cook for 60 minutes or so (depending how tender you like the greens, you may want to taste at 45 mins).  Add the pork back in a few minutes before you finish cooking. Add water to keep the collards moist during cooking if needed, but it shouldn’t be if you cook at a low temperature.

Be sure to make use of the soupy liquid in the pot, aka “pot likker” or “pot liquor”, either to serve with the greens or dip cornbread in.  Also, add some vinegar to the collards at the table if you are into such things; hot pepper vinegar is best but plain old cider vinegar or Texas Pete will suffice.  Recipe makes ~ 6 servings.

BBQ Jew’s View: Jack Cobb & Son Barbecue Place

 3883 South Main Street, Farmville, NC
No website
Hours: Wed, Fri & Sat 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: A
Porky Says: “Whole hog on the Cobb.” 

A Rich Tradition

The pit at Cobb & Son's by Conor "Swinefactor" Keeney

Jack Cobb & Son Barbecue Place in Farmville is listed on the prestigious NC BBQ Society Trail map but it is well off the beaten path for most barbetourists. Despite offering barbecue that rivals or surpasses that of its geographic peers, Cobb & Son’s remains a quiet respite from the barbecue crowds that descend on places like the famous B’s Barbecue in nearby Greenville.

Cobb & Son’s history as a restaurant is rich with themes that echo the history of barbecue in North Carolina. In particular, barbecue’s history is closely tied to the state’s tobacco heritage; traditionally pig pickin’s coincided with the tobacco harvest, for instance.  According to Jim Early’s The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo to Murphy, Cobb & Son’s founder Jack Cobb, an African-American, worked for a Farmville tobacco company in the 1940s and had a side business of cooking and selling barbecue to his black co-workers.   Before long, “word spread around the community about Jack’s good ‘cue and white citizens wanted to buy Jack’s barbecue but would not come to Jack’s place to get it. Ever the entrepreneur Jack took his ‘cue to a white friend’s home and this man sold Jack’s barbecue for him.”  Cobb & Son’s continued working to build an integrated customer base throughout decades of difficult race relations and at times encountering opposition from blacks and whites alike. 

Any business from the 1940s that still exists is impressive, and one that has had to overcome hurdles like racism is even more so.  The secret to Cobb & Son’s success all these years? My guess is because they are just plain good at what they do, and the barbecue is delicious regardless of one’s race, politics or preferred brand of cigarettes.  



The grand dining room at Chez Cobb


Jack Cobb’s son Rudy, now in his 70s, runs the restaurant today, as he has since his dad passed away in 1989 (Rudy has worked at the restaurant almost his whole life).   When arriving at Cobb & Son on the edge of downtown Farmville, one gets the sense that little has changed at the place since its founding.  It is a classic barbecue joint if ever there was one.  And, luckily, that classic feeling extends to the simple, delicious food Cobb & Son’s offers up the three days a week it is open for business.  

Cobb & Son’s occupies a fairly large building but there is no seating inside.  The “dining room” at Cobb & Son’s is what can only be described as a mosquito-friendly screened porch, Continue reading