Beware Inland Seafood & Coastal Barbecue
I’ve always been wary of seafood restaurants that are located far from the coast, and even more wary of beachside barbecue joints. Huey’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar is located in Mebane, a long ways from the beach but on the edge of Lexington-style barbecue country. The family-owned business has been around for well over 50 years and has a menu sure to please anyone. (Don’t take my word for it, listen to the woman who magically teleports herself onto the restaurant’s website.) Well, almost anyone.
Huey’s features a large array of dishes, with an emphasis on steak and seafood, as well as barbecue. You can get everything from $26 filet mignon with lobster to $17 snow crab legs to a $6 BBQ tray. Huey’s also offers flounder, shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, chicken, jalapeno poppers and much more. Guess what I had? Yeah, well that comes as no surprise. What is surprising is that the barbecue at this 54 year old dining institution tastes institutional.
Unfortunately, especially for those of us still mourning the loss of the A&M Grill, Mebane’s recently shuttered barbecue temple, Huey’s fails to deliver on its promise of “tempting” barbecue. As with all restaurants that serve raw shellfish in North Carolina, the restaurant displays a warning from the NC Department of Environmental & Natural Resources warning patrons that, “Eating raw oysters, clams or mussels may cause severe illness.” I wonder why no such warning appears in places serving lousy barbecue? “Caution,” the sign could say, “the barbecue you are about to ingest may cause severe emotional distress.”
Stick to the Oysters
Huey’s menu gives the impression that it is a serious barbecue joint. It advertises “hickory smoked” barbecue and ribs, and offers the ‘cue both chopped and sliced, as well as in sandwich/plate/tray form, in keeping with Piedmont tradition. Side dishes include Brunswick stew, an Eastern NC staple (forgiveable since Mebane is on the east-west fault line), along with hush puppies, cole slaw, french fries, and fried okra, in terms of BBQ-centric sides.
The pork at Huey’s, which I ordered chopped as part of a tray with puppies and slaw (picture inset), is bland, almost flavorless. There is no evidence either in the taste or in an inspection of the premises of wood-cooking, so I am not sure what that ubiqutous “hickory smoked” phrase means here. The barbecue sauce is decidely Lexington-style, but it is an embarrassing specimen. It is an overally ketchupy, foul concoction. The slaw is good, clean and crisp in the sweet, mayo-rich Eastern tradition. The hush puppies were not particularly flavorful but were expertly fried, as would be expected at a place that fries so much seafood. (Happily, they did not taste like fish!)
Huey’s is a nice place that has a good looking seafood and steak menu. I can imagine there are plenty of reasons to pay this place a visit, but in my opinion barbecue is not one of them.