Porky’s Pulpit: Bourgie Barbecue

With the mainstreaming of barbecue across the country, it’s inevitable that the formerly humble food will finds it way onto menus at a increasingly varied range of establishments.  A case in point is Chapel Hill’s landmark gourmet food shop, A Southern Season, which recently made the following announcement about the newest addition to their delicatessen menu:

Authentic, North Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ
We are bringing you some of North Carolina’s finest—Pig Pickin’ style Pulled Pork with a tangy Eastern North Carolina-style vinegar sauce. Made exclusively with pork Boston Butts.

The Classic NC BBQ Sandwich
Stop by today for a classic BBQ sandwich $4.99 each.”

If you’ve never been to A Southern Season, you should know that I like the place.  You should also know that A Southern Season is famous for its chocolates, ornate gift baskets, wine selection, gourmet deli and cheese shop, and various overpriced snacks and knicknacks.  It is, at its essence, a gourmet southern food store for northerners.  The inclusion of a BBQ sandwich on A Southern Season’s deli menu is akin to McDonald’s deciding to offer an artisanal cheese plate.  Could it be good?  Possibly.  Does it make sense?  Certainly not.

Is bourgie ‘cue something that should concern barbecue traditionalists? A level-headed observer might say no.  I say hell yes.  Although I’ve yet to sample the barbecue sandwich at A Southern Season, I have no problem deeming it, sight unseen, as yuppicue of the highest order and warning my loyal readers to steer clear.  Well, unless you happen to be shopping for Belgian chocolate cordials and get a hankering for chopped pork… I couldn’t fault you for that.

BBQ on Wheels (Food Truck ‘Cue)

Food trucks, a popular concept in large cities like Los Angeles and New York for years, infiltrated North Carolina over the last few years and have really taken off.  The combination of low overhead and being able to seek out your customers seems to be a winning formula for food truck operators.  Although mobile taco vendors are probably the godfathers of the burgeoning North Carolina food truck scene, whether they know it or not, food trucks now run the gamut from burgers to Indian food to pretty much anything you can imagine.  And it didn’t take long for savvy entrepreneurs to put two and two together and realize that 2+2=BBQ.

In an ideal world, food trucks specializing in North Carolina pork barbecue will allow the use of inexpensive rural land and less rigid regulations to cook the ‘cue on wood-fired pits.  The operators can then “bring the pork to market” in the big city–downtown Charlotte, Raleigh, wherever–where property costs are high and wood-cooking is less practical.  For now this is a pipe dream, and BBQ food trucks are mostly gassers like most brick and mortar joints, but a man can dream.  Below is a list of North Carolina-based BBQ food trucks I’m aware of:

Surely there are others I’ve yet to hear about, so please add a comment if you know of any other Tar Heel food trucks that specialize in barbecue.

Tender Beef or Flaccid Pork?

A new barbecue joint in Tulsa, Oklahoma is getting attention for its saucy name: Action Erection Beer & BBQ.  According to an article under the clever headline “‘Action Erection’ Restaurant Raising Eyebrows,” the new BBQ place is named after the owner’s like-named construction company.  No word yet on whether the barbecue is worth getting excited about.

(To bring this story closer to home for my fellow North Carolinians, note that an interesting but recently retired Durham blog took its inspiration from a double entendre flaunting construction company: Seegar’s Fence Company, whose motto was once “Dependable Erection Since 1949”.)

Barbecue-Based Super Bowl Predictions

Through a combination of rigorous research and modest 6th grade math skills, I have devised a  formula for determining which two teams will play in the Super Bowl and who will win.  The foolproof-ish formula is  (-D + B^2) x Q – O/P + BBQJEW

Where the factors are as follows:
D = the number of cities in the team’s home state that have Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchises.
B = the number of players on the active roster with barbecue-related names (e.g., a wide receiver named Smokey Pitts would count as 2).
Q = the “Quetient”, or the age of the team’s starting quarterback divided by the approximate number (35) of wood-burning ‘que joints in North Carolina.
O = Odds of winning the Super Bowl, according to the first website that popped up on my Google search, expressed as a fraction.
P = State’s rank among U.S. pork “marketings” in 1996.  I recognize that this dataset is 16 years out of date, but since the “marketings” metric is convoluted to begin with I feel confident it doesn’t matter.
BBQJEW = Arbitrary number selected by Porky LeSwine to ensure that the predictions reflect his preferences.


New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers (-D + B^2) x Q – O/P + BBQJEW
Giants: (-3 + 0^2) x 31/35 – 1/3 /31 + 1.01 = -1.66
49ers: (-20 + 2^2* ) x 27/35 – 1/3 /25 + 15  = 2.65 WINNER

*Tarrell “Outside” Brown and CJ “I Hope the Sauce Don’t” Spillman

Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots (-D + B^2) x Q – O/P + BBQJEW
Ravens: (-1 + 4^2*) x 27/35 – 1/6 /29  + (-9.02) = 2.54 WINNER
Patriots: (-1 + 4^2@) x 34/35 – 5/6 /41 + (-14)  = 0.55

*Chykie “Me Likey Outside” Brown, Emanuel “Slow” Cook, Ray “Next Time I’ll Murder a Hog” Lewis, and Dennis “Wood-Fired” Pitta
@ Deion “Mesquite” Branch, Sergio “Mr. Outside” Brown, Jerod “In Northern Alabama They Use” Mayo, and Danny “Hickory” Woodhead


The San Francisco 49ers (2.65) will prevail over the Baltimore Ravens (2.54) by a field goal.  (Bonus fact: San Francisco’s Mayor will bet two pounds steamed crab legs on the game against the Mayor of Baltimore’s six crab cakes bet.  Each Mayor will secretely wish his team was playing that Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, or any team from Texas so they could win some barbecue.)


Want a sure sign that barbecue is squarely in the mainstream and spreading across the country’s collective consciousness?  Here it is: Yesterday National Public Radio (also known as NPR) aired a story on barbecue (also known as BBQ, barbeque, Bar-B-Q, et al.).  I enjoy much of NPR’s reporting, but they tend to be embarrassingly out of touch when it comes to cultural trends, so you can pretty well conclude that barbecue became a fad 2-3 years ago if NPR has just discovered it.

The story chronicles the barbecue binge of a road trip undertaken by a young woman-chef and her father, who set out from New York to experience the joy that is southern cooking, with an emphasis on pork barbecue.  Someday I hope to experience such a magical experience with my pork-averse daughters.

Texas gets the most love from the barbecue pilgrims featured in the story, but Allen & Son in Chapel Hill and Lexington Barbecue #1 in, you guessed it, Lexington receive solid shout outs.

Now Open: Nelson’s Barbecue

Gotta love the “Air-Conditioned” sign, a funny throwback touch.

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending the grand opening of Nelson’s Barbecue, a wood-burning joint just off of I-95 in Lumberton.  Nelson’s is named after proprietor Andy Price’s dad, and the grand opening was a family affair, with his mom and dad, wife and kids in attendance.  It’s clear that Andy has set out to make everyone who walks into Nelson’s feel like a part of his extended family, and this restaurant means a lot more to him than just a business.  He’s been dreaming of opening a barbecue restaurant for 10 years and had a lot of help along the way from many of the people in attendance at the grand opening, from Congressman Mike McIntyre to Mayor Raymond Pennington to restaurant staff who stuck with Andy through a multi-year effort to get it off the ground.  The result is a family run business that employs 20 people in a part of the state that really needs the jobs.

Nelson’s Barbecue cooks its whole hogs in charcoal cookers, which puts them in elite company in a state that features 90-plus percent gassers (and probably 99 percent in Eastern North Carolina).  It’s a great way for a barbecue traditionalist/purist/fascist like myself to start the new year to see a wood-cooker open for business.
Nelson’s is a new restaurant run by a first-time restaurateur, and Andy and his employees readily admit that they’ll be tweaking their recipes in the months ahead.  Therefore, I encourage you to stop by soon and then schedule a return visit to see how this new restaurant evolves.  Their commitment to wood cooking is certainly a good start, and I look forward to returning again soon.  Until then, congratulations to the Price family for what you’ve already accomplished.

Boners BBQ Blunder

Some say the customer is always right.  Others say the customer is a “bitch.”  At least that was the case recently for the Atlanta barbecue restaurant with the inauspicious name Boners (and with a solidly sexist website to boot).  A dissatisfied customer’s negative Yelp.com review led to a tirade from the restaurants owner that has been well documented by mainstream media and bloggers alike, including right here.

I guess Boners’ owner (rhyme intended) will find out whether it is true that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  If so, then he may have stumbled into a new, classless way to drum up business–cuss out your customers.  Remember, Atlantans, it’s not that long a drive to North Carolina…

A Lesson in Gehography

A big tip of the snout to Eric “Cracklin’s” Calhoun for sending along a link to the below picture of a map from the Library of Congress archives.  The 1884 map shows the nicknames of the United States in spectacular form.  It is truly an impressive lesson in gehography.

“New” Places for ‘Cue in Clayton, Durham, Lumberton

Within the last couple of weeks I’ve learned of three “new” restaurants serving barbecue.  It turns out only one of these places is actually new, but they were all new to me so perhaps they’ll be new to you too…

1) The venerable Durham institution Fishmonger’s, in business for nearly 30 years as a seafood market and restaurant, added barbecue to the menu a few years back.  I’d noticed the neon “BBQ” sign in the window a couple of times but never thought much of it.  As a restaurant known for oysters, shrimp, and other fresh caught seafood, I assumed their barbecue was store bought or from another restaurant.  Well, it turns out that Fishmonger’s founder and owner is a transplanted Texan from the Houston area, and he loves barbecue almost as much as he loves seafood.  He added his own gas-fired, wood chip burning smoker a few years back and turns out a wide assortment of barbecue, from Carolina-inspired pork barbecue with vinegar sauce to Texas standbys like brisket, sausage and ribs.  Their full BBQ menu is shown here.  I doubt they’re going to change their name to Porkmonger’s anytime soon but they seem eager to have more folks sample their ‘cue.

2) Food writer Greg Cox of The News & Observer reviewed Charlie’s BBQ & Grille in Clayton in a January 6th article.  Cox’s very positive, three-star review notes that Charlie’s is a place where, “Purists might turn up their noses at such an ecumenical approach to barbecue–not to mention that [owner Charlie] Carden uses an electric cooker to coax the smoke from chunks of seasoned hickory.”  Ecumenical?  Charlie’s menu includes brisket, Eastern, Lexington-style and even sweet Western North Carolina pork; chicken; ribs; and sausage.  Ecumenical indeed, and that always raises a red flag for me unless I’m in Kansas City or Texas.  However, it is encouraging that Cox’s article mentions the inspirational stint Carden worked at the rightly revered Allen & Son in Chapel Hill; Carden is clear that he never had any intention of setting out to duplicate Allen’s laser-like focus on vinegar-spiked chopped ‘cue.

3) Finally, the restaurant I am most excited to try: Nelson’s Barbecue in Lumberton, which opened just after Christmas (actually, on the 8th night of Hanukkah, I believe).  I’ll be sampling Nelson’s soon so will save the presumably juicy details for then, but I am encouraged that the owner, Andy Price, has decided to cook over a traditional wood-burning pit.  From what I’ve heard about Price from reliable sources, the guy cares deeply about NC barbecue traditions and knows what he is doing.  I have a sneaking suspicion that Nelson’s is going to be a must visit place for barbecue enthusiasts. We shall see.

PorkNetwork ‘Top 10’ stories for 2011

Many media outlets feature entertaining year end top 10 lists and other wrap-ups of the past year.  Not this one.

Rather than enthralling you, loyal readers, with a witty and insightful take on 2011’s top barbecue news, I am taking a different approach.  I am offering you the opportunity to read short capsules of the top 10 stories of 2011 for pork producers, according to the editors of the pork producers’ trade journal, Pork Magazine.  $12 corn, a new slogan (“Pork: Be Inspired“), near-record high hog prices, and a criminally minded hog farmer, among other stories: read the full article and learn more here.  How’s that for (not very) inspired?