NC Barbecue Final Four

According to the The Dispatch, a recent article in U.S. News & World Report ranked Lexington, NC the fourth best barbecue city in the country.  It’s hard to argue with the cities listed ahead of Lexington–Memphis TN, Lockhart TX and Kansas City MO.  Although if good, traditionally prepared barbecue per capita had been the main criteria I’d argue that Lexington–with its 20-some BBQ joints in the “metro area” and just 20,000 people–would be neck and neck with Lockhart.

Here are my picks for top barbecue cities (and towns) in North Carolina.  If you like, you can consider this the North Carolina barbecue Final Four.

Lexington – As noted in the national rankings, Lexington is the best barbecue town in North Carolina.  There are more traditional wood-cooking barbecue joints in little 20,000-person Lexington than any other locality in NC by a wide margin. (Are you listening Raleigh and Charlotte?)  Lexington’s annual Barbecue Festival that draws 200,000 or so swine worshippers is further evidence of the town’s barbecue supremacy.

Ayden – Home to the Skylight Inn (aka Pete Jone’s place), which serves some of the best barbecue in the state and is perhaps the quintessential Eastern NC barbecue joint, Ayden is a little town with a lot of flabor.  From the food at the Skylight Inn to the rural setting, it doesn’t get much more authentic than Ayden . Better yet, tiny Ayden is also home to the cafeteria-style Bum’s, which is a classic southern restaurant featuring barbecue.

Salisbury – It plays second fiddle to Lexington, but Salisbury deserves its own acclaim, as it is (ironically) the likely birthplace of “Lexington-style” barbecue.  Today Salisburyians (?) continue to cherish their barbecue and the town has a couple of solid, traditional wood burners–Richard’s and Wink’s–to back up their proud barbecue history.

Goldsboro – At one point Goldsboro was arguably the Mecca of Eastern NC barbecue, between the still-famous Wilber’s and the now shell-of-its-former-self Scott’s.  Although it’s barbecue is no longer worth tasting, Scott’s still makes some of the best barbecue sauce available ($1.99 or so at your neighborhood Food Lion, or $1 more at Harris Teeter if that’s how you roll).  The Goldsboro area’s proud tobacco and hog farming history add to its permanent status as a true barbecue town.

Crook’s Turns 30

One of Chapel Hill’s best loved restaurants is turning 30.  Crook’s Corner has long offered barbecue as an afterthought on its menu of southern staples (shrimp and grits) and innovative originals (Cheese Pork!, anyone?).  Although Crook’s has been hailed as “Sacred ground for Southern foodies” by the New York Times, their barbecue has never been anything particularly special–not even cooked on site, but rather “imported” from Bullock’s in Durham and marked up in price significantly.  However, Crook’s is an excellent restaurant and they are celebrating their 30th with a barbecue bash tonight.


Canned Pork Madness

After a weekend of visiting with family and more than my fair share of college hoops watching, I have run out of time create original content for Monday.  Instead, I present you the following canned, but BBQ Jew-approved article from my good friends the complete strangers at Man Tested Recipes. (As for me, I’m not sure why this website can’t be woman-tested too so feel free to read on ladies).

“5 Reasons Why Pulled Pork Is The Perfect March Madness Food

Thanksgiving has turkey, the Super Bowl has wings, and the all-you-can-eat buffet of basketball that is the NCAA tournament should have its own signature food. proposes that pulled pork should be the unofficial food of March Madness.

Here’s why: 1) Pulled pork can stay warm while you watch 12 hours of hoops. Delivery pizza gets cold, sub sandwiches get soggy, but pulled pork can stay warm in your slow cooker or oven all day.

2) College hoops and pulled pork share a home. Eat pulled pork during March Madness as an homage to North Carolina, that hotbed of great BBQ and great college basketball. [ editor’s note: Amen!]

3) Pulled pork is ridiculously easy to make. Can you pour a bottle of sauce over a hunk of meat, then turn a dial? Then you can make pulled pork. [ editor’s note: well, so long as you don’t claim its barbecue.]

4) Pulled pork can feed a crowd for cheap. Throwing a March Madness party? Pulled pork is your pal. Pork shoulder, the preferred cut for homemade pulled pork, is one of the best meat bargains around.

5) Pulled pork is friggin’ delicious. Tender, juicy meat, delicious BBQ flavors, slapped on a sandwich bun if you choose. What’s not to like? The pickiest eaters can agree on pulled pork.”

Hard to argue with any of these reasons, and I’d added that there is no better time to check on a smoker for 12 hours than while your around the house watching hoops for 12 hours a day.

Article provided by:

Porcine Ethics

Every once in awhile it’s good to take a step back from BBQ worship to acknowledge that modern day hog farming is too often brutal.  For example, this recent investigation by the Humane Society.  Kudos to The Pit in Raleigh, The Pig in Chapel Hill, and any other barbecue restaurants that focus on local, ethical sourcing of their pork.  I wish more would follow suit and put some pressure on hog producers.  Off my soapbox, and back to the greasy pits.

Saul’s: Vintage BBQ Advertisement

Below is an advertisement from the 1956 yellow pages for Saul’s Barbecue in Raleigh.  Thanks to hog historian/swine sociologist John Shelton Reed, who sent me a photocopy of the ad, which he came across in the archives of the fabulous North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill’s library.

My favorite elements of the advertisement are its emphasis on local sourcing of ingredients (not just a 2010s selling point, it turns out) and, of course, the priceless plug at the bottom of the page.  I’m not sure if the Temple of the BBQ Jew would count as an acceptable “church of my choice” but maybe.  If any of you readers remember Saul’s, leave a comment, as I’d love to hear about the place.

T-Shirts from The Pit

According to the News & Observer, Raleigh barbecue restaurant The Pit has joined the ranks of the fashionistas with a new t-shirt featured at Sportiqe Boutiqe.  I don’t yet see the shirt online but assume it will arrive soon, fashionably late.

The cynical side of me wants to say that this new merchandising means you can now order an overpriced ($35) t-shirt to wear while eating overpriced ($11.99) barbecue.  But I’m trying to use a more positive tone on this website in 2012, so I’ll refrain.