Highway 70 West of the Wal-Mart, Goldsboro, NC
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C+
Porky Says: “Hold the sauce!”
Drive By Barbecue
I had high hopes for Adam’s Roadside Bar-B-Q, in part because of the phrase “hickory smoked” on the sign outside and in part because there is another barbecue joint on Highway 70 in Goldsboro by the name of Wilber’s. I figured Adam’s must be doing something right to compete in Wilber’s country. Unfortunately, my sense is that what Adam’s is doing to compete is not to serve superior barbecue. While Wilber’s focuses on the fundamentalist wood-fired, whole hog barbecue native to Eastern NC, Adam’s has gone whole hog into the new age of barbecue. Need some “Texas-style” brisket? Adam’s has it. Pork ribs? Sure. Chicken? Why not? Turkey? Yes! NC-style chopped pork BBQ? Oh yeah, that too.
As frequent visitors of this site know, when I review a barbecue joint I focus primarily on the Holy Trinity of North Carolina barbecue, namely chopped pork, slaw, and hush puppies/corn bread/corn sticks. The rest of the menu, with some exceptions, is just noise. Sometimes it’s delicious noise, sometimes it’s not, but it is not how I judge a North Carolina BBQ joint.
My experience at Adam’s was less than perfect from the start. The folks who work there were nice but communication between the kitchen and the front counter was poor. Below is what came out the 2nd time around after I tried to get my order of barbecue and brisket with sides of BBQ potatoes and slaw corrected. (They got the brisket right but struck out on the other three both times.)
Such things happen from time to time, and the owner resolved it to my satisfaction by apologizing and throwing in a free BBQ & slaw tray. I appreciated that, though I still am curious how those BBQ boiled potatoes taste…
Less pleasant was the outdoor dining area, where I tried not to be bothered by the swarms of flies that hovered around my plate; honestly the most flies I’ve ever witnessed except on the Discovery Channel. The flies combined with the distinct smell of sewage to send me running for my car after a few minutes. (For the record, it had been pouring down rain and I suspect a septic system at the restaurant or nearby was struggling … sh*t happens!)
Neither the flies nor the distinct odor were appealing, but it was the pool of sticky, sweet sauce that drenched the ribs and brisket that really ruined my appetite. The fact that both meats were overcooked and fatty didn’t help (and, yes, I know that brisket is a fatty cut but cooked right the fat is rendered flavorful and translucent, while cooked wrong it can taste like a fatty pot roast). Furthermore, the brisket was cut in slices that were roughly three-quarters an inch thick (yes, I am a BBQ nerd so I measured), which was either terribly sloppy knife work or an attempt to cover up the overcooked beef. Perhaps my spring trip to Texas spoiled me for mediocre brisket but this was certainly mediocre, and many folks in Texas would shudder to hear it called “Texas-style.” Even if the meat had been good, I would have had a hard time determining it given the saucy mess. Contrary to the belief of many Carolinians, Texans have a healthy skepticism about sauce and the best joints in Texas use it sparingly if at all, usually offering it on the side.
But back to the North Carolina Holy Trinity. I’d be happy to look right past the side attractions of brisket, et al. if the North Carolina barbecue was good. It wasn’t. The pork was tender, certainly, but was also sauced to the point of being downright damp, and there was little of the variation in texture between outside brown and tender inside that distinguishes some of the best barbecue. Roadside or not, this was middle of the road pig. The slaw was passable, a bit too finely chopped and too sweet for my palate, and the corn stick was typically tasty.
There was no trace of hickory smoke flavor in the meat, and I suspect it’s because it never saw the inside the the brick pits out back. Interestingly, the brick pits did not seem to be used for much, with a gas-fired Southern Pride cooker on the site and seemingly in heavy use. I am not sure what the brick pits are used for or how often they are used, but I’ll let you know if I find out. I hope they are used more than I think. Regardless though, the meat just wasn’t very good.
Sometimes it’s worth detouring to the roadside, and other times it’s better just to drive on by. Maybe I’ll have better luck on a future detour.