Merry Christmacue

I was searching for a feel good barbecue story to share in honor of the holiday when this one popped into my inbox. Divine intervention?  Perhaps.  Either way, it’s a nice story about Inspire Bar-B-Que in Washington, D.C., so check the video out.

Oh, and Inspire appears to be a wood-burning joint, which qualifies as a Christmas miracle in and of itself.  Learn more about the restaurant and its philosophy at

Merry Christmas.

A True ‘Cue Update

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve spent most of my barbecue time over the last few months working on a new project:  The new website is a joint venture (we will share the lack of profits equally) with John Shelton Reed, author of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.   Both John and I are wood-cooked barbecue enthusiasts and have designed the site for two purposes: 1) to launch a Campaign for Real Barbecue loosely inspired by the UK’s Campaign for Real Ale and 2) to start a certification program for restaurants that cook using traditional methods, with NC serving as the pilot program.

Click on over to the True ‘Cue website to learn more and to TAKE THE PLEDGE.  We will have a revamped, professional looking website in early 2014, with a publicity push to follow.   Stay tuned.



The Pit Arrives in Durham

Outside brown, Eastern chopped, fried okra, and collards.  Photo by "Hominy" Halpern.

Outside brown, Eastern chopped, fried okra, and collards. Photo by “Hominy” Halpern.

On Monday I had the pleasure of dining at Durham’s newest barbecue restaurant, The Pit – Durham.  And when you visit The Pit you really are dining rather than just eating.  The ambience is upscale but relaxed, the space is large, and the menu is diverse.

This is the second location of the restaurant, following on the heels of the original The Pit – Raleigh by a few years.  Much like the Raleigh location, The Pit in Durham is owned by the Empire Eats restaurant group and is located in a beautifully restored historic (or at least old) brick building on the edge of downtown.   Most importantly to me, The Pit prepares barbecue the right way–on a charcoal and oak-fired cooker out back.

Between the Raleigh and Durham locations, The Pit is exposing huge numbers of people to barbecue, many of them probably never having had real (i.e., wood-cooked) barbecue before.  They take educating people about barbecue seriously, as evidenced by the presence of legendary barbecue TV host and author Bob Garner on their staff as a sort of barbecultural ambassador.  Among his duties is to train the staff of the restaurant, all of whom must pass a test on barbecue.  He also helps coordinate “heritage dinners” that bring well regarded, mostly rural BBQ owners to The Pit for special meals/events.

Although I still reflexively get my hackles up when I see brisket (not to mention tofu) on the menu of a North Carolina barbecue restaurant, I recognize The Pit is a business and not a NC barbecue museum.  If I ran a barbecue restaurant, I’d probably be out of business in a week. Thus, I applaud The Pit for helping bring real barbecue to the masses, and to Durham and Raleigh, which (like many urban areas in NC) have very few restaurants that serve real barbecue. Let’s hope someone in Charlotte, to give one woeful urban example, can convince The Pit to open a location there too. On that note, it’s worth pointing out that Texans have figured out how to bring real barbecue to urban areas, and the BBQ scene is exploding without losing traditional cooking techniques.  I hope we follow the Lone Star state’s lead on this trend.  (But don’t tell anyone from Texas that I said all that, as they probably don’t need the self-esteem boost.)

Finally, while I’m rambling, stay tuned to the Durham barbecue scene.  In a few months (I’m guessing) Durham will get another real barbecue restaurant as Ed Mitchell, formerly of The Pit, opens ‘Que on the other side of downtown. As someone who works right in the middle of downtown, I’m counting my lucky, greasy stars to soon be in walking distance of two wood burners.  I have a sneaking suspicion 2014 will be a good year, provided I refrain from any diet-related New Year’s resolutions.


Farewell, Bob Kantor

It saddens me to share the news that Bob Kantor, founder of Memphis Minnie’s in San Francisco, passed away earlier this week.

I got to know Bob a little over the last few years, having shared a BBQ lunch with him and his (in his words) “shiksa” Gail, interviewed him for this website, and kept in touch from time to time by email. Many people knew Bob much better than I did, of course, but even in the short time I knew him it was obvious he was generous, kind and had a great sense of humor.  He was also a hell of a cook, and he cared a lot about barbecue traditions even as he made his name running a funky, creative but wood-fired BBQ joint in the Lower Haight.

The best tribute I can offer Bob is to make sure you’ve seen the interview he did for this website a few years back.  It was easily one of my favorite experiences running the site, and I enjoyed revisiting the interview when I heard the sad news of his death.

I understand from the general manager of Memphis Minnie’s that the plan is to keep the restaurant going to honor Bob.  I wish them well, and send my regrets to all of Bob’s family and friends, and to the many relative strangers like me who were lucky enough to spend some time with him.  May he rest in peace, and I sure hope sauce is optional in the afterlife… but sake is plentiful.

Teach the Children Well

I believe the children are the future, teach them well and… they will cook a pig?  That seems to be the plan in Thomasville, where students at New Hope Christian Academy have opened their own business called Butch Cassidy Barbecue (motto: “Barbecue worth stealing”).

Read more about the high school sponsored endeavor at or visit the Butch Cassidy Barbecue website.  Oh, and try not to worry that these kids are cooking with propane, as evidenced in the picture in the Dispatch article.  Hopefully they’ll learn right from wrong by the time they get to college.

A NC Barbecue Primer Video

Here’s a neat new video by Bob Garner and The Pit restaurant:  (You can see the Spanish language version here, if you’d like to replace Bob’s narration with that of a Spanish speaking woman.) The four minute long video gives all the background on NC barbecue that anyone really needs, and will surely make you salivate while you watch.

In addition, there’s a companion video about barbecue sauce, with an emphasis on NC and SC.  This is Bob’s “grad school seminar” companion to his above “NC BBQ 101 lecture”.  It’s an excellent account of BBQ sauce’s variations and history, well worth the nearly 8 minutes.

A BBQ Break: Pepperoni Rolls

From time to time, Porky LeSwine likes a diversion from blogging about North Carolina barbecue.  And he likes it even more when said diversion is courtesy of a reader.  Thus, we thank reader Steve for the following note, which he agreed to let us share with the world.  

PepperoniRollDear Porky,  If I may let me talk about something that is not North Carolina Pork BBQ: the West Virginia Pepperoni Roll. I have family in the Clarksburg, WV area and one time while visiting, I found this snack in the local gas stations. Take a few sticks of pepperoni, encase it in bread dough, and bake. The spicy grease from the pepperoni soaks into the bread as it bakes. Deliciousness.

The only place that I have seen them here in NC is Yosties, a bakery and eatery in Faith, NC, right down the road from Wink’s King BBQ and Seafood in Salisbury.Pepperoni Rolls were invented in the Fairmont, WV area some years ago. I have heard and read a couple of different stories. One I was told by an Aunt who lived in the area related that they were invented by Italian mothers as a treat for their children. Another account is that they were invented as something to sell to the Sicilian miners in the area. There is a very large Italian community in the area.

The next time that you are near Salisbury, you might want to go a few miles down Faith Road and pick up a few pepperoni rolls at Yosties. They also have great cinnamon rolls and cheese straws.

Yosties’s website:

A website about Pepperoni Rolls:

Take care,


Thanks for sharing, Steve. This is definitely the first I’ve ever heard of pepperoni rolls, and for all I know I may never hear of them again.  But hopefully someday I will eat one.  Now back to our regularly scheduled barbecue programming.


The Best Sandwich in NC

Surely everyone agrees that there is no better sandwich in North Carolina than a barbecue sandwich. Wait, what?  Not everyone agrees?  Well, I guess not…

131104_bi_sandwichmapWe Tarheels can at least take solace, as we often do on a number of subjects, that we are not from South Carolina, where apparently the best sandwich is a tuna melt.

Don’t Mess with Carolina, Texas

There is a new sheriff in town, and he appears to be drunk: or so it seems for the business plan of Curly’s Carolina, TX barbecue restaurant.  According to the website of the confusingly named restaurant in Round Rock, Texas:

Every region has its own spin on BBQ. The reality of Carolina Style BBQ in Austin, TX arose from residing in the Kentucky, Tennessee and Carolina regions for more than 40 years. After moving from Raleigh, NC to Austin in 2011, Jay Yates quickly realized he could not find the BBQ taste he grew up on and loved. Thereby the idea of Curly’s Perfect Pig was born.

Curly’s Perfect Pig proudly served the perfect combination of a tangy, spicy vinegar based sauce of North Carolina, in addition to the zesty South Carolina style mustard sauce on perfectly smoked pulled pork. In 2012 Jay met Texas pitmaster, John Brotherton, who was smoking some of the finest Texas BBQ in the state at his trailer, Hall Of Flame BBQ. The two quickly realized several synergies between them and became close friends.

In 2013, the two pitmasters joined forces to form Curly’s Carolina, TX… Got a hankerin’ for some delicious BBQ? Take a road trip to Carolina, TX…Y’all!

I’m not sure who should be more offended, Tar Heels or Texans.