BBQ Jew’s View: Carolina BBQ

2307 N College Road, Wilmington, NC
No Website
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
BBQ Jew’s Grade: C-
Porky Says: “The biggest (not best) BBQ joint in the state.”

Big Enough to Swallow a Lion
Carolina BBQ has a couple of locations in Wilmington, one in Kenansville, and one somewhere in Virginia, if my waitress was telling me the truth.  I stopped at the N. College Street location, which is a mile or so from Interstate 40 at exit 420.  Speaking of 420, one would need to be mighty stoned to think the barbecue is good here, but I still enjoyed parts of my meal despite being stone cold sober.

The best part about a visit to Carolina BBQ at N. College Road is the atmosphere.  It must be the largest barbecue restaurant in the state in gross square footage (the picture at left does not do the vastness of the space justice).  It feels like you could fit an entire grocery store inside the restaurant, which is quite true given it inhabits a former Food Lion.  As the hermit crab-like replacement for Food Lion, Carolina BBQ is the de facto anchor tenant in a strip mall that features a nail salon, Subway, and a few other non-descript businesses (I would describe them were they not so resolutely non-descript).  I was sincerely impressed with the interior decorating job, which managed to make a grocery store feel almost homey.  Sure, the seating capacity is enough to house probably 10 times the number of people ever likely to enter Carolina BBQ at one time, but it is a creative and attractive reuse of a difficult to fill space.  The large historical BBQ photos printed on the far right wall are particularly interesting.

All You Care to Eat (and Then Some)
Carolina BBQ features “buffet style” dining.  This means it is a buffet.  I am not sure where the style comes in. Continue reading

Porky’s Pulpit: Smokin’ at the Piggly Wiggly

recent story in the StarNews of Wilmington, NC notes that a local Piggly Wiggly has been slow cooking barbecue in house for more than a year.  The store is located in the small town of Leland, which is in Brunswick County (no relation to the stew) just outside of Wilmington.  According to the article, “Beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork, hams, chickens – the deli counter at this grocery store is a barbecue lover’s dream.”

Last year the Leland Piggly Wiggly paired with a Georgia company called SmokeRise.  According to the SmokeRise website, their “program” (ain’t that a clinical term?) is as follows:  “After a detailed, in store analysis, we recommend all items needed… to place a turnkey business in your location…  We also provide a complete, comprehensive training program to ensure your staff is fully trained in all processes of the business.” 

The SmokeRise-installed cooker at Piggly Wiggly is fueled by propane but uses real hickory logs, sort of a hybrid approach to cooking.  Although this is not quite the traditional art of barbecue, it sure sounds like a positive step compared to the pre-packaged swine-swill often sold at grocery stores.  That said, it does make me a little nervous to have the SmokeRise men marching from Georgia through North Carolina like long-lost members of Sherman’s army.

The critical question, of course, is how good does this Georgia barbecue invasion taste?  Well, let’s turn back to the StarNews, which reported positively on the barbecue produced in the Piggly Wiggly in a 2008 story.   At the time, the reporter said it changed her opinion of grocery store barbecue.  Being better than typical grocery store barbecue is a pretty low threshold to cross, but it’s something.  And it sure seems like it makes good business sense to offer decent ‘cue at a grocery store.