Saturday, December 11, 2004

Recommended - Clyde Cooper's, Raleigh

Address: 109 E Davie St, Raleigh NC
Restaurant Style: Counter or table service

Thus place has been in downtown Raleigh forever. Food is served on styrofoam plates at the counter or in booths. I had the sliced plate with brunswick stew and slaw. It came with a tray of the largest hushpuppies I have ever seen and two hunks of fried pork skin. It was all good. This place should be jammed at lunch-time, but for dinner, it was empty.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Recommended - The Barbecue Joint - Chapel Hill

Address: 630 Weaver Dairy Rd, Chapel Hill, NC
Restaurant Style: Pick-up at counter Web-site

This place has a funky decor and menu. The chopped barbecue is excellent, with large chunks and a definite smoky crust. On my first visit, the excellent chili sauce on the table has a Chinese name and Chinese script on the bottle, but made in California. The second visit had a very good hot sauce which apparently was homemade.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Recommended - Hursey's, Burlington

Hursey's is all over the place in the Burlington area. They make the barbecue at the main central restaurant on US 70 in town (a visit reviewed below) and at a wholesale place north of town on NC 87. They ship the barbecue to various outlets they own ( a visit to one reviewed below) and to noncompany restaurants.

Main restaurant on US 70
Address: 1834 S Church St, Burlington, NC Map
Restaurant: Table Service

Good sliced pork. Outstanding slaw and baked beans.Their signature apple turnover is a good value, but the crust lacks character. I was in a bookstore in Burlington just before lunch and browsed through Bob Garner’s Guide to North Carolina Barbecue, which had three barbecue joints in Burlington. I tried Hursey's because it was convenient. On the table was a ad for the book, which you could buy at the restaurant. I recommend the book for the serious barbecue fan.

Hursey's Bar-B-Q: Dairy Castle
Address: 880 Highway 87 N, Gibsonville, NC Map
Restaurant: Steamtable

This is a little brick building just south of the main bulk retail and wholesale outlets for Hursey's. It is counter service with a fast food feel. The barbecue plate comes with hushpuppies, slaw and french fries, but I just had the tray, which has no french fries. The minced pork is excellent, especially for delivered barbecue. The sides were good.

Hursey's Bar-B-Q: Graham
Address: 1234 N Main Street, Graham NC Map

The other main Hursey's restaurant is a large barn-shaped building on NC 87 south of town. It is at least twice as large as the main Burlington restaurant and the parking is better.

When I ordered a sliced tray, which comes with hushpuppies and slaw, with a side of baked beans. The waitress upgraded it to a plate, substituting for french fries (which I do not like with barbecue any). The pork was a little blander than at the other main restaurant, but the sides were great.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Acceptable - Dillard's, Durham

Address: 3921 Fayetteville St, Durham, NC
Restaurant: Steamtable

Dillard's has obviously expanded. The kitchen and serving line fill an older building. The seating area has been added, wrapping around the front of the building. They've left the old exterior wall as it was, which is a little strange. The food is served in the serving line in disposeable dishes. Catering and carry out seems to be the rule with dine-in as an afterthought.

I had a chopped pork plate with slaw and yams. The chopped pork seemed a little pasty, which is usually not a good thing, but the meat had a definite flavor. There was a small cup of very good barbecue sauce, whch made the meal. The sides were average. There were only three hushpuppies with the plate, which was disappointing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

At the NC State Fair

You can find BBQ sandwiches all over the midway at the State Fair. They tend to be flat and tasteless, because the pork has been cooked elsewhere and has sat around for a while. There is one place, though, that regularly has good pork and sides. It is the tent run by the NC Pork Producers. The tent is on the path from the west end of the Commercial buildings, where the Cheerwine stand is, to the southeast corner of Dorton. The BBQ is not bad and the pork loin and sides are very good.

At this year's fair, the tent in front of the Kerr Scott building, which has had exhibits from county fairs in the past few years, was of booths by NC food producers. One of the booths was giving out samples of what looked and tasted like good smoked pork. It was run by the NC Goat farmers. A goat "pullin" could be good eating.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Recommended - Danny's, RTP, Morrisville and Cary

311 Ashville Street, Cary NC Map
2945 S. Miami Blvd., Durham NC Map
9561 Chapel Hill Rd Morrisville, NC Map

The Danny's I have visited could not be more different. The restaurant in RTP is built for the RTP lunch crowd. It is counter service and police your own. The one in Cary is waiter service, very much what you expect of a typical BBQ place. The food in both is very good. The one in Morrisville is table service, but has more of a strip mall feeling about it than a bbq restaurant.

The sliced beef and pork is excellent. The chopped pork and sliced pork tenderloin is not as good.

There is a note on the menu about a pinkish ring in the meat, apparently an artifact of the smoking process. I have seen it, but it is not very noticeable.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Acceptable - Smithfield's BBQ and Chicken, Garner

I'd seen these pop up along the freeway to the beach over the years and have wondered if it was a place to take the family. The restaurant turns out to be very informal, even for a barbecue place.

You order from a counter from menu boards on the back wall. Not all of the offerings are on the menu boards. The names aren't always self-descriptive. I ordered a barbecue sandwich, hush puppies and tea, which were all listed as ala carte. I was billed for a combination, which saved me a few bucks, but was not obvious from the board. You pay, get your drinks and go to a table, where somebody brings your order, fairly quickly.

The barbecue was decently flavored. It had enough sauce to not need more and a little pepper kick. The slaw on the sandwich was nondescript, but not bad. The hushpuppies and tea were as expected.

The chicken side of the menu was fried pieces in the usual combinations and buckets. I will try the chicken the next time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Recommended - A Taste of Country - Wilmington NC

Address: 226 S Front St Wilmington, NC
Restaurant: Buffet

Every summer, we rent a cottage on Oak Island. One day during the week, we take the Southport/Fort Fisher ferry to Fort Fisher. After visiting the aquarium and Fort Fisher, we stop for lunch at A Taste of Country on Front Street in Wilmington. They serve a smoked pig which you can pull the meat from. It is usually pretty good, even though it is a buffet.

On the table, next to the house barbecue sauce, is a bottle of Texas Pete. Many years ago, this was the first place I actually looked at the bottle and noticed that it was bottled at TW Garner in Winston/Salem NC. At the time, I thought that it was like Coca Cola, with regional bottlers, but I was wrong. Texas Pete is made in North Carolina by Thad Garner. I guess that "Texas Pete" sounds better than "North Carolina Thad". For the whole story see Texas Pete homepage.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Barely Acceptable - Tony's BBQ, Hillsborough

This is a little hole-in-the-wall at the corner of NC-86 and US-70 Bypass. It is not a hundred feet from the location of Hobgood's, a famous BBQ place of history. Hobgood's decided to close the restaurant and go to all catering some years ago. I never got to the restaurant, but did have the catered BBQ, which was pretty good.

The only BBQ that Tony's has is a BBQ sandwich. They ask if you want slaw. It's really cheap, $1.69, I think. Otherwise, it is typical greasy spoon. I had too greasy french fries and standard sweet tea.

This makes me long for Hobgood's.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Acceptable - Smoky Joe's, Lexington NC

There are a lot of barbecue restaurants in Lexington. I picked one out just from how it looked from the outside. Smoky Joe's has smokers out back and a large parking lot for the size of the building. Much of the parking lot is taken up by a drive-thru lane. The restaurant is much smaller inside than I expected.

This is my first try at Western NC barbecue. Western sauce has tomato in it, so the red tinge on the meat is from tomato, not from red spices. The cole slaw was red, too. It made an different looking plate.

There was no description of the various orders or sides on the menu. I ordered the sliced plate, not really knowing what I would get. The waitress asked if I wanted hush puppies or dinner rolls. This may be a western thing, but in the east, hush puppies are required. The plate comes with the aforementioned red cole slaw, which wasn't bad, and french fries, which were obviously previously frozen. I overheard people asking about substitution on the menu. The next time, I will substitute something local for the french fries.

The meat tasted good. The slices needed cutting and that required cutting with a knife. If the meat was a little bit more tender, this place would get a top rating.

At the check-out, they had a tray of commercial pre-wrapped fried pies. Maybe, they are trying to compete with Hursey, but Hursey's are fresh, not wrapped in paper.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Making barbecue for 500 - My first adventure with a smoker

The mission is to make barbecue for 500 attendees at a Scout event at a Scout camp. My buddy Jim does this as a regular thing, so I helped him out, to find out how it was done.

Jim started up the smokers at 5 am. He had brought his own smoker and the camp had one. We smoked a dozen pork shoulders in each smoker for a pre-cooking weight of 500 pounds of shoulder. You lose about half in grease, bone and skin, giving one half pound per person.

Of course, Jim had problems all morning with the camp's smoker. It flared up, giving some of the shoulders a nice charred look. Controlling the heat was a pain, so the shoulders cooked slower. But this worked well when we started chopping the pork. We started with the ones that were done first and let the others smoke ( in Jim's smoker ) while we chopped.

All morning, we tended the smokers, sitting out in the shade of the camp dining hall and shooting the bull. We all joked that we were missing the vital ingredient for smoking, the beer can sitting next to the smoker, but it was a Boy Scout camp.

At about noon, Jim pulled the bone out of the first shoulder to be done and passed around chunks of the pork. Now, that was ambrosia. No sauce, just fresh smoked pork. Heavenly. It made the hamburgers at lunch seem tasteless.

For two hours we chopped pork. Jim had a old chopping box and stainless steel chopper that did the job nicely. We had a couple of guys skinning and slicing the meat off the bones and one guy chopping. Once we had about a leg chopped, we'd mix a couple of cups of Jim's barbecue sauce ( I did not get the recipe ) and filled a large stainless steel pan, covered it with foil and put it back on the smoker, turned down low.

I was late for dinner, so I ended up with a plate of barbecue, but no extra sauce. It was good cue, but the sauce would have made it better. It was not as good as the samples at noon.

It turned out that the turnout was not as high as expected for the dinner, so we sold the remaining barbecue as a fund raiser.

Monday, January 05, 2004

On the list to try

Don Murray's - Raleigh 

Stopped in once for lunch, but it was a buffet. The only buffet on this list is A Taste of Country, which is a special case. I cannot judge a BBQ place by its buffet. It looks like it is not going to make my list.

Allen and Son's North - Chapel Hill

Good Barbecue from Non-barbecue Restaurants and Others

Cook-Out - Durham
Known for its hamburgers. They make a decent BBQ sandwich.

Refreshment Stands at the Smith Center - Chapel Hill
When I worked at the refreshment stands, supper would be a paper cup of barbecue and slaw. It was amazing.

Acceptable BBQ Restaurants

Hog Heaven - Durham
Just a step above mediocre, but uniformly so.

Barbecue Lodge - Raleigh
Decent fried chicken. Adequate barbecue. Good sides.

Short Sugar's - Reidsville
I know there are people who rave about this place, but I am not one of them. Good, not great.

Introduction to BBQ in the Triangle

These are my own personal opinions of different barbecue places in the triangle and elsewhere in NC.

When I was new to North Carolina, my company had a picnic catered by a down East pig picking' place. I have forgotten which one. It was the best pig I have ever eaten. I have been trying different barbecue and pig picking' restaurants over the years to try to repeat that experience. A Taste of Country has good pulled pork, but not spiced quite right. Hursey's has the right spices, but the pork itself isn't as good.