Many of the great barbecue states have their own traditions, of course, and some, like Tennessee, have several varieties because of the different regions of the state. But no other state actually wars over barbecue the way our Tar Heel neighbors to the south do. Eastern North Carolina and Western North Carolina are two of the country's great barbecue zones, and they disagree strongly about everything from sauce, to coleslaw, to proper parts of the pig. We have, on the barbecue home page, explained our barbecue du pays philosophy in which we eat the local pig wherever it may be. We do not expect the same barbecue in Greensboro as in Goldsboro, and while we respect the difference of opinion between eastern and western North Carolinians, we like them both and will proudly continue to eat them both.
This page is still very much in the development stage, but we have a number of additional reviews to add as soon as we have time to write them. Meanwhile here are some preliminary reviews of a few good places, both in eastern North Carolina and western, including Lexington.
Some Eastern North Carolina Places
This is not in any particular order, but I wanted to jot a few notes on some memorable BBQ places while they are still fresh in my mind. We had travelled down to Fayetteville, N.C. in early November, ostensibly so that Michael could deliver a talk on the current Middle East situation to the Army Special Ops guys at Fort Bragg. However, an important secondary goal was to sample as many barbecue places as we could.
Cape Fear BBQ
523 Grove Street
In Fayetteville, then, I'd encourage anybody to go to the Cape Fear barbecue place. Excellent. Meat tender, juicy, flavorful. Cape Fear is also noteworthy for its delicious, spicy Brunswick stew. (Which I had not tried before, I'm sorry to say.) [Michael adds: Tam wrote this. She's from Nebraska, but she's willing to learn.] The Cape Fear stew sold me! Delicious! We found their baked beans to be very good, too. There is Eastern North Carolina sauce (hereinafter known as ENC) on the table, along with Texas Pete. So do stop in at Cape Fear for excellent barbecue. They also serve barbecued chicken, shrimp, etc.
Another place of note, happily just across the Virginia/North Carolina border, is Ralph's Barbecue, in Weldon, N.C., just east of Roanoke Rapids. Take exit 173 off of I-95. They are on the left, at 1400 Julian R. Allsbrook Hwy. Ralph's offers both a carryout and a huge sitdown area. The takeout barbecue, which we tried on our first visit, was excellent, as were the hushpuppies. On our second visit we tried the sitdown, and got treated to a superb buffet, offering both chopped pork as well as wonderful, wonderful, succulent pulled pork. Big rolls to make sandwiches, and lots of just plain good Southern side dishes: green beans, corn, etc. Just terrific. They also offer Brunswick stew, shrimp, oysters, scallops and crab cake, which all sounded fine, too, but we didn't try any of the seafood. Maybe next time, if I can be pulled away from the barbecue......
And for Western North Carolina ...
Lexington, North Carolina is sometimes called the barbecue capital of North Carolina, and "Lexington style" is often advertised elsewhere in the state (but not down east). Different guides give slightly different counts of just how many barbecue joints there are, but the Lexington Visitor's Map put out by the Convention and Visitor's Bureau lists 18. This in a rather small town. On a couple of trips we've eaten at maybe four or five. We'll review them and others as we get to them. The best we've found, we feel, was
917 Winston Road
Normally, we show we're foreigners by not taking cole slaw on top of our sandwiches. But the coleslaw at Southern Barbecue blended beautifully into the tender meat, to the point you could hardly distinguish one from the other. This is the sort of perfectly smoked meat that really needs no sauce. Southern Barbecue also offered a variety of choices of outside or inside meats, etc., so one could cater to almost any taste. Admittedly we were hungry at the time (and hunger is an excellent sauce), having determined not to have lunch till we reached Lexington. But we still think Southern outranks some of the more famous joints in Lexington.
Reviews to come of Jimmy's and Smokey Joe's.