Here is something that the Jones’ put together after Skylight had a fire in one of their cook houses during the week of Thanksgiving. What a testament to all of these BBQ restaurant folks in Eastern North Carolina (among competitors) during the time of year we give gifts to each other and give Thanks to God.
Category Archives: BBQ Restaurants
Finally after several months on the “Pig Pen Trails” I have gotten back to “square one” where my buddy Skipper Beck and I first began on Day 1. If
you recall, Skipper and I flew from Charlotte to Raleigh, where we visited The Pit in a refurbished warehouse/mill in downtown. Originally opened as Nana’s Chop House by my friend Scott Howell, the restaurant was converted to The Pit with pitmaster Ed Mitchell from Mitchell’s BBQ in Wilson, NC at the helm. From here we flew into Greenville, NC where we visited and had great BBQ at world renown Pete Jone’s Skylight Inn where we had my favorite Eastern NC BBQ to date. Unfortunately, the Skylight had a pit fire last week and the testimony of other BBQ restaurants who showed up to help out the Jones in the down time was wonderful and inspiring – chivalry and honor are not dead in NC! Those guys at Skylight make the best Q I have had in the East to date!
On the way back to the airport, you may recall B’s was out of food. From here Skipper and I flew to Conway SC, rented a car and drove to Hemingway SC to eat at Scott’s only to find it closed. I knew I would never hear the end of Skipper’s raggin’ on me about Scott’s being closed, not to mention I made him throw out the great BBQ at Skylight to save room for 4 more BBQ joints that afternoon. Skipper said “Noble, I am so hungry now (about 5 o’clock pm) I would pull that Q out of the trash can if I could. I can’t believe you brought me down here and didn’t know they were closed.”
Well, Skipper, you will be glad to know I finally made it back the Saturday after Thanksgiving on a deer hunting trip.
You have to make a point to visit Hemingway SC and I found out that the deer lease my father-in-law and brother-in-law have is only 15 minutes from Scott’s BBQ. What a great coincidence! In fact, Patrick Cook who manages the lease and works with Dick & Sam (father and brother in laws) knows Rosie (Roosevelt) who owns Scotts. So I took the trek to Scott’s and I am sure glad I did.
- I got to Scott’s about 2 in the afternoon and there was a steady stream of people coming in and getting BBQ pork, skins and chicken to go. As I approached the order window inside, I saw a large pile of pulled BBQ pork waiting to be ordered. Scott’s uses whole hogs and have been for some 30+
years. The pork was cooked with precision and was dressed with a little sauce, but they provided some on the side. It was more of a NC BBQ sauce than the expected mustard based SC sauce. The meat was tender and luscious. I ordered a pound of pulled pork, a whole BBQ chicken and a pack of skins which came in a ziplock bag. As I was paying, I asked the lady at the checkout if she was the owner, and she pointed to a man sitting a the only table inside and said that he, her husband and she owned the restaurant. Knowing there was no place else to eat, I asked if I could eat inside and she told Rosie to slide over for me. What a treat, to sit down with Rosie and eat his BBQ. We struck up a great conversation about BBQ, Scott’s, the NY Times article and his history in BBQ. He was a great host and after asking, he showed me around and showed me the pits. This place is a classic. He has a room to the side that is the pit room with about 10-12 pits end to end with a walk way through the middle. He also has more pits outside. Rosie showed me the iron walls and said they were there because the pit room had burned down 2 times already. He kept a 8′ fire barrel outside where they fired up the wood from which they would pull the coals for the pits. Rodney Scott, son to Rosie and Ella is the pitmaster and has been cooking whole hogs for over 27 years.
Rosie and Ella Scott are good folks and I loved their place. Scotts BBQ was founded in 1972 by Ella and Roosevelt “Rosie” Scott in Hemingway, SC. If ever I am in the area hunting (which I hope is soon) I will return to Scott’s for the BBQ Skipper and I only dreamed about until last week.
from 9:30am to 8:30pm
2734 Hemingway Hwy.
Hwy. 261 Brunson Cross Road
Hemingway, SC 29554
On a recent solo trip to Noble’s Grille in Winston-Salem I had the opportunity to add a couple more BBQ joints to the “Pig Pen Trails.” This particular week I took the I77 to I 40 route to the twin city and had my first stop in Mooresville at Lancaster’s BBQ. Their claim to fame is that they are the only whole hog BBQ smokers in the “Western NC” group. As far as I know that’s true (not to mention that these guys are no “fly by night” operation – these guys are serious BBQ folks: a noticeably successful and large restaurant. They must be doing it right.) I had a chopped BBQ tray with hushpuppies and an unsweet tea. Now, I don’t know why I try to drink unsweet tea (with Splenda or Stevia) when I am eating BBQ, but I suppose every little bit helps. I understand that Lancaster’s is a hot BBQ joint for the racing business that seems to have a great toe hold in Mooresville. This also appears to be a great family place as well. Well done.
My next stop was in Mocksville, NC. When I was a kid we would take a trip to visit Granddaddy’s family “up in the country” in Iredell county – before Iredell county was cool! You remember my Granddaddy Stamie Stroud (my Mom’s Dad) from my restaurant blog on tomatoes and summer. He was the local tomato king in Guilford County. Well anyway when Stamie was 16 he moved from Iredell county to the big city of High Point and got a job with Globe Parlor Furniture Co. Granddaddy was good with his hands and did a great job, eventually becoming the Cabinet Room Foreman. He grew up between Mocksville and Harmony on NC 901 where we would go to visit every so often, taking Aunt Beaut with us – her name was Beulah, but we called her Beaut. This was before I40 was completed so we would go down I85 to NC 64 and drive through Mocksville, where Aunt Ruth lived (she was a Hoot! who loved life and the Lord and had a continual and contagious laugh). There is a square in the middle of downtown Mocksville that had an old drug store on the corner where we would stop and get “real” fountain cokes. Just in case your wondering how old I am, this was in the 60’s when I was just a tot. Once we finally got to Grandpa and Grandma Stroud’s home we would always find a plate full of “local” fried chicken (local from the back yard because there was no other place to get it) and stacks of homemake biscuits. Wonderful, and probably the reason I love fried chicken today (see King’s Kitchen menu). It is amazing how food reminds you of places, times and smells from your past.
Back to Mocksville and Q! Deano’s Barbecue is right near the square in Mocksville and well worth the trip. If you are in Mocksville, you need to stop in. They are cooking with wood and the Q is good. Deano’s is owned and operated by Dean Allen who started in the BBQ business in 1961 as a curb hop for Buck Miller at Buck’s BBQ while still in high school. He opened the current restaurant in 1998 in a hewn log building. I understand from Jim Early Deano’s serves a “mean” pimento cheeseburger along with a long list of sandwiches. I’ll go back for the bologna, Philly steak and house made pimento cheese.
Next stop, an interview with Wayne Monk of Lexington #1 – the King of Western North Carolina BBQ.
Oftentimes when we are hot on the BBQ trail, we come across great local Carolina cuisine which we call “Carolina Road Cuisine.”
On day 11, Karen and I struck out for Noble’s Grille on our weekly journey to Winston-Salem on what seemed like a great day for Barbecue. On our way we also hit the “Carolina Road Cuisine” side road rabbit trail. These side journeys are what happy days are made of. But let’s talk about the Q.
Our first stop was in Statesville on I77 near I40 to a place called Carolina Barbecue, which was opened in 1985 at its present location by Gene and Linda Medlin. Carolina Bar-B-Q uses only whole shoulders and they chop the meat by hand which has been cooked over hickory coals in a pit. The Q was good, but the sauces which some “Q Bloggers” like, were not to my particular taste. Our second stop was at Keaton’s BBQ and we will talk about this joint on its own blog, it was that good. Man, where have I been to not have been here before – concentrating on haute cuisine?
Day 12 on the Pig Pen Trail took me to Little Richard’s Lexington Barbecue in Winston-Salem. Somewhat skeptical on finding really good Q in the twin city on this rainy day, I picked up a coarse chopped BBQ tray to go. I had a meeting at Noble’s Grille and it’s only a 5 minute drive from Little Richard’s. Let me tell you, I was surprised at how good the Q really was. I believe The BBQ Jew beat me here by just a few days. One day I know I am going to bump into the Hebrew Crew as we do our due diligence for Carolina Q. As I left Little Richard’s, I looked back to see the smoke curling up from the pit chimneys. What a comforting sight, pig over wood fired pits. Way to go Little Richards.
Join our next post on Keaton’s Barbecue on the “Carolina Road Cusine” rabbit trail!
Karen and I are taking our weekly trek to Winston-Salem on day 10 and decided to take the NC 52 BBQ highway from Albermarle to Salisbury. Hearing Bob Garner talk about this trail had us excited because of the interrelated lore on this BBQ roadway. Whispering Pines Barbecue in Albermarle was our first stop. This place was opened in 1945 by Lonnie Doby, most recently operated by his widow, Lavada Doby, who passed in the last few years. Wood fired BBQ, served chopped and good. This place had a nice, old styled BBQ diner feel and the staff was there to make sure you enjoyed yourself.
Heading north out of Albemarle about 1 mile on the right you will find Log Cabin Barbecue, which was as clean as any BBQ joint we have visited to date. They have a carport styled drive through in the rear which is convenient for pick up and take out. Their BBQ was good as well.
Continuing north on 52 from Albemarle brings you to Darryl’s in Rockwell, NC. This place has changed hands a few times over the years and just recently was back in the hands of Darrell Galloway himself, I was told. However, this place is a classic NC BBQ restaurant with a rich history. Even though the place was well worn, the chopped BBQ sandwich was very good.
Our last stop on the 52 BBQ trail was M & K Barbecue & Country Cooking in Granite Quarry. This is a newer spot, opened sometime around 1990 and they are doing a good job with chopped BBQ sandwiches. Ours was very good.
The best thing about the 52 BBQ trail was that all four restaurants were still cooking with wood. What a great collection of wood-fired BBQ joints on a
small stretch of land between Albemarle and Salisbury – and the countryside touring was bucolic. This was probably the only way to get Karen to hit four BBQ joints at one time and still look forward to dinner at Noble’s Grille.
I guess what I like most of all about “Q School” is the history, lore and legends found in this business – BBQ business that is. What a history! What a background! BBQ is something that most “Tarheels” have a deep passion and opinion about (and by tarheels I mean North Carolinians, not just UNC fans – I am a graduate of State College so I am a little sensitive here). Now let me tell you, since I have been on the Pig Pen Trails, I have not had a hard time getting great inside info on Carolina BBQ. Whenever I finally open a BBQ place, and if I could offer everything on the menu that I have been told to, it would take most folk 2-3 days to read the menu. It’s not hard to find opinions and strong feelings about BBQ in Carolina and that is a healthy thing. Concerning NC/SC BBQ, there are some vague boundaries when it comes to BBQ but these differences are more defined in peoples minds. East and West BBQ are different, they cook different parts of the pig, but they are not as far apart as most folks think. The biggest difference is the pork they cook, whole hog in the east and shoulders in the west – and the west begins somewhere around Raleigh. The sauces do differ, but not as dramatically as some folks would argue. I know, east has no ketchup and west does, but they are not that far apart, compared to BBQ sauces found in other parts of the country. Take a look sometime at the BBQ sauces on the grocery store shelves. Finding something from NC is a blessing.
My next leg on the Pig Pen Trails took me to Cook’s BBQ outside of Lexington. This was a great stop. You know, my in-laws took my wife Karen and I here over 20 years ago. If I had only known that one day I would return today wanting to know more about Carolina BBQ I would have paid more attention. Besides, I was some upscale French chef. Recently my buddies Bubba and Dan Pritchett have been trying to get me back to Cook’s for about 2 years. Well I finally made it back and was I glad!
Cook’s still smoke their BBQ shoulders with hickory and oak. I ordered a brown coarse chopped BBQ tray, hush puppies, a chopped BBQ sandwich and skins. They thought I was crazy with what I ordered. Let me tell you, the skins were really good and so was all the BBQ I ordered. The hushpuppies were small, marble sized and very delicious. Cook’s BBQ along with Lexington #1 are my favorites in the west (along with the Q Joe & Ben are pulling of the spit at Rooster’s Wood-Fired Kitchen in Charlotte). I enjoyed every part of my meal and headed to the car. When I looked back at the building, I saw the smoke trailing up from the chimneys and went back inside to ask for a pit tour. I couldn’t have been treated any nicer. The founder’s son and pitmaster, Brandon Cook took me on a tour of the kitchen and the pits. He had a rack of shoulders on the pit and was glad that they would come off in time to catch the Thursday night Carolina Panthers game. Go Panthers! And you know, we really ain’t all that far apart, Charlotte and Lexington that is – in passion and in distance. I truly appreciate the time Brandon Cook gave to me.
My wife, Karen and I headed out on the “Pig Pen Trail” on day 8 as we BBQ’d our way to Noble’s Grille in Winston-Salem. There is a lot of potential for “Q School” between Charlotte and Winston-Salem, and I usually go to the Grille once or twice a week.
Our first stop was going to be Richard’s BBQ in Salisbury, but we couldn’t help but take a side journey to Hap’s Grill on Main Street. Man, those hot dogs are really good. I ordered Karen’s with mustard and chili, then I ordered mine with mustard, chili and slaw to which the lady said “we don’t have slaw.” Make it two with mustard and chili, and don’t forget the Cheerwine (which by the way, was founded in Salisbury). There is a stand up counter inside and two stand up wooden tables outside. We ate outside and it was mighty fine! It’s a piece of legend and old NC downtown historic landmark.
Next stop, two blocks down the street was Richard’s BBQ. According to Jim Early from his book The Best Tar Heel Barbecue, Richard’s opened in 1935 under the name of T&F Barbecue on Council Street. It is now owned and operated by Richard Monroe, who I believe was there when we arrived. Richard still hand chops the BBQ for sandwiches to order. They still cook with hardwoods – mostly hickory and oak I presume. I had the coarse chopped which was very good. Karen had the BBQ chicken and as Jim says it was excellent too. Their hushpuppies were large round pups, a little larger than golf balls and we thought they were some of the best we have had in a while. I would go back for the chicken and hushpuppies alone. This is another piece of NC BBQ history and we were glad we had this on our list.
Hill’s Lexington BBQ in Winston-Salem was our last stop for the day. Started in 1951 by Joe Allen Hill, this was the first restaurant to use “Lexington-Style” barbecue in its name. None of the existing BBQ joints in Lexington had called their’s Lexington-style, and at that time, there were only a few. Joe Hill was from Lexington. His wife has been given credit for making the restaurant so successful. They are still in the same location they started in. Their son Gene grew up in Lexington and has been an integral part of the restaurant’s long life. In fact, in the early 50’s, when big Fuzzy Nelson wanted to start a BBQ restaurant in Madison, he came to see Gene. Gene even cooked the pork BBQ for Adam Scott when he came to Winston-Salem to be RJ Reynold’s personal BBQ chef. Adam Scott is a story all to himself, and has my respect – more on Scott on a later post.
We had coarse chopped, chopped and sliced Q at Hill’s and of course the banana pudding. This was, after all, our third lunch. And, by the way, Pam met us there for another restaurant business meeting over BBQ. We applaud the great BBQ history at Hill’s Lexington BBQ in Winston-Salem and enjoyed seeing the outdoor sights of wood and pit cooking.
This is Hill’s woodpile outside of their restaurant. Notice how clean, neat and orderly it is. You know that when a restaurant keeps it’s property clean and organized, on all fronts, the kitchen is clean also. Thank you Hill’s for keeping up the tradition and maintaining high standards, take it from a chef!
See you on the next post – where we head to Cook’s BBQ in Lexington (must be a Postal address only). I can’t believe the BBQ Jew beat me there. We must have crossed paths on the country road in. These guys are funny and you need to check out their blog.