Carolina Road Cuisine – Squeeze Box

The Squeeze Box

The Squeeze Box

Once again on the Pig Pen Trail, we have gone down a rabbit trail on the “Carolina Road Cuisine.”  This time we have come across a legendary cool place , The Sandwich Shop in Pilot Mountain, better known as “The Squeeze Box.”  I was with a lot of my fraternity brothers from NCSU for a golf benefit/weekend fund raiser for our beloved Bruce Lowe better known as “Thick” and  “Moose.”  The “Moose Lowe” outing is our annual get together in memory of “Bucket Head” whom we dearly miss.  He was from Pilot Mountain, or more specifically from Westfield.  Friday morning before we played golf (after I had been all over “The Knob” and Mount Airy looking for a good espresso coffee) a few of us PIKAs went together for a quick and early lunch as we toured the fair city of Pilot Mountain.  I had noticed The Sandwich Shop on my coffee hunt, but had no idea that I would return for lunch.  This place is a classic.

Original Store

Original Store

Affectionately known as “The Squeeze Box” because of its tight quarters, this place is a hotdog & burger classic.  We each ordered two hotdogs with mustard, chili and as “Big Mike” would say “take a stroll through the garden” which means add the onions.  We did and I am here to tell you that these were great dogs and an awesome spot that would deserve you going out of your way to visit.  Big Mike’s brother Mark, I am told will take a bi-monthly, if not weekly trek to the “Knob” just to have the dogs and burgers at “The Squeeze Box.”

Dickie & Whitney

Dickie & Whitney

The “Squeeze Box” has been opened since 1953 and is owned by Dickie Crump who started there on summer break from then High Point College.  He went on to buy the Sqeeze Box and has had it ever since.  I have attached an ariticle from a local paper and I hope you enjoy reading about the Sandwich Shop as much as I enjoyed eating here.  Thanks to Dickie and his daughter Whitney Crump, who also serves as a local magistrate.  This is the kind of place we all look for in Carolina Road Cuisine!

Little Man, Chink, George "Mule Face" & Big Mike

Little Man, Chink, George "Mule Face" & Big Mike

"The Squeeze Box"

"The Squeeze Box"

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Carolina Road Cuisine – Keaton’s BBQ

Keaton’s BBQ

Keaton's Barbecue

Keaton's Barbecue

Somedays, when we are on our BBQ “Pig Pen Trails”, Karen and I will take a detour off the Cue School and look for what we call good ‘ole “Carolina Road Cuisine.”  Now we love BBQ, but we also like many different types of foods, and particularly those hidden gems found across our state in small towns known only by the locals.  We grew up on places like these and restaurants with great as well as local cuisine.  We recently stopped in Cool Springs, just south of Mocksville and found a great spot, which was told to us by Winston-Salem restaurant equipment mogul, Harry Gallins.
When Karen and I pulled into the parking lot at Keaton’s we knew we were in for a treat, and boy what a treat it was.  The place seems to be in the middle of farm country, not particularly near anyplace.  The outside appeal lets you know that this place is one of a kind.  We were  amused by the signs they had posted inside, like “please don’t take any photographs of employees” among others.  You order and pay at the counter and then sit down.  They will let you know when it’s ready.  We did not know what a great treat we were in for.

Mr Keaton

Mr Keaton

We ordered the BBQ chicken.  Now Keaton’s made our “Carolina Road Cuisine” section because they do not cook BBQ pork, only chicken.  From what we were told by Harry and from what we tasted, the chicken is first fried and held.  Once the order comes in, the fried chicken is submerged in hot Keaton’s BBQ sauce, which is very good.  The chicken was moist, seasoned very well and delicous.  This may be the best BBQ chicken we have ever had, next to ours of course!  We ordered macaroni and cheese as well and it was off the hook!  We also enjoyed the green beans, but feel pretty comfortable saying most anything you may order here will be great!
I can’t believe we lived in Davidson County for so long, not to mention that we were in the High Point and Winston-Salem area most all of our lives and had never heard of Keaton’s.  That’s why we want to blow the horn and let you know.  It’s worth a trip.
From Charlotte, take I77 N to I40 E and travel about 5 miles and take the second exit for 64.  Go right on 64 S, take a left on Cool Springs Road (SR 1003) and travel a few miles.  Keaton’s will the only thing on your right.  You can’t miss it.  And we are sure you will be back.  What a Carolina gem!
Keatons Door

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Pig Pen Trails Day 11 & 12

Carolina BBQ

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?

Little Richard's

Little Richard's

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!

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Pig Pen Trails Day 10

Whispering Pine

Whispering Pine

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.

 

Log Cabin

Log Cabin

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

Whispering Pines Woodpile

Whispering Pines Woodpile

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.

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Pig Pen Trails Day 9

Old Legends

Old Legends

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 BBQ

Cook's BBQ

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.

Skins (with Splenda - Ha)

Skins (with Splenda - Ha)

Brandon Cook

Brandon Cook

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Sad day

I will surely miss my buddy Skipper.  He was my friend, my brother in the Lord, my BBQ trail buddy and my best critic.  I look forward to our reunion.  My heart and prayers and with his family.  He was loved by his Bible study prayer team and he had a heart for the Lord.

my buddy

my buddy

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Pig Pen Trails Day 8

Hap's Grill

Hap's Grill

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.

Richard's Hushpuppies

Richard's Hushpuppies

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.090828 109 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.

Hills

Hills

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.

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