Thursday, November 02, 2006

Barbecue across the South

I'm excited today because we are going to try a new kind of barbecue (or Bar-B-Q, as they seem to spell it here in Kentucky. It's one of the fun things to do when you travel around the south, if you eat meat.

In North Carolina, this time, we got to go to the two best-known barbecue joints in the state. One was Smiley's Barbecue in the town of Lexington, near Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C. Lexington-style barbecue is hickory-smoked pork shoulder served with a slightly tomato-y, slightly vinegary sauce. At Smiley's, I ordered coarsely chopped barbecue, and the meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful.

But to my eastern North Carolina palate, Smiley's cooked pork wasn't really barbecue. The meat was bathed in liquid, and it wasn't spicy enough. Real barbecue is exemplified, for my, by the hickory-smoked, vinegar-sauced, whole-hog meat cooked up and served at Wilber's Barbecue Restaurant in Goldsboro, N.C. The meat is not floating in sauce, and there are flecks of hot red pepper in the vinegar sauce and through the shredded or chopped meat.

I've been going to Wilber's since the mid-1960s. It's on the main road, U.S. Highway 70, between my home town, Morehead City, and the Raleigh-Durham area, where I went to college. Wilber's barbecue never disappoints.

We visited friends in Anniston, Alabama, on this trip. They are people I met on an Internet forum. In Anniston, we had lunch on Tuesday at Daddy's Barbecue. The meat was shredded, hickory-smoked pork, and it was delicious. My only criticism of it was the way it was served. They put a pile of barbecued pork on the plate and them dumped on a generous quantity of a sweet dark-red sauce that wasn't bad but wasn't necessary. The pork would have been better without it.

We also had barbecue in Atlanta. We bought it from a chain restaurant called Sonny's. It was surprisingly good, especially the shredded pork, which was seasoned with a hot-pepper-vinegar sauce. We also tasted the beef barbecue at Sonny's, but I found the sauce too ketchup-y and sweet.

Three years ago Walt and I tried barbecue in Georgia and in South Carolina. The Georgia version was ketchup-y sweet. The S.C. version was bathed in a mustard sauce that was also very sweet. I don't like my barbecue sweet.

In Owensboro, Kentucky, today, we are going to have lunch at the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. The specialty there is Kentucky mutton barbecue. Wow, barbecued lamb. It should be interesting, and it might be delicious. I'll report on it later.

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