I-95 Barbecue Report
- Bob W.
Due to various logistical limitations -- two dogs and four-month-old twins -- we had to stick pretty close to the New Mother Road to and from South Florida.
Nevertheless, we managed to eat 'cue at four joints in three states. We could have hit local favorite Lucille's in Boca but ran out of time.
Georgia: Georgia Pig, exit 29, Brunswick. Once again, I was underwhelmed by the GA Pig. The place looks right and feels right, and they cook with wood, but the food is expensive -- $9.50 for the two-meat platter, which includes ordinary beans and slaw, and a toasted bun -- and just not that great. The ribs really didn't have much to distinguish them from what we could have gotten walking across the street from our motel to Sonny's (exit 36). The chopped pork was good but they skimp on the sauce, which you don't learn if you take out until it's too late.
Also, tea conoisseur Mrs. W. gave thumbs down to the sweet tea.
South Carolina: Maurice's, exit 98. We got two Big Joe Q sandwiches ($5.79 I think) plus small sides of hush puppies and hash & rice. It's been a while since I've had SC cue, but Maurice seems to have dialed back the sweetness of his mustard sauce just a bit. The meat was extremely tender. His hush pups are in the savory family, with bits of onion. Hash was mild but tasty. Sweet tea was very good.
N.B.: the lunch buffet looked really good. Among the items I saw were fried gizzards, cracklins, mac & cheese, stewed okra, nanner puddin, and ambrosia.
North Carolina: On the way down Plan A -- Moore's Barbecue in Kenly, exit 105, one of the few good cue joints you can see from I-95 -- was closed (Monday) so we went to Plan B: our first visit to a local chain, Smithfield's Chicken & BBQ. Naturally there was one conveniently located just down the road in Smithfield, exit 95.
The fried chicken & cue platter ($6.79?), which includes stew, slaw, beans, and hush pups (sweet) is a good into to eastern NC food. Very good fried chicken in particular. Sweet tea was good. Nanner puddin (usually $1.39, on special for $0.99) could have used chunks of nanners but was a very generous portion.
Mitchell's BBQ, Wilson, 6219 Ward Blvd. If coming from the south get off at Kenly and just head up 301. If coming from the north take exit 119 (US 264) and head east. Turn left when you get to 301/Ward Blvd.
This was a great way to end the trip. The place was empty (it's mostly a lunch destination) but the food was great and rib-sticking. Three meat-four veggie platters for $6.99! We both got fried chicken, ribs, and cue. Mrs. W. got mac & cheese, rutabagas, green beans, and collards. I got mac & cheese, squash, collards, and yams. nice to not be limited to beans and slaw. Three hot hush pups with each order (savory). The cue is pepperier than what you'd get at Parker's or Bill's, but of course I still added more of Mitchell's hot sauce. The ribs were the standout meat, but this is a place where you could just get sides and be very happy. Sweet tea was good.
But the food was just part of the fun. One of the Mitchell bros, Stevie, who runs the place, took a shine to our twins and gave us a tour of the entire joint! The highlight was his explanation of the gargantuan mural on the dining room wall, which was painted by a local artist and shows an entire barbecue season, starting with the planting of the year's tobacco crop.
Then to top things off, I had gotten a slab of bread pudding that I had foolishly planned to eat after supper. I noticed it was not on the tab so when we went to pay I mentioned it and Stevie said it was on the house. This is a good man.
After leaving Mitchell's, we swung around to Parker's and picked up two pounds of cue and two pints of slaw to savor at a later date.
Question for Wilson cue experts: right near our hotel was a place called Cherry's bbq, which has been around since 1965. Is it any good? I suspect I know the answer but I'd like to hear from someone who's tried it.
Didn't think you'd go wrong in eastern NC. Hate you missed Moore's, that place is truly a "diamond in the rough". Put that place on your "must do" list, along with Ken's in LaGrange (off Hwy. 70). Remember that Ken's only cooks 'que on Wed. and Sat. for lunch, & you should be there early because they always sell out.
As for Cherry's, it is a traditional eastern NC place that serves consistently good 'que. Not sure how they cook since I've never asked, but you can always expect good food there.
We ate at Parker's the Friday night after Thanksgiving and it was good as usual. We ate family style; the only problem we had was with the waiter who wanted to argue about the amount (or lack of) white meat chicken we were supposed to get. After getting his attitude right, along with more chicken, we had a good meal.
I live in Wilson & have for 30 years and I am as most of you a BBQ fanatic..Im amazed that hardly anyone locally knows about Moores or goes there..it truly is a diomond in the rough and will probably stay that way...You can squabble about the quality of Parkers but one thing is for sure..they have the gfastest service anywhere!Bon Appetite Q Heads
orzobino: as a Wilsonian, can you give us your expert opinion on Cherry's Barbecue? It's completely off the radar (outside Wilson, that is) but it's been around for a long time so the thoughts of a local like yourself would be very much appreciated.
Also, regarding Parker's, I have to say that when you order bulk cue to go they do not skimp. I haven't put my two containers of cue on the scale but they are both stuffed to the bursting point and I will be shocked if they weigh merely the one pound each that I paid for.
As for Moore's, I suspect many Wilsonians consider it to be down in the "hick town" of Kenly and not worth the ten minute drive down 301.
re: Bob W.
Ill respond but I havent had Cherrys in quite a while but its funny I went past their newest location and thought that I need to sample it...see years ago...maybe 10-15 cherrys was out in the country very much off the beaten path..then the family sold out and it was run by some older employees but most recently some younger person bought them out and tried to relocate cherrys to the main street almost downtown attached to an old standby hotel/motel The Heart of Wilson..but that place has fallen into Drug types hands and no one frequents it anymore...after a brief time they gave up..only to reappear near the hospital in another old restautrant location..I cant vouch for the Q but no one is beating a path to their doors...sorry you missed the golden age of Cherrys by 15 years...
BW - I planned my return trip to Florida from NJ to stop for lunch in Kenly at Moore's...Right off I-95 like you say. I starved myself until about 3:00 PM on a Sunday. We got there and it was closed! You went on a Monday and it was closed, too!
I had no idea Mitchell's was right up the road. Good story ...Thanks. To this day, I have still not had any North Carolina "Q" Texas, Oklahoma and NC still await me.
just an update to an old, but helpful post. I drove from PA to the SC coast this weekend and stopped in 2 places mentioned here. I am a bit of a weird bbq reviewer as I do not eat meat (I am not very principled though, and still eat veggies that were obviously cooked with animal fat). It's all about the sides for me.
good news first:
- Shuler's, barely mentioned here, was truly amazing. It's just about a mile east of 1-95 on Hwy 38-- Latta exit of 95, an exit or 2 south of South of the Border (where no hound should ever go). It's open the usual thurs-sat and in the evening only. It is a really fresh, home-cooked, real bbq place, with pulled pork as well as pieces of chicken and quite a bit of choice for sides. The sides were really superlative-- butter beans, baked beans, collards, and sweet potatoes all were irresistible. If eating butter beans with my hands as I sped toward Myrtle Beach wasn't reason enough not to do take-out, there was a little threesome of middle aged banjoists playing in the back of the lovely log-cabin style joint and a big picture window view of the pond behind. Next time I'll stay. I got banana pudding and peach cobbler to go too, sad to miss the red velvet cake and cranberry crumble they also had on the dessert table. A definite winner!
- On the way back, I went to this fabled Moore's as it was closed for vacation on my way down. What a disapointment. I realize my error in rolling in at an in-between time (around 3), but still.. greasy battered okra tasted like pieces of leather. Baked beans seemed like they were pretty much just dumped out of a can. I didn't get the collards-- looked like they had been mashed or something. Banana pudding was fluorescent yellow with dried-out chunks of the fruit. The only plus was the cute mini pink pig-decorated delivery truck out back, and the fact that it is literally right next to the highway so at least I didn't lose any time. Needless to say I cannot recommend it like the hounds above.