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CBJ heading to Lexington and Edenton . . . and where to eat in between

Way behind schedule on doing my research for this trip and thanks be for the rich archive of posts on the Southeast board to guide me. I'm flying in on Thursday and will be judging the Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned contests in Lexington and Edenton. I'm especially excited to try whole hog in Edenton.

Lexington BBQ Capital Cook-off 4/22 & 23

Edenton Hog Fest 4/29 & 30

When I first set up this trip, I had thought I'd follow the barbecue trail for the week in between as I made my way from west to east.

But my hosts in Winston-Salem suggested that I check out the Outer Banks, and I making that loop instead and will have more diverse meals. I'll be taking a little break from 'cue in between weekends, it looks like from what I've been reading here.

I'd like to use this thread topic to ask my questions and to aggregate the past threads that are relevant to my itinerary.

First question, where else besides Lexington Barbecue #1 should I try in town? The cook-off organizers sent me a list of the 16 bbq restaurants in the Lexington area. The ones that cook in a pit are specified in the brochure and I've linked them below. The same info can be found online here:
Barbecue Center and Speedy Lohr's of Arcadia are also on the trail map. The others don't get talked about much and I'm wondering if there's a hidden gem there. Also I'm curious about skin sandwiches --- does the skin get crunchy enough or just hard?

While the competitors will not be offering samples at the Lexington contest, there will be three vendors: Johnsonville Brats Big Taste Grill, Carolina BBQ Company, The Little Red Pig Championship BBQ. Any info on Carolina or Little Red Pig?

Barbecue Center
900 N Main St, Lexington, NC 27292

Smokey Joe's Barbecue
1101 S Main St, Lexington, NC 27292

Whitley's Restaurant
3664 Nc Highway 8, Lexington, NC 27292

Cook's Barbecue
366 Valiant Dr, Lexington, NC 27292

Backcountry Barbecue
4014 Linwood Southmont Rd, Lexington, NC 27292

Smiley's Lexington BBQ
917 Winston Rd, Lexington, NC 27295

Speedy Lohr's B B Q of Arcadia
8000 N Nc Highway 150, Lexington, NC 27295

Troutman's Barbecue
18466 S. NC Hwy 109, Denton, NC

Lexington Barbecue
100 Smokehouse Lane, Lexington, NC 27295

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)

    On Saturday I'll leave Lexington in the late afternoon for Charlotte. I've read the comments that Charlotte is bbq-deficient so I'd like to take some with me to my hosts. I can purchase some in Lexington, and I thought it would be interesting to stop along the way.

    The trail map of historic pits highlights three places: Richard's Bar-B-Que, Wink's King Barbeque & Seafood and M & K Barbecue.

    What do 'hounds think about these three spots? Any danger that they'll run out on Saturday night before I get there?

    Wink's King Barbeque & Seafood
    509 Faith Rd, Salisbury, NC 28146

    Richard's Bar-B-Que
    522 N Main St, Salisbury, NC 28144

    M & K Barbecue
    215 N Salisbury, Granite Quarry, NC

    4 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Melanie, I've yet to have BBQ in the Salisbury area that I considered great. It might be too much of a detour, but I highly recommend the dipped chicken at Keaton's as an alternative. Here's a link to a discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549458

      Not as famous, Reid's in Granite Quarry also does a good dipped chicken, and they are only a few minutes off the interstate--but you may want to call first as their hours can be irregular. Here is their info: 408 Hwy 52, 408 Salisbury Avenue, Granite Quarry 28072, (704) 209-0905.

      BTW, at Lexington BBQ#1, I definitely recommend the course chopped outside brown if you are eating there and a mix of course chopped outside brown and inside white for take-away (pure outside brown may dry out a bit on reheating).

      1. re: Low Country Jon

        Thank you, I'd taken note of Keaton's Barbecue in another thread and lamented that it was a little too far afield. Reid's sounds like it may be just the ticket.

        I've arrived in good shape, flights on time, and am happily in residence in Winston-Salem with the door to the porch cracked open a bit for some fresh air through the screen door. I've had butter pecan ice cream from Homeland Creamery for dessert tonight.

        Keaton's Barbecue
        17365 Cool Springs Rd, Cleveland, NC 27013

        Homeland Creamery
        6506 Bowman Dairy Rd, Julian, NC 27283

        Reid's Chicken
        405 N Salisbury Ave, Granite Quarry, NC 28146

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          How was Reid's, Melanie? I saw your flickr pics.

          1. re: Low Country Jon

            Thanks for the rec. Reid's didn't hit crave-worthy for me, mostly due to chicken quality, but I'm glad I had a chance to try it.

    2. Melanie,

      I wouldn't miss the following, both incredible Eastern NC BBQ places, not too far off your route, but definitely a detour:

      Parker's BBQ
      2514 US Highway 301 S
      Wilson NC
      (252) 237-0972
      N35 41.422W77 56.772
      Not as interesting as Ayden, but the BBQ might even be better. Well known.


      Skylight Inn
      4618 Lee St
      Ayden NC
      (252) 746-4113
      Way off the beaten track. At lunchtime they were chopping a whole pig with skin at counter. Marvelous flat dense cornbread. Very interesting place with a Capitol dome on the roof. Next door is the Collard Shack, which shouldn't be missed. Highly recommended.

      As for Lexington, I never bother with anything but Lexington #1, along with the above 2 it is among the top 5 in the country on my list (others are Louis Mueller in Taylor, TX, and Arthur Bryants in KC, MO). Don't miss the hush puppies at Lexington #1!

      One other still further south is amazingly good (competes with above) considering it is not wood fired is:

      Ken's Grill and Barbecue
      7645 U.S. 70
      La Grange NC
      +1 (252) 566-4765
      BBQ Wed and Sat only.!!

      I will be in NC in June and am not sure I will get far east, but I have been told to check out a place in Chapel Hill. I will post the name when I get it.

      I sure wish Ayden were closer to San Francisco...

      Skylight Inn
      4618 S Lee St, Ayden, NC

      3 Replies
      1. re: Thomas Nash

        Thanks Thomas. I've been drooling over the descriptions of Skylight, but alas, it is too far out of the way. I will be going to a pig pickin in Edenton, as well as putting more than a pound of 'cue down my throat judging that day, so I hope to get my fill then.

        I'm glad you mentioned that Ken's Grill and NC Barbecue is Wednesday and Saturday only. I could have gone there, but wrong day.

        Skylight Inn
        4618 S Lee St, Ayden, NC

        Ken's Grill and NC Barbecue
        7645 US Highway 70 W, La Grange, NC 28551

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Double check those opening days for Ken's by phone. That information is from last year.

          1. re: Thomas Nash

            I did call Ken's when I passed by La Grange, and bbq is still limited to a Wednesday and Saturday schedule.

      2. Please, for the love of God, don't fly all the way across the country and go eat at Parker's. It's totally bog standard gas cooked barbecue- and worse, it's not far from some really excellent places that cook traditionally.

        As for taking a break from barbecue- you don't *need* to if you don't want to. What's your route, exactly? Also, what days of the week are we talking about?

        We mentioned Blackbeard's on another thread, and that's right off 64. If you detoured a bit and took 264 into Greenville, you'd be within a stone's throw of several really great barbecue places- Cobb's in Farmville, B's in Greenville, and Pete Jones(Skylight Inn) in Ayden. Pete Jones is the best of these, although the other two are quite good. B's has the ramshackle ambience going for it.

        The Collard Shack is a produce stand, not a restaurant. They do sell cooked collards, but they're for reheating. They don't serve them hot. Bum's(also in Ayden) has very widely known collards, but the barbecue is only okay, in my book. Bum's reputation is built on its sides, and you can get barbecue that's much better, and sides that are just as good or better at Blackbeard's- so living in Greenville, I have little reason to ever go to Bum's. However, Blackbeard's doesn't always have collards, so if that's a must have, you might want to grab a pint or quart from Bum's or the Collard Shack. The thing I don't like about collards from Bum's is that they don't offer any homemade pepper vinegar, and I don't like the Texas Pete pepper vinegar they do have. Collard Shack sells a homemade pepper vinegar, though.

        IIRC you were looking for meats. There's a local butcher called Sumrell's Country Sausage outside of Ayden a bit. They have great...country sausage. Try the air dried hot. Their chorizo is good, too. They usually have hoop cheese, as well.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Naco

          I had mixed feelings about Parker's. Last time through we went back to Parker's after filling up at Ayden. And damned if Parker's BBQ didn't even seem (a teenie bit) better than Skylight. I was full, yet it just seemed to grow on me. So, even if it is big and boring, and gas fired, I think it is one of the best.

          If I was going to one, I would pick Skylight.

          And the hot pepper vinegar from the Collard Shack is fine.

          Will try Blackbeard's next time.

          1. re: Thomas Nash

            Bearing in mind that this is inherently subjective, de gustibus non est disputandum, and et cetera, I really could not disagree more strongly. Parker's is a decent neighborhood place if you're a local. It is emphatically not a destination restaurant and not a top notch barbecue place. It is not remotely in the same league as Pete Jones, as virtually any eastern NC barbecue aficionado would agree.

        2. I think most locals (based on my highly suspect sampling method) will tell you Speedy's is the best in the Lexington area. I definitely prefer it over Lexington #1. I'm an eastern-styler though, so I have to hold my nose when I eat this Lexington-style stuff. :)

          9 Replies
          1. re: arbyunc

            Speaking from the same perspective, I like Lexington style a lot in general, but it's not really as varied as eastern style to me.

            1. re: arbyunc

              I'm glad I asked! And that I'll have a chance to try both styles. Just read this piece in Serious Eats about the Lexington style and issues with dryness.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                IMO a good NC barbecue of either style should be a little on the dry side. You don't want it oversauced.

                1. re: Naco

                  Oh yeah, definitely not oversauced for any kind of barbecue. The comment was that the meat in Lexington was dried out, overcooked and lacking meats natural moistness and relied on the slaw and sauce for wetness to compensate.

                  Here's the quote: "After a few more bites, the finer details of the Lexington style came out of the woodwork. I noticed that the pork, chopped so finely that it began to resemble a porky pulp, was more wet than moist. As I continued to chew, each hunk seemed to dry out between my teeth. The flavors of pork and wood became flimsy as the pulp ground down into tiny, papery strands."

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Interesting comments in that article. In my experience, one of the differences between Lex. style and eastern is that Lex. usually is more wet with sauce, sometimes practically swimming in it. Most places a sandwich bottom will become a soggy mess before you finish it. Eastern style is drier (as far as the sauce), but it's incredibly moist when done right.

                    1. re: arbyunc

                      But what about the texture of the meat and the juiciness of the meat itself? I think the writer's complain is that while Lexington has more sauce, the meat is dried out. The quality of the starting material may be at issue, as commercial grade hogs are leaner, as well as the cook's skill or geographic style.

                      Edited to add: Reading through yet another BBQ thread, I found this older post by "Bluemold" that addresses the issue of the changes in quality and fat content of commercial hogs. Says it much better than I could.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Hmm, my experiences with western style, at least at Lexington #1 (which is the definitive version of the genre) couldn't have been more different. The meat retains a lot of natural moisture. And keep in mind that Lexington #1 does the thickness of the chop and mix of meats any way you like. So, for example, my wife's favorite is "coarse chop (which amounts to chunks that are plenty juicy/tender all the way through), mix of outside brown and lean". My favorite is "regular chop, mix of outside brown and inside white." It's not specified on the menu as such, but the waitresses know all the lingo. Just think of it like in-n-out's "secret" menu, but with varieties of bbq chops and textures.

                      2. re: arbyunc

                        That's why I always liked John Wayne's(sadly closed now)- it was the least wet of the Lexington places that I tried.

                2. re: arbyunc

                  I got an email from a shy 'hound who's a long time Speedy's person but saying the last time in the area, Lexington #1 was more flavorful. Guess I'll be buying a lot of sandwiches. :-O

                3. Tuesday: CHARLOTTE to BEAUFORT, NC

                  On Tuesday I'll be departing Matthews (east of Charlotte) for Beaufort.
                  Google is showing me three alternative routes for the journey which are about the same driving time, 5+ hours.

                  1) US 74 that jogs southward toward Wilmington then to Jacksonvile. If I go this way, should I go into Wilmington?
                  2) NC 24 into Fayetteville, Clinton and Jacksonville
                  3) US 70E through Fayetteville, Goldsboro, La Grange and New Bern

                  I'll need a place to stop for lunch and maybe a rest stop or two. Which route and stops do you recommend?

                  I will only have an overnight in Beaufort before heading to OBX in the morning, so I would like to arrive by afternoon to take a look around the historic district. What are your favorites for dinner in Beaufort and surrounds? I must admit to a morbid fascination with the Thai and crab shack combination represented by Mrs Culpepper's Crab Cafe.

                  Mrs Culpepper's Crab Cafe
                  5370 Hwy 70 W Ste D, Morehead City, NC 28557

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    If it were me, I'd go down 70. That would put you going past(or very near) Wilber's Barbecue and the Skylight Inn.

                    For non-barbecue options, I like Tryon Palace Seafood/Stingray Cafe in New Bern a lot. Order off the specials whiteboard and get softshell crab if they have it. Softshells should be hitting soon. The fries and hushpuppies are hit or miss, but the seafood is fresh, local, and really good. Culpepper's is good and in the same genre, but also has Thai food. I've only eaten there once, though. Chef and the Farmer in Kinston is a more upscale place that does great food with an emphasis on local ingredients.

                    Going through Sampson and Duplin counties(Clinton/Kenansville/Beulaville) you will see a lot of taquerias and authentic Mexican places, but I don't have any specific recommendations as I very rarely get that far south. Here's a thread on places I and some others have visited, mostly in vicinities of Greenville, Wilson, Goldsboro/Wayne County:


                    I suppose if you took 24, La Cuata(in Dudley) wouldn't be an unreasonable detour. Here's a thread:


                    I don't have any Beaufort recs as I rarely eat there, but the subject comes up from time to time, so there should be some old threads.

                    1. re: Naco

                      I agree. Go on 70. Ayden is not a big detour from 70. Definitely go to Skylight!

                      We also tried Wilber's last year. It was recommended in one of Raiclen's books. My notes indicated: Good Eastern NC BBQ. Not as good as Ken's but great if on 70E on days when Ken's is not doing BBQ.

                      Melanie, as you can tell there is a major ongoing argument between proponents of eastern and western NC BBQ. My sister in law lives in Greensboro, but grew up near Wilson, and won't ever join us at Lexington, which is near Greensboro. Locals have strong preferences.

                      I guess I would agree that there is more choices at the extreme excellence level in the east. But Lexington's is very good. There is no tomato in the eastern sauces, just vinegar and spices. Lexington has much less tomato than any other BBQ sauce style in the US, but it is too much for the Eastern NC folks.

                      1. re: Thomas Nash

                        Ok, I checked and going to Skylight Inn would require another 25 miles or so of driving vs. Wilber's. It takes 4.5 hrs to get there from where I'll be in Matthews. Wish me luck on getting an early start, and it may be do-able.

                        Having lived all my life in California, I don't have an ingrained style preference. Just like with regional styles of ramen, I'll just be guided by what tastes good to me. :-{}

                        Skylight Inn
                        4618 S Lee St, Ayden, NC

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I wish you luck. As far as my preferences are concerned, the triumverate of perfect NC bbq comprises Lexington #1, Allen&Son (in Chapel Hill) (this one being my "last meal on earth" place, no exaggeration), and Skylight Inn. Blackbeard's comes a close second to these magical places.

                          Bum's in Ayden is the best place in the state to get southern veggie sides (collards, green beans, rutabagas, black-eyed peas, etc.). I know Naco says that Blackbeard's holds its own with sides, but unfortunately the Sunday I went a couple of weeks ago(late around 2 p.m.), they were down to string beans and limas w/ sausage.

                          Skylight Inn
                          4618 S Lee St, Ayden, NC

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            One option here might be to take 264 east towards Greenville, then cut down to Ayden to hit Skylight Inn and continue to Beaufort from there. This is only about an extra 12 miles vs. taking 70 to the coast, and you will probably make better time, as 264 is an interstate quality highway with a 70mph speed limit and little traffic all the way to Greenville.

                            I really can't recommend the Skylight Inn enough. If I had to go to one barbecue place in the entire state, this would be it.

                        2. re: Naco

                          Great info, I'd love to eat fresh softshell crab. Sting Ray Cafe and Tryon Palace Seafood is sounding very good.

                          Between Wilber's and Grady's, which would you choose? I might be ready to eat bbq again by Tuesday. :-P

                          Wilber's Barbecue
                          4172 US Hwy 70 E, Goldsboro, NC 27534

                          Grady's Barbecue
                          3096 Arrington Bridge Rd, Dudley, NC

                          Sting Ray Cafe and Tryon Palace Seafood
                          520 S. Front Street, New Bern, NC

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            All else being equal, I'd go with Grady's over Wilber's, but it's a bit of a detour. Wilber's is right on 70. If you've already gone to the Skylight Inn and want to try another place, I'd say go with Wilber's. If you don't go to the Skylight Inn, then go to Grady's.

                            Grady's is only open later in the week, though. It's either Wed-Sat, or Thu-Sat. Wilber's is open 7 days a week IIRC.

                            Skylight Inn
                            4618 S Lee St, Ayden, NC

                            1. re: Naco

                              Then that puts Grady's out of the running for my Tuesday drive.

                        3. re: Melanie Wong

                          Looks like I'll need to make a mid-morning stop somewhere around Fayetteville --- suggestions? Any non-Krispy Kreme local donut shops, bakers, coffee houses, diners with good pie, for example?

                          Wish I could check out Chef & the Farmer, but it's dinner only. Maybe I'll wave as I drive by.

                          Chef & the Farmer
                          120 W Gordon St, Kinston, NC 28501

                        4. Wednesday: BEAUFORT, NC to OCRACOKE
                          Thursday: OCRACOKE to KITTY HAWK

                          If you have recs for clam chowder, oyster stew or shrimp burgers in OBX, please add 'em to these specific threads.

                          Hatteras clam chowder and oyster stew

                          Shrimp burgers

                          Where should I try for softshell crabs? Any regional seafood dishes of note that are not fried?

                          305 Irvin Garrish Hwy, Ocracoke, NC

                          Rundown Cafe
                          5218 Virginia Dare Trl N, Kitty Hawk, NC 27949

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            It's been too many years (decades really) since I've been to Ocracoke for me to make any specific recs, but you may want to keep your eye out for fig preserves while you are there. I read an article in "Our State" magazine a couple of years ago that talked about the very old and very popular tradition of making preserves from the fruit of the local trees in mid-summer when it ripens. Hopefully some of last year's goodness will still be available during your visit.

                          2. Friday: NAGS HEAD to EDENTON

                            On the way to Edenton, I'll take the longer route to stop by Weeping Radish. I'm as interested in the farm as the charcuterie and beer.

                            Are there any notable farm stands in this area that I should try to visit?

                            In Edenton, the events surrounding Hogfest and the Edenton Pilgrimage of Historic Homes (fish fry, pancake breakfast, chicken salad lunch, pig pickin) will probably keep me more than enough occupied. But suggestions are always welcome!

                            In particular, anywhere that's serving shad or shad roe.

                            Weeping Radish
                            6810 Caratoke Hwy, Grandy, NC 27939

                            Luna's Market
                            960 Pender Rd, Hertford, NC 27944

                            Mac's Back Door Oyster Bar
                            Edenton, Edenton, NC

                            309 Bistro and Spirits
                            309 S Broad St, Edenton, NC 27932

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Instead of saving Weeping Radish for the drive to Edenton, I popped across the bridge yesterday from Duck for a quick round-trip. Rather daunting on the drive back as the storm strengthened and I wondered if I might be a candidate for a Darwin award.

                              In any case I bought a selection of sausages to take home. I also picked up a couple bottles of root beer and enjoyed it very much. Tonight I'm drinking the "Black Radish" beer and like it a lot too.

                              No chow stops en route to Edenton from OBX today. I did drive through downtown Columbia (population 867) just to see it, and wished I'd had time to find some scuppernong juice.

                              Weeping Radish
                              6810 Caratoke Hwy, Grandy, NC 27939

                            2. Sunday: EDENTON to RDU Airport

                              En route to the airport, I'll have a chance to stop by Blackbeard's BBQ and C-Food for an early lunch, guided by this thread. Excited to taste Brunswick stew and the veggies.
                              I'll also buy some barbecue to take home with me and maybe something to eat on the plane.

                              I'll have a quick visit with my friends in Durham who say they live 15 minutes from the airport. I'd be interested in any notable sandwiches that I can buy on a Sunday for the flight home. Pimento cheese?

                              Blackbeard's BBQ and C-Food
                              5232 US 64 Alt East, Tarboro, NC

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Melanie!!! Glad to see you'll be stomping around my old stomping grounds. You've gotten A+ advice from our resident NC chowhounders.

                                If you make it back to Durham by 3, go to Parker & Otis for a pimento cheese sandwich. Theirs is the best. You might want to check to see if they serve lunch on Sundays - the website suggests it might just be breakfast.


                                If they don't, another great place to get sandwiches is Guglhupf.


                                Parker & Otis
                                112 S Duke St, Durham, NC 27701

                                1. re: mikeh

                                  Foster's Market in Durham has a great, spicy pimiento cheese spread. It is right next door to Guglhupf, which makes stopping at both places very convenient.

                                  Guglhupf Bakery & Patisserie
                                  2706 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707

                                  Foster's Market
                                  2694 Durham Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707

                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                  On your way from Edenton to Durham keep an eye out for farm stands. Some have hot boiled peanuts! Always a good nosh for a drive.

                                  Fresh Market (grocery) makes really good pimento cheese. I prefer pimento cheese on crackers rather than on bread - I like the contrast of the soft with the crisp. There is a location in Cameron Village in Raleigh which is about 12 min. from I-40.

                                  Another stop that might be of interest is the state farmers market in Raleigh, just a few minutes off I-40. In the enclosed area there is a booth with pies. Many are the little 3" or so individual size. They are really good! A friend from here who has moved to SF always makes a stop there for pies before she leaves - gives many as souvenirs once back in the bay area. You can also find Blenheims ginger ale in that area too.

                                  Can't think of much around the airport area for a good sandwich or anything of regional interest, especially on a Sunday. The food I've experienced at the airport has been well worth avoiding.

                                  Maybe Blackbeard's will have something portable?

                                  Safe travels!

                                  1. re: meatn3

                                    Thank you, right next to I-40 will be key. I'll need to leave my friend's place at 3pm, so it looks like I won't have much time to drive anywhere after Blackbeard's if I expect to have more than an hour's visit with her. She lives off of Farrington Road, about 1 1/2 miles from the intersection of hwys 40 and 54. Ideas nearby?

                                    I bought something called a fried jack, a handpie, in Edenton today, and it's tucked into my suitcase to enjoy at home.

                                    P.S. I brought ziplock bags for anything juicy to pack. :-D

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      I have no ideas......most things of interest around RTP are closed for Sun.
                                      Plenty of fast food, sub shops, etc. Earth Fare (regional natural foods grocery) is close to the airport. They have a deli and hotbar/salad bar. If nothing else could get fruit, cheese, bulk nuts, etc. They are a little hard to spot, behind the Chick Fillet at Lumley and Brier Creek Parkway. Their address sometimes doesn't show up, non-municipal road iirc. Here is a link to spots in that area:


                                      Might do best by asking your friend to p/u some pimento cheese or something.

                                      I have called ahead and picked up a sandwich at Cracker Barrel on my way to the airport - it's just S. of 40 and has been one of the better options available.

                                      Hopefully a CH more familiar with that part of town will see this before you take off in the morning!

                                      1. re: meatn3

                                        Thank you, and i've decided to call off the hunt for plane food.

                                        I've eaten so much this trip --- finishing off leftover corn pudding, Brunswick stew and sweet potato casserole for my brekkie this morning --- I won't starve. And cleaning out the fridge I found the fresh yellowfin tuna salad I bought in Hatteras that can be a snack on the plane.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          That's my kinda breakfast. So glad you had such a fun trip. Thanks for telling us about it.

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              Nice! So glad they have herring today. If you don't stop anywhere else you should make it to your friends a little earlier!

                                3. Just a note- since you're apparently already here, you will probably not find any softshells. You'll be 2-3 weeks early.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Naco

                                    Thanks for the word . . . won't make myself crazy trying to find 'em.

                                    Off to Lexington!

                                    1. re: Naco

                                      Fortune smiled upon me and gifted me with fresh softshell crabs (caught by Wesley Peele) before I left the Outer Banks.

                                      I had asked at the seafood restaurant the night before and was told that was the most popular question of the day, but no softshells would be available for another week.

                                    2. WINSTON-SALEM to LEXINGTON Trip Report

                                      Before too much times passes, I wanted to aggregate linked reports for my first two days in North Carolina and fill in some other details before they fade from memory. This covers my time in Winston-Salem and an evening in Lexington.

                                      To welcome me to North Carolina, my hosts offered a light repast and some local wine. The 2008 RayLen Yadkin Gold may be the only wine I've tried from the Yadkin Valley appellation. This was a blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Riesling. My hosts asked me if it was potable. I replied that it was without major flaws, had pleasant aromas, and I didn’t think it would harm me.

                                      Winkler Bakery

                                      P B's Takeout in Ardmore Village

                                      Little Richard’s Barbecue

                                      Sweet Potatoes – A Restaurant (well shut my mouth!!

                                      Sour cherries from Levering Orchard (Ararat, VA)

                                      Honey Monk’s Lexington Barbecue #1: Chopped, Coarse Chopped, Sliced & Skin

                                      Barbecue Center in Lexington

                                      Other bites:

                                      Hot glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts from the flagship store --- I was mightily impressed that my hostess could spot the “hot now” red neon from more than three blocks away.

                                      Dixie Farmers Market – I was delighted to learn that my hostess is a regular at this market and eagerly joined her for the Saturday morning shopping. This is where we bought A B Vannoy Ham.

                                      Her favorite eggs come from Mill River farm’s booth. http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...
                                      I talked with them about the challenges of local meat production. Their CSA (produce only or produce+meat) is still signing up new subscribers for the upcoming season.

                                      I also had a chance to meet the twin helpers for Camino Bakery. Camino doesn’t have a retail store currently but hopes to soon. The lemon-ginger scone and the muffin we shared for breakfast were wonderful. Becky said that anything with ginger is exceptional. I thought the samples of pumpkin bread and banana walnut bread I tried were very good. They’re generous with samples here.

                                      I tasted some of Foothill’s Mountain Butter on the scone. This seemed like it had lower moisture content than commercial brands but the flavor wasn’t particularly distinctive.

                                      More photos from the Dixie Classic Farmers Market

                                      A B Vannoy Hams
                                      205 Buck Mountain Rd West, Jefferson, NC

                                      Camino Bakery
                                      Winston-Salem, Winston-Salem, NC 27101

                                      1. LEXINGTON – GRANITE QUARRY – CHARLOTTE (STALLINGS) Trip Report

                                        One thing I forgot to post is that Bill found his iconic apple-filled B&G Pie www.bgpies.com at Barbecue Center in Lexington on Friday. I had a bite of it. The filling was better than I expected, not too gooped up with excessive corn starch or sugar, and just the right hint of cinnamon to highlight the apples. The pastry crust didn’t do much for me but I agreed that it wasn’t a bad snack.

                                        And Becky (North Carolina Distinguished Poet) created a poem, “Pit-Cooked”, following our visit to Lexington that captures the spirit, sights and scents of the rainy evening on the festival site.

                                        Continuing the chow report for Saturday, April 23, 2011:

                                        Saturday morning, I said good-bye to Becky and Bill, departing Winston-Salem to head off to Lexington to judge the cook-off. The judging team and contest organizers extended a very warm welcome to me as the individual who had traveled the farthest to join them. Several took me aside to offer recommendations for where I should try Lexington-style BBQ. And they were more than surprised that I’d already found my way to Barbecue Center and Lexington Barbecue #1 (thanks, ‘hounds!).

                                        I had the pleasure of meeting Porky LeSwine http://bbqjew.com/ and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Bruce Wilhelmsen http://www.bonedoctorsbbq.com at the judging table.

                                        Overall quality for the examples I had the chance to try at the Inaugural BBQ Capital Cook-off in Lexington was pretty high and the presentations showed the hand of seasoned, professional competitors. In one of barbecue-dom’s cultural centers, I had thought there would be more regional influence than I found. One difference is that some of the saucing seemed sweeter and less spicy than I’m used to, a nod to the deeper South judges, I was told. Three of the six rib entries were baby backs, whereas they’re more of an exception at home. The pork shoulder entries were particularly good. I thought that might be par for the course in the land where pork butt is king, but a local judge said our table had unusually strong entries and my theory went out the window. Guess this goes to show that competition barbecue defines its own style that spans regions. Entries here were closely aligned in presentation and taste to what I’ve judged in western contests.

                                        After the contest, I headed to Smiley’s Lexington BBQ.

                                        With a load of leftovers from Smiley’s, I pointed the Garmin to my destination near Charlotte. But not without making a small detour to try the dipped fried chicken at Reid’s Chicken “Home of Da’ Dip” in Granite Quarry.

                                        Later at my friends’ home in Matthews, the Dalmatians were all over me. The husband apologized saying that their dogs never misbehaved like that. The wife had an explanation, “They can’t help it, she smells like meat!” And indeed, after my shower to rinse off the smoke and dust, these barbecue-loving dogs were much more aloof for the rest of my visit.

                                        For a little late night nosh, I offered up the Smiley’s BBQ and some of the saved pork butt from the competition for my friends to try. Paul, who makes a mean pulled pork himself, couldn’t believe the smooth and tender texture of the medallion “money muscle”, proclaiming the competition meat, “butter”.

                                        Then he pulled out some pulled pork for me to taste from his local joint, Rock Store Bar-B-Q,
                                        http://www.rockstorebarbq.com/Home_Pa... in neighboring Stallings. Opened in 2005, Rock Store cooks with wood and is housed in a historic landmark that used to be a gas station. The thick, ropey strands of smooth, pulled pork had more moisture, tenderness and a lot more smoke than any of the chopped Lexington-style barbecue I’d tasted and this was even after it had been refrigerated for a day. The vinegar-pepper dip was spicier and less sweet than I’d tasted at the Lexington spots. I also tasted another thicker, tomato-based sauce that was milder in spicing. I understand that Rock Store also offers a mustard sauce, and I’m sorry I didn’t get to try it, as this was as close to South Carolina as my travels took me. The white coleslaw featured cabbage cut into shreds, rather than chopped, and a lot of mayonnaise. I’d be interested in hearing from locals who’ve tried the barbecue here.

                                        Smiley's Lexington BBQ
                                        917 Winston Rd, Lexington, NC 27295

                                        Rock Store Bar-B-Q
                                        3116 Old Monroe Rd, Stallings, NC 28104

                                        B&G Pies
                                        2400 Old Lexington Rd, Winston-Salem, NC 27107

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          KCBS' raison d'etre is enforcing conformity at the expense of regional idiosyncrasy, so I'm not surprised that the entries didn't stand out much from similarly sanctioned competitions where you're from.

                                          1. re: Naco

                                            A relative of mine (bless him) once got into a heated discussion with Keith Allen's wife at Alen&Son as to why they don't enter bbq competitions. This relative is from Kansas City and his position is that your bbq ain't good unless you're winning competitions.

                                            But that couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to NC bbq. You don't tend to see the top bbq restaurants ever participating in these events, especially because the judging elements push for conformity toward a product that is misaligned to NC style.

                                            1. re: mikeh

                                              Yeah- Ed Mitchell is the only exception to that I can think of, and we see how that ended in tears.

                                              1. re: mikeh

                                                Sammy Jones of Skylight Inn told me he'd be competing in Memphis in May this weekend, his first competition. He's teamed up with Rodney Scott of South Carolina and Pat Martin of Memphis. We had a good conversation about his practice trials with a Mangalitsa pig. Wish him luck!

                                                Skylight Inn
                                                4618 S Lee St, Ayden, NC

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  Wow, that does sound like a dream team! Skylight's BBQ stands out as one of the most distinctive I've ever had, though it's been some 15 years since I tried it. I just went to Scott's a few weeks ago, and I would rank their 'cue among the top two I've tried in SC.

                                                  I do share the concern that competition BBQ elevates 'cue as an American institution at the expense of the traditions and regional differences that make the history and foodways of BBQ so compelling. And specifically I think KCBS makes a big mistake not having a whole hog category at most (all?) of their events. Seems like they had an optional whole hog category for awhile, but it looks like maybe that's not so anymore? Let me know if I'm wrong.

                                              2. re: Naco

                                                Rather than KCBS, I'd blame KC Masterpiece for that. :-()

                                            2. CHARLOTTE and MATTHEWS Trip Report

                                              Our Easter Sunday start was timed perfectly for the lull during church services to avoid the usual wait at Jonathan’s in Matthews. My post on the Liver Mush Breakfast.

                                              We didn’t attend services ourselves but I was treated to a drive-by tour of Charlotte’s churches. I’ve never seen larger structures nor a higher density of houses of worship. The huge parking lots, lines of buses, high school auditoriums with traffic control officers to keep the worshipers moving along . . . all amazing to a visitor from outside the South.

                                              Eating just half of my hearty breakfast carried me well past lunch hour into the afternoon. Still, when my host asked whether I needed anything since he was going out, I announced, “It’s BO time!” The kids had been telling me how good the butter-laden biscuits made by the Charlotte-based fast food chain could be so I was curious. I clambered into the snazzy pick-up truck (leather seats, lifted, all-weather performance tires) and went for a spin to the Matthews branch of Bojangles.

                                              A quick poll of the kids’ favorites tipped me to order the Cajun filet biscuit combo that comes with a drink and "Bo rounds", $4.69. The filet of chicken breast dipped in hot sauce then battered and fried was on the dry side, but the very buttery and moist giant biscuit sandwiching the chicken was indeed as good as promised. Best of all though were the Bo rounds. The order taker had warned that it would take about four minutes for them to be cooked to order. Definitely worth the wait. Crunchy, very salty, good potato intensity, and so much better than the tater tots they’re often compared to. The higher crispy brown surface to volume ratio makes them superior. While I hate to think about what’s in them that tastes so addictive, the bit of onion adds a nice savoriness. Bojangles iced tea wasn't bad, I blended it half sweet and half unsweetened after tasting the sweet tea.

                                              Our Easter dinner was at Roosters:

                                              Cheeses by Goat Lady (North Carolina) and Sweet Grass Dairy (Georgia)

                                              Easter Sunday at Roosters Wood-Fired Kitchen in Charlotte

                                              Monday morning I made my own breakfast featuring Neese’s Country Sausage. I’m so glad I started a thread to sing its praises because I learned a lot more about the rest of Neese’s offerings.

                                              For lunch, we headed over to Asian Corner Mall for a three-part meal. I figured this was my best opportunity to find some Asian flavors and I came away satisfied.

                                              Cafe Sua Da @ Le's Sandwiches & Cafe

                                              BBQ Pork Bun and Banh Mi @ New Century

                                              Laotian Lunch at Pho Daravan

                                              Riding along for errands that afternoon gave me a chance to check out a typical Harris Teeter store.

                                              Then when dinner time rolled around, the son lobbied hard for Tin Tin. But his father said, “Melanie can walk out her door in San Francisco and have better Chinese food than that any time.” I was pleased that he’s so fond of Chinese eats and I hear that Tin Tin really packs ‘em in. Instead I was taken to Harper’s for a casual bite and another look at contemporary Southern cooking.

                                              Really crowded around 7:00pm on a Monday night, our teen had hoped to get a game table, but instead we had a booth in the dark bar area and a very friendly server. Still stuffed from our progressive lunch, I ordered lightly and opted for a selection of three sides: Collard greens, Southern green beans (with bacon), and Dirty rice. The collard greens, cut into thickish strips, seemed overly mature. On the tough and stringy side, they had a strong flavor and bitterness that the kitchen tried to bury under candied sugariness and spicy heat. The green beans were good, after all they were bacon’d, cooked to limp but not mushy. Dirty rice was very tasty. No liver or giblets that I could discern but rather some finely chopped mushroom, I think or something else that packed in some umami. The short-grain rice had a chewy texture and might have been brown rice but I couldn’t tell in the light. I had a taste of the cheese pizzas the men ordered. Very thin and crackery crust, just a whisper of zippy tomato sauce and a mix of cheeses melding with a smoky nuance from the wood-fired oven. Cut into squares, the best and most prized pieces are the ones with crust rolled around the rim that pick up a bit of char and go crunch in the mouth.

                                              My last activity was catching the rehearsal performance of teen daughter’s Charlotte AllStars Teal before she headed to the cheerleading championships that weekend where they took THIRD in the World. Yay, Teal!

                                              Tin Tin
                                              10215 Park Rd, Charlotte, NC 28210

                                              Harper's Restaurant
                                              6518 Fairview Rd, Charlotte, NC 28210

                                              1. Melanie, sorry I was to late responding to this post. If you are ever back in the Salisbury area, there are two places to try. The first is the Faith Soda Shop in Faith, NC. They have a very good beef brisket bbq sandwich as well as other things. The other is a cuban place called Mambo Grill. The is good, but the last time I tried to eat there the service was not good. Enjoy your post and hope you have a good time in NC.

                                                Mambo Grill
                                                1024 South Fulton St, Salisbury, NC 28146

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Tanglebriar

                                                  The address above for Mambo Grill is there old address. Their place now is on Fulton St. in Salisbury.

                                                  Mambo Grill
                                                  1024 South Fulton St, Salisbury, NC 28146

                                                  1. re: Tanglebriar

                                                    Thanks for the tip. I'm sorry I didn't get to try the medianoche from Mambo Grill when I passed through there. I've edited the Place record to change the address and add a link to the website. Any registered poster can edit those fields, so please feel free to make those changes as needed.

                                                    Faith's Soda Shop
                                                    115 N Main St, Salisbury, NC 28144

                                                    Mambo Grill
                                                    1024 South Fulton St, Salisbury, NC 28146