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Random ramblings on our North Carloina trip.

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    Random ramblings on our North Carloina trip.

    After eight days and 5 different BBQ joints, plus a bakery, I thought I'd summarize things and give some final thoughts.

    The first purpose of this trip was to drop off Mom to stay with Dad on the property he bought to build his retirement home on. That was a bit of an adventure up the side of a mountain on a gravel road that has seen better days.

    The secondary purpose was to visit with and meet some of the GF's extended family. We had a lot of time to visit, and I got meet what we up North call "good people" Kind, sharing, and always welcoming. They were a bit confused by the Yankee that drives hours to eat when there is food at the house, but they only talked about it behind my back.

    The third goal was to hit up the local BBQ scene and get an idea of what it's all about. We did a decent job of this, and have a slightly better idea of what Western North Carolina BBQ is about. My biggest take away is that "BBQ" has two distinct definitions in that part of NC. In my mind, I separate them into the "Old School" and the "New Breed".

    Chopped pork shoulder is what 99% of people in the area call "BBQ", and is what you get in the countless Old School places in nearly every town big enough to have a Post Office. If you get to a town of any size, there will be several places serving BBQ, and everyone has an opinion of which is the best place. In addition to BBQ these places also offer what I call the basic diner menu. Burgers, fries, sandwiches, and the like are all on offer at both of the Old Schools places we stopped at, and all the places we researched. With only two of the places we ate at being the Old School variety I'm far from an expert on the subject. One place, Red Bridges, was a real hit, and one, Central BBQ, was a complete miss. My problem with the Old School is the basic premise that chopped pork shoulder is enough to call a place a BBQ Joint. It doesn't help that pork shoulder is not one my all time favorite meats. I make it by request, but have stopped doing it for my own enjoyment. There was one place that makes me rethink that position, but they were decidedly in the New Breed category. I don't think I'll be making special trips to Old School places in the future. If I'm driving near Shelby at a meal time, I'd happily stop at Red Bridges, and I know I'll get a good meal. I might even stop at a place I haven't been to that someone here gives a good review of. But rolling the dice on a 60 mile drive hoping for the best? No thanks. I don't want to give the impression that there is anything wrong with Old School BBQ, or the people that enjoy it. If this style is your thing, by all means enjoy it to its fullest. I just don't think it's ever going to be something I will go out of my way for.

    The New Breed is what I think of when someone says, BBQ Joint. A variety of smoked meats on offer, and few if any options of non-smoked meats. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of New Breed places popping up all over that could just as easily disappear without it being a loss to the BBQ world. The funny thing is, there is nothing new about these places at all. BBQ joints like this have been around a lot longer than I have. I just think of them as new because of the great growth that all styles of BBQ are enjoying these days. For my personal tastes, the New Breed is what I'm looking for, and will happily drive an hour or more on the chance I'll find a gem.

    Out of the places we went there were some clear winners in categories I kept track of.

    Best hush puppies goes to Red Bridges in Shelby. Sweet and crispy with a moist and cake like interior. These were not the fried balls of corn bread that many serve. Theses were a dish all unto themselves.
    Of the cornbread style hush puppies, Nobel Smoke did them the best.

    Best beans Goes to 12 Bones. Rich, firm, and full of flavor.

    Best pulled/chopped pork hands down goes to 12 Bones South in Arden. This was the pulled pork that set a new standard for me.

    Best ribs go to 12 Bones. Just simply rubbed, well cooked ribs.

    Best turkey goes to Nobel Smoke. Perfectly cooked with just the right amount of smoke.

    Best Banana Pudding goes to Red Bridges. We never got a banana pudding that was next level from any of the places we stopped, but Bridges was the best of the bunch.

    Best overall goes to 12 Bones. When the only thing you can knock a place for is how they cut the turkey, you have a place worth traveling to.

    A big thank you to everyone that made suggestions, and helped make the trip better than it would have been if I was left to my own devices
    Last edited by willxfmr; October 8, 2021, 08:04 PM.

    Thank you, You done Good, PBR Good


      Next time come a bit further East I don't have a dog in the fight, being from SoCal and Vegas I'm used to fusion and variety. But having lived in Eastern NC for over 10 years now, I can appreciate what they consider BBQ.

      Bad BBQ doesn't usually last too long where I'm at, 3 places have closed in the time I've been here. There is no tolerance for bad vinegar based BBQ, and if you serve something other than vinegar based it has to be top notch for the transplants like me, 'cause the locals won't support ya

      Raleigh has some good places, Fayetteville has some good non-vinegar based bbq spots thanks to Fort Bragg, where I'm at seems some folks (right now its food trucks and maybe a special at a brick and mortar) are starting to do the Austin, TX thing and start doing some funky stuff to stand out (nothing has gained a foothold yet, but there's been attempts). My wife and I love food, so it's exciting that people are starting to experiment, even when it's a dud.


      • willxfmr
        willxfmr commented
        Editing a comment
        Yeah, somewhere along the line I got my East and West turned around. It's been a long week.

      Thanks for taking us along on the trip. It has been a fun ride.


        Love reading about this! Thanks!!



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