Eastern NC Whole Hog Tour: Skylight Inn – Ayden, NC

As the old saying goes, more often than not a person’s favorite barbecue is what he or she was raised on. Here at Barbecue Bros, it should be no secret that we are Lexington-style barbecue fans (sometimes known as Piedmont- or Western-style barbecue). Each of the three of us were raised in High Point, NC, just under 20 miles up I-85 from the Barbecue Capital of NC.

However, despite the two warring styles of barbecue in the state, I have never harbored any ill-will to my whole hog compatriots to the east. While I’ve spent many a tank of gas exploring all the Lexington-style joints in the western Piedmont of NC, I’ve bemoaned for years the fact that I just simply haven’t had a ton of reasons to spend much time in the eastern part of the state where whole hog and a vinegar pepper sauce reign supreme. 

Thankfully, the oldest Monkette’s gymnastics competition travels recently took the whole Monk family to Greenville, NC for USAG State Championships. We even stayed in an AirBnB in Ayden. Finally, I had a reason to be in Pitt County for a couple days. I hoped to make the most of being in the heart of whole hog country!

Last week in part I of my eastern NC whole hog tour I checked out out B’s Barbecue. This week, it’s a big one: Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden.

Skylight Inn – Ayden

Address: 4618 Lee St, Ayden, NC 28513
Order: Barbecue tray with cornbread and slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Monk: After breakfast at B’s Barbecue, I went with the Monk family and in-laws to meet old family friends at Skylight Inn in Ayden. Truth be told, despite my excitement over finally trying B’s the main event of the weekend was finally making it to Skylight Inn. This Jones family restaurant has been open since 1947 and is truly one of the cathedrals of NC barbecue, regardless of style.

Thousands of people make the pilgrimage every day, and here are hundreds of videos on YouTube documenting some of those journeys. When Daniel Vaughn was named Barbecue Editor at Texas Monthly in 2013, one of the first work trips he made was to NC and to Skylight Inn specifically. I even briefly entertained the thought of making the journey east to Skylight Inn for my official 40th birthday celebration earlier this year. Its that revered.

Despite having had similar style pork at Sam Jones BBQ last year in Raleigh as well as whole hog smoked by Sam Jones at Midwood Smokehouse in 2013 and Free Range Brewing Pig Picking in 2017, something about the whole hog at Skylight Inn just tasted better. Perhaps it was the thrill of finally being in this hallowed building with the sounds of hog being chopped on a wood block right behind the registers, but the cracklins seemed crispier and the pork seemed fresher. It was truly life-changing whole hog. 

I can appreciate what the Jones family does with their cornbread, but it will never be my favorite. I actually don’t mind the denser texture, but I always wish it was a tad bit sweeter. However, I will still get it anytime I’m in one of their restaurants. As per usual, the mayo-based slaw was standard and inoffensive.

Was Skylight Inn everything I expected coming in? The answer is a resounding yes. Would I go back again? Again, a resounding yes. My only regret here is that we lingered at Skylight Inn a little too long which prevented me getting to the other Ayden classic barbecue joint Bum’s Restaurant (owned by a cousin) before they closed at 2pm on Saturday. Otherwise, the meal and experience at Skylight Inn was pretty much flawless. I can’t wait to make it back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Recap: Smoke & Grapes at the Charlotte Wine & Food Festival featuring Jon G’s Barbecue

Monk: This past Sunday, the closing event of Charlotte Wine & Food was a “Smoke & Grapes” event with Jon G’s Barbecue from Peachland paired with some beautiful wines from Andis Wines from the Sierra Foothills of California. Mrs. Monk and I were fortunate enough to be invited to it by friends of the blog Ariail and Andrew Barker.

After a cocktail hour with their Cheerwine hot link and an amazing beef rib croissant (wine pairing: 2021 Andis Sauvignon Blanc and 2019 Andis Cabernet Franc), we were treated to a three course meal of a good bit of their menu (all paired with some beautiful reds from Andis, of course). The first course was of course brisket served along with slaw, jalapeño cheddar grits, and beans. The brisket was a Jon G’s brisket, enough said. Wine pairing: 2020 Painted Fields Curse of Knowledge (Bordeaux Blend)

Second course was their ribs served with mac and cheese, Mexican street corn, and their amazing brisket fried rice. Mrs. Monk was most excited about three brisket fried rice but the spares were as good as ever. Wine pairing: 2019 Painted Fields Old Vine Zinfandel

The dessert course (not pictured) was an Oreo dirt pudding and Nutter Butter Pie and finished off the filling meal simply but nicely. Wine pairing: 2019 Andis Petite Sirah

For folks who haven’t previously had the pleasure, this was a nice way to try Garren and Kelli’s self-described “comfort food” without having to wait in line at Peachland or a food truck service. Speaking of waiting in line, one of the prized live auction items was a Golden Ticket to skip the line at the Peachland Store. It went for $900, if I’m not mistaken. I should also mention that a percentage of proceeds went to a handful of charities in Charlotte that help underprivileged kids.

For those of us fortunate enough to have have it previously, the consistency of all of the food should be noted. Everything tasted just as it always does, which is exceptional.

All in all, a fantastic event featuring great wines from a family-owned winery as well the amazing barbecue of a family-owned barbecue restaurant.

Eastern NC Whole Hog Tour: B’s Barbecue – Greenville, NC

As the old saying goes, more often than not a person’s favorite barbecue is what he or she was raised on. Here at Barbecue Bros, it should be no secret that we are Lexington-style barbecue fans (sometimes known as Piedmont- or Western-style barbecue). Each of the three of us were raised in High Point, NC, just under 20 miles up I-85 from the Barbecue Capital of NC.

However, despite the two warring styles of barbecue in the state, I have never harbored any ill-will to my whole hog compatriots to the east. While I’ve spent many a tank of gas exploring all the Lexington-style joints in the western Piedmont of NC, I’ve bemoaned for years the fact that I just simply haven’t had a ton of reasons to spend much time in the eastern part of the state where whole hog and a vinegar pepper sauce reign supreme. 

Thankfully, the oldest Monkette’s gymnastics competition travels recently took the whole Monk family to Greenville, NC for USAG State Championships. We even stayed in an AirBnB in Ayden. Finally, I had a reason to be in Pitt County for a couple days. I hoped to make the most of being in the heart of whole hog country!

B’s Barbecue – Greenville

Address: 751 State Rd 1204, Greenville, NC 27858
Order: Barbecue diner with potatoes and slaw, dozen corn sticks
Pricing: $

Monk: My first stop of the weekend would be B’s Barbecue in western Greenville off State Road 43. If you are fortunate (or depending on your viewpoint, unfortunate enough) to have East Carolina University (ECU) fans in your life, you will have undoubtedly heard about the fabled B’s when it comes to comparing barbecue bonafides.

B’s is now owned by three sisters, the daughters of Bill “B” McLawhorn. They are Judy, Donna, and Tammy and their mother Peggy also worked with them before her retirement a few years back. Bill passed away in 2016 but had stepped away from the business in the early 2000s. Another thing they inherited from their father was B’s unique way of smoking their hogs; they smoke over only charcoal briquettes (bags of Kingsford, if I’m not mistaken). That’s right, no hardwood oak or hickory coals. That decision was apparently made after a few smokehouse fires a few years back. Based on my experience, I have a feeling the locals could care less. Neither could I.

Open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 until sold out (or 2:30, whichever comes first) and without any indoor dining, you will almost certainly wait in a line. Particularly if ECU has a home football game on a Saturday. But this is no central Texas-style line; it moves fairly quickly and efficiently. Arriving right at 9am on a Saturday, I was 11th or so in line and got my food within 40 minutes. Part of that is because B’s has a pretty limited menu: barbecue, chicken, bread (corn sticks) and sides of slaw, potatoes, or green beans. So really, you should know your order by the time you get up there.

Being a chilly and overcast morning, instead of eating on the picnic tables outside I opted to sneak some bites in the car before making my way back to our AirBnb. The chopped whole hog pork was flavorful if not overly smoky. It was also leaner than the other whole hog I’d have later that weekend. Regardless, this barbecue fully lived up to my lofty expectations.

The cornsticks at B’s (called “bread” on the menu board) were the first corn sticks I’ve personally had and was my favorite cornmeal of the weekend. I bought an extra dozen and took them home to the family. The slaw was about what I’d expect but I did enjoy the potatoes, a simple side that’s not really found in the Piedmont.

At the time of this excellent Our State article from 2016 by Jeremy Markovich, the three sisters were all in their 50s and only saw it continuing for maybe another 10 years. If that math holds, then we may only be talking about a few more years of B’s Barbecue. I fully intend to make it back at least once or twice more in case it comes to that.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

Friday Find: Raleigh’s Dampf Good BBQ on The NC F&B Podcast

Monk: Dampf Good BBQ has recently come onto the Raleigh barbecue scene, bringing a distinctly Texas take to the pork-centric capital. Here, Nick Dampf sits down with The NC F&B Guys and describes, among other things, his background, approach to barbecue, and the intricacies of smoking on a dual 1000 gallon behemoth of a pit.

Description: We sat down with Nick Dampf himself to talk about his transition from Cisco sales rep to a full-time pitmaster (a term Nick’s too humble to use). We learned:

  • What do you get when you mix weekend pop-ups, Texas style BBQ, and a 2000 gallon smoker? Dampf Good BBQ of course!
  • How to work on a behemoth smoker
  • why the interest in pork steak is.