Barbecue Bros Book Club: “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries” by D.G. Martin

Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.

Monk: For whatever reason, several of the books I’ve been checking out during quarantine are of a similar ilk. That is, books compiling profiles of different classic eateries – some North Carolina and some not, some barbecue and some not – accompanied by personal anecdotes from the author. These books can serve as guidebooks for older places that should be celebrated and visited and are usually pretty quick and interesting reads.

Which leads me to “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints” by North Carolina author D.G. Martin. During his travels as a lawyer and politician, he had the good fortune to visit many a classic restaurant across the state of North Carolina. Originally published in 2016, an update has been put on hold due to the coronavirus calling into questions the status of many of the restaurants featured in the book. Regardless, its still a good document of the times even if it grows more and more outdated by the day.

Smartly, Martin organizes his chapters by the interstate highways that crisscross North Carolina (i.e. Interstates 26, 40, 85, 77, etc.). From there, he profiles restaurants that are easy stops off the highway and that he has personally visited, oftentimes name dropping politicians and friends along the way.

Of the 120 or so restaurants profiled, roughly 50 are barbecue joints. Predictably the chapter on Interstate 85 is heavy on barbecue, followed by 40 and 95. The usual suspects are there, but Martin covers the undercelebrated ones such as Backyard BBQ Pit in Durham, Hursey’s Bar-B-Q in Alamance County, the recently shuttered Hill’s Lexington Barbecue in Winston-Salem, and Fuller’s Old Fashion Bar-B-Q in Lumberton and Fayetteville.

After this book from D.G. Martin and similar ones from Bob Garner, the Tar Heel Traveler Scott Mason, and John T. Edge (in a future book club entry), I am looking forward to a different perspective from “Soul Food Scholar” Adrian Miller in his forthcoming book “Black Smoke.” That book will focus on the contributions of black pitmasters and is scheduled to come out next year from UNC Press, the same publisher as this book. Regardless, “North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries” is worth checking out and even sticking in your glovebox for future roadtrips.

The Gambling Stick – Nashville, TN (food truck)

Name: The Gambling Stick
Address: 501 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Order: Beef brisket, pulled pork, “pigsket”, beef back ribs + vegetable slaw (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Speedy: A place I’ve wanted to visit for a while but just hadn’t gotten around to is The Gambling Stick, a permanent food truck in East Nashville. It’s conveniently located next to the Porter Road Butcher Shop, where they get all of their meat. There are a couple of picnic tables outside The Gambling Stick if you want to eat there, but it’s basically a food truck in a parking lot so I got my order to go. I made sure to try most of the meats available (skipping the hot link), as I’d read good things across the board. The meal was nicely packed, so I dove in as soon as I got home, hoping to continue my streak of good ‘cue lately. 

Monk: It looks like Porter Road Butcher Shop specializes in “local, pasture-raised, and antibiotic free with no added hormones” that is regularly visited by the butcher so kudos to them on getting their meat from an ethically responsible shop.  

I must say, I’m actually surprised you skipped the hot link, being the spice fiend that you are. Did it have dairy in it?

Speedy: I didn’t ask. Sometimes you just have to make tough decisions, Monk, and I felt four meats was enough for me that day.

Monk: I would say what’s one more meat but glass houses and all…

Speedy: I’ll start with the good: both pork products were good to very good. The pulled pork had a nice smoke flavor, but was just slightly dry. I was provided with some vinegar based sauce (available in regular and spicy); however, I didn’t find the sauce too appealing. It was thicker than I like in a vinegar based sauce and may have had some mustard in it. Overall, I didn’t think it worked.

Fortunately, the “pigsket” which I was told was “pork brisket,” did not need any sauce. It was moist and very well seasoned and just hit the spot. I’m not sure exactly what cut of meat this was – perhaps a tenderloin – but it was by far my favorite part of the meal. In fact, if I go back to The Gambling Stick, this will be the reason. 

Monk: This cut of meat really piqued my interest so I did a little digging. Based on the name I half expected it to be some sort of turducken-like frankenstein of pork tenderloin stuffed inside a pork shoulder stuffed inside a brisket but after some half-assed internet research, it appears to be cut from around the breastbone of the pig. It sounds incredible, though.

Speedy: The beef products were both disappointing. The brisket was quite dry and needed more seasoning (both salt and pepper). The need for seasoning also translated to the beef rib. You don’t see beef back ribs often, and I think there’s a reason for that. It’s a tough cut of meat to get tender, and unfortunately these beef ribs failed to hit the mark in taste and tenderness.

Monk: I must say, I’m happy to see you digging into the Nashville barbecue scene. Perhaps a Nashville Top Joints post is in the works? 

Speedy: Monk – spoiler alert!

Monk: …my bad…

Speedy: Overall, I was a little disappointed in The Gambling Stick, as I had read really positive things. Overall, I think the pork products were good, but the beef missed the mark. The “pigsket” alone makes it worth a visit, but I don’t see myself becoming a regular. 

Ratings:
Atmosphere – Not Rated
Pulled Pork – 3 hogs
“Pigsket” – 4 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Beef Back Ribs – 2 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

The Gambling Stick Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato