Mr. Fertel locates the birthplace of whole-hog barbecue in eastern North Carolina. In aptly named Pitt County, he visits three whole-hog establishments. The agriculture-and-livestock-rich region, he says, is “a bastion, or pit, as it were, where the nation’s oldest vernacular barbecue tradition has been slowly smoking for nearly two centuries.”
– Matthew Odam recently went on a 16-stop barbecue tour throughout Texas
Name: Short Sugar’s Pit Bar-B-Q Date: 2/16/16 Address: 1328 South Scales Street, Reidsville, NC Order: Chopped tray with fries and hushpuppies, Cheerwine (link to menu) Price: ~$11
Speedy: A work trip recently brought me to Reidsville, NC, and since I don’t really happen through this small NC town too often, it seemed like a great opportunity to visit another spot on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail – Short Sugar’s.
Monk: One of the first goals for this blog (other than finding the best barbecue in Charlotte) was to visit each joint on the NC Historic Barbecue Trail. But we’ve been a little lax lately, having visited only one joint in 2015. While there are a few that are a bit east and may end up requiring a dedicated trip, there’s definitely a couple within easy driving distance. Maybe we’ll hit another this year and double our 2015 output!
Speedy: Short Sugar’s is advertised as a drive-in, but in reality, it’s more like an old school diner. There are plenty of tables inside, as well as a lunch counter, and patrons are invited to seat themselves upon entry. Like a typical diner, the menu is fairly diverse, but there is a small section devoted to the barbecue. My order was easy – the barbecue tray with hushpuppies and slaw. When I found out from the waitress that they served white slaw, I quickly subbed in fries instead.
The food came out fairly quickly and I was ready to dig in. It didn’t take me long to figure out why Short Sugars has a sweetener in its name. The barbecue was covered in a dip that was heavy on the brown sugar. While good, it was just a little too sweet for my taste. The meat was chopped fine and very tender, and I still enjoyed my portion. Other than the sweetness, I had two complaints – I didn’t seem to get any outside brown in my portion (I didn’t ask for any), and my ‘cue was a little lukewarm. I imagine it has been chopped a couple hours ago and not placed in a heat lamp. All that being said, I still enjoyed the pork.
The hushpuppies were really good. They also had a sweetness to them, but one that’s more appropriate for the side than it is for the main course. The fries were typical crinkle cut fries, so nothing exciting there.
I have certain expectations whenever I hit up a joint on the historic NC barbecue trail. While Short Sugar’s wasn’t the worst trail joint I’ve hit (and overall I did enjoy the meal), I was slightly disappointed. If I ever find myself in Reidsville again, I wouldn’t be opposed to stopping again, but I won’t be going out of my way to do so.
Name: Switzerland Cafe and General Store Date: 7/18/14 Address: 9440 State Highway 226A, Pisgah National Forest, Marion, NC 28752 Order: Speedy: Cafe Barbeque Platter; Monk: The Whole Trout (link to menu) Price: Speedy: $10.25; Monk: $11.45
Monk: After we left 12 Bones in Arden, Speedy and I headed to Switzerland Cafe and General Store in Little Switzerland. Side note: who else knew that there was a Little Switzerland in North Carolina? Show of hands? No one else? ANYWAYS, in case you were wondering it is located just off the intersection of Highway 226A and the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Marion. Switzerland Cafe was the most recent addition to the NC Historical Barbecue Trail, essentially replacing Deano’s in Mocksville. And next to Herb’s in Murphy, I’m willing to bet its the most remotely located.
Speedy: We went on a rainy/foggy afternoon, so we really couldn’t see that well where we were driving. To say it’s off the beaten path is an understatement. Now this could be a good thing, as a joint has to attract business to stay open, and the more remote it is, the harder it is to attract business. However, whenever a barbecue joint’s main attraction is something other than the ‘cue, I’m skeptical.
Monk: Before ordering, we checked out the smoker located in a colorfully decorated shack out back. We stumbled upon a couple of workers checking on some pork butts in the smoker and got to check it out a little bit. Switzerland Cafe uses a vertical smoker with little more than a pan separating the hickory wood coals from the stack of pork butts. This was definitely a unique technique I haven’t seen in other pits on our barbecue travels.
Speedy: And honestly, I’m not sure it’s a technique I’d recommend. It does keep the direct heat off of the meat, but seems like it would keep some smoke away as well. However, it was a super cool smoker and awesome opportunity to check it out.
But we weren’t there to look at the smoker – it was time to eat. As we had already had a massive barbecue meal at 12 Bones, I decided to stick to the essential – the “barbeque cafe platter,” complete with slaw and baked beans. Digging in, something about the pork was a little off to me. It was plenty tender, but the taste was just not exactly what I expected. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked the expected pork flavor. My best guess is that the odd taste is due to being cooked in the same smoker as the fish.
Monk: Speaking of the fish, I tried “The Whole Trout” appetizer as my dish since it was so unique (not to mention I also was stuffed from 12 Bones). I apparently didn’t read the menu too carefully because as I took a forkful of the trout I was surprised by the fact that it was chilled. I could taste the smoke – unlike the pork cooked over hickory, the fish is cooked over applewood (h/t) – but it was just unexpected and different. I think its worth trying once, but if I ever find myself back I probably won’t order it again.
One of the owners also brought us out a smoked salmon BLT because she wanted us to try, and I took a sliver. Had I been hungrier, I would have eaten the whole thing because that thing was pretty delicious. They also offer a smoked trout BLT, but we didn’t taste that.
Speedy: Overall, Switzerland Cafe was a fine barbecue meal, but likely the last I’ll ever eat there. I think Monk liked it better than I did, but the location is just so remote that it would take an amazing meal to compensate. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t there for me.
But at least we got to check another one off the trail list…