Eastern NC Whole Hog Tour: Sam Jones BBQ – Winterville, 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!

Part I – B’s Barbecue

Part II – Skylight Inn

Sam Jones BBQ – Winterville

Address: 715 W Fire Tower Rd, Winterville, NC 28590
Order: Two meat combo with collards and potato salad (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Monk: In Pitt County, there seem to only be a couple of barbecue options on Sundays. B’s Barbecue, Skylight Inn, and Bum’s Restaurant are all closed to give those family-run operations a day of rest (though of course the prep for the next week surely begins). Parker’s Barbecue has a few Greenville-area locations and is open 10-8:30 seven days a week, but is a gas-cooked barbecue that may actually be better known for its fried chicken. For true ‘cue, wood-smoked barbecue, your main option is Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, between Ayden and Greenville. You may recall that the Monk family had previously checked out the Raleigh outpost of Sam Jones BBQ last year, with great results.

While I was still very much on the whole hog train, Sam Jones BBQ gave the family a few more options to order something else besides barbecue (I know, I know). It also has a full bar with local beer options on tap including the Sam Jones BBQ Eager Clever Kölsch, a beer made in honor of Sam Jones by Pitt Street Brewing in Greenville that complements barbecue.

Compared with the barbecue I had just the day before at Skylight Inn, although Sam Jones BBQ’s whole hog was very good it somewhat paled in comparison. The chop was coarser, the cracklins weren’t quite as crisp, and the barbecue portion was a little lacking. Still, it was very good barbecue and one that I’d recommend to anyone.

On my third barbecue restaurant in Pitt County, I finally tried the pit chicken that seems to be the second barbecue item at each restaurant. We’re on record here in rarely ordering poultry at barbecue restaurants (although I’m starting to change my mind about turkey) and while this “slow-cooked chicken” was rather good I wouldn’t necessarily order next time

I switched it up as far as sides went and went with collards and potato salad.The collards were Mrs. Monk approved – she’s contemplated starting a “Collards Sisters” blog so she’s clearly an expert – and the potato salad was a nice changeup from the slaw I’d had a couple times in the past 24 hours.

The original Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville knocks it out of the park, and seem to be doing well, as evidenced by the near-constant line out the door throughout our Sunday lunch visit. While there are clearly better options for barbecue nearby (which in this case means transcendent), I would happily eat at a Sam Jones BBQ were it in my hometown. Speaking of which: any plans to open a store in Charlotte, Sam?

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Pork – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

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: “Pitt County Brew and ‘Cue Trail”

Monk: Pitt County, NC is home to several classic NC barbecue joints including B’s Barbecue in Greenville as well as Skylight Inn and Bum’s Restaurant in Ayden plus newer ones like Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville. Throw a few breweries in the mix and baby, you got a stew goin’. NC Weekend checked it out 2 years ago when it started and reported back.

Description: Lovers of barbecue and beer can have a field day in Pitt County where you can follow a brew and ‘cue trail, get your tickets stamped, and have a whole lot of fun.

Linkdown: 6/13/18

– I think this is a pretty big deal. I may be mistaken, but I can’t recall in my 6 years of paying attention Stamey’s advertising their longtime Degar (from central Vietnam) pitmaster Chhanuon Ponn so prominently (though I know they have his photo up in the restaurant).

– Bob Garner’s latest is on Skylight Inn, Bum’s Restaurant, Sam Jones BBQ, and six generations of barbecue in Pitt County:

The owners of The Skylight Inn, Bum’s Restaurant and Sam Jones BBQ all trace their beginnings to common ancestor Skilten Dennis, who began selling barbecue to camp meeting groups around Ayden from the back of a covered wagon sometime in the mid-1800s.

– Huckberry has a short profile on Rodney Scott as well as his banana pudding recipe in their latest catalog

– Garden & Gun writes up Texas A&M’s Barbecue University but they gotta give NC State’s BBQ Camp some love!

– Food writer Peter Meehan (recently of “Ugly Delicious” fame): “Entering a National Barbecue Competition Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”

I became a guy who was “into barbecue,” which, for as true as it is, is still somewhat painful to type. Talking Heads had told us that day was coming, when you wake up and ask yourself, Well, how did I get here?

(It me)

– Food & Wine on how Jess Pryles became a hardcore carnivore

– Food & Wine also features several other women of barbecue in their latest issue: Pat Mares of Ruby’s BBQ in Austin and Laura Loomis of Two Bros BBQ in San Antonio

– Food Republic: “Do yourself a favor this summer and learn to properly barbecue tofu”
Me: “I’m good”

– Daniel Vaughn remembers Anthony Bourdain