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

Monk’s Favorite Barbecue of 2021

Monk: While my hunch is that I had roughly as much barbecue as last year, I suspect the ratio of mediocre barbecue to great barbecue was higher than in past years. There’s always highlights to pick out, but let’s hope next year is a more favorable ratio.

In alphabetical order:

Jon G’s remains the gold standard for the Charlotte area. And it seems that the rest of the southeast is starting to catch on with Eater Carolinas naming them “Barbecue Restaurant of the Year” and Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn raving about them in an article from mid 2021. The future for Garren and Kelly remain bright.

Chopped pork sandwich from Noble Smoke – Charlotte, NC

Some of the meats at Noble Smoke can be a little hit or miss for me, but the Lexington-style chopped barbecue sandwich is ever reliable.

Speedy has said he often thinks the ribs at Peg Leg Porker are the best in the state of Tennessee, and who am I to argue? The full wings are also a must-order.

Randy’s ribs are a sub-regional variety with a sauce that I understand is found primarily in the Savannah area. It expanded my framework as to what barbecue is in different parts of the US.

Life-changing whole hog. So far I’ve only made it to Sam Jones’ outpost in Raleigh but I can’t wait to try this same tray at Skylight Inn this spring.

Sausage, wings, hash and rice, ribs, brisket, and turkey from Sweet Lew’s BBQ – Charlotte, NC (link to post)

Between the house-made sausage, the barbecue hash, and Lewis Donald’s ever-constant tweaking of his main meats, Sweet Lew’s continues to evolve, and I’m here for the the journey.

It’s a shame that Whispering Pines was takeout only but I’ll make the hour drive to Albemarle again I’m sure. Great Lexington-style barbecue.