Barbecue Bros Book Club: “Tar Heel Traveler Eats” by Scott Mason

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: “Tar Heel Traveler Eats” by Scott Mason is equal parts travelogue, memoir, and in-depth description of the journalistic process for a local feature newscaster. Mason has been doing “Tar Heel Traveler” segments for WRAL in Raleigh since the early 2000’s after working his way up through local news stations around the country. Mason has a folksy tone to his writing that is easy to read and the book goes by pretty quickly. While Mason’s writing is easy to read, all photos in the book are stills from the WRAL telecasts of his “Tar Heel Traveler” segment. I certainly get the practical reasons why, but it seems like such a missed opportunity given the number and breadth of the places he visited.

Subtitled “Food Journeys Across North Carolina,” his journey starts with profiles of hot dog restaurants before moving on to hamburgers then barbecue and finally ending with sweets and desserts. Along the way, he visits many of the iconic North Carolina institutions that should be on everyone’s list – barbecue or otherwise. But of course, what I was most interested in were the chapters on barbecue.

After a chapter where he acknowledges how much of a no-win situation writing about barbecue is in North Carolina (what with the east vs west/Lexington rivalry), Mason nevertheless delved into barbecue restaurants after getting his fill of the hot dog and hamburger joints. Despite being born in North Carolina he is apparently not a huge fan of barbecue and would almost always prefer a juicy cheeseburger or two mustard dogs over it. I’ll just assume that’s because he moved to Massachusetts shortly after he was born.

In any case, the barbecue restaurants he writes about his visits to are Bill’s Barbecue (Wilson), Parker’s (Wilson), B’s Barbecue (Greenville), Pik N Pig (Carthage), Wilber’s Barbecue (Goldsboro), and Clyde Cooper’s (Raleigh). Certainly not a comprehensive list, and more a list of easy-to-drive-to places from Raleigh. Each chapter deals with the circumstances that led him to that town or restaurant from his newscaster perspective and how he obtained the footage for the feature story, whether it was interviewing the owner of the restaurant or by going table to table to get sound bites from willing customers. Mason usually has an interesting anecdote or two before reflecting on his experience at the restaurant and closing out the chapter. It’s certainly a different reading experience from other books that might offer more of a profile of each barbecue restaurant, but not an unwelcome one.

If you’re interested in not only North Carolina barbecue restaurants, but classic southern ones, read “Tarheel Traveler Eats” and keep a pen and paper handy so you can jot down all the places you should visit across the state.

Available at Amazon or wherever you buy books

Linkdown: 7/27/20

“Black Smoke” by James Beard Award-winning “Soul Food Scholar” Adrian Miller is officially a go for Spring 2021. Very excited to read this next year.

A short interview with Derrick Walker of Smoke-A-Holics BBQ on “Tex-Soul” and being a black pitmaster

This year’s Barbecue Festival has been canceled, which should surprise no one

John Tanner’s Barbecue Blog stops by a few eastern NC barbecue restaurants on his way to the beach: Boss Hog’s Backyard Barbecue in Washington, Stephenson’s in Willow Spring, Marty’s in Wilson, the rebooted Wilber’s in Goldsboro, and Southern Smoke in Garland:

City Limits Barbeque gets a shout out in this feature on Columbia

22% of Americans say Texas style is their favorite regional style of barbecue, according to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll

Steven Raichlen has some tips for barbecued ribs, which he calls”barbecue at its most primal and unadorned”, in the New York Times

The “Ultimate Guide to Barbecue,” from The Wall Street Journal

Pig Beach is heading south, but not just for the winter; it plans to open a Florida location in West Palm Beach by the end of the year

“Carolina-style” BBQ cauliflower? C’mon man…

Linkdown: 7/22/20

Welcome Back, Wilber’s!

Barbecue occupies several spots on GQ’s list of 53 Things You Should Eat Before Summer is Over

The California barbecue scene is on the upswing

Smorgasburg has reopened

RIOT RIBS

Barbecue Center is closed this week due to vacation

Noble Smoke is celebrating one year open this Saturday

Linkdown: 6/24/20

RIP Wink’s Barbeque in Salisbury

Big Al’s BBQ in Raleigh is refusing to adhere to social distancing mandates from the Governor; come on people do your part

Picnic, Lewis Barbecue, and Southern Smoke BBQ all get quoted in this article on potential changes in the food supply chain in a post-COVID world

Sneak peek at the refreshed Wilber’s

Last week’s Smoke Sheet caught up with Brandon Simpson of Jazzy B’s BBQ food truck in Kansas City

In Armenia, their traditional barbecue is mainly pork ribs and chops and the meat is cooked on a “mangal” during a “khorovat”

Excellent advice

Cheerwine Lager from New Sarum Brewing sold out in 3 hours last Friday