Sunday, December 27, 2009

Going to Carolina With My Stomach

The Sherbs and I have followed my father-in-law down to North Carolina for his barbecue tour of the Research Triangle area, where we have tried our darnedest to eat Carolina barbecue at every meal, save for the complementary breakfast at our hotel, which includes a pitiful mockery of bagels as well as worse-than-McDonald's® chicken biscuits, which even after a healthy microwaving tasted like a chicken nugget on butter-flavored sponge.

Anyway, to the barbecue reviews. As the Sherbs and I agreed, I'll review the meats, which I eat, while the Sherbs will comment on the various tasty side dishes, which she had more opportunity to sample.

One of the great pleasures of Carolina barbecue is that at least two hush puppies come with every meat product. The number of sides may vary, the presence of a biscuit is not guaranteed, but a somewhat corn flour-based fried object is a sweet crispy addition to every meal. And it's always good, although each place does it differently.

To the places:
BUZ & NED'S BARBECUE - Richmond, VA
As is usual for I-95, we ran into traffic between Fort Belvoir and Fredericksburg, so we couldn't quite get to North Carolina for lunch yesterday. Still, we made it to Richmond by lunchtime, so we went to Buz & Ned's, the place that beat Bobby Flay at a "throwdown" regarding ribs.

Best Food: surprisingly, I liked the pulled chicken sandwich the best. It was moist and flavorful in its sweet and spicy sauce.
Second Best Food: the ribs. I can see why Bobby Flay lost to these guys. They make a meaty, sweet, and very edible rib.

Q SHACK - Durham, NC
After touring some of downtown Durham, which is not quite as Blue Devil-themed as one would expect, we went to the Q Shack, a homey restaurant with a no-nonsense ordering system and rapid delivery of orders (as opposed to the passive-aggressive note for "piggies to cool your jets" at Buz & Ned's). I did miss a chance at the fried bologna sandwich, which seems like it would be incredible, but of everything else -

Best Food: The pulled pork. Comes in its own sweet sauce, and is basically able to be eaten alone on a fork.
Second Best Food: a tie. The smoked beef sausage is pretty darned incredible; I'm a sucker for kielbasa-style sausage, and the addition of smoky flavor makes it irresistible to me. Also very tasty were the ribs, which appeared to be flavored with something like cumin, which really was quite tasty, although definitely a particular taste; those expecting regular St. Louis or Carolina ribs will be disappointed.
Surprisingly Better Than Expected: the smoked turkey. It's moist and tasty, although it is still turkey, which is not a particularly interesting bird, so not my first choice.

THE PIT - Raleigh, NC
After traipsing around Raleigh on the city's visitor center's self-guided walking tour, which had one of the most misleadingly marked maps I have ever toured from (the little red dots were placed approximately where the site was, which was not helpful to determining which corner a particular building was on), we went to The Pit, which was well recommended, and not just for the barbecued tofu, which the Sherbs will tell us about. Unlike the previous two establishments, this is a sit-down restaurant with table service. Be aware that the two barbecue sauces both have different pour rates; the molasses sauce is slow as molasses, but the vinegar sauce is really fast-pouring; be careful. Also - the fried okra is better here than at the Q Shack; the Q's is a little overdone.

Best Food: The ribs. My in-laws liked Buz & Ned's better, but I found these the best kind of ribs in terms of traditional ribs, as they were both dry, not soaked in sticky sauce to make it tasty, and full of a complex smoke flavor which was much stronger and more interesting to the palate than any heretofore tasted.
Second Best Food: Chopped barbecue pork. It is vinegary and spicy, although those who like barbecue better with a tinge of sweet should add the molasses sauce. It is good both alone and on starch products.

There's at least one more bar-b-meal in this trip, and I'll review that when it happens.

1 comment:

bluesleepy said...

I cannot tell you how much I miss Carolina bbq, the stuff with the vinegar sauce. NOM. If we ever do make it to Norfolk (we might go to Japan), I'm getting my fill of Carolina bbq the first week we're there.

(PS -- I have acquired the ethnic cookbook for Christmas!!! I was SO STOKED to open it on Christmas morning. I sent the link to my mom, and she decided it was worth getting for me. YAHOO!)