Skylight Inn – Ayden, North Carolina

The first thing you notice about the Skylight Inn is the unconventional architecture.

Skylight inn

Then you notice the sign.

skylight sign

I got there late – about 1:30 – having dawdled around digesting lunch #1 at B’s.  That’s a dangerous time to try a barbecue place, especially in a rural area where people tend to eat early.  Frequently the meat will have sat around for a while and dried out.

Not to worry.   There was a steady stream of people and they were still chopping away.

skylight menuskylight counter

The meat smelled delicious, so I ordered a large tray and a Cheerwine (when in Rome).

skylight plate

The tray was packed tight with wonderful barbecue.  They cook whole hogs in pits over wood, and they are really good at it.  They also include chopped bits of skin which add to the texture and flavor.  The meat has a medium chop and a good smoky flavor.  Having been freshly chopped – again, that beautiful music – it was moist.   It sells so fast that it doesn’t have time to dry out.  They have a good vinegar/pepper sauce and Texas Pete.  Curiously, they also have pepper vinegar although there is no sign of vegetables.  Your choice of sides is cole slaw (very good cole slaw with the usual Carolina fine chop) and cornbread.  This is not your usual cornbread.  It is very dense, with the consistency of hot water cornbread, which I love. (Caveat: I have only had hot water cornbread at home when I was growing up.  Dear (aka Betty Tanner) used to pan fry it when we had all vegetable meals in the summer – mustard greens and green beans and field peas and tomatoes with onions and cucumbers.)  Trying to match Dear’s cooking is a waste of time, and I didn’t finish the Skylight Inn cornbread.  But it was a great meal – great barbecue.  And the Cheerwine tasted better and better as I ate the barbecue.  That’s good chemistry.

Like other North Carolina barbecue places, Skylight is cash only.  The decor is Spartan.  There is indoor seating for a crowd and overflow seating outside at picnic tables under the sign.

I had heard a report that Skylight had slipped in quality in recent years.  I think that’s because the original owner, Pete Jones, went to his reward and the sons took over.  That’s usually a cause for concern, since barbecue skill is not hereditary (think Ollie’s).  But Bruce Jones apparently was raised right, and not only is Skylight very, very good, but it appears that grandson Sam Jones will open up a place.  I can’t wait.

http://www.skylightinnbbq.com

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13 thoughts on “Skylight Inn – Ayden, North Carolina

  1. Tough call. I like the Skylight’s barbecue a bit better – the taste and texture that the pork skin gives – but I probably would choose B’s because of the wider selection of side dishes, the quality of the corn sticks over the johnnycake, and the off chance that some kids would be selling boil’ peanuts there. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t stop at Skylight for a sandwich afterwards. Or before.

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