To get to Grady’s you travel for miles through fields of cotton, peanuts and tobacco, past an occasional house, a country store, or cluster of farm buildings. It is open country, real farm country. It is beautiful in its way, bright with nostalgia. Then, as you round a bend, Grady’s suddenly appears at a crossroads, lonely and shining white in the sun.
You really have to want Grady’s barbecue to go there. It is not on the way to anything. There are no destination stores for miles, just the little country places where you can grab a cold Coke or Cheerwine. If you head for the tiny whistlestop community of Dudley, which you may pass through without noticing, you’ll still be a good 5 miles away. Grady’s is 10 miles south of Goldsboro and once-mighty Wilber’s. You really had to want Grady’s barbecue to drive past Wilber’s. I was never able to pass Wilber’s, and once ate there twice in one day when I picked someone up from the airport in Raleigh and then headed back to the beach. This time I approached Grady’s from the southeast, just to be sure. But now, having eaten at Grady’s, I can see why they not only survive but do a thriving business.
First, Grady’s cooks over wood in a pit inside a smokehouse off to the side, and they’ve been doing it forever.
Second , and most important, the product is really, really good. Grady’s definitely is in among the top place in Eastern North Carolina.
The pork is moist and flavorful. The hushpuppies are outstanding, even better than Wilber’s. Really. The black-eyed peas were wonderful. The slaw includes sweet pickles, which I can do without. Next time I’ll get another vegetable. But it’s really the meat. They have a sauce that tastes like it’s based on Texas Pete – not bad but the meat really doesn’t need it.
Grady’s has a good selection of vegetables, and they are delicious. They also have a very good banana pudding. I thought about buying a sweet potato pie to go (for $7!) but I just knew I’d eat it all before hitting the sack that night. You can get chicken and, on Saturdays, turkey (which has quite a reputation.) The dining area is on the small side, but it is comfortable and pleasant. Grady’s is open Wednesday through Saturday.
While I savored every bite of my meal, I chatted with a nice retired couple who had ridden down from Wake Forest on their motorcycle . They are real barbecue aficionados who travel the state, going from barbecue place to barbecue place. They are very well informed and they are devoted to Grady’s — understandably. After lunch they got a whole chicken and a sweet potato pie to go. I was jealous. There are a lot of reasons to go to Grady’s.
Last but not least, the Grady’s themselves are lovely people, devoted to and expert in their craft. I ran into their son outside and he was really proud of his parents. I don’t blame him.
Places like Grady’s are disappearing. By rights, Grady’s should be a UNESCO site, and I have advocated that it should be featured in the Smithsonian’s African American History Museum’s cafeteria. It would be a big step up for the museum. Grady’s is a treasure. Go see for yourself.
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