North Carolina Barbecue in the News

David Boyd pointed me to this Washington Post article by Jim Shahin about barbecue in North Carolina.

You should read the article.  Shahin explores changes in approaches to barbecue as the state’s population changes — small places like Grady’s — the traditional, pit-cooked whole hog with hush puppies, Brunswick Stew, slaw and boiled potatoes — are disappearing, largely because pit-cooked barbecue involves extra expense and a whole lot more work than box smokers powered by gas or electricity.  And lots of people are moving into North Carolina from other parts of the US and beyond, and bring different barbecue backgrounds and tastes to the state.  On the one hand, the article points to yet another sign of the decline of craftsmanship and quality that affects much of society.  At the same time, Shahin points to new places like The Pit in Raleigh and Durham that have broader menus to appeal to the new population — ranging from the sensible (brisket, ribs) to the eccentric (quinoa salad) to the heartbreaking (barbecued tofu?!  Blueberry chipotle sauce?!) but that still turn out hIigh-quality, pit-cooked barbecue.  Midwood Smokehouse in Charlotte appeals to wider public with a gluten free menu (no bun, no hushpuppies), which seems like a good idea to me.

The bottom line seems to be that some traditional places – the larger, well situated places like Wilber’s and Lexington Number 1 – will endure while others out in the middle of nowhere are likely to fade away.  Meanwhile, new places like The Pit are maintaining the core of barbecue excellence – cooking over a pit.  My libertarian streak extends to allowing people to order quinoa salad or barbecued tofu — as long as real barbecue is an option.   I’m less sure about blueberry chipotle sauce.  That just seems wrong.  And I heartily applaud some changes not fully addressed in Shahin’s article, notably the fact that the new places sell beer.

A photo gallery accompanies the article.

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