Wilber’s is one of the great East Carolina barbecue places. It’s on 70, on the right as you’re headed to the beach, and there’s a fruit and vegetable stand out front where you can get peaches and corn and tomatoes and watermelon and boiled peanuts from some real nice people. We always stop at Wilber’s on our way to the beach in Pine Knoll Shores, near Morehead City. Wilber’s continues to cook whole hogs over oak coals, and does it superbly. Mr. Wilber Shirley notes that every part of the pig tastes different, and take the position that a mixture of those parts makes for a special barbecue.
Getting there is more complicated than it used to be. There’s a new bypass around Goldsboro that is not on our GPS, and as I drive the GPS blue dot indicated that we were driving off-road, charging through were farms and fields. We had no idea where the new bypass would meet up with 70 — most importantly, whether it would be before or after Wilber’s. We bailed out at the exit for 13 and hit 70 a few miles later, just short of Wilber’s. (You should make a note of that for future reference. It turns out to be the best route to Wilber’s, unless church is just getting out and then you probably want to dodge the traffic coming out of Faith Presbyterian and take a pretty quick left off 13 and onto Central Heights.)
After our GPS adventure, it was good to see that sign.
We got there just before noon, just before the after-church rush. Wilber’s has been in business since 1962, and it’s a warm place, with real wood panelling, the odd sports emblem, and photographs of Mr. Wilber Shirley and customers. Presidents Bush, Sr., and Clinton have eaten there.
I got a pork plate with slaw and potato salad.
Nancy got barbecue and barbecued chicken plate with law and a baked potato.
That’s a big baked potato.
The hushpuppies hit the table first. They were delicious. I seem to have eaten them all before getting my camera out. Nancy abstained as always.
The pork was delicious, moist and tender with that gentle hickory smoke flavor. Nancy liked her’s, too. I think they aren’t chopping it as fine as they used to, but that’s fine with me. I like it. The pork is served mixed with a vinegar and pepper sauce, and there’s more of that sauce in a little shaker on the table — it’s the yellowish one, not the clear one. It’s not the same as their bottled sauce, which is thicker and more peppery. You should buy a bottle or two. It’s one of the best sauces around.
Nancy said her chicken was very good, very tender and without a trace of dryness. I checked it myself, in the interest of journalistic integrity, and Nancy was right, of course. It was great. Wilber’s does a terrific job with all of their meats. The slaw is good and the potato salad is fine, but you go to Wilber’s for the pork — and chicken — and hushpuppies.
And maybe for the banana pudding. I ordered some, and it’s very good.
Taking the new bypass — the one that isn’t on our GPS — can save about 15 minutes off your trip to the beach. But there’s a price to be paid for those 15 minutes: you have to skip Wilber’s. That’s just too big a price to pay. Wilber’s is a must-visit for us, and would be even if we didn’t need to get the tomatoes and peaches and boiled peanuts — and what may have been the best, and certainly was the most dense watermelon I can remember eating. So exit at 13 and head for Wilber’s.