Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, NC, is certainly a top barbecue place, as you would expect from an offshoot of the Skylight Inn: the Jones family knows barbecue. But I’m starting to worry. A few days back their Facebook page announced that they had added pimiento cheese and pork skins to their menu. Now I’m a great fan of pimiento cheese, and while I think the highest and best use of pork skin is chopped into their barbecue, I have been known to eat fried pork skins now and again. But the combination doesn’t seem like it would work. The flavors seem likely to clash rather than complement each other. I haven’t tried it, but the combination seems gimmicky, the sort of thing you’d eat at a state fair. I note that Mr. Jones has accepted advertising from commercial barbecue sauces, which I cannot help but see in the light of touching pitch. And Mr. Jones has been spending a lot of time at barbecue competitions, which can be at odds with running a barbecue place. I would hate to see distractions and the lure of publicity cause Sam Jones BBQ to descend into the mediocrity that has beset, for example, Bob Gibson’s: on all the lists but not that good.
Right now, this is no more than a cloud on the horizon, no bigger than a man’s hand, and I have complete confidence that with John and Steve working the pits, Sam Jones BBQ will continue to produce truly outstanding barbecue. But it’s something to keep an eye on.