The Skylight Inn Redux, Ayden, North Carolina

After deciding that Bum’s made the best Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue, I felt duty-bound to double check.  I was, after all, relying on memory in comparing it to other top places.  Out of a sense of fairness, I decided to drive down and double-check it against the fabled Skylight Inn, the place National Geographic declared has the best barbecue in the country (and thus, the world).  And it really is good.

Of course, the Skylight Inn is just down from Bum’s, maybe a five minute drive, and I had just eaten a full meal.   I decided to drive around Ayden to see the sights.  As it happens, the sights of Ayden, with fewer than 5,000 residents, are limited, and we’d seen about half of them driving to Bum’s.  So I just drove on over to the Skylight Inn.  It was good to be back.

skylight me

It’s a beautiful place, in my eyes, at least.  There are lots of buildings with domes in the US, and just about all of them, if not all, have more architectural and aesthetic value.  But beauty is only skin deep, and domed buildings too often, are as whited sepulchres.  If you look inside, it’s hard to find one with the purity and value to humanity of the Skylight Inn.

Since I was pretty full and was simply pursuing a pure scientific inquiry, I ordered a sandwich, no slaw.   And I didn’t add any sauce.  (I mainly ate the pork at Bum’s without sauce.)  I didn’t want distractions.  I took the sandwich back to the car, opened it, and picked out some of the meat.  Nancy averted her eyes.   I  fluffed up the sandwich meat some before taking this picture.

skylight sand

It was delicious.  Like Bum’s, the Skylight Inn mixes some skin into the meat.  Look at this picture below.  At the back of the cutting block, there’s a pile of meat on your right and a pile of skin on your left.  In front, there’s a mound of the mixed meat and skin.

skylight meat mix

The result, as at Bum’s, was truly delicious pork barbecue.  It was great, but just shy of Bum’s.  I think part of the reason is the texture.  The Skylight Inn chops the meat very fine, and the meat tends to get compressed into a ball.  Think of the difference between a machine packed hamburger and a hand-formed burger.  The loosely packed hand-formed burger is better.  Look at the meat at Bum’s.

bums j plate

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Let me be clear.   You really can’t go wrong at the Skylight Inn.  It is great, one of the top barbecue places in the country.  The only mistake you can make is not going to Bum’s instead.  The barbecue at Bum’s simply tastes a little better.  Try both and see.


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