My nephew, Jimbo Tanner, has been an invaluable source of barbecue information. He told me about B’s and Grady’s and Bum’s — three of the best barbecue places on earth. When he tipped me off to Boss Hog’s, I put it at the top of my must-visit list, and I headed there after the wonderful ZZQ.
I was somewhat taken aback to see that Boss Hog’s is a chain. And it looks like a chain restaurant. (Take my word for it.) Still, I overcame my misgivings and strolled in. Boss Hog’s serves cafeteria style, and has a vegetable selection that warrants further investigation.
Jimbo had said that the barbecue was good, and he also mentioned their chicken pastry. For those of you who don’t speak Eastern North Carolina, chicken pastry is chicken and dumplin’s. I duly ordered a small barbecue sandwich and the chicken pastry special.
There was no seating inside or outside, so I took it out to the car, set it on the passenger seat, and ate while listening to a recording of Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend — with minimal spillage, I might add.
I didn’t think a whole lot of the barbecue. It was fine for barbecue that isn’t cooked exclusively with wood. The pork was from the shoulder rather than the whole hog one expects in Eastern North Carolina (I could tell from the bits of outside meat), and the sauce had some ketchup and a slight sweetness. Boss Hog’s apparently started in Western North Carolina, which is all good and well. Alas, the sauce didn’t have nearly enough vinegar or pepper, and the meat needed that good smoke from fat dripping coals. It certainly wasn’t bad. It tasted good. It just could have been better.
The chicken pastry, on the other hand, was a triumph of the culinary art. I’m a big fan of chicken and dumplin’s — Dear used to make them — but I can’t remember the last time I had some. They don’t figure prominently on DC menus. I may have been suffering from a chicken and dumplin’s deficiency, but these seemed like the Platonic ideal of chicken and dumplin’s and they tasted delicious. There was a good balance between chicken and dumplin’s, and I loved the flavor. You may not appreciate the size of that serving — it was flat big — but I didn’t leave a scrap.
Afterwards, I recalled that Jimbo, being somewhat more health conscious than his uncle, tends toward chicken in barbecue places. Thus his tip on B’s, which has great chicken. And, as I dimly recall, he first told me that Grady’s had turkey on some day or other — as a big selling point. Maybe I should put a post-it on the car’s dashboard. In hindsight, I should have ordered a chicken quarter (dark) instead of the pork.
Did I forget the sides? The chicken pastry came with two sides: collards, which were good, and green beans, which were very good . I got slaw with the pork, and it was excellent, cool, crisp, and lightly dressed. The hushpuppies were fine, and proved useful soaking up the pot likker.
I highly recommend Boss Hog’s for the chicken pastry, the slaw, and the green beans. And give the barbecued chicken a try. Jimbo knows his chicken, and it’s probably great.
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