After lunch at Boss Hog’s, I drove over to Wilson and checked in to my hotel, the posh Fairfield Inn. I then gave some thought to where I should eat next. I settled on a certified True ‘Cue, wood-only place, Stephenson’s in Willow Springs, an unincorporated area around the Wake-Johnston County line. Here’s Stephenson’s, a nice big place out by itself —
Do you see the smoke? Stephenson’s smells delicious. My spirits soared. It was like driving in to Evergreen, Alabama, the home of Conecuh Sausage, and the best smelling town in the world. Wood smoke and pork.
A waitress hustled out to take my order. The only problem was that I had not checked the menu on their web page, mainly because Stephenson’s doesn’t have a web page. Having overeaten chicken pastry (chicken and dumplings to the uninitiated), etc., at lunch at Boss Hog’s, I told the waitress that I wanted a small barbecue plate or tray. She suggested a child’s plate. Okay. Pork with slaw and green beans sounded good.
I opened it and thought that the children of Willow Springs must have heroic appetites. Then I tasted it.
Although it was almost 4:00 pm, the dead of the day in barbecue terms, the pork arrived hot, smoky, and utterly delicious. You really can taste the wood smoke and the second layer of smoke from the pork fat dripping onto the dying coals.
It was sensational, just sensational.
The sides were quite good, The slaw was fresh and crunchy — North Carolina is a great state for slaw. The green beans were just as I like them, slow cooked with side meat. And, this being North Carolina, it came with hushpuppies. Really good hushpuppies, round and hot and crunchy and not at all greasy. I apparently forgot to include them in the picture, but then you’ve seen a lot of hushpuppies on this blog.
There’s a nice write-up of Stephenson’s at the North Carolina Barbecue Society page. It discusses Paul Stephenson’s transition from pig farmer to pig cooker, and the cooking method that gets Stephensons’s barbecue that rich smoky flavor.
This was a great meal. I’m tempted to give Stephenson’s a Top Place tag right now, but I’m withholding ambience points for having to eat it in my car. I’ll wait until things reopen fully. That way I’ll have an excuse to go back for more. Then I’m sure it’ll get the tag.
Go to Stephenson’s. Their pork will set you free.
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