After my memorable lunch at Southern Smoke in Garland, I started meandering north, again wondering where to eat next. I’d about run out of True ‘Cue places within reach that I hadn’t tried, so I decided to go see if Wilber’s was open, or at least if someone was there with whom I could talk and get some inside information. (Note — it has since re-opened. See here for a first look.) No luck there, so I backtracked to revisit an all-time great, Grady’s,
I love Grady’s. I have argued — and urge here — that it needs to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. See, for example, here. Grady’s is Exhibit A in my indictment of the bizarre food choices at the cafeteria in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. See here. A trip to Grady’s is always a delight.
I wandered over toward Dunn and found Grady’s, all alone at the end of a nice drive through farms and fields.
The frame part of the building is the dining area, and the stucco part is the kitchen, where they do wonderful things with vegetables and pies. There’s a separate smokehouse where they do even more wonderful things with whole hogs and, I hear, turkeys.
Despite its isolation, Grady’s’ does a great business. Maybe the three keys aren’t location, location, and location, but quality, quality, and quality. I arrived at 3:00 in the afternoon and there were eight people in line ahead of me, and about that number behind me by the time I got to the front of the line and ordered.
I only ordered pork and slaw. I hadn’t early needed lunch after delicious (and huge) biscuits at the Oak Level Cafe, but that didn’t stop me from overeating at Southern Smoke: nothing could. As you can see, my order came with five hushpuppies. I went out to eat it on the hood of the car.
Oh, that pork was good! Just delicious. It had a wonderfully rich pork flavor with a lovely layer of oak smoke. That’s great barbecue The slaw was a nice counterpoint, despite the sweet pickles. I’d gone to Grady’s intending to order collards, as advised by Amy Shivar, but I have a mind like a steel colander, and that one slipped through. Next time. Really. And the hushpuppies were sensational, among the best.
As great as the food was, my trip to Grady’s crystalized what had been missing from my trip: eating with strangers. I touched on this in the post on the Oak Level Cafe. The Grady’s themselves are lovely people, and their customers come from all over and from all walks of life. Thats’ part of the charm of old school barbecue places. The low prices and great food attract all sorts of people. You may be breaking bread and chatting with the guy who owns the bank or a farm hand or someone from up North or out West, or all four. People talk about crops or church or food or family, the things that really touch people’s lives, and your lunches flavored with a moment of friendship. That’s missing now. It’s hard to have a conversation masked and six feet apart with the line moving inexorably.
I’ve really missed the conversations on this trip. But the food at Grady’s is wonderful, among the best in Eastern North Carolina. If you’re headed to North Carolina, you should make point of going to Grady’s, no matter how far out of the way. And if you’re not headed to North Carolina, plan a trip.
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