Marty’s BBQ, Wilson, North Carolina

I dawdled for a couple of hours after my meals at the Big Pig and Parker’s before I went to Marty’s BBQ across town. There’s a deep division in Wilson that affects our family. It’s not Montagues and Capulets — men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for barbecue — just a difference. Nancy, Liza, and I are Parker’s people. My battalions of Griffin cousins are Marty’s people, heirs to the Bill’s legacy. I’d been to Marty’s once before, but that was in the depths of COVID, and I could only get carry-out. I wanted to give Marty’s a fair chance, so I went back for an in-house meal.

To begin with, I have to say that Parker’s starts with a big edge on atmosphere. It’s a handsome old place, very evocative, and the service is astoundingly prompt and friendly. They have service down pat. Marty’s may have an an Old School heart, but it’s in a small newer building with the ambience of a converted fast food place.

That’s not necessarily bad, and they have tried to perk it up, but it’s really no contest. Edge Parker’s. (Note: I’m not counting service in that. The service at Marty’s was prompt, but not friendly, even brusque. I don’t hold that against them at all, however, because the eponymous Marty had recently gone to his reward. I hope and pray that the certain knowledge of that reward is a comfort to his family and all who loved and admired him.)

Since this was a highly scientific test, I limited the variables by ordering the same thing at Marty’s that I’d ordered at Parkers: a barbecue and fried chicken combination plate.

It was only $7.95, plus tax, vs. $9.50 for Parker’s, tax included. But then it didn’t include iced tea. But then I didn’t want more iced tea. Edge to Marty’s.

The pork at both restaurants was very similar, almost indistinguishable, really, but I’m giving the edge to Marty’s this trip. If you add some sauce, however, Parker’s regains much of the lost ground. Parker’s has a much better sauce, but I’m still giving the pork crown to Marty’s.

The pork crown is, of course, of extreme importance. If one or both cooked exclusively with wood it would be determinative. Alas, neither does, and the only wood-cooked Wilson County Barbecue is in Portland, Maine. The irony! The shame!

Calm down, John. Marty’s Brunswick Stew was all but identical to that at Parker’s. Both needed some good barbecue sauce and so, since Parker’s has the better sauce, a negligible edge to Parker’s.

Both places have excellent slaw, different but very good. A draw.

Let’s move to the fried foods. The corn sticks at Parker’s are beyond the power of mortals to describe. I found the hush puppies at Marty’s to be lacking: not nearly enough crunch in the crust.

The chicken. You flat can’t beat Parker’s fried chicken. The skin, the meat, the juiciness, it’s all wonderful. Marty’s is good but not great. Marty’s does get lots of points for offering fried gizzards and hearts, and if they fried them as well as Parker’s fried food, the contest would be over. Alas, they do not.

Oh, I added a side of chicken pastry at Marty’s. Chicken pastry is chicken and dumplins with flat pastry rather than puffy dumplings. Think parpardella. Sorta. Marty’s version was good. Not as good as the chicken pastry at Boss Hog’s, which is stronger in broth and the amount of chicken. But Marty’s is pretty darn good, and another food I love that Parker’s doesn’t offer.

All in all, I continue to give the edge to Parker’s. Marty’s is very good, but you can’t beat the atmosphere and the experience at Parker’s. Also, the fried foods at Parker’s are on a different level than … most everyone. But that’s just me talkin’. If either place moves back to all wood cooking, that place will prevail. The bottom line is that you can have a great meal at either place or, like me, at both. You really should try both yourself. They’re both great places to eat. What do you think about each? Let me know.

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5 thoughts on “Marty’s BBQ, Wilson, North Carolina

  1. John, I share your passion for great fried chicken, but have found it ar more elusive than great bbq. Can you give me your top 3 fried chicken favorites?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tough one. I don’t eat that much fried chicken. Parker’s of course. I like Martin’s in Montgomery AL, Shuler’s in Latta, SC. I guess you want Virginian places. The Blue and White in Alexandria has a great chicken leg sandwich. I had some real good chicken years ago at the Southern kitchen in New Market. Hear it’s real good at the Barbecue Exchange in Gordonsville.

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