I was going to type in the title, “Southport and Leland, Respectively,” but my Recovering Lawyer Coach put a veto on it.
Southport is a nice beach town south of Wilmington, North Carolina, which is a great place in its own right. I drove down to Wilmington after my visit to Grady’s. I arose the next day, toured Wilmington a bit, and then headed to check out the Southport Smokehouse, one of the Campaign for Real Barbecue’s “true ‘cue” places I hadn’t yet checked.
The Southport Smokehouse is in an old one-story frame building on the town’s main drag.
It looks kind of furry, doesn’t it? Someone imposed shingle siding on the building while its guard was down. I love shingle siding in its place. It’s perfect in New England, especially on those big old houses in places like Martha’s Vineyard. I don’t ever recall seeing it on a single-story low roofline building with a pediment, though.
The interior, however, is very attractive, and they do a very good business. There’s a big dining area and a scene in the area off to your left, room to handle lots of customers. I like their use of old tin roof material. I arrived seconds after the 11:00 am opening. A wave of construction workers followed me, as did shoals of office workers, military personnel, and beach people.
The Southport Smokehouse is a very nice place to eat. Now, you need to know that it’s a Texas-style place, which means they are brisket-oriented. I rebel against eating brisket in North Carolina, just as I rebel against eating pork barbecue in Texas, and hamburgers in France. Think globally, eat locally. On the plus side, there was a good Texas fixings bar (remember the Roy Rogers chain?) with pickles, onions, and jalapeño slices.
I decided to get pork ribs. It came on a Texas-style metal tray along with my side selections — slaw and collards — and, this being North Carolina, hushpuppies. It ran me about $13.
The ribs had a smoky flavor, but they’d been overcooked, all but falling off the bone. I know some places brag about ribs falling off the bone, but it leaves them mushy. With ribs, you want a little tug off the bone and a more pleasant, al dente texture.
On the other hand, the hushpuppies were top notch. The crust may look overdone, but it had a great flavor and texture. The interior included some whole corn kernels, which was fine. The slaw also was very good, nice and refreshing, and dressed just right. The collards had a rough cut, and tasted as if they’d been stingy with the side meat. Ever resourceful, I added some pepper vinegar and some jalapeño slices from the fixins bar, and enjoyed them thoroughly. I also tried a couple of their array of sauces. The Spicy Sauce wasn’t really spicy, although the jalapeño slices may have affected my analysis. The White Sauce was very good, with just the right amounts of vinegar and black pepper.
I can’t say I left tempted to revisit the Southport Smokehouse. As I drove away, however, I started feeling guilty about not trying their brisket. I was letting my culinary principles get in the way of my work. I pulled over and rerouted to the Leland Smokehouse, a half hour drive away. It’s run by the same people. It’s in a big new building with a law firm’s office situated ominously overhead — the Damocles firm. The interior has lots of attractive wood and brick, and the service is prompt and pleasant, just as at Southport. (I forgot to mention that.). I was in a hurry to get to my next stop, and neglected to take any pictures.
I ordered a brisket sandwich, which came with one side (slaw) and a drink. The brisket was good. It wasn’t at all dry, and the brisket had a good smoke flavor. It was good brisket, and the bill was only $10 before my tip to the staff and the obligatory tip to the state and local governments. I shudder at the thought that part of that got to the positively satanic North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Will I go back? Probably not. When I’m on the coast I Iean heavily toward seafood. Again, eat locally. Also, seafood is a good counterweight to my inland diet. If I lived in the Wilmington area, however, I’d definitely expand my diet (and waistline) with visits to both Smokehouses, Southport and Leland. Give one or both a try.
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