This barbecue was easily the blandest of the trip and had the same bun and same red slaw as everywhere else today. The tea was also un-noteworthy, although that might be attributable to the fact that our taste buds are pretty shot at this point in the day. But! The hushpuppies were amazing, some of the best of the trip. (They would’ve gotten top marks from me had they been a bit smaller so they had a better crispy outside to cakey inside ratio, but Nick said they were his favorite.) They were remarkable not only for their size but also because they had a unique ingredient: small bits of chopped onion. Richard came over while we were eating and said, “Only one sandwich? What the hell?” to which Nick explained that we weren’t too hungry (to put it mildly!) and just wanted a little bite to eat. He then made the mistake of complementing him on his hushpuppies, which provoked Richard to say, “We’re supposed to be famous for our barbecue, but everyone likes these hushpuppies!” Apparently we weren’t the first to comment on the pups and without first mentioning the cue.
The same buns reappeared at Wink’s, and it seemed like the hushpuppies were made of the same batter as Darrell’s - they were identical in taste but differed in size. These were actually the first ball-shaped hushpuppies of the trip, and the only ones served with butter other than Wilber’s. The tea was sweeter than Darrell’s but not in the same echelon as yesterday’s sweet teas.
These people had the same bun as Bridges in Shelby! Do the bun-making companies cater to eastern and western NC distinctively? This sauce was slightly more vinegar-y and less viscous than Bridges with a nice bite to it without being hot. The slaw on the sandwich had the same sauce. The tea was probably the least sweet of the trip. And OH WOW, their hush puppies are out of this world!! We both enthusiastically agreed that they were the best pups of the trip, no contest. They were huge, incredibly light, and had a great flavor. I’m afraid we can’t do them justice in a tumblr post!
Day 3 started off with our first western-style barbecue of the trip. The sauce is distinctly different - thicker and some tomato component (although nowhere near the consistency of, say, ketchup). It was markedly sweeter than all of yesterday’s (eastern) sauces while still maintaining a tangy, vinegar-y edge. They served it in a small styrofoam cup, as the server put it, “so the sandwiches don’t get soggy”. For the first time on our trip, we were asked if we wanted “chopped or sliced” barbecue on our sandwiches (we chose chopped). They came with a red slaw on them that seemed to be the same sauce as in the cup. The buns were noticeably different than yesterday; most barbecue sandwiches are served on the cheapest buns possible but these seemed a bit higher quality (which wasn’t good or bad, just different.) The hushpuppies were quite a bit crisper and bigger and seemed like they’d been left in the fryer longer in comparison to yesterday’s pups. The tea was as good as Wilber’s - just the right amount of too much sweetness.
They split the sandwich for us when we told them we wanted to share it! In comparison to all of the other sandwiches we had today, this was the spiciest - you could see the pepper flakes throughout the cue. The hush puppies were not as light as Allen and Son and not as sweet as some others we’d had earlier in the day. Wilber’s wins first place for tea - very sweet without being too sweet. (Although admittedly, can sweet tea ever be too sweet?)
This generous portion of barbecue was decidedly better than our first two stops today (Parker’s and Bill Ellis), but it could have used a bit more slaw to balance out the amount of cue. The hush puppies were pretty cakey and nothing to write home about. Maybe it was partly because I was getting full, but I couldn’t even bring myself to eat a whole one. (Never one to leave food wasted, however, Nick ate the rest of them, including my sad half a pup.) We didn’t order tea here. We drove around the back and found what we think was the barbecue pit, but they had a mix of chopped wood and propane outside of it.
Most places we split a sandwich to save stomach space, but based on smell alone we knew we were in for a treat and ordered one each, along with two sweet teas. (Their only sides are slaw and corn bread, so no hush puppies to compare here.) Before even biting into our sandwiches, we noticed how generous the portions of barbecue were, and our taste buds soon confirmed what our noses had suspected: this was truly authentic North Carolina cue. It had a wonderfully smoky flavor that would be impossible to replicate without using a pit, and it included crunchy pieces of skin. Words cannot do it justice: this was far and away the best barbecue of the trip so far! And their tea the sweetest. We both agreed that although it’s hardly on the way to anywhere else, we’d definitely consider the hefty detour totally worth it on another trip.
This sandwich was noticeably sweeter in comparison to other barbecue - not sure if it was the cue or the slaw. Otherwise, nothing particularly stood out. The hush puppies (not pictured because we ate them too quickly!) were lighter than Parker’s but not as light as Allen and Son; Nick was also convinced that something about them seemed “mass-produced” and less “hand-crafted”, but we couldn’t put our fingers on exactly what it was about them that gave us that impression.
The barbecue was good but not particularly noteworthy. The slaw was finely chopped and included mustard, which gave a distinctive taste. The hushpuppies, which they call “corn sticks,” were a bit cakey and did not seem very fresh, but they still had good flavor.
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At Allen and Son, we ordered a BBQ and Brunswick plate, a BBQ sandwich, and a sweet tea. The hush puppies were light and crisp; the cue had plenty of sauce - no need to add extra; and the tea wasn’t too sweet, although based on a conversation between one of the employees and a customer, it seems that was out of the ordinary. Most notably, the slaw was very peppery, which gave it an unexpected (but not unpleasant) taste.