Friday, January 15, 2010

Carolina Barbecue

This week I spent a few days down in Pinehurst, North Carolina. If you’re not familiar with that area, it’s about an hour south of Raleigh Durham. Like most of the South, the drive down to Pinehurst takes you on country highways that wind through seemingly never ending pine forests. Small houses dot the landscape, peering out from rusty tin roofs topped with clumps of pine needles.

I’ve made this trip four or five times now and I can tell you that with the exception of one restaurant (Elliot’s on Linden), the others have been at the very most ho hum. How can such a place be so mediocre? When I think of the South I think of good eatin’. Food I could get back in Cleveland was not how this was supposed to go down. It was time to take a more direct approach.

Over the weekend I did a search on “barbeque in Pinehurst, North Carolina”, two places were consistently mentioned – Pik N Pig in Carthage and Jackson Bros. BBQ in Sanford. I knew if I persuaded my coworker Robb to try a barbecue place and it sucked it would be the last time he agreed to barbecue the rest of the trip.

If Operation Pulled Pork was going to be successful, I knew that Pik N Pig was going to be the best shot I had. Robb has his pilot’s license, so I knew when I told him this place was at a small airport he would be willing to go.

The restaurant actually sits on a small airport reminiscent of the 80’s show “Wings”. Built out of what were the old Carthage Post Office and a building from Sandhills Community College, which were moved to the airport, Pik N Pig is sited just next to the runway.

They have things set up to where you can order a sandwich which comes with fries or you can get the dinner which comes with two sides and your choice of cornbread or roll. Robb got the spicy chicken sandwich and fries and said it was a pretty good balance of spice to where you weren’t gulping down water. I opted for the pulled pork dinner with baked beans, slaw, and cornbread. The pulled pork had a tender ropiness that was flecked with charred bits of the outer crust. The sauces come in the form of a sweet sauce that’s a more traditional thickness and a thinner more vinegary hot sauce. I give my vote to the sweet sauce. I thought the beans and the slaw weren’t anything to rave about, but the cornbread with jalapeno butter was a definite winner. With the sandwich platters going for $5 and the dinner platters going for a whopping $7, the food is a steal.

I told our friend at the bar about our lunch and he agreed that Pik N Pig is one of the best in the area. He told us that his other favorite place is Jackson Bros, (affirming what I had already heard) which he usually hits whenever he’s headed to or from Raleigh. We were warned that everything is “to go” so we’d have to eat it in our car.

After finishing up our work in the morning, we loaded up our equipment and headed to the Raleigh Durham airport. As we headed north through Sanford we actually passed Jackson Bros., not even realizing that the spartan little building was our destination. We doubled back around and headed to what looked like an old converted ice cream stand in the middle of a gravel parking lot. For whatever reason, Robb only ordered the Big Pulled Pork Sandwich with no sides ($3.50). I on the other hand, I got the sliced pork, which I could’ve ordered chipped, along with fries, slaw, and hush puppies ($7). Of the two places I think JB had better pulled pork. The fries were just typical frozen fries. I really liked the hush puppies; they looked like miniature corn dogs only there wasn’t a hot dog inside. I think it’s the first time I ever remember having hush puppies like these. I was absolutely stuffed after devouring the whole tray.

In the end I thought both places put out a good authentic product. Pik N Pig gets the nod for actual sit down dining experience, while Jackson Bros. wins best food. Should you be in the Pinehurst area you owe it to yourself to stop at both of these restaurants. While they are both certainly among the top values in the area, they are also your best shot at authentic eastern North Carolina BBQ in this neck of the woods.

Pik N Pig
194 Gilliam Mcconnell Rd
Carthage, NC 28327
(910) 947-7591
www.pik-n-pig.com

Pik N Pig on Urbanspoon

Jackson Bros. BBQ
2440 Jefferson Davis Hwy.
Sanford, NC 27332-7102
(919) 776-8887
www.jacksonbros.com

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