Greg and I like food. Not in a “we need food in order to live” kinda way. More like we’re foodies. We enjoy trying different kinds of food. So, since we’re in BBQ country, we’ve decided to immerse ourselves in the local BBQ culture. For Greg, this means selectively falling off of the pseudo-veggie wagon every so often. But hey, we’re only here for a couple years, and really, he’s only here for a couple months! We’re taking pictures of all of the interesting places we eat. They’re in the gallery under 2006 – NC Restaurants.
NC BBQ 101
Keith had explained to us that BBQ in North Carolina can be a point of contention. You see, there are two styles of BBQ in NC. The Eastern style, which is vinegar based, and Western style, which is vinegar and tomato sauce based. Chapel Hill is right on the border of the two, but most of the BBQ places here serve Eastern style. BBQ here is pork. Specifically, pulled pork shoulder, or slices of pork shoulder (I think it’s shoulder. Greg or Kelly, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).
Adam is from Lexington, NC, which is west of here. Lexington is apparently the Western style BBQ capital of NC. It hosts a yearly BBQ festival, and the town with a population of about 25,000 people swells to hold 150,000 people on the weekend of the festival. I’m hoping that I can convince someone to go with me this fall. Anyways, Adam has told me that while there are a few places that serve Western style BBQ around here, they’re not very good, and we should drive west to taste “the best BBQ”.
I think Greg has already blogged about this little diner that’s around the corner from our apartment. It’s the little diner that is only open for breakfast and lunch, and is run by an Asian couple who serve “Southern diner food,” i.e., biscuits, grits, greens, fatback (not really sure what that is), fried okra, etc. I think the picture is in the “Tour of Chapel Hill” gallery folder.
The second local place we ate at was Mama Dip’s. It was recommended to us by Ted, a grad student in Biology, and his wife (Andrea? Can’t remember now). They’re from Alberta, and Ted was one of the grad students I had lunch with when I visited last year. Mama Dip’s serves “Southern home cooking”. We’ve gone twice now (haven’t taken a picture yet though) and have had pretty good food. The puller pork was pretty vinegar-y, but still good. It didn’t taste very BBQ-y though. I realized later, that’s probably because it’s not BBQ-ed. I think it’s stewed, or pressure cooked, or something. Interestingly, it actually tasted a lot like Filippino pork adobo, but with a little more vinegar and a little less soy! So, here I was in the South, eating what felt like Filippino home cooking. Greg had chicken and dumplings the first time – also good. The second time I had fried chicken and gravy (chicken is smothered in gravy). Good, but difficult to eat because you can’t pick it up like regular fried chicken – too slippery. For some reason Greg ordered salmon the second time we were there. The hushpuppies (fried cornmeal and onion balls) and fried okra were really good too.
Allen & Son BBQ
This BBQ place was one of the places suggested by Emily from something she had read about the food around Chapel Hill. The decor inside was definitely interesting – sort of a mix between country-kitch and hunting lodge. They had a mounted deer head, a stuffed fox, and all sorts of other things that I don’t remember. We were hoping to take a picture of the inside, but it was too dark and the flash would have gone off. This place was an actual BBQ place. We had the pulled pork plate (with potato salad and coleslaw) and fried catfish plate (with hushpuppies, fries, and coleslaw). The BBQ was really good. Only slightly vinegar-y, but with a nice smokey taste. The potato salad around here has a lot of relish in it, and so is very acidic. We’ll have to remember to not order it anymore if there are other sides available.
The Waffle House
This is part of a chain that serves fried chicken and waffles, hashbrowns that you can add stuff like onions, mushrooms, and peppers to, and other diner food. They all have jukeboxes that have songs about the Waffle House on them. We didn’t actually order waffles at the Waffle House. Greg said it was too late in the day for waffles. I’m not convinced there is actually a time of day for waffles, but whatever. We each had the bacon, egg and cheese plate with hashbrowns. Me on toast, Greg in a wrap. mmmmm… yummy, greasy diner food.
The problem with sampling all of these places is that it’s really fatty food – almost everything with the exception of the BBQ itself is deep fried or greasy. Yummy, but not so good for the waistline or the heart! Have to eat more salads when not sampling the local cuisine!