Got a little lazy towards the end of that last post. It was a catharsis indeed, and a day removed, still feel the after glow of a stupendously tranquil drive through my country. After re-reading, I think I glossed over an important bit of info for those of us Yankees not versed in the culture of the eastern seaboard South along Rt 95; ie: BBQ. My experience is Texas, Mississippi, and St. Louis (not to mention various amateur forays). Carolina BBQ is something new to me. I fucking love smoked meat, BBQ sauce, anything cooked slow and low in carcinogens. Carolina BBQ is different, and also awesome.
My knowledge of Carolina BBQ is nil, but I can detect of couple things from my new experiences. Honestly I don’t know how it’s cooked, and as I drove along I95 North I was scanning the horizon for plumes of smoke, like smoke signals alerting me to some mom and pop meat burn house. I never saws those plumes, and the taste of the BBQ in North Carolina doesn’t have much of the tell tale, campfire taste of my previous BBQ plates. The difference is the TANG! That shit is tangy as fuck. Hush puppies are another difference, where instead of white bread for moppin’ you get fried corn gut bombs to regulate and figure it all out in your extended stomach. Another delicious oddity to me was Brunswick Stew. Seems to be an ever present side, consisting of left over pulled pork bits, corn, whatever else in a tomato sauce. I could eat of bowl of it, but it usually came in bite size containers.
I left Lumberton, and passed up an opportunity to have breakfast at Fullers. It seemed a reputable spot, but after my dicey night in the town (see previous) I was ready to get the fuck out of Dodge. As the exits ticked by showing signs for Mcdonalds, Subway and Taco Bell, I was getting nervous. I scanned for the aforementioned plumes of mesquite, but feared I was passing my opportunity for one last Carolina BBQ gorge-fest. Thanks be to Jah, at exit 173 N on Rt 95 there is an impressive joint called Ralphs.
The set up is legit. There is a sizable dining area for the frighteningly fecund buffet, but also a little counter to the left for take out. I was obviously a new comer as I took wrong turns to get inside, and tried to order from the take away line, but the cliche southern hospitality endured. It was all “Whatcha havin’ suga”, as southern accented conversation floated around me. Another sensory observation was the hint of vinegar in the air. I froze and ordered the first thing on the sizable menu, asking for a “BBQ plate”.
I was awarded a large white paper bag with the usual three part stryo foam clamshell inside. After walking out into the warm southern sun I plopped the package on my hood, and had an amazing lunch outside my car. While Irie ran around and did what she does in the spring grass, I soon abandoned the provided spork and started shoveling finger fulls of pulled pork into my face. The meat was again tangy, and had a just a hint of spice. The ubiquitous slaw was diced up in a blender or something which I’d never seen, but still the cool/crisp Bonny to the tangy pork’s Clyde. There was also hush puppies (and fries goddamnit!) as well as their version of Brunswick stew, and it was a tough decision to turn over the engine and keep driving instead of taking a nap after annihilating the entire meal. I may have fucked up on this, but no sauces to be had. On my drive down to Miami I got BBQ in South Carolina and it came with a mustard based sauce, again adhering to the tangy as opposed to smoky version of BBQ in these parts, but up here at Ralphs the meat did the talking. Can’t wait to be back.