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In the last few years I've taken an interest in visiting 'well known" NC bbq establishments in search of the 'best one' IMO. (NC BBQ means only one thing - chopped pork sandwiches with a vinegar base sauce served with slaw on a bun)

My main checklist has been the NC BBQ Society Historic Trail but I'll consider anyplace that fits the criteria.

I've been pleased and disappointed but never overwhemed... until this weekend. On a round trip to Beaufort, NC, I was able to stop twice at Wilber's BBQ in Goldsboro, NC.

If not THE perfect NC bbq sandwich - it sets the bar for all others. Fresh bun. White slaw. Course chopped pork - not mush. Flavorful pork with just the right spice. Perfect.

I always expected to prefer Lexington style (lexington sauce and red slaw) over Eastern style but I may have lost my religion. The thing I noticed with eastern sauce is: it's just a bit spicy - which I prefer, and the absence of sugar and ketchup let's more of the pork flavor shine. Good stuf! I picked up 2 bottles of Wilber's sauce and can't wait to give a try.

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I still remember the first time I went down to the Raleigh area about 15 years ago and tried this strange BBQ with sauce that wasn't full of ketchup. I was instantly hooked! Now whenever I smoke a butt I have ketchup based sauce and I make a batch of vinegar sauce for myself. Got to get back down that way one of these days.
Nice report redoak,

I just can't seem to get the folks in this part of the country to use the vinegar sauce, but heck I've come to love it on PB.I also have learned what you mean by "mush texture" and have to agree with you on this also.

Hey you should take a KCBS CBJ class and spend some Saturdays judging some comp food. They gotta make some good PB in that part of the country.
Wilber's is good. If you get to Rocky Mount, try Gardner's and Melton's. I grew up around Raleigh and travelled around eastern NC while I was a student at NC State. There are some good places in Wilson as well. You can't go wrong with the vinegar based sauce for pork, IMHO. When I make it, I add some pepper flakes some brown sugar and white sugar as well. Just to soften the vinegar a tad. I'm hungry!
Originally posted by topgun:..If you get to Rocky Mount, try Gardner's and Melton's.
I've never been to Rocky Mount but will bend a route to check these out. Thx.

Originally posted by Todd G.:
Try Coopers in downtown Raleigh and Joyner's just north of Raleigh on US1...
Thx for tip. Gonna be there for state fair this fall. Good time for some sampling.

In regards to eastern style sauce, I kinda went with the notion that for a sauce to be "good" it had to taste good straight from a spoon. So yeah I tended to use a bit of sweetener to offset the bite.

The eastern style sauce (while you can't drink it Cool), I now know can be very effective w/o sweetener.
Hey Todd --

Where is Joyner's? Could not find with a web search.

Also, do most/any BBQ places put a rub on their pork in NC? I know some will mop. I have kinda settled on no rub and a finishing sauce when I make it.

Hey redoakNC --

Mostly because I am in the piedmont. I like Hurseys in Burlington. Also Allen and Sons north of 40 is pretty good. Backyard BBQ in Durham is good. I need to get up toward Wilson some time. One of the nice things about traveling in NC is looking for a new BBQ joint.
I think a big part of this style BBQ is the slaw. I've seen lots of different slaw recipes but not all of them taste right on a pork sammy. For example my MIL makes a slaw using Miracle Whip and crushed pineapple. It's not bad, a nice sweet contrast, but it just don't taste "right" on top of the sammy. As a side, it's good.

I have the Dinosaur BBQ cookbook with their slaw recipe and I tried it. Easy to make. I must have been off with the amount of slaw I used because it was pretty bland. Sorta close to what I remember when I used to go to the Dino weekly and order the Carolina pork sammy.

So, anyway, what is a REAL authentic NC slaw that takes the PP sandwich into orbit??
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First thing for me is to finely chop the cabbage. Most recipes call for just shredding it. I chop it finely then add some Duke's Mayo, not too much, and some of my finishing sauce which is a. vinegary and b. sweetish. I'm not a fan of celery seeds or anything else much. You can add some finely chopped carrot if you want...
Be careful with fair food. I would visit BBQ joints around Raleigh rather than take a chance with BBQ at the fair. A few years back there was a big stink about food poisoning, and the petting zoo was given the blame. Everyone in my family went into the petting zoo execpt me (you've pet one stankin' goat, you've pet them all), yet I was the one who got food poisoning. It was not go-to-hospital bad, but everything in me came out in a hurry. The NC State Fair got rid of the petting zoo the following year, which is a shame but understandable in these "litigatible" times.

There's a guy who had a gyro stand near the midway. He cuts the meat off a slab from a vertical roaster/grill and they're delicious.

The Smithfield BBQ chain is alright if you're in a hurry and don't want to track down one of the other places mentioned. Like any chain restaurant some are better than others though I have not had a problem with mush BBQ from there. They have pretty good slaw and Brunswick stew too.

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