North Carolina Barbecue
North Carolina barbecue is either “eastern” or “western,” and proponents of each are adamant.
For eastern barbecue, the whole hog is cooked over live coals at 200 to 250 degrees for a long time and served with a vinegar-and-pepper-based sauce and sides of white coleslaw, potato salad, butter beans, stewed tomatoes and corn pudding. Every part of the hog is used “except the squeal.”
With seating for 325, Wilber’s in Goldsboro has been serving eastern-style barbecue for 51 years.
“Many barbecue restaurants have gone to electric or gas cookers,” said owner Wilber Shirley. “They do not meet the definition of barbecue, which must be cooked over live coals. We chop the meat on a block with cleavers and cook it over a pit.”
On the other hand, western barbecue cooks only pork shoulders, also low and slow, and serves the meat with a dip, not a sauce, of tomato and brown sugar, honey or molasses, with red slaw (made with ketchup), french fries, baked beans and hush puppies on the side.
Red Bridges and his wife, “Mama B,” the grand dame of Shelby barbecue, started Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby in 1946. Now their granddaughter Natalie runs it. Although she swears by western barbecue, she concurs with Shirley on one point.
“A cooker takes all the flavor out of barbecue,” she said. “We cook our shoulders over hickory coals all night long, from 8 p.m. until about 5 in the morning. That’s where you get your flavor.”
Wilber’s and Bridges Barbecue Lodge are two of 24 stops on the North Carolina Barbecue Trail.