Parker’s Barbecue, Wilson NC

I left my house before six in the morning, and finally arrived at Parker’s Barbecue in Wilson a little before 3:30. This is a long, long drive, but I was finally ready to dig into the celebrated eastern North Carolina style of barbecue. There is a long tradition of whole hog cooking east of I-95 and north of Fayetteville. Parker’s is one of several very old restaurants in this part of the country. It was opened in 1946 by brothers Graham and Ralph Parker, and their cousin Henry Parker Brewer. It is no longer in family hands, but it’s in good hands all the same. Donald Williams started working here in 1963; he bought the business from Graham and Ralph upon their retirement in 1987, cousin Henry having already passed. Donald brought on two partners, Kevin Lamm and Eric Lippard, in the late 1990s. Continue reading “Parker’s Barbecue, Wilson NC”

Dick Howell Bar-B-Q, Florence AL

We have a very long way to go before accurately documenting the story of barbecue in northwest Alabama, but one point that seems clear is that all of the joints in this neck of the woods are following in Dick Howell’s footprints. He opened the first roadside barbecue stand here in 1946, smoking shoulders in an open pit over hickory woods, using techniques and recipes that he had learned from working in Memphis. He introduced mustard slaw to the region, for one major example. While I prefer the taste and the flavors of the pork and the sides at Brooks Barbeque, a few miles away in Muscle Shoals, just one look at the meals shows that back in the ’60s, Sammie Brooks Sr. made the deliberate decision to replicate Howell’s product. He just did it better, in my mind. (This isn’t unheard of. Old Clinton Bar-B-Q in Gray GA is undoubtedly a clone of the nearby Fresh Air, and a superior one.) Continue reading “Dick Howell Bar-B-Q, Florence AL”

Brooks Barbeque, Muscle Shoals AL (take two)

FLASHBACK: As our regular readers may recall, about every eight or nine months, I take a little road trip by myself. In an amusing coincidence, on the first three of these “circumnavigations,” it was the business located furthest away from Atlanta that served up my favorite of all the barbecue that I enjoyed. The third trip found me visiting the Quad Cities in northwest Alabama for the first time, and it was there that I discovered Brooks Barbeque, a downright amazing little place that serves up some killer pork and mustard slaw. Continue reading “Brooks Barbeque, Muscle Shoals AL (take two)”

Circumnavigating the Tennessee River Valley – part five

Coming into Alabama on US-72, there are four large towns which are referred to as either the Quad Cities or The Shoals: Florence, Tuscumbia, Sheffield, and Muscle Shoals. As I entered Tuscumbia, I noticed that the Alabama Music Hall of Fame – it’s still open to the public, unlike Georgia’s – counts Buffalo Rock among its sponsors. I reminded myself to find a grocery store and bring home a twelve-pack, and promptly forgot. I remembered when I got home and recounted the trip to my family, slapped myself in the head, stood up and said “I’ll be back in three and a half hours…” Continue reading “Circumnavigating the Tennessee River Valley – part five”

Leonard’s Pit Bar-B-Que, Memphis TN

On the Sunday of our too-short visit to Memphis, the four of us started the morning at that city’s children’s museum, about which more in a later chapter, and then we dropped Marie and the baby off with her sister. My daughter and I then took off for Arkansas and a lot of barbecue. We soon turned around, because the first stop on our planned tour was, weirdly, closed, despite my phoning the day before to confirm they’d be open. Still, we crossed the Mississippi on the fantastic I-40 bridge and returned via the slightly less awesome I-55 bridge, which is how everybody should go to Arkansas and back. Continue reading “Leonard’s Pit Bar-B-Que, Memphis TN”

Barbecue and “Cuppycakes,” Around Athens GA

I’ll try not to get too detailed with silly backstory with this one, but I can tell already that it might be tempting. Y’all bear with me.

I was supposed to go to Athens on Labor Day weekend, but I picked up some extra hours instead. I hadn’t decided where I was going to eat, but I was looking forward to a nice, long, relaxing day. I put it off two weeks. Then we had a daycare crisis. They kind of shut down and moved on us. So my mother volunteered to watch the baby until we found new arrangements. I felt it would be wrong to spend a day playing in Athens while my mother watched the baby, so he needed to come with me. Then he started being a real handful, evidently not enjoying the routine change while simultaneously beginning serious teething. I figured I could use some help, and my daughter had spent four weeks not getting in any trouble, so she could take a hooky day and help out. Continue reading “Barbecue and “Cuppycakes,” Around Athens GA”

Bill Spoon’s Barbecue, Charlotte NC

(Honeymoon flashback: In July 2009, Marie and I took a road trip up to Montreal and back, enjoying some really terrific meals over our ten-day expedition. I’ve selected some of those great restaurants, and, once per month, I’ll tell you about them.)

We no sooner pulled into Charlotte, North Carolina than Marie and I concluded that there was no reason why we shouldn’t come back regularly. It’s a really nice looking town, and only about three and a half hours away. Nevertheless, despite all the great sounding restaurants and bookstores and things to do, the road hasn’t taken us back that way since our honeymoon road trip. We agree that we have so much in the Carolinas to do and see, but there never seems to be time or money. Continue reading “Bill Spoon’s Barbecue, Charlotte NC”