A few years ago, I took a road trip to North Carolina for my dear friend’s wedding.
It was there that I discovered BBQ.
Not the overly sauced, cutely presented plates of organic berkshire pork and local dandelion greens served at most NYC places.
I mean real down and dirty cooked in the backyard and served by a woman who watched you clean your plate bbq.
I learned about it at Hog Heaven.
I chose this place with the help of roadfood.com, the roadtripping foodie’s best friend. The eatery has won many regional awards for its hand chopped North Carolina pork barbecue. This ain’t your crockpot pulled pork. This is carefully smoked pork butt cooked for ages in a smoker with a special blend of spices, then hand cut to create a symphony of flavors and textures.
In layman’s terms: It’s damn good.
I can’t even tell you what a kick I got out of seeing that sign.
The decor is less than minimal – think school cafeteria – but clean and filled with the most tantalizing scents known to humanity. Clearly, we over ordered.
Don’t worry – we managed to eat it all.
Hand cut, so the pork shoulder is in small chunks, not mushy shreds. Not a lump of fat nor a tough shred of meat among the whole sandwich. Just sweet, luscious pork, positively vibrant with its pure, porky taste, soaking into the soft white bun. Add just a little of the spicy, vinegar based bbq sauce for the perfect bite.
Imagine the taste of corndog batter with the texture of French fries. Corn French fries. That’s really what they are. Gently sweet, crunchy and creamy at the same time, these little bits of fried heaven were my favorite thing on the table! Dip them in bbq sauce, hot sauce, or eat them plain.
Chicken and dumplings
This is as if your grandma’s chicken noodle soup had the texture of velvet and the noodles were made of lard. Truly a standout. The savory, comforting flavor of chicken broth is like liquid gold. The dumplings are warm, doughy pillows that dissolve almost the moment they touch your tongue. Unctuous and generously hand cut. I miss those dumplings.
These beans are CLEARLY not canned. Toothsome and hearty, stewed with smoky bits of pork and lots of brown sugar. Sweet, smoky, and salty, these beans are an outstanding partner for those awesome hush puppies.
I would recommend Hog Heaven to any Yankee coming down south for the first time. It’s not quite up to Allen and Sons standards, but it’s cheap, it’s fast, and its so amazingly delicious for someone who has never before had real bbq.
That weekend I went to the wedding…I guess my college friend and I BOTH found true love.