Last weekend I took a weekend journey to my Southern home – and of course I had some good food. Here’s a quick review of my foodie delights (and disappointments) from North Carolina:

Howard’s Barbeque – Lillington, NC  http://www.howardsbbq.com/

Three words that would turn anyone off can best describe this place: TERRIBLE customer service.  I firmly believe that an important element of a culinary experience lies in the customer service. Bad customer service is a slap in the face in my book, especially when you are spending your hard-earned money to support an establishment. I won’t go into details about the customer service, because my blog is dedicated to information about food.  So, I will say that the food did not live up to my expectations. I got a barbeque plate with turnip salad, fried okra, and hushpuppies. The barbeque was good, but not the best I’ve had. The fried okra was disappointing. They were deep fried at some point that day and tasted as if it had been reheated in the microwave. The hushpuppies were also overcooked, no density, and no flavor. Needless to say, the Fab Foodie will not be visiting Howard’s again.

 Before I go on, let me say a word about the term “barbeque”, as it applies to most Southerners. In the North, when someone says “barbeque”, they are usually talking about chicken or ribs. In the South, barbeque refers to pulled pork. It’s usually eaten with cole slaw and hushpuppies and served with a spicy vinegar sauce. It’s made different ways and served with different sauces, depending on where you are, but that’s another blog for another day. Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog…

 

Sherry’s Bakery – Dunn, NC    http://www.sherrysbakery.com/

My Aunt Vickie heard about my disappointing fried okra and told me, “You HAVE to go to Sherry’s. They have the best fried okra I’ve had.” My earliest kitchen memories involve three women: my great-grandmother, who made the best fried okra I’ve tasted; my grandmother, whose coconut-pineapple cake and sweet potato pies are legendary; and my Aunt Vickie, whose culinary skills inspired me to cook. So, if Aunt Vickie gave them the stamp of approval I knew I had to taste them. I stopped by for lunch with my mom and aunt, and my friends, I was not disappointed. The fried okra was super crispy on the outside but not greasy. The batter was perfectly seasoned. They were like popcorn – I couldn’t stop until I was done. I also got a red velvet cupcake, which was moist and light, had great flavor and was a perfect ending to my lunch. Sherry’s, I’ll definitely be back for some of that okra!

Smithfield’s Chicken and Barbeque – Dunn, NC  http://scnbnc.com/

Smithfield’s barbeque is still my hands-down favorite. The meat is always tender and seasoned well, and the potato salad and cole slaw never let me down. Most barbeque is served chopped into small bites, which can make the meat taste grainy. Smithfield’s barbeque is left in larger pulled pieces, which maintains the perfect texture. The cole slaw is the perfect tangy complement to the barbeque. The hushpuppies are crispy outside, yet soft and chewy inside. My grandmother thinks they have the best hushpuppies in town. I think I agree with her. They also serve fried chicken that rivals the best homemade fried chicken. A tall cool cup of fresh brewed Sweet Tea and my belly is full and I am in a happy foodie place.

Gardner’s Barbeque – Rocky Mount, NC http://www.gardnerfoods.com

I’ve heard quite a few people (mostly Northerners) rave about Gardner’s Barbeque over the years. I decided to see what the fuss was about on my way back to DC. I ordered a half-pint of barbeque and a half-dozen hushpuppies. The barbeque was good – I promised Ryan I would bring him some barbeque back so I restricted myself to a few spoonfuls. The hushpuppies, however, have laid claim on my tastebuds and would qualify for the the Fab Foodie “Best Thing I Ever Ate” award. They were piping hot, fresh out of the fryer, golden brown morsels of the perfect balance of cornmeal and sweetness. The outside looked crispy, but when I bit into my first one, they were moist and chewy – like my eyes were playing tricks on me. That half-dozen didn’t make it back to Interstate 95. If you ‘re ever traveling on Interstate 95 just past the North Carolina state line, stop by Gardner’s and get an order of hushpuppies to go. You’ll thank me!

 I’ve included the websites with each place – Gardner’s and Smithfield’s ships barbeque around the country, so if you want some authentic Eastern Carolina barbeque, they will ship it right to your door!

As much as I love my Southern roots, the heat and the intense quiet is always too much for this city girl. Back to the big city for me!

 Happy Eating!

The Fab Foodie

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