My Spring Vacation: North Carolina (part 1)

"So what have you been up to, Rosie?"

Yes yes - I hear you.

Lots of things - but most importantly the hubby and I drove down to North Carolina for a convention. As a money making venture - it was a bust, but as an adventure it came out on top!

Yes we made the decision to drive to North Carolina because we wanted to take our time getting there, PLUS (and a big plus it was!) I wanted to stop and eat some North Carolina Barbecue. In retrospect, I am very glad we made the decision to drive - the first and foremost being that we were considering Skybus as our airline of choice. Everyone knows how that would have turned out. The second was - well I would have had to rent a car anyway to find my way into the wilds of NC to get my some que.

So which establishment should I eat at? That was a tough decision. I knew I would only have one shot at eating NCQ while I was there. Our schedule was pretty tight. After much research, I decided to go for Allen & Sons. It had received rave reviews online and was supposed to have a great all around menu.

The day started off overcast - and as we progressed South, the rain started to come down in buckets, then in cauldrons...it rained all the way down Rt 33, I-77 and into NC proper. As we traversed the state, we had to pull over several times because we could no longer read road signs. And as you all know - it's important to see when you need to get off the interstate and into the wilderness.

Ok here comes my first mistake - never trust Google maps for locations in the wilds of NC. Yup - I followed the directions to a T and guess what? It was wrong. No Allen and Sons. So we found a gas station here are the instructions - "So you go up two roads, turn right. Then you follow that road until it dead ends into 10-105 and turn left. Allen and sons is just before the bridge." So we drive and we drive and soon we are truly in the depths of the countryside surrounding Chapel Hill NC.

I finally break down and pull out the cell phone and call Allen & Sons. Turns out they have two locations - neither of which are at the location that Google maps gave us. The one the gas station attendant told us about is the slimmed down version of the main location. The main location is about 30 minutes to the North of where we were right then.

I looked over at the hubby. His left eye had developed a pronounced twitch. When he spoke - it was in tight controlled phrases. I knew I had about worn out his patience for the great BBQ hunt. We were now about an hour and a half off of schedule and we still had to make it to the hotel that evening - which was still 2 hours away - or lose our reservations.

To make things worse - Allen and sons closed at 8pm and it was almost 7 pm by then. I took the lesser of two evils - I chose the closer location "just before the bridge." It was actually right where the guy at the gas station had said - but we still went right past it in the pouring rain. We made a u-turn and hoped they were either legal in NC or no one would witness us breaking traffic regulations.

Tony was really unhappy by this time - well that is kind of an understatement - he was damn pissed off. He had been driving for ten hours by this time with only a couple extended breaks and he was ready to call it quits. The place looked like a walk up ice cream shack. So I walked up and waited behind a lady ordering burger and que for take out. While the waitress went in the back to place her order I asked her - "So IS this the best bbq in NC?" "Oh yes" she said, "I've eaten a lot of que and this is my favorite."

So I got some pulled pork, slaw and hush puppies for both me and Tony, plus a hunk of homemade cheesecake and some sweet tea. Now I can't vouch as to whether this was the best que in NC, but it was the best Que I have ever had. The flavor of the smokey pork shown through a minimal dressing of vinegar and pepper. I have always been used to people drowning out the flavor of the meat with lots of sauce - but here - it accentuated the sweetness of the slow cooked pork in ways I had never imagined. An added bonus was little crunchy bits of the browned outside mixed into the soft interior for a hit of dark smokiness. The slaw rocked - it was a very simple vinegar based dressing, but it matched the que perfectly and you could still taste the cabbage. The hush puppies were acceptable and the cheesecake was good, but of course you can always make better at home.

Tony was somewhat mollified - but still tired and cranky. If we were get down that way again I will definitely get better directions before we go. And to make matters worse - all the instructions I had printed off the internet were useless - as they had assumed we would be near Chapel Hill, which we no longer were. So armed with a flashlight and a road map - we proceeded South on 10-105 and got lost not once, not twice but you got it - three times before we pulled into Fayetteville.

Thank freaking goodness we only added 3 hours onto that supposed nine hour trip...

Ok more about my adventures in Fayetteville next time...