Sunday, February 12, 2012
Eastern Carolina Barbeque Refuses to Fade Away
Allen & Son Barbeque
6203 Millhouse Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
That’s because it’s a pain in the butt (no pun intended).
Who the heck has time to chop up hickory logs, tend to a smoldering fire around the clock and smoke a whole hog slowly over the embers for the better part of a day?
It’s better for the environment too.
As soon as Obama gets done forcing us all to buy electric cars from Government Motors, I’m pretty sure he’s moving to ban authentic barbeque next.
Call it the “BBQ individual mandate.” As a condition of eating in this country, every citizen must cook their meat over a gas smoker.
There’s just one problem. If you are a true barbeque connoisseur, you know that ain’t real barbeque.
Keith Allen, the “son” in Allen & Son still delivers North Carolina hickory logs to his restaurant and then saws, splits and chops it himself before burning it in a pit he fires up every 30 minutes. Just like his dad used to do going back to 1968.
There are no short cuts here. And you can taste the authenticity in every bite of the smoke-infused meat.
A textural kaleidoscope of pig parts from various orifices of the swine, Allen & Son’s barbeque offers you a different experience in every bite.
Even a few “burnt” scraps of bark from the fire-charred outside of the pig can be found now and then, adding an intense yet satisfying bitter bite to the meat.
There is comfort in the evidence splayed before you on your hard plastic plate that you are eating pure unadulterated classic Eastern Carolina barbeque.
As per tradition here in the eastern half of North Carolina, the sauce isn’t really a sauce. It’s nothing more than a jar of salty, peppery vinegar.
When you squirt some on your meat, it immediately disappears, escaping into the nooks and crannies of the chopped up pig parts.
You might not be able to see it, but there is no doubt you can taste it.
Eastern Carolina “sauce” adds a bitter tangy zip that enhances the smoky flavor of the pig.
If you really need your tomato fix, get a side of Brunswick Stew, as I did. Here at Allen & Son it is a delicious concoction of vegetables and shredded pork in a thin tomato-based sauce.
Other staples of authentic Eastern Carolina barbeque feats are cole slaw, hush puppies and sweet tea.
No one leaves Allen & Son hungry.
Crispy on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, these sweet doughy spheres were addictive. I had to physically tie my hand to the plastic checkerboard tablecloth to keep from eating the entire basket.
By the time I pushed my wooden chair back from the table, I felt relieved. And stuffed.
Stuffed because I just consumed the better part of a hog and a month’s worth of deep fried carbs.
As Texas songwriter Pat Green once wistfully sang, “All the good things fade away.”
Many of the legends of this centuries-old American tradition that is Eastern Carolina barbeque may be switching from hickory wood to gas. But folks still flock to this wooded intersection of country roads in Orange County to enjoy the real thing.
No need to worry.
Unlike the weathered sign above the front door, Allen & Son won’t be fading away any time soon.
Rating: Bought the Shirt!