Getting Our Pig On

Allen and Sons Barbeque

We’ve been mostly making our plans on the fly, with only a vague idea of where we’re heading. We found ourselves in Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, partly because it lies in the southerly direction we’re heading, but mostly because it was chosen in 2008 as America’s Foodiest Small Town by Bon Appétit. But somehow the good folks over at Bon Appétit forgot to mention one of the things North Carolina is best known for: Barbeque. And we’re not just talking about any barbeque, but “eastern style” que, which is surprisingly impossible to find anywhere in the northeast.

To the uninitiated, eastern que includes three basic things. 1) It has to be pork. You can find chicken and beef on the menu, but when you ask for “barbeque” you get served some part of the pig. 2) It has to be slow cooked over wood or wood coals. 3) It has to be served with a thin vinegar based sauce, which may or may not contain some tomato.  The result is different enough from what most of us “Yankees” consider barbeque to warrant a special trip to check it out.

Allen & Son plays the part of a modest down-home eatery, located some twenty minutes outside of downtown Chapel-Hill in a seemingly rural section of the city set directly across from railroad tracks and adorned with a weathered sign and emanating the smell of hickory smoke. Inside, patrons seat themselves at tables with plastic checked table cloths and eat under the watchful eyes of a 10-point buck mounted on the wall. But its reputation for great que has spread far from these humble settings and encouraged us to venture out of our way to give it a try.

We both order the first thing on the menu, the “barbeque plate.”  Soon enough we’re served up an entrée of pulled pork (no bun), hushpuppies, coleslaw and an iced tea; sweet of course. The pork comes without any sauce, but it is so well seasoned it doesn’t need any. An old ketchup bottle stands on the table holding Allen & Son signature sauce for those wanting to spice things up a bit. Momentarily forgetting where I am, I grab the bottle and give it a good squeeze expecting the thick resistance of traditional sauce. Instead, a thin marinade gushes to the plate. No worries, it’s fantastic; hot and spicy with tons of cracked pepper and a distinctive vinegar bite. This is nothing like any BBQ we’ve had before, which is exactly why we’re here.

The slaw has some of the same vinegar overtones and is a perfect complement to the meat. The hushpuppies are the stunner, though. Crisp-skinned and well-seasoned, they have a surprising hint of sweetness that almost qualifies them as dessert compared to the heat and vinegar of the meat and slaw. But no amount of sweetness was going to keep us away from the peanut butter pie, which was a perfect way to end a great meal.

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One Comment on “Getting Our Pig On”

  1. pubnknit September 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    One of my favorite things about my home state is the BBQ. It’s amazing. I think I may get some for lunch, actually….

    Like

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