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Restaurants & Bars 9

I-95 Barbecue Report

Bob W. | Dec 2, 200411:15 AM

Due to various logistical limitations -- two dogs and four-month-old twins -- we had to stick pretty close to the New Mother Road to and from South Florida.

Nevertheless, we managed to eat 'cue at four joints in three states. We could have hit local favorite Lucille's in Boca but ran out of time.

Georgia: Georgia Pig, exit 29, Brunswick. Once again, I was underwhelmed by the GA Pig. The place looks right and feels right, and they cook with wood, but the food is expensive -- $9.50 for the two-meat platter, which includes ordinary beans and slaw, and a toasted bun -- and just not that great. The ribs really didn't have much to distinguish them from what we could have gotten walking across the street from our motel to Sonny's (exit 36). The chopped pork was good but they skimp on the sauce, which you don't learn if you take out until it's too late.

Also, tea conoisseur Mrs. W. gave thumbs down to the sweet tea.

South Carolina: Maurice's, exit 98. We got two Big Joe Q sandwiches ($5.79 I think) plus small sides of hush puppies and hash & rice. It's been a while since I've had SC cue, but Maurice seems to have dialed back the sweetness of his mustard sauce just a bit. The meat was extremely tender. His hush pups are in the savory family, with bits of onion. Hash was mild but tasty. Sweet tea was very good.

N.B.: the lunch buffet looked really good. Among the items I saw were fried gizzards, cracklins, mac & cheese, stewed okra, nanner puddin, and ambrosia.

North Carolina: On the way down Plan A -- Moore's Barbecue in Kenly, exit 105, one of the few good cue joints you can see from I-95 -- was closed (Monday) so we went to Plan B: our first visit to a local chain, Smithfield's Chicken & BBQ. Naturally there was one conveniently located just down the road in Smithfield, exit 95.

The fried chicken & cue platter ($6.79?), which includes stew, slaw, beans, and hush pups (sweet) is a good into to eastern NC food. Very good fried chicken in particular. Sweet tea was good. Nanner puddin (usually $1.39, on special for $0.99) could have used chunks of nanners but was a very generous portion.

Mitchell's BBQ, Wilson, 6219 Ward Blvd. If coming from the south get off at Kenly and just head up 301. If coming from the north take exit 119 (US 264) and head east. Turn left when you get to 301/Ward Blvd.

This was a great way to end the trip. The place was empty (it's mostly a lunch destination) but the food was great and rib-sticking. Three meat-four veggie platters for $6.99! We both got fried chicken, ribs, and cue. Mrs. W. got mac & cheese, rutabagas, green beans, and collards. I got mac & cheese, squash, collards, and yams. nice to not be limited to beans and slaw. Three hot hush pups with each order (savory). The cue is pepperier than what you'd get at Parker's or Bill's, but of course I still added more of Mitchell's hot sauce. The ribs were the standout meat, but this is a place where you could just get sides and be very happy. Sweet tea was good.

But the food was just part of the fun. One of the Mitchell bros, Stevie, who runs the place, took a shine to our twins and gave us a tour of the entire joint! The highlight was his explanation of the gargantuan mural on the dining room wall, which was painted by a local artist and shows an entire barbecue season, starting with the planting of the year's tobacco crop.

Then to top things off, I had gotten a slab of bread pudding that I had foolishly planned to eat after supper. I noticed it was not on the tab so when we went to pay I mentioned it and Stevie said it was on the house. This is a good man.

After leaving Mitchell's, we swung around to Parker's and picked up two pounds of cue and two pints of slaw to savor at a later date.

Question for Wilson cue experts: right near our hotel was a place called Cherry's bbq, which has been around since 1965. Is it any good? I suspect I know the answer but I'd like to hear from someone who's tried it.

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