We're forever tinkering with the best way to make our seasonal north-south migration. This year's version was a leisurely drive to appealing destinations with good sightseeing and good food along with visits to family members. And then there was the stop in Lumberton. Lumberton was chosen solely for its convenience, but as things developed, my subconscious must have been speaking to me. "North Carolina barbecue. North Carolina barbecue."
Over forty years ago, I worked with a fellow from NC. When he would head south to visit family he'd take a large cooler along with a list of colleagues who wanted him to bring back some true NC barbecue. I was one of those colleagues. This state of bliss lasted about two or three years and, then, this fellow changed jobs. Since then, I've been deprived of quality NC barbecue in all its vinegary-peppery-faintly sweet glory!
Fuller's barbecue is the real deal and takes a star place in the menu. No other serving dish in the long line is as large as the one holding the chopped pork barbecue.
Looking at the long line is intimidating. The first time through the line, I put a tablespoon of mac and cheese, braised cabbage, and collard greens on my plate along with a piece of fried chicken and chopped pork barbecue. Those first three items weren't fabulous. Mac was suitably creamy but not cheese-y enough. Braised cabbage was fine but not fabulous, and I prefer collard greens that are smokier or more vinegar-laced. But the fried chicken and the barbecue: sheer perfection!
Over the course of repeat trips to the buffet, I discovered that the roast chicken was as stellar as the fried version.
One small serving dish contained red sauce barbecue. (Was this a nod to the people who complain that NC style isn't red sauced or sweet?) I took a tiny chunk of meat and happily discovered that Fuller's version was less sweet than Kansas City style or, even, St. Louis style. But the red stuff was a distant second compared to the vinegar version.
I ate the tiniest fraction of the offerings. Even vegetables I normally enjoy, I didn't bother putting on my plate. And I certainly ignored any attempt at healthy eating by going to the separate salad line. We skipped the dessert offerings, too, although we did look. (I've read reviews praising the strawberry shortcake, and if that had been offered, I would have tried some. Our evening, the desserts ran to pudding type choices and lots of frosted cake varieties.) My husband's and my dinner was about meat protein in all its vinegary, smoky, roasted forms. On the strength of that alone, we were happy customers!
Service was good within the limits of a buffet. Servers frequently refills our beverages and frequently restocked the containers on the buffet line.