A post over at BBQ Jew – A Shot Across The Bow – Dickey’s Moving Onto Sacred Land raises an issue that has bothered me a long time. (I’m not even going to get into the whole “Dickey’s has the Constitutional Right to build within sacred ground but shouldn’t. Roger Ebert did a great job with that this morning, albeit on a slightly different topic – but is it really?)
Why can’t Raleigh have a decent BBQ joint instead of mediocrity?
What makes a great BBQ joint?
- Honest Q. The sauce is important, but should never overwhelm the meat. Chunks and “brown bits” also define greatness.
- Limited, genuine sides. Deviled eggs, while being the greatest church potluck dinner item ever, should not be on the menu if you want to be great. A BBQ plate should be ‘Q, Slaw, Potato Salad and hushpuppies. That is not to say that substitutions shouldn’t be allowed – to not allow substitutions is to deny all that is Eastern North Carolina hospitality. As a corollary, a good fried chicken is not necessary, but does not hurt.
- The ability to provide easy take out options. Never underestimate the the power of the tailgate.
- Good sweet tea.
What Raleigh BBQ isn’t mediocre? The adage “when it’s good, it’s great, but when it’s not…” We don’t need more mediocre BBQ (as BBQ Jew claims – I have yet to try Dickey’s), we need just one great place.
I am a fan of The Pit, but they have placed themselves in a niche that isn’t BBQ friendly – they are too expensive for it to be a regular stop on the rotation. They have done a great job as marketing themselves as “tourist BBQ” – when foreigners (anyone whose daddy didn’t put peanuts in their Pepsi) come to Raleigh, and want Eastern NC ‘Q, The Pit is it. Further, they don’t lend themselves to stopping in for take out, which on occasion, would be nice.
Coopers and Barbecue Lodge (I know there are folks that shudder when those two are mentioned in the same sentence, but I do lump them there) are the very definition of the adage above. I’ve had really good BBQ at both, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
For the McDonalds of Eastern North Carolina BBQ, Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N BBQ (note that they put the chicken first – not a good sign) is very good (I’m a big fan), but it feels too sterile and manufactured. Further, Smithfield BBQ isn’t IN Raleigh itself – you have to go to the suburbs of Cary, Wake Forest, and Garner.
There are others – the Q-Shack, Ole Time BBQ – that just never make my radar. I’ve not been that impressed by either.
Where does that leave us? Sadly, a road trip to Goldsboro or Wilson is necessary. The capital of North Carolina ought to be the capital of Q, not Ayden. Or Willow Springs. Until it is, Dickey’s fits in perfectly. Raleigh needs GREAT BBQ, not more mediocrity.