North Carolinian Barbecue (Part 4)

Okay, Wilber's in Goldsboro is the fattiest, Allen & Son the smokiest, Murray's in Raleigh the saltiest--but they're all superb barbecue, coarse-chopped, pit-cooked.


Murray's is a humble white cinder-block building, with a parking lot full of secondhand cars and pickup trucks and the odd BMW. Plates of paper, forks and spoons of plastic, but the pulled pork is first class--a heap of steaming-hot, juicy, well-salted cue, nicely vinegared and pepper-flaked, and marvelously al dente.


The sides go well with the cue: boiled potatoes in melted butter; string beans; perfectly sweetened cole slaw, dark sweet tea, rich Brunswick stew sweetened with fresh corn, and since it's Monday, huge brontosaurous ribs, a huge rack chopped in half and dropped on your table with an audible ka-thump! The tips are toasted to a flavorsome crisp, the base is wrapped in meat that in terms of tenderness could give the cue a run for its money.


I talked to Murray, a nice old man who stands behind the cash register (and cleans up the tables when the other servers are busy), and told him I went some ninety miles to eat at his place; he said he gets customers from Florida, New York, Canada. I told him this has to be better known in places like Europe and Asia; they just don't get the concept of barbecue, not the way it's eaten in North Carolina. He confirms the place is the only one that still cooks over a wood burning pit in Raleigh, and when he retires, there'll be no one left in the city.  Which is kind of sad.  But for today, I eat like a god--a pork-loving one, anyway.

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