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Travel Review Fall 2023
Carolina BBQ Part I of II

By Jay Whipple

Trend Magazine Online™

ISO (In Search Of) Da Best Carolina BBQ!

Carolina BBQ Review Pic

Carolina BBQ Review Pic!
I was relocated to North Carolina (Kakalaki) in late spring of 1979 by Uncle Sam after completing my basic Airborne training at Ft. Benning (now Ft. Moore), GA, advance individual training (AIT) at Ft. Gordon (now Ft. Eisenhower), GA, and basic combat training at Ft. Jackson (soon to be the Army Training Center), SC. It was a long road to get here which began on Wednesday July 5, 1978, after graduating from Miami Beach Senior High School in South Florida a few weeks earlier. Carolina BBQ Review Pic! I was relocated to Charlotte, NC, in late 1985, after successfully completing my 4-year active-duty commitment and graduating from Central Carolina Technical College (now Central Carolina Community College) that spring with a degree in Electronics Engineering and securing a job with Duke Power (now Duke Energy) as an electrical engineer.It was during my early employment with Duke that I first became acquainted with Carolina BBQ. It was a very disappointing experience for me considering what I grew up with as a child in South Florida where it is understood by all concerned parties that BBQ was beef ribs and not pulled pork in which I had never seen or knew existed. I actually thought it was a side dish and not the main course. I took a few bites of it and that was all I cared to consume. Sadly, there was no other meat(s) available for us rookies at this company outing at Hornets Nest Park in northern Mecklenburg County/Charlotte.

Carolina BBQ Review Pic!
Fast forward 36 years later and I now consider myself somewhat of an expert on the various varieties of Carolina BBQ throughout north and south Kakalaki. For example, the secret to great Carolina BBQ is the sauce, followed by the sauce, and finally the sauce. Got it! After all, anyone can roast a whole pig for 24 hours, slowly turning it to produce meat that is fall-off-the-bone tender. Carolina BBQ Review Pic!It is not until you add the sauce that distinguishes it from your average, everyday, typical, run of the mill Carolina BBQ. In eastern North Kakalaki the sauce is bitter, and vinegar based, while in western North Kakalaki it is sweet, and tomato based. Cross the nearby border to South Kakalaki and you will typically find my favorite mustard-based sauce which is a wonderful combination of bitter and sweet. You will mostly find the mustard-based sauce in mom and pop restaurants as the newer chain stores probably do not have the recipe.

Now that you are familiar with the different types of Carolina BBQ, it's time to hit the road in search of the best tasting and experience of my multi-mile and more than a year long journey.

Carolina BBQ Review Pic

Carolina BBQ Review Pic!
My first stop was just down the street [Wed. 10/5] at a mom and pop called The Smoke Pit in Concord which is just north of Charlotte. I was alerted to this eatery by one of my transportation customers for Queen City Tourssm and Travel. I arrived Just before noon, just ahead of the lunch crowd, and waited just a minute or two after checking out the conspicuous menu board before being helped. The young lady was friendly, but she forgot to mention their 3-sides deal on Wednesdays which appeared to be an honest mistake. I ordered their 4 Bone Ribs (nontraditional Carolina BBQ) with greens, sweet potato fries, and corn bread. My total came to $16.00 without tip which I consider pricey for lunch. While waiting for my order I got a chance to check out the men's restroom which was clean. I forgot to check their sanitation code, but the dining area was clean with ranch-style mostly wooden furniture.

Carolina BBQ Review Pic!My order was up just as I sat down to wait for it to come up -- less than 10 minutes. It had become very crowded by then as it was lunch time. The extra parking in the back of the restaurant helps compensate for the somewhat limited spaces in the front which also accommodates a meat market. What sets this place apart is the to-go packaging which is very unique and includes a reusable aluminum pan that can be used during the holiday season for your turkey, ham, chicken, or even roasted duck. The side dish containers can be used to store leftovers which can offset the high cost of the meal. On that note, my sweet potato fries were bland and too mushy, my ribs were delicious and uniquely grilled to be soft on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside making them less messy, and baked beans were just okay but not memorable. My greens were also just okay but a bit too stiff and not seasoned enough, my kosher pickle and onion garnish was uniquely prepared to add a zesty side dish to my meal. My cornbread was better than average, cake-like and moist but not buttery enough. I do plan to be back because of the ribs and cooking pan!

Carolina BBQ Review Pic!Next up was my stop [Fri. 10/7] at The Improper Pig in Fort Mill, SC. I found them on the Internet after, unfortunately, my old mom and pop restaurant near the Galleria Mall was not there anymore. We lost quite a few of them during the COVID-19 Pandemic. I called ahead of my stop, and they answered promptly and politely while responding to my questions regarding how busy they typically were in the next 20-39 minutes. They have another location in South Charlotte off I-485 but I seem to remember them being located somewhere near Uptown. Any who, I arrived at approximately 3:15 PM, and to my chagrin the road at the front of their eatery was closed due to a holiday event.Carolina BBQ Review Pic!  There was limited parking in rear for all the shops in that complex after having to take the scenic route to get around the road closures. I entered through the rear which was a nice option to save some steps by having to walk all the way around to the front entrance. I was greeted immediately by a friendly staff member, and I ordered their Fort Mill Plate special with water to go as I had a long trip back home and wanted to get ahead of the traffic. My total came to $14.98 without tip, which I consider just a tad bit on the pricey side based on my meager company budget. My order was up super fast in less than 10 minutes; they were not very busy though, there was only one other customer in their small lower dining area. I heard a few others in the upstairs dining deck area. My pulled pork was standard, the mustard sauce was under whelming as compared to my old mom and pop eatery mentioned earlier in this piece. Their sauce was also too spicy (as I was warned) and not thick enough. My collard greens were slightly seasoned with pork, a bit too stiff, and not on the tasty level of traditional Soul Food. I was given one hush puppy which was okay but a bit too small thus hard to properly evaluate the taste. Their garnish (onions) was tasty and well prepared; and sweet potato fries okay but not what I would consider the homemade unique variety. Their men's restroom was clean and aromatic. There are no sanitation codes in South Carolina, just like in Florida, and I have no current plans to be back!

Cont'd. >>>

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