"The ribs were some of the smokiest, moistest specimens I've had the privilege of eating."
More Notes from the South
In North Carolina, barbecue generally means one thing and one thing only: smoked pig, chopped up and served with a partly spicy, partly vinegar-based sauce (more on the West-East sauce divide later). Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, may be known for its chopped barbecue, but the restaurant also turns out a mean rack of ribs.
At the risk of incensing die-hard North Carolinian chopped barbecue lovers everywhere, I'm going to argue that I think it's a mistake for barbecue pits to be chopping up the whole hog. Leaner parts of the pig—the shoulders, the loin, and so forth—benefit from being mixed with the fattier cuts. But there are some parts of the pig that are already such an ideal composition of lean and fatty, that cooks should leave well enough alone. Ribs are one of those parts: tender and succulent, they're perfect just as they are, gnawed right off the bone for maximum enjoyment. Of all the barbecue pits I visited in North Carolina, only Allen & Son seemed to sympathize with this sentiment.