3 Great Eastern North Carolina Barbecue Joints: Grady's, B's, Wilber's

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

When you talk barbecue in Eastern North Carolina, you're not talking about fuffing with ribs or piddling shoulders. Baby back ribs are for babies, and what the heck's a brisket?

Nope. In Eastern Carolina, barbecue means one thing: whole hog. That would be an entire pig, slow-smoked in the indirect heat of an oakwood fire until them eat is meltingly tender. Not heavily smoky like you'd imagine, the meat is tinged more with a toasty, oaky aroma. It gets shredded off the bone before having the heck chopped out of it along with some of the crisp, fatty cracklings from the pig's exterior.

Sauce can range from mild to quite hot, but it's always got the same base: cider vinegar mixed with chili flakes.

Pulled pork from Grady's.

Of course, knowing all this ain't the same as experiencing it, and from what Alaina and Ed tell me, ain't no better place to experience it than at Wilber's. Which is why, on a recent road trip down south, I took a slight detour through Goldsboro to check it out.

And being the Serious Eater that I am, I of course added another two stops on the way: B's in Greenville, and Grady's in Dudley.

At each place I ordered barbecue, cole slaw, potato salad, hushpuppies, and chicken. If forced to pick a favorite, I'd probably have to go with Grady's, which had a much stronger pork flavor than the other two. Although it could just be that I was overtly charmed by its out-of-the-way location and old-school signage.

Of course, when I asked customers lined up at each restaurant who makes the best barbecue in town, every single one of them picked the location they were waiting at, scoffing at the other options.

Anyhow, there wasn't a bad pig in the bunch.
Flip through the slideshow to check it all out »

Grady's Barbecue

3096 Arrington Bridge Road, Dudley, NC 28333 (map); 919-735-7243

B's Barbecue

751 Bs Barbecue Road, Greenville, NC 27834 (map); 252-758-7126

Wilber's Barbecue

4172 Us Highway 70 East, Goldsboro, NC 27534 (map); 919-778-5218 ‎; wilbersbarbecue.com