Mr. Beaugard Meet Mr. Shirley

Meet Mr. Wilber Shirley.

We had lunch yesterday with a couple of my wife’s cousins and their spouses at Beaugard’s Southern Barbecue in Wilmington. Hadn’t been there in a couple of years but Beaugard’s is as good a que as can be found above the Mason-Dixon Line. I didn’t have a column written for today so with the zing of Beaugard’s hot sauce still, on my tongue, I decided to reprise something BBQ related from the past. Here’s an article that was published in the Times-Gazette in 2002.

Barbeque I’ve Known
February 3, 2002

Maybe it’s because I was born in South Carolina but, I never tire of going south. When most folks think of the South visions of magnolias, antebellum homes, pine trees or NASCAR may come to mind. For me, it’s barbeque.

My frequent sojourns into the Carolinas are in constant pursuit of the perfect meal of pork (there is no other kind) slow cooked over a bed of hickory coals.

The best barbeque is found in the Carolinas and even there regional differences will be found. In eastern North Carolina BBQ is usually “whole hog” and the traditional sauce is simply vinegar spiced up with salt and crushed red pepper.

In the western part of the state BBQ is typically pork shoulder and some tomato and sugar are slipped into the sauce. Hush puppies and slaw are commonly served throughout North Carolina as an appetizer, like tortilla chips in a Mexican place.

In South Carolina, especially around Columbia, hams are the preferred cut of the hog and the sauce is a golden mustard-based sweet concoction served with white bread and something called BBQ hash. Hash is a liver-based gravy served over a bed of white rice.

Now, back to my quest and what have I discovered? To date, the absolute best BBQ in this known world is to be found at a legendary BBQ joint in Goldsboro, NC,  Wilber’s. It is “the” place and it’s an institution where I’ve been told, twenty-five hogs each day are slow cooked over hardwood coals and a meal of chopped BBQ, potato salad, vinegar slaw, hush puppies and sweet tea (the vin ordinaire of the south) can be had for only $5.50.  Wilber’s, because it is located next to Seymour-Johnson AFB, is world-renowned.

Coming in second is Sweatman’s and is located outside Holly Hill, SC. Five generations of Sweatman’s have been cooking up hogs for general consumption and $5.00 will get you all the food you can possibly handle at one sitting. It is superb but they’re only open on the weekends.

Third on my list is Maurice’s Piggy Park BBQ in West Columbia, SC. The food is great but is served with a liberal dose of conservative politics. The first few times we went to Piggy Park we did the drive-through and enjoyed it while driving further south. Then, on one occasion, we went inside and were confronted with a large display of very conservative and, in my view, hateful racist literature. I did a little research on Maurice Bessinger and found that he really wasn’t the person whose pockets I wanted to line, and that was the last of Piggy Park.

These are my picks but the quest continues. Others, naturally, will disagree with my choices. But let me say this if the best BBQ sandwich you ever had come out of a tin can at the corner dairy bar, you don’t know Shinola about smoked pork. However,  you probably do qualify for some government program dealing with people who are taste bud challanged.

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