Olivia Dish

Mapping the Barbecue World-Wilber’s

In Barbecue, North Carolina, Restaurant on December 29, 2009 at 9:21 pm
Wilber's Barbecue Goldsboro NC

On Highway 70 in Goldsboro, NC

If you’re interested in eastern North Carolina barbecue, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Wilber’s.

It was 13 miles down the road from our farm, so of course I’d heard of it.  Wilber’s was the source of Saturday lunches and tailgating food for N.C. State games, the place the rich kids stopped off on their way to Camp Sea Gull.  I didn’t realize how famous it was until I left home.

Wilber’s had been, for many years, my prime destination every time I came back. I didn’t want to unload my suitcase. I wanted to head over to Highway 70 for a barbecue sandwich.  I knew I’d smell the wood fire when I drove up. If I was lucky, fighter jets from the nearby air force base might skim over the parking lot on their way to landing.  Did it get any better?

Then, one fine Saturday, my mother introduced me to Grady’s and a lifetime of devotion took a detour to Sleepy Creek Road. (Sorry Wilber.)

Wilber's Barbecue exterior

Benches courtesy of Nahunta Pork Center!

Of course, everyone should have such a great number two favorite place for barbecue. And to Wilber’s credit, they were open when Grady’s wasn’t–on the day after Christmas–so I went by for the first time in months and remembered all the reasons I like this place.

Hush up and eat them. Thank me later.

When you sit down at Wilber’s, they bring you a basket of hush puppies right away. Do not let me hear that you grumbled about your low-carb diet or your resistance to things deep-fried.  Eat them. Wilber’s hush puppies are better than doughnuts. They’re sweet, salty, crunchy–appetizer, dessert, snack, bread basket all rolled into one.

Just barbecue and bread for me

You can order a barbecue pork plate, chicken barbecued or fried, and you’ll be fine with that.  The plates usually come with a potato salad that’s worth trying, just because it’s not like any other potato salad I’ve had.  It’s sort of made with mashed potatoes.  Maybe there’s other potato salad out there like it, but I’m telling you, when I saw the barbecue plate on this blog, I knew it was Wilber’s because of the potato salad.

So, mull over all that if you want, while you have another hush puppy.  I’m ready to order when you are. Barbecue sandwich, no slaw. That’s what I always have.

Wilber's Barbecue interior

Always a crowd & pine paneling forever

I’ve found the barbecue at Wilber’s to be a little more vinegary, a little spicier, than other barbecues around the Wayne/Duplin/Lenoir county area.  I like that: it cuts through the fat in the pork and makes the sandwich taste brighter.

On this day after turkey and dressing, the barbecue seems especially spicy. The red pepper in the first couple of bites stings my tongue. But then I adjust. It’s good.

There are lots of reasons to keep coming back to Wilber’s. The barbecue is consistently well made, the hush puppies worth a trip in themselves. The place is open morning, noon and night most days of the year. It’s on the way to the beach, easy to find. There’s the chance you’ll get a bonus flyover, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

And it’s a scene: Pine paneling. Pig art. People waiting for a plate or a pound of the good stuff. And that crazy potato salad. Let me know if you try it.


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