Where can I eat good barbecue in Gastonia, NC?
March 23, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Where can I eat decent barbecue in or near Gastonia, North Carolina?

I'm out in Gastonia, NC from California for work. I ate at RO's Restaurant (Rotted Organs? Rancid and Old?) and would rank this as the worst barbecue I've ever eaten. Yes, the worst.

Where can I eat within about 5 or 6 miles of Gastonia that has good barbecue? I don't want you to tell me what Yelp says. Yelp is wrong. Yelp doesn't know anything. I hate you, Yelp.

Here is my list of musts:
* The place you send me MUST serve excellent barbecue meat. That means ribs. There should be a meat smoker on the premises. Chicken is a plus.
* Their specialty MUST NOT be sliced or minced pork.
* Their specialty MUST NOT be a side dish, such as slaw or mac.
* They MUST also serve beer.
* The food MUST have flavor.
* You MUST have eaten there and can attest to the food's quality.
* If they serve sauce with their meat, it MUST be made on the premises.
* It MUST make me forget about RO's BARFecue.

OR you can tell me that there are NO good places to eat here, and that I should eat my meals at McDonald's.
posted by rybreadmed to Food & Drink (23 answers total)
I'm from the area but I don't know anywhere that meets your criteria. You're in North Carolina. Barbeque to us is pulled pork with vinegar (or mustard) and red pepper. Ribs and chicken can be found in other states.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:03 PM on March 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

What hydropsyche said. Most places I've eaten around there offer ribs, but the pulled pork is the main attraction.

Too bad you can't get up to Statesville. There's a restaurant there that would definitely meet your last 4 criteria. (and I'm not sure about the beer part, but should the bbq be the focus?)
posted by trox at 12:08 PM on March 23, 2010

Your "musts" number 1 and 2 basically knocks out anyplace that's going to bill itself as having "Barbecue" in North Carolina, much less Gastonia proper.

So. Therefore there are no good places to eat there and you should eat your meals at McDonald's.

Or, you could check out Chowhound, which will tell you to go to RO's BARFecue.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:25 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Drive 45 minutes south on 85 to I-26 W. Take the New Cut Rd exit (first one). Turn left and go about two miles to an intersection with John Dodd Rd. Eat at Pig Out on Thursday or Friday (rib days) and be glad you made the trip!

Here's a map if that makes it easier.

Pig Out is finicky. Weird open hours, etc. If they're closed the second best is Carolina BBQ on Hearon Circle.

I can't help you between Spartanburg and Gastonia, though.
posted by cdmwebs at 12:34 PM on March 23, 2010

Just re-read. It's not within six miles, but I would consider it worth the trip.
posted by cdmwebs at 12:36 PM on March 23, 2010

I'm from the other side of the state and can't make specific recommendations, but please don't discount North Carolina pulled pork bbq without giving it another shot. I'm from Kansas City, so what we have here didn't seem like "real" barbeque to me at first, either, but it is pretty damned fantastic.
posted by something something at 12:40 PM on March 23, 2010

You requirements are way too picky. Honestly, it's "They need to fulfill absolutely ALL of my requirements, or I'm going to McDonalds." ? You need to learn to settle, dude. You'll eat less McDonalds that way.
posted by shesaysgo at 12:49 PM on March 23, 2010

Yeah, you don't want NC barbeque. Sorry. Maybe the McRib will be back in season soon at McDonald's.
posted by BeerFilter at 12:52 PM on March 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

I'm from the other side of the state and can't make specific recommendations, but please don't discount North Carolina pulled pork bbq without giving it another shot. I'm from Kansas City, so what we have here didn't seem like "real" barbeque to me at first, either, but it is pretty damned fantastic.

Seconding this. You're in North Carolina and North Carolinians don't really do ribs. Any ribs you get in North Carolina could be had just as easily almost anywhere else. Unfortunately, that area is not one I know very well, and I think it's not as good a region for North Carolina BBQ(probably the pernicious influence of South Carolinians). The North Carolina Barbecue Society, who is generally pretty reliable for the areas I know better, recommends Bridges Barbecue Lodge in Shelby, which is about half an hour away from Gastonia. Not a personal recommendation, but maybe something worth checking out.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:54 PM on March 23, 2010

Nthing, you do not want North Carolina bbq, you want Memphis bbq. Learn to accept your surroundings and broaden your palate, or get your judgmental California taste buds over to your states most successful culinary export and see how it measures up.
posted by BobbyDigital at 1:28 PM on March 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Barbecue doesn't mean the same thing everywhere. They're not wrong, they've just got a different regional specialty than what you want.

It's 10 hours to Memphis. Or Nashville might be able to accommodate you decently, that's only a 6 hour drive.
posted by desuetude at 1:56 PM on March 23, 2010

The place you send me MUST serve excellent barbecue meat. That means ribs.

Ribs are really poor BBQ, honestly. You can never really get the collagen melted, so every set of ribs I've had has been more gristle than lean.

But if you seriously want non-NC rib-based BBQ, well, there's a Tony Roma's about half an hour away in Pineville. That's probably the best you'll do.

Otherwise, you need to get out of pulled pork country, which means Memphis at the least, more like the beef BBQ belt of Omaha-KC-Tulsa-OKC-DFW-Austin.
posted by dw at 2:03 PM on March 23, 2010

In case you are at all interested in actual local cuisine, Gastonia is legendary for their their fish camps (casual restaurants with a rustic atmosphere that serve fried fish). My dad grew up there, but the fish camp that was my grandparents' favorite is long gone--if you browse the Google search you will likely find one that is highly regarded and close to you. It may not be like the fried fish that you would eat in California, just like our barbecue is not what you're expecting, but it would definitely be a local culture experience.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:15 PM on March 23, 2010

Yeah, being from around those parts, I agree with all of the above and I'd recommend not being too vocal about your BBQ preferences around those parts...

Trust me on the fact that North Carolinians aren't going to take kindly to a Californian telling them what BBQ is (no offense meant, naturally).

Recommended Watching: The BBQ Song
posted by FunGus at 2:33 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not to pile on, but North Carolina pulled pork is the best barbecue I've ever had and I envy you your proximity to it. I'm sorry to hear you don't like it, but you need to realize that the kind you like isn't "real" or "good" barbecue, it's just a different style. It's as if you came from Chicago to New York and started complaining that you couldn't get "good pizza" in NYC. You don't need to learn to like the NC style (though it would obviously improve your life), but you really should recalibrate your attitude or you're going to insult people completely unnecessarily.
posted by languagehat at 2:38 PM on March 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

12 Bones in Asheville does ribs and chicken. (So does Hubba Hubba in Flat Rock.) Only two hours away! But the pulled pork and sides and the clientele enjoying them may repulse you.

You can always head west via Shelby. They have a McDonalds.
posted by holgate at 2:55 PM on March 23, 2010

McRib. Hilarious.

Due to your "ribbing" (GET IT?!), I'll give your NC barbecue another try. I'll try driving into the middle of nowhere a bit more to find it. Reading the responses, I suppose I basically went to New York and asked for a Chicago-style pizza.

I'm willing to go for local culture. I should have asked for an actual tasty place.

And I'm sorry to say, but despite growing up in Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, I know a thing or two about barbecue. And only in Southern California can you walk into a barbecue restaurant in a place like Compton, give your order to the lady behind the bullet-proof plexiglass, and have some of the most delicious, tender pulled pork anywhere. That was amazing (and the neighborhood terrifying). The stuff I had today was repulsive.

Now I know, though:
1) NC they do pulled pork.
2) Ribs are stupid (at least here).
3) I need to change my expectations.

Wish me luck!
posted by rybreadmed at 3:52 PM on March 23, 2010

Gastonia is somewhat near the 'cue mecca that is Lexington that you will probably find chopped (which is usually the term they used for 'minced') and sliced varieties. Chopped is more flavorable IMHO; I don't care for it mushy, I would likely hate RO's also, so take heart: it is not always thus. The best places will probably have red slaw, which I highly recommend as the perfect compliment to well-done Lexington-style 'cue. Another specialty many 'cue joints will carry is Brunswick Stew, rarely found outside the southeast and definitely worth your time.

Good on you for withstanding the pileon, and enjoy your beer. [clinks mugs]
posted by waraw at 5:14 PM on March 23, 2010

Drive to Shelby. There are two popular restaurants—Alston Bridges and Bridges Barbeque Lodge. Yes, it's a result of a family disagreement. Yes, the local partisanship is notable. I have found that most people who come from outside eat at Bridges Barbeque Lodge and rate it highly, but Alston Bridges is more packed at lunch time. Take that as you will. They have weird hours, so call ahead.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:17 PM on March 23, 2010

Oh, and yeah, the Piedmont of NC has excellent barbeque... it's just not what you would call "barbeque." Maybe you should try some of the other five million restaurants in the Charlotte metropolitan area.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:22 PM on March 23, 2010

I suppose I basically went to New York and asked for a Chicago-style pizza

No *basically* about it. That's exactly what you did!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:48 PM on March 23, 2010

I ate at Hillbilly's in Gastonia (drove around and around, saw the smoke coming out the top, and stopped). I asked for the most popular thing on the menu. The lady said their smoked ribs were the most popular. Then I asked what HER favorite thing on the menu was. She said the ribs. I got the ribs.

I love you, North Carolina. Maybe there's hope for our relationship after all. Next up is the Fish Camp.

Thanks, y'all.
posted by rybreadmed at 6:17 PM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Since you've been appropriately chastised, I'll tell you where to get the best NC barbecue, and it's not at a restaurant. You'll have to drive around a little, or maybe ask the locals, but eventually you'll find a guy parked on the side of the road somewhere, smoker hitched behind his pickup truck, selling whole smoked pork butts. You'll pay about 7 or 8 bucks a pound for a 3-4 pound butt. And you'll be ruined for any other kind of barbecue for the rest of your life.

When you pull back the foil wrapping you'll find greasy, succulent pork encased in dark, crispy skin, falling off of the bone; it will literally shred as you stick a fork into it. As you take the first bite you'll realize that all barbecue you've tasted before has been prelude; you are now at the seventh level of barbecue nirvana.

While you're at the roadside stand, buy some of the homemade sauce the guy is selling (his Mama made it), and on the way home buy some soft rolls and a six pack of your favorite lager, and you'll return to the west coast with the insufferable attitude that Californians don't know any more about real barbecue than North Carolinians know about fish tacos.
posted by dinger at 4:02 AM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

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