Saturday, May 19, 2007

On the hunt in Asheboro -- more BBQ

Henry James Barbecue, Since 1977

Found an even better barbecue place in Asheboro. Henry James Barbecue on S. Fayetteville Street is surrounded by semi-abandoned factories and warehouses, industrial plants, and train tracks. It's not much to look at from the outside or the inside. There are many booths, several are filled with a wide variety of folks quietly eating piles of barbecue. It is like most barbecue places I've visited, unassuming. I look over the menu and go for the barbecue plate. It comes with fries, hushpuppies and barbecue slaw. Wash it all down with unsweetened ice tea and I'm good to go. Three out of the four staff members were high school kids. The other was an older woman who was clearing tables. I got extra "dip" and grabbed a booth by a window.

My paper plate was piled high with shredded pork shoulder. It was blanketed with a layer of thin reddish sauce. The coleslaw was minced and blended with a light red colored sauce, too. The sidecar of hushpuppies were hot and crunchy, fresh from the deep fryer. The French fries were also hot and crispy. This is the best barbecue I've had around here. It was juicy, tangy, slightly peppery, but not overly spicy. It wasn't too smoky, but that's ok. The meat was obviously slow cooked and extremely tender. The sauce wasn't sweet. It was much more of an eastern style of sauce. It had vinegar, pepper and a bit of zip. Perhaps a hint of ketchup for color, but it wasn't like most of the Piedmont style barbecue I've had elsewhere. There was a bottle of hot barbecue sauce on the table. I gave it a try. Too hot for this girl, but very flavorful, too. Loaded with pepper.

I went up to the counter to get a to-go container as well as a refill on my ice tea. The 16 year old behind the counter asked me where I was from. I told her "San Francisco." "Florida?" she asked. "No, California." "Oh, I thought you were from somewhere else. There aren't a lot of red-heads in Asheboro. Plus I know all of our regulars, and I don't remember you. You've got an accent." I've got an accent? Funny, she's got a pretty good Randolph County accent. She asked me what I was doing in Asheboro and if I liked it. She says it is a good place to raise kids. Not sure I agree, looking at the miles of strip malls that line Hwy 64 and the total lack of public transit. The older woman joined in our conversation. She's been working at Henry James Barbecue for 24 years. I asked her about the 'cue. She said it is cooked on a rotisserie in a pit, not in a smokehouse. They make their own sauce. I asked if it was Piedmont style. She didn't know. It is it's own style. Everyone makes their barbecue their own way. This is the only one she knows, so she's not sure what style it is. I told her I wanted to buy some to freeze and take back to California. "Oh, our barbecue has gone all over the country. People are always getting some to take with them. Buy a pound of it and be sure to ask for extra dip." She called it "dee-yip." I plan on going back there next week and right before I go home. It was really good stuff.

I've spent a bit more time around Asheboro. It is only 10 miles away. It is a classic example of unplanned growth. The city stretches out for miles, with countless strip malls and very few sidewalks. It is built around the idea that you drive everywhere. The downtown area is full of antique shops, a couple of thrift stores, a coffeehouse, and a gospel music store. The old brick buildings have seen better days. Hops Barbecue holds down one end of the two block business district and a couple of banks are at the other end of the strip. Train tracks cut downtown in half. Asheboro is a very old colonial town. It is sad to see what urban sprawl has done to it.

I just mailed five boxes home. They're full of pottery, books, cookware, towels, and things I don't need for the next 12 days. I've also been checking out the local thrift stores. No good finds, so far, but you never know what you'll run across. My current quest is for a butter churn. I want a glass jar butter churn with a crank on top like a hand beater. They come in quart and gallon size jars with a wooden (usually cedar) dasher. I've found ceramic butter churns, and old wooden churns shaped like boxes or barrels. I've also found an electric churn made by Dayzee. The antique dealers didn't have one. They had the other types, but not my little glass churn. I might have to break down and try Ebay. My quest continues.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I live in Asheboro, less than a 1/2 mile from Henry James and have never considered their BBQ among the best around here. Too bad you only hit a few places.
You probably do have an accent. When in Rome, you the one roamin'. Won't hold it agi'n ye tho'. I have red hair too.
Don't worry about the Transit or Strip Malls. Travel we do in the South (with a capital, ma'am) but we do the driving. Makes you self-sufficient, making long drives in your own vehicle and such.
"Yay, ma! We-uns at the stree-yip mall yee-ut?"
Good place to raise a child because of the friendly people.
Pass the dee-yip, please.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?