There are certain life rules one should always follow: don’t get involved in a land war in Asia; don’t try to conquer Moscow in the winter; don’t argue with anyone with a bumper sticker on his or her car; don’t jaywalk in front of a cop; and don’t, under any circumstances, attempt to discuss North Carolina barbecue. So, consider this mini-review of Stamey’s Barbecue in Greensboro, North Carolina, a meditation rather than a definitive statement.
Because I’m not about to claim that Stamey’s Lexington-style barbecue is superior to Eastern Carolina-style barbecue (or the reverse), nor attempt to rank Stamey’s in the pantheon of North Carolina barbecue. Not going there. All I know is that on a recent trip to Greensboro, I had the opportunity to sample some of Stamey’s chopped pork barbecue from their original High Point Road location and came away impressed.
Vinegar stars here, suffused throughout the tender (oh, so tender) pork. There’s a touch of chili and a sweetish binding agent, but it’s a vinegar sauce without question. The vinegar flavor is strong but not overwhelming, allowing the pork to have its own flavor. No need to drench the meat in sauce such that you can’t tell what you’re eating. I ate it hot, I ate it warm, and I ate it cold the next morning, and I was happy each time.
The slaw was the true revelation for me, though. I’m very finicky about slaw, and Stamey’s vinegar-based slaw, hit with a touch of the barbecue sauce to cut the acidity, ranks amongst the finest I’ve had. The super finely chopped cabbage provides a nice texture, and as it’s just slightly more acidic than the barbecue, the slaw provides a nice counterbalance.
I’m probably not well equipped to discuss the hushpuppies, as the extent of my prior experience with these fried cornmeal delicacies comes from childhood trips to Long John Silver’s, but if an object can be both light and agreeably dense at the same time, Stamey’s puppies accomplish the task. The hushpuppies had a nice golden crust, holding a bit of oil that brought out the taste of the slightly moist cornmeal interior. I ate more than my share of them.
I also had a chance to sample Stamey’s Brunswick stew but came away underwhelmed. The ingredients were certainly fresh, but I failed to see the appeal of the thin, blandly seasoned dish, especially when more chopped pork awaited.
If only I had thought to buy a Cheerwine to go with my $6 meal. Next time . . .